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by Kevin B. Burk, author of The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life.

Iíve been observing and experiencing a great number of significant changes in my life, of late. Some have been milestones and rites of passage for me alone, and others have profoundly affected the members of my spiritual community as well.

These events, and the wake of these events are creating fundamental and profound shifts in every area of my life. The challenge, for me, is that Iím still very much in the middle of this journey. I donít have the kind of perspective that I usually like to believe I have when I share my observations and experiences in these articles.

I know that the events of the past few weeks are hugely significant; Iím just not entirely sure of what.

You see, this is not the article that I expected to be writing. I expected this article to be about change, and nostalgia, and loss, and death, and the whole concept of ďhome,Ē and how home shapes and defines who we are as individuals. Iíll be exploring most of these topics in this article, but not in the way I thought I would. For one thing, I thought Iíd be coherent about them, and that seems increasingly unlikely.

The biggest personal event happened over Motherís Day weekend, when I went back to New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

In my own, personal way, I was profoundly affected by Hurricane Katrina. Of course, Katrina affected me on a spiritual and emotional level, and in no way affected me physically or economically, so I really didnít feel like I had the right to complain or to process my feelings in a public manner. My parents were fine, and although they did lose a rental property, they didnít suffer any significant damage or loss. Some friends of the family and a few of my cousins did lose almost everything, but that didnít give me the right to complain or claim sympathy by association.

I came to realize that my grief (and I was most definitely grieving) was entirely personal and entirely selfish. As much as I felt compassion for the hundreds of thousands of families who were uprooted, and for the thousands of people who lost their lives in the flooding, what I was processing was the fact that the city I loved, the city I grew up in, had changed so dramatically that it may as well no longer exist.

Now, I havenít lived in New Orleans officially since 1989, and I havenít lived there full time since 1985, and my parents sold the house I grew up in about 16 years ago, so when I do visit and stay with them, itís in a home that holds no memories for me. Even so, when my parents announced that they were moving to Florida at the end of the month, I discovered that I still had a lot of energy tied up in New Orleans, and that in some strange, outdated way, New Orleans was still home to me.

Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive about this trip to New Orleans. Not only would it involve spending time with my family, but it would also involve seeing New Orleans post-Katrina and saying goodbye to the city because there would no longer be any compelling reasons for me to visit.

I spent some time in meditation before the trip, looking for guidance, and realized that I needed to reclaim the parts of myself that were still anchored in New Orleans. I had a sense that there were a number of old personas still hanging around in New Orleans in places where I had experiences or made decisions that fundamentally shaped and defined my sense of self. These old personas have been limiting me, more and more noticeably of late. By reclaiming these old selves and integrating them, I would have considerably more resources--not to mention freedom--to discover who I am now, without being limited by who I was then.

The visit to New Orleans was truly wonderful for me. First of all, it was absolutely the best, most enjoyable, least stressful time Iíve ever spent with my parents. The reason for this, of course, is that I actively applied the skills and techniques I present in The Relationship Handbook and even I was amazed at how well they work (and Iím the one that developed them in the first place).

New Orleans is still struggling in the wake of Katrina, and there are reminders of the scope of the disaster everywhere. However, most of the places that I needed to visit--most of my touchstones had weathered the storm extremely well. The one exception was the house that I grew up in: itís been gutted, and the entire neighborhood is deserted.

I had an entire day to myself, which gave me the time I needed to visit the places I needed to go and process whatever I needed to process. I let my intuition guide me, and I was rather surprised at some of the places (and memories) that were still shaping my life. I spent several hours at my old school, which, unsurprisingly, contained a number of old Kevins. What did surprise me was where (and who) some of them were. In every case, each of these selves was an embodiment of the Orphan Archetype. Each one represented a time when I had made a choice to deny or suppress some part of myself in an effort to be accepted by others. Each one of these orphaned Kevins was anchored in New Orleans, and still draining considerable energy and restricting who I let myself be in the world.

The experience of standing once more in places where I had had experiences that defined my sense of self was powerful. For a few moments, I was the 7-year-old Kevin, the 12-year-old Kevin, and the 16-year-old Kevin, experiencing levels of fear and of pain that I had long ago forgotten. I stood in each spot, experienced the energy, and did my best to comfort my younger selves. And then, I took each of them with me.

I had expected that I would be writing an article about my experiences of New Orleans, exploring nostalgia and the longing for oneís original home, but after spending the day reclaiming my energy from New Orleans, I no longer felt the same way about it. New Orleans is not home to me anymore because Iíve reclaimed the orphaned parts of myself that were anchored to New Orleans. The things that made New Orleans home are now within me, and Iím exploring the possibility that ďhomeĒ is something that I now carry with me wherever I go.

The experience was very much like packing up old things preparing to move. I may have had everything I needed with me at last, but it was all still in boxes, and it was going to take some time for me to unpack it, explore it, and integrate it. I was looking forward to taking some time for integration once I got back to San Diego.

The evening I returned home to San Diego, I went to the Wednesday night class Iím currently taking at my Spiritual Community, and learned that a friend of mine, and a member of my community, Claudia Ferreira, had made her transition the previous Friday.

Claudia and I only saw each other at community events. We met the very first Sunday that I attended the celebration serviceóit was her first Sunday service as well. We met at a post-service discussion group and prayer circle, which we both attended to learn more about Science of Mind in general, and Midtown Church in particular.

