Art & Allison Daily Accepting Loss and
Flourishing in Love
By Donna Strong

 

 

In 1995, completely out of the blue, Art's whole life was smashed, when a boulder came careening down Glenwood Canyon outside of Aspen while driving home with his family. In another part of the country, Allison's well-organized world in Austin had already unraveled in a few staggering moments of very personal tragedy.

Art and Allison Daily have lived the Sufi saying 'Break my heart, oh break my heart, so I may love more deeply.' Their new book, Out of the Canyon, (see the book review on page 45) is a riveting story that traces the stunning and stark heartbreak each had experienced before ever meeting, and the pain they've processed since facing the tragic aftermath together. With all the loss they have suffered, theirs is a story abundant with hope and inspiration.

With bare bones honesty, Art and Allison poignantly describe the pitch of desire to understand and accept after their loved ones had left the human world behind. In their mute willingness to stay as present as possible through searing personal loss, they provide a richly evocative and rare glimpse into the process of redemption, how they found an opening to realize and receive the love still surrounding them.

This book is a breakthrough of lucid understanding and vibrant potency. Both personal and universal in its appeal, it has the power to catalyze healing where there are unresolved wounds of loss.

While not many of us have the staying power of their conviction, these two very human way showers have offered a triumphant story of new life and love arising like a phoenix from the ashes of loss. Bringing a message of the continuity of love through the most devastating of heartbreak, Art and Allison show that the circle is indeed unbroken, and a higher unity of love is always available.

Awareness: You have so finely woven the human with spirit; thank you for telling this story!

Art:  It was a new realm, and it still is. I continue to learn more each day.

Awareness: Your book is quite a bridge because one gets such a sense of you both being so firmly planted in the world, and yet you have both been called and your openness shows how much spirit is really available to us in our everyday lives.

Allison: That's so, so true. Until people have an awakening experience - whatever that is for them, they may not know how to open up to other realms.

Awareness: Often I feel that we live as though this earth life is really all there is, even if we do believe in something larger, there is still a big disconnect. I want to ask you about the experience you had, and how you have been able to open to larger realms of understanding.

Allison: It's a battle everyone has to deal with. Even though I feel that I can pretty easily connect to this different realm, I still struggle with it, going back and forth. A current example... Art and I have had a lot of conversations about what is happening with our economy and our world right now, and how painful it is to see all the uncertainty and questions. Yet for me, there's a sense of this beauty going on right now, because it's part of cleansing, of a need within to look at what is important beyond just what is on this Earth. I feel like we are being called to go into a different place and to reconnect within.

Art: This subject is the big one! It's not given to us to know these things with any certainty. So they fall into this spectrum of faith and belief, and each of us has either a closer or more distant connection to that. Allison is really a very intuitive person - there are a lot of people out there who are intuitive and I feel like they are somehow closer to the truth - knowing that there is more than the earth on which we walk.

In ancient cultures, at least what I know of them, shamans and religious leaders knew more than we do now. I think human beings had greater powers and were more in touch with our will and what we could do with it.

That body of knowledge has gradually died out and a lot of the reason is life has become more cerebral and complex, not so much based in the physical, with simple responsibilities of feeding and taking care of ourselves and others.

Not only have we gotten far away from this way of living, with the devastating economic shift Allison is talking about, but people are being thrown back upon their own resources. With this, people tend to look inward and draw more upon their own strengths.

Allison: Even with Art and I, what's going on in the world has brought us closer. We have taken a step further within our own lives, just looking at what is important, and it really gets down to the basics - it's our kids and each other.

Awareness: I feel that you've digested something large, there is so much clarity in what you brought forth in your book. What would you like to tell our readers about "Out of the Canyon?"

Art: The experience I had in Glenwood Canyon changed everything - my whole life at the time. My past, my present and my future were all wrapped up in my family, my wife and my children. All of a sudden I had nothing to hang onto or look forward to. I found myself in a place I couldn't explain or understand and I was terrified. I had no control.

