When I was in my late 40s, I belonged to a sweat lodge community called Buffalo Moon Lodge near Navasota, TX. One of the many blessings I received there was precious time with wise elders. Since my early twenties, I’d been seeking guidance from wise older women. The Medicine Women and Moon Mothers who supported our ceremonies taught me about being human. They held my feet to the fire when I doubted my own guidance. I was both grateful and humbled by their teachings.
Over a seven-year cycle, I danced seven Sun-Moon dances, fasting from food and water for 4 days, and sleeping outdoors in the dance arbor, alternately dancing to the drums and medicine songs, and resting and going into dreamtime. I had many healings and transpersonal experiences, and journeys to the realms of my ancestors, where I encountered their states of wellness and unwellness, and saw how they affected my wellbeing and the lives of my children.
I dyed my hair in those days, influenced by the women I worked with at a healing center. Although dying my hair felt false to me, it felt necessary, so I would appear to be more professional. People guessed my age to be 10-15 years younger than I was. I felt vaguely uncomfortable, yet secretly flattered to be acing cultural norms for once in my life.
At the sweat lodges and dances, under the stern, fierce, laughter-filled love of Hopi, Cherokee, and Pueblo elders, I flourished in community that valued elders for their wisdom, stories and vision. Learning to live by ancient traditions that respect the Earth and the people and non-humans living together on this planet together deeply nourished me.
I stopped dying my hair. I remember thinking, “I want to be treated with respect!” I wanted my community to value me as an elder. To acknowledge the hard-earned wisdom gained through years of facing my inner demons.
I didn’t think much about aging. I still felt young. I had lots of energy and enthusiasm for life. But when I looked at my hands, I could see it. I was aging. My hands looked like my grandmother’s hands, freckled and wrinkled. Years of gardening and washing dishes without gloves, being out in the hot Texas sun, eschewing sun block. My hands looked older than the rest of me. But they weren’t.
ACCRETION 1 © Nancy Kern 2019
Soon, I’ll be 66. Not so old, but not young. I’m looking at 70, 75, 80. The way forward is aging. I’m more aware that death is a sure thing and my life gets shorter every day. My 86-year-old friend Robert shares his wisdom with me: what to do, what not to do.
When I turned 60, Robert said, “I stopped exercising in my 50’s. Start exercising now, in your 60’s, while you still can, if you value your mobility—because it isn’t going to get easier.”
I had indeed slacked off. When you’re young, you can quit exercising, then pick it up again, almost where you left off. Not so as you age.
I followed his advice. I increased the distance and speed of my walks, began doing joint mobility exercises and reformer Pilates. Later I added biking and renewed my chi gong and tai chi practices from years gone by. I feel like a kid sometimes, when I pedal fast in the evening breeze, watching the sky go pink and gold. I feel free.
ACCRETION 2 © Nancy Kern 2019
I had a wakeup call one day while walking. My right hip was giving me trouble. Since childhood, my left leg had been longer than my right. This imbalance caused pain in my hips, legs, feet and back. It caused pain in my whole body.
Out walking one brilliant spring morning, while I was enjoying the play of light through fluttering leaves in the light breeze, my hip almost collapsed. When I stepped out on my right leg, it barely held my weight. I caught myself and stopped right there, under a live oak tree.
I said to the tree and the sky, “This is a hip replacement in the making.”
I didn’t want to fall. An elder falling is not the same as a child or a young person falling.
A dancer friend referred me to a chiropractor who evaluated me. He said, “Your left leg isn’t longer than your right one—your right leg is jammed up in your hip socket.”
With that, he gently adjusted my right femur and poof, my legs were even. That meant my hips were even, too. They continue to be even, 5 years later.
Dr. Alex said, “It’s going to take you 3 years to reposition the ligaments and tendons. It’s going to be painful, and you won’t like it.” Then he showed me an exercise that hurt like crazy. Listening to my body, I knew I needed to find another way.