We were both very different people then. I was living almost entirely in my head, and so firmly locked into ďIf You InsistĒ mode that itís amazing that I was able to hear any spiritual guidance at all. Claudia was profoundly affected by the fact that she had experienced a spiritual community that was founded on love and acceptance, an entirely new experience for her.

When I first met Claudia, all I could see was her pain. She didnít share much about her health challenges at first, but it was obvious to me that she had chronic problems. I got to know Claudia better when she attended the Foundational class that I took. I learned then, that among other things, she suffered from Multiple Sclerosis and Croneís Disease. She missed almost as many classes as she attended because there were days when she simply couldnít get out of bed. Even so, I had the opportunity to get to know her better through class, and began to see the awesome light that she embodied.

When I learned that Claudia had made her transition, I was shocked. This was sudden. Less than two weeks earlier, she had not only raised funds for, but also actually walked in the MS walk in San Diego, a huge personal triumph for her. Once I got over the initial shock, however, and ďtuned inĒ to Claudia, what I felt was an overwhelming sense of relief. I knew, without question, that Claudia was ecstatic to be finally free of the limits of her physical body.

Because I know the truth that we are eternal, multi-dimensional beings, and that we can never die or be destroyed, I also know that death is simply a transition. When people die, they donít leave us for good, they simply change zip codes.

I know, with every fiber of my being, that Claudia is infinitely happier now than she ever was while having her human experience. I also know that she continues to be a great light, an inspiration, and to be of service to all of humanity. Sheís simply helping from the other side now. (I also know that as the shifts in consciousness that we are all experiencing become more profound and dramatic, that many more people will choose to leave the planet and assist from the higher dimensions, but thatís a topic for a different article.)

But bringing things back to how I felt about this, Claudiaís transition was one more component for me to digest and integrate. Even though Claudia and I werenít exceptionally close, even though I knew that she was so happy that she was no longer limited by her physical body, even though I know that she is still a part of my spiritual community, I still felt grief as a result of her death.

And so, I questioned this. Why was I grieving when I knew that she was finally free? And then I realized that I wasnít grieving for Claudia, I was grieving for myself.

Iíve been exploring the idea that all grief is personal and selfish. When a loved one dies, we donít grieve their passing. We mourn the death of a part of ourselves. What we mourn is the person who we were when we were with our loved one, because that person, that facet of our own identity, has died.

I donít know how Claudia experienced me. I do know who I was when I met Claudia, and when I got to know her through class, and I know that I am no longer that person. And thatís a bit scary to me, because if Iím no longer that person, then who am I? That person was a big part of my identity, and my grief over Claudiaís transition is nothing more than my own process of mourning and integrating an identity that Iíve outgrown.

The 37-year-old Kevin was added to the compost heap along with the 7-year-old Kevin, and the 12-year-old Kevin, and the 16-year-old Kevin, and all of the other orphaned Kevins that I reclaimed during my trip to New Orleans.

This is at once empowering and somewhat terrifying (which is a very common reaction when faced with true freedom in life). While I release and re-integrate my old selves, mourning their passing, I am also faced with the unfamiliar task of deciding who I actually am.

I truly have the resources and the opportunity to reinvent myself from scratch. Now, there are many qualities of my older selves that I value quite highly, and I certainly plan to use those as a foundation. But Iím discovering that without the limits of these old, orphaned personas, that Iím a different person than I thought I was.

Iím free to explore the things that I like and I dislike from an entirely new perspective now. Every time Iím faced with a choice or an opportunity, I now question my instinctive reaction to it.

This is all very new, and rather abstract, so Iím finding it difficult to come up with concrete examples. However, one area that Iím questioning and exploring is what I want to do with my life.

Now, this is a big question. However, Iím realizing now that thereís absolutely nothing wrong with answering the question one way today and an entirely different way next year, next month or even next week. Iíve released so many old dreams and expectations of who I wanted to be and what I thought I wanted to do with my life. Some of the dreams still appeal to me, but whatís missing now is the sense of urgency, the timetable, and the drive to choose a path and stick with it.

While I know that one aspect of my noble purpose is to make the world a better place by helping people to improve their relationships, Iím no longer interested in devoting substantial energy to finding ways to make that happen. Itís obvious to me that Iím getting a ďNot right now,Ē answer from the Universe; when the Universe is ready for me to move forward, it will let me know, and Iíll be more than happy to do so.

Iíve realized that my main concern right now is reaching absolute integrity in my finances, and Iím now exploring a wide range of options that will allow me to reach that goal, including the possibility of going into an office to work somewhere for a few months. This is a big shift for me, because a number of years ago, I decided that I was not a person who wanted to work in an office, and that decision had some very significant repercussions in my life.

Now, Iím discovering that I might actually be a person who wants to work in an office. Iíve also recently discovered that Iím a person who doesnít particularly need to eat sugar, and a person who likes dogs more than he thought he did (although Iím not currently a person who chooses to own a dog).

And, at the moment, Iím a person who is having a very difficult time finding an elegant, let alone pithy way to close this rambling and somewhat incoherent article. So, for now, Iíll leave it at that.

Kevin B. Burk is the author of The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life. Visit for a FREE Report on creating Amazing Relationships.

©2006 Kevin B. Burk, all rights reserved. If you would like to reprint this article in your publication, web page, or eZine (which you may do for free!), click here for details.


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