Obviously the first lesson in something like this is, we are not in charge, even though we spend most of every day trying to hold onto things and make sure they go in the right direction. Ultimately, we don't have much to say about it, although neither Allison or I believe God makes the decision that there will be a tragedy or loss of life.

What I learned is that within almost all of us, there is an incredible strength and tenacity to stay alive, to move forward and make the best of things no matter what. It may be a natural evolutionary force, but I tend to think there's a lot more to it than that.

There is an element I think that transcends biological and evolutionary theory, and even religious theory, as we know it, where it begins to operate on a higher plane of faith. It's very difficult to explain, but when you have an awakening experience, you take from the experience what you can.

Allison: I was not there for Art's accident, although I was there not too long after. What I learned from the experience and hope to communicate in the book is that God, spirit, whatever people want to call it, was able to reach out and get me involved in his life. I believe that is the beauty of it, that if we listen and open ourselves up, things that are supposed to happen can happen. For me it was a real divine experience. What I call God and the angels brought us together and created something magical.

Art: I think what I learned, above all things, and continue to learn, is compassion. What do I mean by that? I have learned that I can touch other people.

I know people in a way that I never did before. I can be with them... it doesn't matter who they are, I can reach out and touch them, and make a difference. Through compassion and touching one another... that is the connector.

Awareness: I can feel you are both really open to the world and to people. One of the understandings I've come to, from having beloveds of mine go forward into the light ahead of me as you have aptly described, is there is a carving-out process that occurs that has made me more open. I get that about you two, that through devastating losses, you have been finely chiseled in a way to reveal more spirit essence in your human form.

Allison: I would say that absolutely. As Art said, the opening and the compassion, together, is a powerful mix.

Art: Through tragic loss and the rawness of it, you're forced back upon your own reserves and internal strengths. Under normal circumstances you do not reach for, or use these reserves. That is a catalyst for the opening process because you really are one big wound that is open and naked.

The protections that we have developed for ourselves since we were babies are stripped away suddenly and the big wound becomes a physical and an emotional openness that enables us to be filled with love.

Awareness: There are so very many heartbreak secrets people are holding, even if their lives haven't been so devastated outwardly; one of the things I was going to ask about from the book is "Temenos," meaning to provide sanctuary.

Art: You've put your finger on the heart of the Temenos experience, interestingly enough. It's all about the secrets we carry within us that are eating away because we are afraid to share them. When someone is so raw and scared, so uncertain, and off balance, how do you provide a sanctuary, a safe place for them in which they can begin healing? People need to know, first of all, that they are loved, so it touches the person and they can feel it and know it continues.

There's so much more to creating a safe place, to start alleviating whatever fears the person is experiencing. I think it makes a difference to get some help. Although I'm not prone to reaching out and letting someone in to guide me, I learned fourteen years ago that's not a very good way to lead your life.

We really all need a lot more help than we are really used to acknowledging. If you've got a really good professional therapist, then that person can ride into the darkness with you, let you go where you have to go, and help you feel safe in that terrifying process - that you're not insane, you're not wrong, it is just what has to be, and you will come out of it someday... someday it is going to be all right.

We all need some guideposts. Even if there's just a little bit of an outside framework to let you know you are not completely lost. That is an important component of sanctuary that we are talking about.

Awareness: You really make the point clearly that there are so many different ways people, even strangers, can help someone who has been devastated and to provide aspects of caring that contribute to a quality of sanctuary in order to heal and become whole again.

Allison: I do agree with that completely.

Art: That's the essential component, loving compassion from family, friends and even strangers, to surround and envelope the person to feel safe.

Allison: I don't think I had that safety, certainly not when my whole family was dealing with the grief from my brother's death. I don't think I had safe enough friends, so being with a counselor was my only sanctuary, and I really let loose, I could scream and let go. I shoved my grief back and dealt with it later. When I finally did, it was so important to have somebody who needed nothing from me because I am a giver, and so I needed someone who was just there to give. That was really important.

