Getting Friendly with the Mess

Life is so messy. All of our best attempts to harness it, predict it, get a handle on it, seem to be short lived. I know, because I have a lot of experience with this. All my best plans, programs, schedules and attempts to feel more prepared, more in control, more competent, are constantly defied by the messiness, the beautiful chaos, of life.

So today, for example, I feel the desire for things to have gone differently, to have accomplished more, and try to be curious, to see if I can be aligned with it, present to it. I try to stop and do this one little thing – be present – and hold off on strategizing for tomorrow’s improvements to my control plan.

This is not an easy thing: to remember not to get caught up in the urgency of fixing, to be present to myself, to notice the judgmental thoughts, to pause and sense the way my breath is trapped high in my chest and that my feet don’t seem connected to the ground, to feel the constriction in my shoulders and the terror rising in my throat.

I can perhaps feel into it and say a prayer, to help myself be with the suffering more easily:

May I and all others who suffer this, know peace.

I can keep coming back to the obvious conflict between what I know at a deep level:

My current reaction is not about this apparent problem.

and what my body and mind seem to be screaming at me:

This is unacceptable! It cannot be allowed to continue! How are you going to stop this!

And tomorrow will come. Perhaps I’ll be a little wiser. Perhaps I’ll get some insight into this pattern. Perhaps not. Perhaps I’ll be a tiny bit more comfortable with the mess and the lack of control. Perhaps it’ll be a bit easier to notice that life goes on, and I seem to have what I need in each moment, even if it’s not my mind’s idea of what I need to be or have or do. And maybe a little of that will rub off on those around me, and they’ll even know a tiny bit more of peace because of it. I hope you’ll join me in practicing pausing in this way.

Love,

c

 

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Getting a Fresh Start

One of the most frequently cited reasons I hear for difficulty with change is that when the beginning of some grand plan doesn’t roll out exactly as imagined, there’s no more wind in that sail. We don’t start the workout on January 1st, and all that energy and excitement go “poof!”, right out the window.

I know that feeling, and have fallen into that trap so many times. It’s such a sticky one! It’s not going perfectly, so the impulse is to abandon it. Framed more accurately, we are not behaving perfectly so we abandon ourselves. It’s quite a thing to notice that when things are not going well, we just sort of turn away from ourselves. We may not consciously recognize this as rejection or as violence toward self, but what if someone else did this – turned away whenever we did something they deemed less than perfect? Can you get a sense of the power of that response? How terrible it would feel if someone did that?

What do you imagine you might feel like if you did not turn away from yourself when things get tough? What does the part of you that stumbles and has fits and starts need in those difficult times?

So here’s the tricky part: if you haven’t seen that, or didn’t receive much of it early in life, chances are that turning away is how you learned to respond to your own discomfort. And, it may even be as you read this, that you either cannot understand or get a sense of why it would matter. THAT’s how powerful the adaptation is! It numbs us to the parts of ourselves that feel how bad it is to be alone in that pain, to be turned away from. We might even be proud of that ability suck it up and carry on.

Trouble is, that numbing is also buffering the feeling of the fullness of life. Brene Brown says all the time…you can’t selectively numb. I think it’s a really good, succinct way to convey the price of checking out when we’re in pain. The price is life, beauty, joy, up and down, all of it.

Experiment time. What would you say to someone else in those moments? Better yet, what would you say to a child? What would you do for them? Can you imagine what they might feel like to be receiving it? Can you imagine what it might feel like to be on the receiving end of that kind of compassion yourself? Notice what comes up. If there are thoughts like “nothing will ever get done and I’ll misbehave”, look a little closer to see if that’s true. Does the kind voice saying “it’s ok, you can start over right now, or choose an easier goal today” make you want to quit, or is it motivating? Does the voice of “you missed your chance, you’ll never get it right” steal your energy, or make you feel like starting however you can?

We all want big change, instant gratification…to feel better right now. We all think it comes after we do the big thing, make the big change. It’s a trick – a trap. The “feel better” is in the shifting how we relate to ourselves in the present, right this second. It’s available in every moment. Ironically, self-compassion leads to greater honesty about our situation, greater self-acceptance, and  the CHANGE we seek! Stable, lasting, healthy change begins to occur in all those places we tried to whip ourselves into shape so many times, as if by magic. Don’t take my word for it…you have to experience it to believe it. No risk. If nothing changes, it didn’t cost thing.

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A New Year, and Part 6

Here I am on the first Tuesday in 2017 pledging to you my intention to write every Tuesday this year. So much has happened and the mystery just keeps unfolding!

The 6th installment to the SE Experience posts is summarized here:

  • Being more fully embodied led me to work on my posture (with Egoscue and Rolfing) and has resulted in 9 minute miles on my 3 mile runs, and complete turns while skiing, and less pain virtually everywhere!
  • More and more feeling like I’ve “arrived”. I’m alive, I survived, and life keeps providing opportunities for refinement of clarity of being through new awareness of and shedding the old unneeded patterns and defenses.
  • I can do more than I could before…it’s more like there aren’t enough hours in the day, rather than not enough energy to sustain it.
  • My view of trauma and the routes to healing it keep expanding…beyond body, beyond this lifetime, beyond personal story.
  • Expansions and contractions, up and downs, focus and lack of it, are all ok to come and go as they are.
  • My work and my clients keep benefitting from this ongoing expansion.
  • Gratitude feelings and my capacity for connection seem to keep growing, and are more important than I ever could have realized.
  • I can make decisions and take action to address my needs without permission from others.

There’s something tumultuous going on…can you feel it? There’s a call to action, to change, to shed the old. There’s an electricity in the air. There’s also chaos and confusion. Here are some possible points of entry or support if you feel that call but don’t quite know what to do:

Any book by Barbara Marx Hubbard, including Conscious Evolution.

