IN HER SHOES trailblazer – Lorraine Wilson. 60. Women share stories of stepping up and living big in Life Part II.
It was August 1999 when the unthinkable happened. Lorraine Wilson’s mother and husband died within 5 days of one another. Lorraine was 43. With family on the other side of the world in Australia and her home in Vancouver, Canada Lorraine put one foot in front of the other and walked. Swallowed in grief she willed herself to keep going, a teenage son and daughter, were depending on her for support and strength. While the outside spoke of immense fortitude inside Lorraine was collapsing and falling apart piece by piece.
In the depths of such pain and grief it would be natural to let go and simply succumb. Instead Lorraine reached out.
Thus began a journey that in the beginning was immersed in therapy, a myriad of self-help books and the search for a purpose in life. It was, at times, a brutal, soul wrenching 17 year quest for understanding and peace.
In the end, Lorraine would experience a journey so profound it would reveal her purpose and prompt this former TV producer and PR executive, to forge a new path, one of life, hope and service to others that continues to grow as she enters into her 60th year of life.
Cheryl: Lorraine, I can’t imagine the pain you felt. I do know that throughout life there are forks in the road and we can choose to go right or left and that out of great tragedy there can be renewed life. Describe the first part of the journey.
LORRAINE: Nobody can ever prepare you for what you will experience when someone you love dies. Losing two of the most important people in my life within 5 days pulled the rug out from underneath me. I had a choice to crawl into a corner or to use the experience and get the support I needed to help my children and myself grieve our loss in a healthy way.
Cheryl: It wasn’t an easy go, as you progressed it became extremely difficult. You could have said, “Enough…I’ve done enough”. Why did you stay the course? How did you find the strength?
LORRAINE: I know it now, but I didn’t recognize it then, that we are supported in ways we can’t even imagine. The right people just seemed to show up and provide the profound help and guidance I needed to keep going. One of those people was a woman named Shraddha, she led a support group for caregivers that I attended when my husband Mark, was dying of cancer. After Mark died, we kept in touch. She invited me to a mediation one night and I saw this video of woman named ‘Gangaji’
who was talking about how to discover peace, right here, right now. I had no idea what she was talking about it didn’t make any sense to me I was in so much pain, but she caught my attention and 15 years later her teachings have changed my life and supported me in discovering my own life’s purpose. I really cannot thank her enough for the gift she has pointed me to.
Cheryl: What were some of the most meaningful and significant points along the way?
LORRAINE: Apart from Gangaji, Shradda also introduced me to a healer/therapist, Brian Finnie. He was without a doubt the gift I needed at the time. He helped me survive the deep grief and to heal. I trusted him and he encouraged me to trust life again. I was also invited to sit in mediations with Eckart Tolle and introduced to other teachers such as Adyashanti, Pamela Wilson, Muni who were all speaking about ‘waking up’ living a conscious life. Everywhere I turned it was the constant message that was coming to me. I couldn’t ignore it. It was then I began doing retreats with Gangaji.
Cheryl: You’ve said heartbreak frees us up…how so?
LORRAINE: I can only speak from my own experience but every time, without a doubt, when my heart has been broken wide open I feel free and lighter. Most of us avoid letting our heart break but it’s in the willingness to let our hearts break that we can actually discover peace and realize that it was only love that was breaking our hearts and calling us home to ourselves. We may not enjoy the process of our heart breaking but I sure do love the outcome.
Cheryl: You’ve come to see lessons in the loss of Mark and your Mom and you are thankful for (what you call) the gift they gave you. Can you share some of that with us?
LORRAINE: I believe had I not experienced the deep grief as a result of their death I would never have asked the question ‘what am I doing here, what is my life about?’
I would never have discovered Gangaji and the gift of her teaching that has set me free from living a life of suffering. A few years ago I went to India with Gangaji
and 187 people who gathered from around the world to be in retreat. It was a profound experience that changed my life, yet but again.
After supporting the Dalia Lama’s visit in Vancouver I was invited by my friend James Hoggan (Board Member of the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education) to join him and others to hike Mt. Kalish in Tibet. Once again, I didn’t know it at the time but I was supported to go deeper in my spiritual quest and discover the realization that we are so supported and that life is really living us, all we have to do is show up.
I have also discovered that while my mother and husband are no longer here in the physical form I have no doubt they are here. We are not separated. Nothing is separated. I feel them around me, I see them in nature, I see them reflected in the eyes of my children and grandchildren.
Cheryl: You let your heart guide you. What is the difference between letting our mind guide us vs living life from the heart? How can we discern which one is in charge?
LORRAINE: I can only share from my own experience but I have a very inquiring mind and learned that we process between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. So, if we have that many thoughts in a day, why is it that only a few particular thoughts captivate our attention? When you start to inquire into the thoughts, they are those that are made up of fear.
When we let fear rule of lives, we suffer. There is an energy that is living us, it has an intelligence to it, some people call it God, Buddha, Consciousness, presence or love. I resonate with love, that’s my heart calling, and it never lets me down. If you don’t know if it’s your mind or heart speaking, be still, keep quiet and listen. You will know the truth when it speaks to you. And, if you don’t, do nothing until you do.
Cheryl: There is a movement these days….people searching for purpose. How did you come to know yours? How was it revealed? How can others find purpose?
LORRAINE: I think when people ask about their purpose in life, some may want to know, what’s the job I’m supposed to be doing, where should I live, should I be a parent or not, should I travel etc. but I’m talking about a deeper purpose than that. Discovering what is true for you and being true to THAT. It wasn’t a fireworks experience that went off for me, it was very subtle that occurred over time through my inquiry and Gangaji guiding me.
I realized I was creating my own suffering through activities of my mind and when I opened to welcome everything that was occurring in me, through me, regardless of what my mind was telling me something changed. The more I honored that the more it served me. How can people find it? It’s available to everyone. I think it is possible to find it on your own but I would suggest seeking a teacher who can support your unfolding and inquiry.
Cheryl: One of the things that immobilizes all of us is fear. It stops us from pursuing dreams and living life to the fullest. It makes us feel stuck and can keep us there forever. You feel your fear is tamed. How did you do it? What can you offer to the rest of us?
LORRAINE: I’ve learned to know when fear is running the show. If I’m suffering, fear is present. You have to be willing to look into your fear and see what is truly underneath it. I also want to say sometimes fear is present for a reason, if we are in a situation where we can be hurt or abused then of course fear will show up and guide us to get out of the way. The fear you’re talking about that keeps us stuck is because we don’t trust ourselves. I know that when I face my fears the thought of the fear is actually worse than the actual moving through the fear. I always feel free when I’ve moved through fear. So why wouldn’t we want to meet fear and arrive at that place of peace? We are conditioned not to trust ourselves, but if you get support you can move through your fears and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Cheryl: Keeping it Simple represents life and hope. How did it evolve? What is your hope?
LORRAINE: I want to share what I have discovered with others.
I want people to know you don’t have to crawl into a cave with grief, you don’t have to be afraid because you don’t know what’s going to happen in your life. I created Keeping Life Simple so I could facilitate workshops and support people who want to live life from a place of love instead of fear. I want them to realize that they can have a full life that is free from suffering. I think Marianne Williamson says it here;
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”
Cheryl: By sharing your journey Lorraine you’ve given hope. I could feel my body untwisting and letting go as I read your words. I know others will feel the same. Heartfelt thanks.