Claire Grace Armitage
Spiritual Care Practitioner
I often speak about having been born three times: The first time was into this incarnation; the second, into a less embodied life that was transformed by a near death experience that occurred as a result of nearly fatal accident at the age of twelve; the third, at a retreat in 2011.
I had tremendous life force as a child, and a supportive and loving mother who encouraged me to be fully myself. I loved to move, run, play outside, and was physically strong and vital. Everyday seemed like it offered another day to experience life, and I was filled with wonder, excitement, and curiosity. My mother was ill quite a lot, and nearly died when I was eight years of age. This left quite an impression on me and strengthened my bond with my mother, a bond that exists to this day, though my mother died several decades ago.
In the intervening years between my second and third births, I earned a BA in Philosophy from UCLA, married (twice), had a son, a successful career as a mortgage broker, and earned my MA in Conscious Evolution from The Graduate Institute. These years were often challenging and included divorce, the death of both my parents, betrayals, and a sense of alienation from my Self and my body.
While each one of these births brought with it beauty beyond measure and immeasurable pain and grief, it is the last birth that I would like to elaborate on here. In 2011, after a full day at a spiritual retreat, I began feeling an existential dread that was both terrifying and annihilating. Nothing that I did could quell the sense of dread that was filling my every pore, moving through each cell, rolling over me like a thick blanket. I was in a state of internal panic. I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that I was going to die…I felt it in my body and soul and felt myself disintegrating. I feared that I could not survive this alone and I didn’t know what to do. As the time passed, this terror grew. Suddenly, I knew that the only possible way out was to ask God for assistance, a God in whose existence I had never believed.
I began to pray: “Our Father, who art in heaven…” I repeated the prayer again and again, and began speaking; asking for assistance, and eventually the only word I could utter was “God.” At this moment, I merged with a blinding white light and felt myself shatter into a million pieces. My body began to move of its own accord, and I felt a sense of bliss, as I became the music that was playing in the room, feeling each muscle move independently to each note that was playing. And then there were tears. Rivers and oceans of tears; and, a Kundalini awakening.
Then, the REAL work began.
Over the course of several weeks and months, I lay alone in my room while I received teachings and saw my whole life play out before me. I experienced the most ecstatic love and joy that one could imagine, and a particular type of agony that was inseparable from the ecstasy. I experienced directly a force and love stronger than anything I could ever have imagined, and to this Love I gave myself fully. I vowed to serve this force in whatever way it might ask, knowing and trusting beyond the shadow of a doubt that it would only ask for service in the name of love.
I also discovered a new vocabulary of words I had heard before but that had held no meaning to me, words such as beneficence, supplication, ecstasy, The Holy Spirit, gratitude. Oh, I had concepts and abstractions of what these words meant, but now I felt the ache and longing implicit in these words in my body in a way that demanded that I renounce my ordinary life and take vows in the service of “thy will be done.” I was brought to my knees. I understood in a way that I never had before - the glory, and magnificence of creation. You can read some of the journal entries I made during this time here.
It is important to understand that I had no context for such an experience. I didn’t believe that “experiences” such as these were possible, and yet I found myself in the middle of an unfolding series of events that were undeniably real. I had dedicated my life to the rational and logical, and my mind had been developed at the expense of my heart and intuition. As a student of Philosophy, I had vehemently argued against the existence of the very force I now felt operating in my life. But I could not deny my own experience, though I of course tried!
My life was turned upside down. I could no longer do the work I had done before. It was as if this series of events had changed me at a cellular level. The things that mattered before no longer mattered. Things that had given me pleasure or had entertained me before seemed empty now, and nothing was rushing in to replace them, only this deep love and gratitude for the Divine, and a profound emptiness.
It would take nearly ten years before those shattered pieces would fall into a different form, a form that made sense of my whole life. Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards.” As life began to settle, I saw that my life made total sense. I saw how every experience, every heartache, wound, loss, joy, had been crucial to my personal journey Home. Nothing had been an “accident” and there were no “mistakes.” And much of my personal history fell away.
After many twists and turns, and trying to fight the reality of my new circumstances, changes began to occur. I gradually moved away from my career in lending and finance and started designing gardens. Then, I began teaching high school students English Literature and Social Studies. Soon after, I found myself drawn to caring for those who were ill and dying, and completed a program in Spiritual Care, which included serving as a non-denominational chaplain in our local hospital. There I provided pastoral care to patients and their families, as well as to hospital staff. After nearly two years serving in the capacity of spiritual care provider, I decided to offer these services privately. I am also a Certified Ritual Leader through Tree of Life Teachings International.
For the last ten years, I have been a student of the Diamond Approach. This spiritual path and practice, coupled with the mystical transformation I discuss above, offers me a deep understanding of what it means to be human as well as many tools to sustain and deepen my connection with true nature, the divine, God, the Universe. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area provides me with access to so many cutting edge modalities for growth, development, and healing, and I feel blessed each and every day to awaken in such a beautiful area, supported by my loving husband and a group of like-minded friends and travelers.
I look forward to hearing of your journey and to providing you with the spiritual care that will support your personal ongoing self-discovery and healing. Let’s begin this journey together today.
Photographs courtesy of Lisa J. Winston.