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Excerpt from my Unfinished Memoir...

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

First Grade

I remember taking the school bus on that first day. It was an exciting feeling as I boarded the school bus with my brothers and sister. I had my lunchbox and was good to go! But, that first day also introduced me to a situation would became a frightful area in my life...religion!

I was much too sensitive for the the parochial school Catholic theology that was served up to first graders back in 1961. I remember on that first day the nun teaching started us right off with a brutal version of sin, heaven and hell. She drew a big circle on the chalk board and described this as the soul. Then she took the chalk and filled the circle with little marks and described these as venial sins. These were the lesser sins that landed you in purgatory, it seems. Then, she really got into it, throwing her whole body into filling up that circle with her piece of chalk! She described how this represented a mortal sin, and that if one died without first confessing to such a sin, one would go to hell forever, no reprieve! Needless to say, this made an impression ( and thus am recounting it to you these many years later...)

What to do with this information?! I think I went into a bit of a state of shock. The scene was so vivid, becoming an indelible memory. Suddenly my world was not so safe anymore...I really had to mind my "Ps" and "Qs"! Up until then, though chaos reigned in my home life - with violence both verbal and physical happening - I somehow had managed to hold it together on the inside. I had not had to consider my own mind a problem, a stealthy enemy that had to be watched at all times. I certainly must have been affected by the tension and upset that reigned in the home. But, I never had to do battle with myself. But, that changed that day.

Years later, it was described to me by an intuitive that the nuns did not mean harm. Rather, there was very little light filtering through them. For my sensibilities, this theology was, as mentioned previously, brutal. But they were teaching what the authorities in their lives had dictated to them. They were teaching what they thought was the truth. But, we were so little, the little kids sitting at their desk that day in São Paulo, Brazil. How could we possibly handle well this sort of monumental information? I know that for some there that day, it was more like water off a duck's back. But, on some level, we all heard this message.

I remember at some point early on in elementary school we were told we had to watch our thoughts, and not think any impure thoughts. Well, to a six year old or thereabouts, what exactly is an impure thought?! Having a highly creative mind, and having lived and experienced from the get-go a toxic - and deeply upsetting, unsettling and confusing - home life, my mind was now free to roam in search of possible infringement. This last bastion of ease with my own inner landscape was now put on high alert for possible "impure" infultrators! This was awful. Apparently, according to these religious authorities who swooped down into my world so suddenly, there was this outer judge, this God that scrutinized every thought and move and demanded an impossible perfection. And I, as a responsible religious citizen, had to second this emotion. And, thus, awoke inside of me the beginnings of an insidious scrupulousity - a demanding, merciless and exacting taskmaster who required perfection in all my thoughts, words and actions, truly a massive burden for the small shoulders of a little six year old...(and even the bigger set of shoulders later on in life!)

I think this proclivity toward scrupulosity was not only prompted by the nuns and my introduction to religion and its heavy duty dogma. It was also a strong sense I had developed about feeling ultra-responsible for my mother and her well-being from the get-go. And, it seems this proclivity even started before I entered the womb, per a rebirthing experience I had at the behest of my spiritual teacher experienced many years later.

The year was 1993. I had approached my teacher to talk with her about a particular sorrow that I was carrying around. We, my husband and I, were planning on having our first child, and I wanted to feel better as I entered this highly anticipated and wondrous time. This sorrow was an enigma to me and I wanted to be freed of it.

I came up to her and leaned in, and then presented my query. She responded by telling me to do rebirthing! At first I couldn't quite hear what she was saying. So, I said, "Excuse me." "Rebirthing. Do rebirthing," she responded. I was delighted! Perhaps I was expecting her to suggest a certain chant, or something more in line with traditional ashram life. I had heard of rebirthing and that sort of thing had always intrigued me. So this suited me just fine. She also directed me toward someone who knew of a good rebirther.

I started the ten obligatory sessions with the rebirther. (My recollection of rebirthing...It is really a simple method, but powerful. One engages in circular breathing - in other words, breathing that does not stop. And, this breathing apparently accesses very early memory. For many, they recall their actual birth experience. Mine was a little different, that way. In any event, it is important to do this with a trained facilitator.) For the first few sessions, it did not seem like so much was happening. But, toward the end of this process, I had an experience. I found myself standing next to a being of light and it was actually before I entered the baby body in this incarnation. He (For some reason, I am under the impression it was a "he," don't know why!) told me it was time for me to enter the baby body. The next human incarnation awaited me. But, I was not very enthusiastic about all this. In fact, I was fine just where I was! I resisted and then he gently offered me the "carrot on the stick" approach. He gave me a glimpse of my destiny spiritually in this future incarnation. With that, I said "yes" and instantly I found myself coming into the baby body. As I passed through my mother's aura upon entering, I spontaneously - in the actual rebirthing session - physically burst into tears. This was not an anticipated response. It was purely visceral. I must have felt deeply the sorrow and turmoil that my mother had in her aura. I immediately, in my tiny baby form, starting reaching out to her to console her. Perhaps I also picked up on her possible worry. She did have many months of bed rest during her pregnancies with my brother and me. These pregnancy were precarious for her and she would necessarily be concerned about this.

