The Mysticism of Bankruptcy

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She had a home. A home where she raised her two boys. A home embued with memories. And she lost it in 2008.

After courageously ending a relationship that was abusive, she did her best to support her boys, navigate a divorce that did not honor her own devotion and integrity and make enough money to keep her home.

But she is a mystic soul.

Her yes to a change that was life giving involved a daily renewal of acceptance when her children did not understand. Her yes to a change that would ignite her soul and give her the chance to live its calling into expansion took daily stamina through toxic negotiations and letting go of any outcome.

She is a mystic soul.

For her clarity and peace, the fruit of her resolve, carried her into the loss of material things that were a part of her history.

She inspires me. Even today, as her life is filled with true happiness and still seems to be held in the container of impermanence. Could impermanence be a container wherein stability can be found in this complex world of desire?


In the fall of 1988 my daily bread (and I really LOVE bread) was to spend endless hours in the mission chapel of Santa Cruz, California. Meditation, prayer, reciting and singing psalms with friends and silence were the place the Beloved and I could commune. And our love life was overwhelmingly erotic, consuming my body, mind, heart and soul. There is a phrase in one of the sutras translated by Lorin Roche that says, ‘and one day, unexpectedly the divine pulsation will grab you.’ And oh, I was grabbed, thrown down, and taken into a sea of love-making that could not have been fabricated or sought.

The container of Catholicism was such a sublime way to open into this Divine Embrace. It’s rituals, its personal quality, the rhythm of the liturgical season, and everything about it revealed the Divine Desire within me and within the world. How could I say anything but YES?

One afternoon, within a lingering contemplative kiss I walked the stations of the cross in this little chapel home. Kneeling at one of the plaques, the actual station escapes my memory now, a surge of delight arose in me leaving me in a drunken state. In this sweetness the words sounded like a gong within me, ‘The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’  I said, ‘YES!’

Do you know what it is like being in love?

For me the main drive resulting is a pervading desire to BE WITH the Beloved, it doesn’t matter where, or how, or what the activity, only that it happens with the Beloved.

And so the line, revealing a quality of my Beloved that marked his historical or symbolical life, that is, ‘The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head evoked the desire to live out the same.

‘YES, I want to be united with YOU, and having no place to lay my head matters little other than giving me the inner consolation of being close to you.’ I knew in that moment the life flow of mine would be non-traditional.

At the time I loved the thought of actually having nowhere to lay my head.
I gave away my bed and began to sleep on the thin foam pads we provided for the people housed at a shelter where I was part of the team. To be united to them in their discomfort felt like such an honor.

And eventually I joined a monastery where we slept, quite comfortably I might add, on beds made of corn shuck mattresses and wood planks held by short home made saw horses. For the first Christmas I was given permission to sleep on the wood without the mattress. It was not a penance, it was a banquet, ah, how often the misunderstanding comes about and people think choices like this are for the sake of deprivation but it is not so…my one motive was to be closer to baby Jesus who rested in a hard wood manger as he came into the world.

So what does this have to do with my friend?
There are many directions I could take this but for now it is in this way.

The mystic life – the connection with the part of ourselves that is more than what the eye can see- opens new horizons of joy and experience in this life. The ‘this and that,’ of life are only the setup. And our response to it all is where the juice can be found; our ability to hear the call and answer it is where the Divine Dance becomes an exquisite exchange that excites the soul.

There was a moment this surrender of the fall of 1988 repeated its call in the fall of 2015. There were more places within me that the phrase was meant to play out. And ah, the winding unraveling messages… have you ever found a certain inspired message teaches you, and then teaches you again? And then again?

The same phrase 27 years later would take on quite a different tone. No longer was it the sublime feeling of full body union, it was rather a quiet whisper breathed into the ashes. My ashes.

Are you a little bit curious of the ashes? As I write it, I wonder what I even mean by the word and yet it feels most honest, most true.

After the 10 and a half years of wholehearted devotion to God and the world as a Carmelite nun, the devotion took on new form as I completed seminary training with a focus upon the adult spiritual journey. The first landing pad was as part of a ministry team at a church and within three years seeded my own expansion of ministry to people of all backgrounds.

My entrepreneurial life began in the summer of 2007. If you are or have been an entrepreneur you will have an understanding of what it means to wear all the hats of your business in the hopes, showing up as hard work and continual skill building, you eventually hire a team.

The true blessing of being an entrepreneur is the freedom to stay true to the vision and calling of life. All my choices are geared to fleshing out that mission and being of true service. And with it go the inevitable challenges of being a free lance, unaffiliated female minister.

Alright, enough about all that.  Hopefully you have enough of a picture so I can get back to my focus for this article.

That is the mysticism of being in business whether it prospers or not.

Over those ten years I lived generously, like a nun in the gift of self, and strove to couple it with business savvy. But in the process I made a few choices, out of educated risk and for the sake of love that put me into debt.

But debt simply has to do with money and having built a multi-million dollar monastery I know that the flow of money can change in an instant. So I carefully paid the monthly minimums of my sizable debt and focused on the larger flow for my ministry.

In the process however I let this debt slowly increase. The credit card companies hiked up the rates back in 2008 even though my credit was stellar and I never defaulted. They refused to budge in any way, shape or form. So I concentrated on pouring myself into learning business, and putting into practice good coaching advice given to me.

Slowly my debt grew because I was unable to make a dent on the principals. By the time I got to 2013 I was paying more in monthly dues than for my base expenses but I kept on for two more years. This means I was paying on a principal for 8 years and it never seemed to go down. Bankruptcy has been suggested to me back in 2008-9, when many were filing. It would have been reasonable to do, but digging deep it felt that the option was not for me, was not the right ‘spiritually aligned choice’ for me.