I set about to convince the more rigid, less elastic tissues in my hip, that even though they’re mostly made of collagen and don’t have much elastin tissue, they can change. The metaphor for one who is aging is obvious. Three years into it, I’d made progress, but continued to have a lot of pain. That didn’t stop me from exploring and listening to my body. I already knew that healing is an inside job.
I added into my routine reformer Pilates, neuromuscular massage and emotional release work with EFT tapping, of which I’m a practitioner. I discovered my psoas and its mysterious connection to the fight/flight response. When the psoas is compromised, we are at odds with ourselves. I found incoherence deep within my sense of self that stemmed from childhood. When I was eight or nine years old, I had a traumatic experience and my sense of self split into parts. During that same period of time, my leg length discrepancy appeared. Until then, I’d been the fastest runner in my elementary school. After that, I got cramps when I ran. In time, I stopped running.
Healing is like following the dot-to-dot drawings I so loved in my childhood. With persistence and meticulous efforts on my part, my hips, legs, and feet are changing. I am becoming more flexible. While I’m not as flexible as I aim to be, I can do the exercise my chiropractor recommended without pain now.
Who says aging must make us more rigid?
A trainer at the gym where I got a free membership through Medicare and Silver Sneakers said, “Retraining those ligaments can take 15 years!” Since then, I see myself as ahead of the curve. I’m making steady progress and can sit cross legged now with only mild pain. I imagine that when I’m 75, I’m going to have great hips.
ACCRETION 3 © Nancy Kern 2019
It’s a joy to be changing, growing, healing and evolving. I’m teaching, seeing clients in my Spiritual Coaching practice, and painting. I continue to learn, make new friends and be excited about life. I love mentoring younger women, embodying for them the older wise woman I longed for in my twenties.
Life continues to tear me open and heal me. I’m passionately devoted to healing epigenetic trauma and leaving my family and the world a more harmonious place than the world I was born into.
Over the past four decades, I’ve logged countless hours transforming inherited trauma to wellbeing, replacing dysfunctional patterns with functional ones, and raising awareness and delegitimizing misogyny, racism, and dominator culture, which has wrought havoc on cultures worldwide over the past 5,000 years. As I heal, I can help others heal.
I see wisdom as a direct transmission from our ancestors. I want my life learnings to be of value to others on a healing path. As an elder, I take a long-range view of change. I don’t expect transformation to occur overnight, or even in my lifetime. I’m planting seeds of change and nurturing them. My last name, Kern, even means “seed.”
Taking effective action to transform and bring forth harmonious partnership in an equalitarian society, where there is no hierarchy, is the most inspiring, exhilarating endeavor I can imagine. Whether the change takes 500 years or 5,000, I’m in.
Even if it never happens, there is nothing else I can imagine dedicating “my one wild and precious life” to. (Thanks to Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day.)
[Geology]: “the process of growth or increase, typically by the gradual accumulation of additional layers.”
[Astrophysics]: “the accumulation of particles into galaxies, stars and planets.”
Nancy Kern, BA Rice University, MFA University of Houston, is an artist and intuitive healer with a national clientele. In 1978, she experienced a kundalini crisis involving a shared death experience that coincided with the birth of her first child. She began meditating when she was 23, in her effort to stay present in the face of overwhelming emotions. Her need to make sense of her life led her on a healing journey.
A few years later, while meditating, Nancy received a spontaneous transmission of the Akashic Records that instantaneously resolved a case of strep throat and fever. For fifteen years, she explored the Akashic field, putting the energy flows and felt sense into form through painting. Later, she studied with a teacher who taught her to open and close the Records and read them for herself and others. She reads the records through the body, harmonizing inner and outer and realms.
Over the past 40 years, she has remained curious, studying transpersonal realms and integrating the gifts she has received. Her path has led her from midwifery to energy healing to Spiritual Coaching.
Learn more and contact her through her website www.nancykern.com .
© please do not reproduce images without express permission from the artist. You can contact her through her website.