I told her telepathically that even if I didn't survive this particular situation physically, that I would always be. In other words, my eternal self would remain constant. But, I felt that she could not hear me as there was too much flux and movement, too much confusion and upset, in her being.

So, this feeling of needing to help her and feeling responsible for her well-being apparently started at the very beginning, you might say!

I suppose this is why my teacher indicated rebirthing to me. She wanted me to know that this primordial relationship in the human arena - with the mother - was a very sorrowful one. It ran deep and had had a profound influence on me. In fact, another time - during a quiet afternoon when I lived in her ashram (and more about that beautiful time in my life later!) I was reading a book that spoke to the topic of forgiving one's mother. As I read this, spontaneously an energy entered my right big toe - considered an auspicious site in the Indian scriptures - and traveled up my body to the heart chakra (energy center) region, lifting the heaviness that remained there. And, this was just for a second or two. Thus, the divine energy was indicating and revealing that which would help and free me. How wonderful!

So, now back to first grade...It is funny what one remembers. I had a birthday party that year which involved dancing to Chubby Checkers' "Let's Twist Again Like we did Last Summer" and a six-layer birthday cake. A beautiful cake it was, adorned with pink frosting and sitting majestically on the table in our less formal breakfast area. A pretty room right off our spacious and gorgeous central courtyard area, my friends and I stood area encircling this fine cake to sing Happy Birthday. The creator of this architectural wonder, Angelica - one of the maids in our employ at that time and a lovely woman - stood in our midst. And suddenly the cake must have decided it had had enough and starting leaning like the leaning tower of Pisa itself! As it fell to finally rest on its side, there was much hue and cry! I remember thinking - Okay, the cake fell. What is the big deal?! I remember thinking too much was made of this comical event...I suppose I was already noticing that I seemed to respond to events differently from others.

To that point, another memory is showing itself. We lived in a very beautiful area of São Paulo, Jardim Americana. Around the corner from us lived a family that haled from what I vaguely remember as an Eastern European country. I recall the mother coming out to the bus stop with her kids. And, I remember my mother making comments which ridiculed how this woman wore her lipstick. She described how this lady chose to apply the lipstick beyond the natural boundaries of the mouth, and how ridiculous this looked. She scorned this women's behavior. It felt very sad, this ridicule, and so unnecessary. I found it offensive and could not understand such behavior, on my mother's part.

Let it be known, dear reader, that this is not a tome to criticize and excoriate my mother. This is a description of a karmic circumstance, a karmic play. In this life, this was my fate - to have a mother that really could not mother. (A Vedic astrologer told me recently that I had an "absent" mother. She also said I had an orphan chart. Obviously, this is not alluding to the physical situation, but to my psychological and emotional one.) My mother tried, but she had her own emotional circumstance to deal with in this life. And we fulfilled what the other needed, in terms of our respective spiritual development. It is that simple. From that perspective, it is not personal. Even in the instance of this most personal of relationships, that with ones mother, it is not personal. So, as always, I wish my mother well and send her love. She did the best she could with what she had.

One final memory I would like to share which I believe took place in that first grade period. I was sitting on the school bus one morning. No one was sitting next to me. And I was contemplating how much schooling remained in my life. I calculated and realized that not only did I have 11 and some years left, but also had four years of college to complete! (And little did I know, at the time, that I also would be completing graduate school!). I thought something along the lines of: Wow, that is a lot of years. And, will it ever be over?! Well, I can tell you that - these many years later at age 65 - yes, it is over; and, my, how quickly it all went, in retrospect...

Annie Kiyonaga

Addendum - I have been met with great grace in this life, and have had the opportunity for profound healing to take place. I cite the deeply disturbing effect of my home life as a child, as well as the religious teachings that came my way, in this post. But, I also recognize the powerful and beautiful means I have been given to heal and become more and more free; in this same life.

Finally, I feel gratitude toward it all...

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