Part of what went into that felt sense was not only that things could change in an instant but also a certain gratitude that I could be in a country where I was free to try being an entrepreneur and it felt good to be paying off a debt that was the result of my choices and things not going well. You may be thinking me a masicist but this is not so. Taking responsibility for my life and for how my life flows was to pay on this debt, I could have made so many other choices that would have sheltered me from the possibility but I didn’t. And so happily I paid.  10:13

I want to lay this out on the table clearly. By 2013 or even a little before, I was paying sometimes more than 1000.00 a month and finding that two-thirds of it was going to monthly interest.

Something in me shifted in July of 2015. I was part way through a national book tour that was going well and it hit me. I had done my time, I had given my all and bankruptcy could actually be an honest option for someone like me.

Studying the reasons that bankruptcy existed I found that I fit into the category, at least in my mind. It seemed that it actually was FOR business people in my boat.

So I let go.

Just like my friend who let go of her house, feeling certainty in the change, it happened for me.

Yet it still hit deeply. Not because I was stubbornly resisting it all along but because it IS TRULY an action that makes a statement meant to be felt—I gave my all, worked my hardest, kept an open heart, and even in my solid business ethic and ever developing skillfulness, return was not matching my own gift of self.

I failed to create a business that developed a return. And this return was what I needed to be able to be of service in what I myself call ‘a calling.’

It was a path I walked alone. Living in a new city my friendships had not developed enough intimacy for me to feel good about revealing the deeps waters this move stirred. There didn’t feel like there was anyone to whom I could have confided my disappointment without them wanting to give advice…and what I really longed for was to be heard and held.

The months felt cold.

Yet the stars were aligned and the lawyer I found was a woman who had the language to truly feel like an advocate. Even though I didn’t confide the discouragement pulsing through my veins, she was a confident voice that felt like a friend.

By the fall we had filed everything, just before I was driving 2000 miles to a wedding of my dear niece. I think the word that fits for me was, I felt ‘undone.’

My heart hungered to draw close to my family even if it felt uncomfortable for them to know anything of what was really going on. Just to be with them, to celebrate the new joy to be had for us, this was enough.

Yet, the mystic path of bankruptcy was in motion and unknown to me there would be happenings to stir the waters and make me want to cry. Arriving at the hotel for the wedding I stepped forward to pay for my room. Standing behind my sister, unaware that my reservation would not go so smoothly, I waited. It was nice to be close to her for just a moment. With all the preparations consuming her I knew we would probably not have other moments.

And it was true. Right after finishing the booking she sweetly bolted on to the other arrangements and the hotel concierge pulled up my reservation. Matter of factly she asked, ‘And what credit card would you like to use for the deposit?’

‘Oh, I’m sorry, I am not using credit cards right now but I can pay you in cash anything you would like.’

She looked at me in disbelief, ‘I’m sorry but we will need a credit card in order to fulfill your reservation.’ Discouragement which had been suspended in the joy of being here to celebrate family welled up, bringing with it tears held behind the corneas of my eye.

Her tone went from joy to a felt sense of seeing me as someone to hold with skepticism. It surprised me how easily she could change and how humiliated I felt. She started talking to me as though I were some kind of bum. There wasn’t anything I could do other than simply be there and hope beyond hope she would trust me enough.

And the desire to ‘be there’ for my sister in a way that didn’t require any attention added fuel to the fire of my low feelings.

‘I can pay for everything up front, would that work?’ My mind gripped a little bit wondering where I was going to sleep or go if she refused to allow me my reservation. ‘I am the sister of the bride’s mom and drove in from Minnesota through the night to be here.’ It was my attempt to convey to her that I was safe.

The need to even go there after all the years of hard honest work shook me up. It left me wondering where I belonged and who was a friend. Funny when your work is to be a friend to others on every level that I would feel so alone in a moment of true need.

After reflection and grave hesitation she allowed me to pay for everything up front and give her an extra 200.00 as a security.

‘The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,’ the remembrance of this surrender gave me a certain solace. Not that I believe I am meant to be without a home or money for food, but as a reminder of the commitment of my life.

What it means to me is that the commitment to a call is the very foundation of life. And it takes us on its own journey of learning, it is the non-negotiable to be touched, surrendered to, revisited and ultimately lived fully.

The bankruptcy required me to have a review in court. It was my first time in a real courthouse aside from a jury duty call 20 years prior that did not result in being chosen. As the day approached my own gravity increased. It wasn’t sadness, it was solemnity. While the process is pretty standard, the meaning of it took me to a very deep place.

I was given the gift of showing up- my mind was quiet, my heart was open and heavy, and I was vulnerable on the day. Absolutely vulnerable and humanly alone were the two qualities that held me in stillness.

We were up first thing, admitted into the courtroom with about 5 others for similar reasons I think. Since we didn’t know when we would be called, my lawyer and I sat there quietly waiting as I watched others going through the same questions I supposed would come my way.

It was only half an hour after the courtroom had opened and the judge had commenced that he called my name. Tears welled up from my belly, not weeping or resistance to the moment, but the result of the gift given me to show up for my life.

He looked at me straightly. There didn’t seem to be any particular emotion coming from his countenance and yet he seemed to truly care. Perhaps it was a sincerity I could feel in him.

The questions were really easy, they were just a testament to the paperwork filed …but my voice quivered as I answered with confidence. I had failed even though I had tried, and it was okay.

The investigation was liberating. At the end of the 10-15 minutes given to my case he looked long at me.

Our eyes rested into the gaze. His eyes were a Divine messenger, ‘I see you my dove in the clefts of the rock.’ (reference to the Song of Songs.)

After that moment of recognition he and I both looked away, like ships that had hailed each other in the middle of the night and headed in separate directions.

I rose and left.