Awareness: That is a really germane point, to realize there are different ways that safety can be realized. There are so many unresolved wells of grief and the message you are bringing forward in this book offers an enormous opportunity for healing those wells of grief that so many of us secretly harbor.

Art: I love the way you talk about it, you're right, there are huge untapped wells of grief that affect all human beings in so many different ways, but they don't talk about it, they just suffer with it. That's what the Temenos experience is about - a gathering of 16-18 new people in a room, with about 30-40 'graduates,' as back up, with two extraordinary guides. It goes on for up to two and a half days. It is designed to provide a safe place where people can release and share whatever it is needed...

Allison: To unlock their demons...

Art: Yes, unlock their demons, whatever it is that is getting in the way of moving forward in their lives and it's...

Allison: Magical...

Art: It's unbelievable the stuff that comes up, there is so much stuff held, so much hidden guilt and emotions that people never talk about.

Allison: You can not imagine the sexual abuse that has gone on in our world. And I am talking about most of these people are who you would consider the 'normal' people walking around. The amount of abuse - some sexual, some physical, and emotional - it's unbelievable what people are walking around with.

You phrased it perfectly - the wells of grief - that is what people are holding onto. My prayer is that reading the book creates a safe place for people; to spark whatever grief they have and for there to be a healing in whatever way works for them.

Awareness: I can attest that your book has opened the door to some profound healing.

Art: If this book can touch deep secret places and fears that exist in each of us, then it will exceed our dreams.

Awareness: You talk about the gifts of grief, and compassion - are there any others?

Art: What comes from an experience like this is openness and compassion, and ultimately, greater love. As the quote from Reinhold Niebur in the front of the book indicates, "...we are saved by love." That's what this book is about.

Awareness: From reading the book, I have been very inspired by the love that you two practice with one another. I admire that you're living a human life and yet these amazing openings are happening that indicate a connection with the larger universe. What is the mix for the two of you with interweaving human life with an expanded awareness of soul and spirit?

Art: I have never had a relationship with anyone like the one I have with Allison. It is quite extraordinary and part of it comes from who Allison is a powerful loving force. I am so blessed to have her with me. What we do? We do almost everything as a team. We are facing life together. We trust each other and yet even today, it is not necessarily easy. We are still grappling with many of the same problems and issues other families are grappling with. Yet I always have Allison, she takes my back. If I have a mate who takes my back no matter, that's the big one. I'm stronger, more resilient and happier. I'm a better man.

Allison: I don't think I knew who I was until I met Art. I was a kind and compassionate person, but it wasn't until he came into my life that he showed me I could be a compassionate and loving woman, and have my power too. One of the things I feel is important to acknowledge is that our relationship is not perfect, although it's pretty close. Right now we're in a really great space, but we've been through some really hard times, and we have worked hard to get to this place.

When I came into Art's life, he was in serious grief, yet one of the most amazing things he said was, "You need to let me have my grief - you can't take it on." Because I'm a caretaker, it would have created a very unhealthy relationship. He did counseling and a lot of work apart from me. That was a huge thing, because it could have gone a different way.

The other thing I would say is that the first year of our relationship was a lot about me nurturing him - facials, body rubs, and other healing aspects. After about a year, I realized that I needed to be given back to. Especially after having kids, all the emotions and the hormones, I needed to set up some new boundaries within our relationship. I went to a counselor and worked through some feelings and then was able to still be there for Art and acknowledge that there were things I needed as well. For us, we had to make a lot of mistakes and then find the ground together where we once again created a sanctuary between the two of us, where we were safe enough to say things to one another and absolutely know he's right there. Now we haven't always been that way, but we have come to that place within the sanctuary of our relationship.

Awareness: What I hear from you is that you've built a foundation that is a safe sanctuary to keep growing.

Art and Allison (in unison): Absolutely!

For more information on Art and Allison's book and upcoming events, please visit: www.outofthecanyon.com .

Donna Strong is the author of "Coming Home to Calm." A creative and healing mentor, she can be reached at www.donnastrong.com  or www.growingupgreen.com 

 



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