By Wendy Ford
Over thirty years ago I met a young mother who I now consider to be my best friend. She was carrying her 8-month-old first daughter on her hip and in the middle of getting everything together for a family clambake. She was fairly quiet but as she greeted me during our introduction her smile was one that lit her up from the inside. She immediately made me feel at ease and welcome with the quick acceptance my offer of assistance with the preparations.
Prior to the birth of their first child she had been an elementary school teacher of the emotionally handicapped. She and her husband had agreed it was most important to be a stay at home Mom and the sacrifices they made over the years to accomplish that were nothing short of amazing. When the youngest of her three children went to all day kindergarten she returned to teaching the mentally and emotionally handicapped.
Over the years we became close, sharing the secret thoughts that good friends share. My husband and I baby-sat while she was giving birth to her second daughter and as time went on we developed very close and special relationships with her three children. My husband helped her oldest daughter take that first wobbly ride on her bike with the training wheels off. Shortly before her third child, a son was born my husband and I moved out of town. We remained close, most vacations were spent visiting and long distance phone calls were frequent. When she and her family moved to Florida we spent two weeks every February with her and her family. The Christmas tree was left up and lit with our wrapped gifts underneath. The kids thought it was pretty neat to have two Christmases.
Over time I came to realize she was painfully shy around any other than family. Even with family and good friends she confessed she rarely spoke without first thinking through the entire conversation in her head. She usually planned every sentence ahead of time. But in the classroom she was an entirely different person. With her students she came alive. She came up with innovative techniques and methods so effective that the IQ tests of many actually improved significantly enough that the school psychologist wanted to know what kind of magic she used to achieve such impressive results. Her basic answer was no magic. Just knowing the children well enough to know what buttons to press and switches to throw to allow that child access to their deeper hidden potential. It was her innate ability to access and tap each child’s latent potential that set her apart. It was watching the lights come on in her student’s eyes that was her greatest and most cherished reward.
As the years went on my friend, my husband and I knew we were searching for that “something” to add meaning with personal and spiritual growth in our lives. We constantly encouraged and welcomed her husband to join in our discussions and sharing of thoughts and information but he was just never interested. He was of the opinion we were all a little nuts. I truly believe had my husband and I not been included in these explorations her husband would have had her committed for psychiatric evaluation. It was probably helpful that my husband was her husband’s brother. The three of us explored and read. We did the Medicine Cards, went through the Wayne Dyer books and tapes, attended sweat lodges, went to lectures and “readings” and were constantly sending each other references and tapes and book titles. Each exploration brought us closer to that “something” but none quite hit the mark.
Then Dr. David Strickler came first into her life and then into ours. We had found our Spiritual Teacher and Mentor and now friend. Over the next ten years the three of us remained under Dr Strickler’s tutelage, my husband and I through long distance correspondence, phone calls and attending of classes when we were in town and my friend through direct attendance of his classes twice weekly. It was not easy for her to attend those classes for she had limited financial resources and precious few hours to spare away from her family responsibilities. Her study time was stolen from her sleep time, often needing to read by flashlight in the bathroom or closet so as not to disturb her husband. She even left her family after her youngest had graduated from high school and drove over three thousand miles in pursuit of her spiritual studies. My husband and I followed shortly thereafter and for the past four years the three of us have had the privilege of being in direct contact with Dr. Strickler several times weekly as a group and individually.
As a Spiritual Teacher, Dr. Strickler knows his students well enough to know what buttons to press and switches to throw in teaching each of us how to have conscious access to the latent potentials within, to access the Power of Conscious choice and to estimate the consequences (positive, negative, & neutral) of the choices we select to engage. It is his innate ability to access and tap each of our latent potentials that sets him apart as a True Spiritual Teacher. Just as my friend experiences with her students, it is watching the lights come on in his student’s eyes that are among his greatest and most cherished rewards, in my view of him.
Over the years the three of us have grown personally and spiritually. We have grown as a group and as individuals. Under the patient, oh so patient and sometimes not so patient, guidance and instruction of Dr. Strickler we have each spent long hours finding, uncovering, exploring then learning to deal with our personal demons, negative sides, strengths and weaknesses. We are learning to discover knowledge and come closer to truths that are enabling each of us to push past personal barriers of ignorance and denial. We are growing. We are learning.
Each of us is going through personal transformational processes that are enabling movement ever closer to what Dr. Strickler refers to as "resurrecting from the tomb of the senses". Each of us is learning through daily application of the tools and skills gifted to us by Dr. Strickler that we are so much more than just a physical body that is chained and grounded to the physical material plane by the limitation of the five physical senses. We are learning to peer through the veils of misperceptions and imperfect or partial reflections the five physical senses convey to us, for that is all they are capable of. It is not possible for perfection to be accurately reflected in this physical plane. We are learning to hone our skills of discernment to gain a more accurate “picture” of what might really be going on in a given situation or the meaning behind spoken words. We are learning to interpret the feedback given by our physical senses in a more accurate fashion. We are learning the power and application of the spoken word.
For the past fourteen years I have been witnessing and experiencing the effects of the changes taking place in my friend as she grows and throws off old encumbrances and erroneous beliefs about herself and the world about her.
Last Saturday night I was honored to be witness to the emergence of this person who has been quietly growing and maturing and undergoing immense transformative processes. It was her public emergence from the cocoon of silence. My friend walked up on a stage with all the apparent confidence of a seasoned pro. The mistress of ceremonies even commented to the crowd, “I can’t believe she’s actually going to say something.” My friend stood freely, without a podium to hide behind or grab onto for support. She stood straight and tall in front of a freestanding microphone and gave a speech to over two hundred people.
She spoke from the very core of her being. She was articulate without a hint of the prespeech jitters she had confessed to fighting. She spoke with a passion about how her spiritual life through studies under Dr. David Strickler and her professional life under the mentoring of Lorna Jean King in the application of groundbreaking methods of teaching autistic children using a sensory integration approach have finally blended together. I sat entranced by her speech. It wasn’t just a speech. It was a statement: “I am here. I am Me. I am.” In listening to her speech I realized just how far she has come, how much she has grown and how much she has sacrificed over the years in the pursuit of her spiritual life and path.
My friend is many things to many people and goes by many names: as a daughter she is Chris or Christie Jo, as a sister she is Chris or Chrissie, to her nephews she is Aunt Chris, to her children she is Mom, to her grandchild she is Ga Ga AZ, to her co workers she is Christine, to her students she is Miss Christine, to me she has grown from being Chris to Christine, and to the many friends and readers of Spiritual Climate Newsletter she is known as its Editor. As of April 8th, 2006 she has another title: First Recipient of the Lorna Jean King Teacher of the Year Award, 2006 awarded by The Children’s Center for Neurodevelopmental Studies in Glendale, Arizona. Christine, it is with deep admiration and through the unconditional Love gifted to us by The One that I am proud to call you my friend.