Rude Awakenings ~ Catherine Sevenau

Catherine Sevenau Catherine Sevenau is a writer and storyteller who is out to capture your skittery mind. She's penned three books, compiled numerous collections of family genealogy, and has been a regular columnist in the SUN since 2016. She can be reached at [email protected].

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Dharma

Posted on April 14, 2024 by Catherine Sevenau


“We’ve been brought here for a very short time, against our will, and we don’t know why.” I love that line.

What is the point of our birth and life and death? Why are we here? What is our true purpose? These thoughts keep some of us up at night; others have never examined the questions. Some think life is meaningless, that it has no purpose, that it is simply a terrible misunderstanding. Others make it mean whatever they want it to mean.

I don’t believe any of us are here on a whim; I think each of us has a purpose—even if only to serve as a warning for everyone else. But for whatever reason we are in this body on this planet at this time, we all have gifts to give, we make a difference, and we want to matter.

Suppose that we are here to discover our true selves, and to serve others through our unique, creative expressions. I’ve been fortunate to have talented teachers in my life, mentors who lived according to their true callings, knew their purposes, their reasons for being. Two are paramount, and both have died. In May of 2001, Michael Naumer, a man whose life’s work was about consciousness and transformation, moved on. Dying of lung cancer, in debilitating pain, and knowing he had little time left, he chose to end his life with a pistol. My dance and writing teacher, Stephanie Moore, died from uterine cancer. She went out in January at the tail end of the wild storms that hit Northern California in late 2005 and early 2006. Stephanie was also not one to go gently into the night.

Both Michael and Stephanie understood their dharma, their true purposes, and their unique vocations in life. They held their teaching—be it dance, writing, or consciousness—as their responsibility and duty to others, and it’s what they lived for. Not everyone could hear what they had to say, or were interested, but many hung on for the ride, and it was wild. They taught us to create and live up to our standards, not theirs, and to see the world with wider eyes. They brought out the best in many of us, and turned us into dancers who felt our own rhythms, writers who found our own voices, and questioners who found our own answers. Rattling our cages, they shook loose our cobwebs. They were committed, passionate, on fire, and gave generously of themselves. Death ended their lives, but not our relationship. I forever bow to them for rocking my boat.

I met Stephanie when I was 39, and over the next five years, she taught me to dance—which was no small feat for someone with two left ones. I’d left my body as a child when there were times when it felt dangerous to inhabit it. I think because of that I had no sense of space or direction and was constantly tripping, bouncing off door frames, or knocking things over—a thin, wan, train wreck covered in tattered Band-Aids. Dancing moved me back into my interior. I smile when referred to as elegant; if they only knew. I’ve been twirling and two-stepping for 28 years now, and I bless Stephanie whenever the sound of a waltz drifts my way. My friend then changed her direction in life from accomplished dance instructor to gifted writing teacher. At the age of 53, I picked up a pen; she read my prose piece “Queen Bee” and from that, I found myself for the next few years in her Monday night writing class. That was the genesis of my family memoir.

I met Michael when I was 46. In 1995 I took his and wife Christina’s three-day course, the Mind of Love, and continued with the graduate work as it morphed into Beyond the Game. Michael also allowed me to assist him in the weekend workshops for the last two-and-a-half years they were offered. All in all, I took that course twelve times, along with five continuous years of Tuesday night graduate classes. I’ve done so much transformational work you’d think I’d be enlightened. That would be no, but at least I’m not asleep. Michael’s work influenced my thinking, writing, and way of being. I began to understand that things were happening for me, not to me. I developed the ability to turn my index finger around, without breaking it, to see my part. I learned that the mind is a dangerous neighborhood, and not to go in there alone.

These two will always be a part of my daily dance. I still hear Stephanie’s coaching: “That was perfect; just one thing” and Michael’s echo at the end of many a point, “and then some.”

So why am I here? Looking for my life’s purpose was like a fish looking for water: though it was all around me it took me a bit to see it. When I examined my commitments, where I direct my energy, where I lose track of time amidst my total absorption, my unique gifts became apparent: I’m a connector, here to keep “family” together: historically, biographically, and personally. I’m here to be a storyteller: to make people think and to make them laugh. I’m here to teach: I know a lot about some things and a little about others. These engagements, individually and in concert, dance inside my heart.

I didn’t choose how I’ve spent my life, rather, they subtly chose me; I get this magnetic pull inside me where wild horses couldn’t stop me. I didn’t plan on starting a carrot juice company, any more than I planned on owning a real estate business. Nor did I plan on getting married and being a mother, a businesswoman, a seeker, a dancer, or a writer. Life happens: my childhood, genetics, and karma have played a part, as have the choices I’ve made. I listen to that pull in my gut, even when it makes no sense. I pay attention to the clues that come my way and connect the dots. I notice when synchronicity appears. Curiosity, excitement, and trust propel me on the path of creating and doing what I love. It’s endless and ever-changing. I don’t worry when I’ll get there (as there is no there) so I follow my heart and continue on that winding path, wherever it may lead. It also matters not that I have no sense of direction; I always end up where I need to be, even when I don’t know how I got there or am not happy with where I am.

There was a time when I struggled, when I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing to make a difference. In my angst, a wise friend and teacher gently put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You don’t have to do anything, you just be you.” Seems easy enough, to show up and simply be me, except for those times when I wear my halo a little too tight or am annoyingly bossy; then I get to be the warning for others. Oh well. Sometimes you get to be the windshield, and sometimes you get to be the bug.

Mandala of Creation, by Michael Naumer




Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA