A beggar had been sitting by the side of the road for over thirty years. One day a stranger walked by. “Spare some change?” mumbled the beggar, mechanically holding out his old baseball cap. “I have nothing to give you.” said the strange. Then he asked the beggar. “What’s that you are sitting on?” “Nothing” replied the beggar. “Just an old box. I have been sitting on it for as long as I can remember.” “Ever looked inside?” asked the stranger. “No,” said the beggar. “What’s the point?” There’s nothing in there.” “Have a look inside.” insisted the stranger. The beggar managed to pry open the lid. With astonishment, disbelief, and elation, he saw that the box was filled with gold. (Chapter One “You Are Not Your Mind”, “The Power of Now,” Eckhart Tolle)

Tolle goes onto say: I am that stranger who has nothing to give you and am telling you to look inside. Not inside any box as in the parable but somewhere, even closer, inside yourself.

What he is implying is what we need on our quest for enlightenment is within our reach, it is not something on the outside planet, and it is within each of us, within our personal realm. When we discover this, we can then start watering, singing and nurturing our garden within.

Moreover, how do we do this? I like to introduce women to the treatment process with this story from the book “Women Who Run With The Wolves”, by Clarrisa Pinkola Estes, PHD.

I first became interested in the plight of the wolf years ago when I read the book “Women Who Run With The Wolves.” This book awakened the spirit of the wild woman, the wolf women in me. I found that the wolf was a kindred spirit. In the book, Ms. Estes explained there is a place in the dessert where the spirit of a woman and the spirit of a wolf meet across time. This intrigued me and sent me on a quest to learn more about the wolf. I grew up in Northern Minnesota, hearing the howl of a wolf at night was common. In her book, she states “wildlife and wild women are an endangered species”, I will not get into that now, if you want to explore that in length, I suggest getting the book, it is a fantastic read. I began to fear I would not hear the howl, and I knew that my wild nature and feminine nature had been tamed and silenced for millennia.

The story “La Loba”, bone woman, is a story about finding that voice, enabling other people to be a part of our restorative process, and then taking what we have been given to those who still suffer. Ms. Estes states that the Pueblo people of the Southwest tell stories of the bone people, the old ones who can sing over the bones of humans and animals; they were said to restore both human and animals. The following is one of many stories of “La Loba”.

La Loba

There is an old woman who lives in a hidden place that everyone knows but few have ever seen. As in the fairy tales of Eastern Europe, she seems to wait for lost or wandering people and seekers to come to her place.

She is circumspect, often hairy, always fat, and especially wishes to evade most company. She is both a crower and a cackler, generally having more animal sounds than human ones.

They say she lives among the rotten granite slopes in Tarahumara Indian territory. They say she is buried outside Phoenix near a well. She is said to have been seen traveling south to Monte Alban in a burnt-out car with the back window shot out. She is said to stand by the highway near El Paso, or ride shotgun with truckers to Morelia, Mexico, or that she has been sighted walking to market above Oaxaca with strangely formed boughs of firewood on her back. She is called by many names: La Huesera, Bone Woman; La Trapera, The Gatherer; and La Loba, Wolf Woman.

The sole work of La Loba is the collecting of bones. She is known to collect and preserve especially that which is in danger of being lost to the world. Her cave is filled with the bones of all manner of desert creatures: the deer, the rattlesnake, the crow. But her speciality is said to be wolves.

She creeps and crawls and sifts through the montanas, mountains, and arroyos, dry river beds, looking for wolf bones, and when she has assembled an entire skeleton, when the last bone is in place and the beautiful white sculpture of the creature is laid out before her, she sits by the fire and thinks about what song she will sing.

And when she is sure, she stands over the criatura, raises her arms over it, and sings out. That is when the rib bones and leg bones of the wolf begin to flesh out and the creature becomes furred. La Loba sings some more, and more of the creature comes into being; its tail curls upward, shaggy and strong.

And La Loba sings more and the wolf creature begins to breathe.

And still La Loba sings so deeply that the floor of the desert shakes, and as she sings, the wolf opens its eyes, leaps up, and runs away down the canyon.

Somewhere in its running, whether by the speed of its running, or by splashing its way into a river, or by way of a ray of sunlight or moonlight hitting it right in the side, the wolf is suddenly transformed into a laughing woman who runs free toward the horizon.

So it is said that if you wander the desert, and it is near sundown, and you are perhaps a little bit lost, and certainly tired, that you are lucky, for La Loba may take a liking to you and show you something – something of the Soul. (Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With The Wolves. Pp.26-28.)

My life’s passion and work have been supporting women with addictions put words to their story. I have used whatever venue possible, be it, by way of the written word, singing, art, and poetry, any creative or not so creative mediums possible. The objective being, women needed to tell their stories and in doing so, could restore their soul. I found that until a woman started addressing the heart of their issues, recovering from substance use disorders was strenuous, if not unobtainable.

Women do wander the desert, lost; longing to fill the loneliness, they feel. Someone needs to take a liking to them. La Loba has been watching and waiting. There is so much shame that comes along with this disease, even more so for women in our society. They need a place to come, and we need to show them something-something of the soul.

When women arrive for treatment, I regard their luggage as bones, desperately in need of restoration. What we provide in treatment is the ability to collect their bones, set them in position before the fire, and place them back together. In the group process, women are invited into the tribe, into the circle of healing and within the fellowship, we sing over those bones. I often tell Women it is okay if they fall apart in while in treatment, what better place to do it, we can pick up the pieces and place them back together. I give them permission to let go, and this allows the healing process to happen.

This story is about resurrection, beginning a new life. Estes says, “To sing means to breathe the truth of one’s power and one’s need, to breathe soul over the thing that is ailing or in need of restoration”.

I have found when a woman is doing her soul-work in a group, getting in touch with emotions; the breath is the most significant aspect of her healing. Learning to breathe properly is the first step in healing. Most individuals doing their inner therapeutic work invariably stop breathing, which in turn keeps their emotions repressed? The ironic part is women will apologize for having the emotions or for crying. I guide them, gently reminding them to breathe and go with the emotion, to ride it like a wave, allow the feeling to flow out with the breath. When a woman is given permission to do this, she is receptive to the natural flow of healing and the process begins. Notwithstanding, if she does not discover how to sing over her bones, and collect her bones during the treatment process, the healing will not transpire. She will end up sitting on a box of bones, not knowing the treasure and key to her healing has been under her all along.

Ms. Estes says “We all begin as a bundle of bones lost somewhere in a desert, a dismantled skeleton that lies under the sand. It is our work to recover the parts. It is a painstaking process.” Just as that beggar sat on the box of gold for 30 years, and it took a stranger who had nothing to give to tell him to open the box, we too need someone to encourage us to dig up the bones under the sand.

To close, I want to leave you with this picture in your mind because this is how recovery and fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous works.

And La Loba sings more and the wolf creature begins to breathe.  And still La Loba sings so deeply that the floor of the desert shakes, and as she sings, the wolf opens its eyes, leaps up, and runs away down the canyon.  Somewhere in its running, whether by the speed of its running, or by splashing its way into a river, or by way of a ray of sunlight or moonlight hitting it right in the side, the wolf is suddenly transformed into a laughing woman who runs free toward the horizon.

(note: I have also had the privilege of working with men in the recovery process and have applied the above principles. We found many years ago, that men need to talk about core issues and when allowed to amazing things can happen.)

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