Right now I’m reading The Adventure of Self Discovery, by Stanislav Grof about new dimensions of consciousness and inner exploration.

I’m also reading about connection and the powerfully transformative effects of compassion, connection and kindness meditations and exercises in Barbara Frederickson’s book Love 2.0You can go to her website here and get started without the book.

I continue also to read Alice Miller’s work to keep myself open to seeing and understanding the pervasive patterns of abuse that we all have been subject to at varying levels and degrees, and then subject others to through subtle and over messages and acts. It’s such a powerful lens for seeing how trauma is culturally condoned, perpetuated and sustained.

And, probably most important, get busy clearing your trauma. If you don’t know where to start, you can contact me for suggestions.

Happy New Year, and see you next week!

 

 

 

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Love Trumps Hate

To all of you Dears who are struggling right now, I thought I might provide this list of things I have found enlightening and inspirational this week. I have found myself first in shock, and then surprisingly motivated and energized, as I realize that we all are responsible for being the  change we want to see in the world. I have to credit all the work I’ve done via Somatic Experiencing for the way I am bouncing back, as well as credit the amazing field of supportive energy generated by all of the SE community. I have witnessed breathtaking honesty and capacity to question personal bias, perception, and beliefs, both by myself and others.

I am realizing that I cannot presume to know how or when change is meant to occur. I can only keep moving in the direction that makes the most sense, with love and intention, as I hold lightly my ideas about how it “should” or “shouldn’t” be.

Much love to you all. Please share if you have anything I could add to the list below that promotes love and understanding.

  1. This is how the future voted: see map
  2. The power of safety pins: symbol of anti-violence, anti-bigotry
  3. Jeff Goldblum’s response
  4. Charles Eisenstein post
  5. Past presidential debates footage
  6. Post on opportunity for feeling into our darkest parts
  7. Gabe Dixon Band “All Will Be Well”
  8. No Ordinary Time
  9. TPM: This is More than a Technical Failure
  10. WP article calling out liberals’ ignorance
  11. Advice from Jack Kornfield
  12. Reminder: Don’t bite the hook
  13. tricycle’s 5 Teachings for post-election healing
  14. on Raising awareness of micro aggression (11/12/16: I’m still struggling with the anger/aggression of the author’s tone in this one, but I am glad to have the increased awareness of other’s reactions to my reactions)

 

 

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My SE Experience: Part 5

Life goes on, as does my continued progress in healing with Somatic Experiencing, which I’ve been sharing in this ongoing series of posts (Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4).

My capacity continues to grow. When I use the word “capacity”, I’m referring to the ability to handle whatever arises, the capacity for embodiment and full enagement in my experiences, self-regulation, or the nervous system capability to handle charge or energy responses elicited by life, whether positive or negative emotion is attached. I continue to notice it in new and specific ways:

  • A sense of being supported by ground, or by the earth. It’s quite literally a feeling of being held, soothed, supported, calmed – just by the thought or idea of literal ground, and also a feeling of support or comfort just in feeling the chair or the solidity of ground underfoot. It’s the feeling of knowing I can rely on it, no matter what, that it’s always there.
  • Continuing increased sensitivity to touch. I think this cannot be adequately described if you’ve never experienced it. There’s something pleasurable or satisfying about touch now, even my own touch – clasped hands, for example – where I can feel it in a way that I couldn’t before. I can feel the size of my fingers, the bones in my hands, the warmth, the aliveness the cushion in the palms and pads of my fingers.
  • Sex. More interested, more pleasurable, more present during, new access to sensation…actually kind of great!..see previous item in this list.
  • Increasing ease of connection. More able to feel easy connections with others and ride out temporary disturbances in feeling of connection. Feeling more a part of things, and seek out my “tribe” of likeminded people and nurture ongoing connection there. Less panic or fear or whatever that discomfort is after being relaxed with others, giving a speech or performance, or sharing my feelings.
  • Increased awareness of tension patterns. I’m really aware lately, perhaps at a new level, of the patterns of tension, especially holding in the gut. I’ll notice it, check to see what else is “going on” at the moment, and consciously release the tension in the abdominal area. It’s an awareness practice if ever there was one. I highly recommend it. Seems like all manner of problems below the waist can originate from tension patterns there, based on my research and work with myself and clients.
  • Increased freedom of action to shape my environment. Making my home and work spaces more comfortable, organized, and pleasing for me to be in.
  • Increased ability to be with and recognize fear, and other uncomfortable emotions, and stay with them as they move through and OUT. (Since first beginning to compose this post, I would have to say I now am even curious, interested, or EXCITED about exploring intense negative emotion to see what is there to uncover or process. I know – sounds utterly ridiculous! I couldn’t make this up if I tried, and never expected it to happen.)
  • Increased access to subtle sensation, ability to sense it, and to track it as it moves through. Example: The other day in practice with peers I tracked the anticipation sensation and urge to reposition a vase so I could see the pattern better. I could feel the motion my arm and hand and wrist wanted to make, and the feeling of holding/anticipatory tension in gut and chest of just imagining the view of the vase after turning it. And I never even touched the vase!
  • Increased motivation and ease for maintaining my body. Becoming aware of and bringing my body into a state of ease before eating, tailoring my frequency and intensity of exercise to my body’s needs, adjusting activity levels (work, people time, busyness) to my current capacity.
  • Wanting and having more play. Increased interest in play, and in making more things playful that I wouldn’t normally have in the past.

The journey continues, and I’ll continue to update you.

Contact me if you’d like to know more about anything I’ve presented in this series of posts, or have questions about meditation, mindfulness, or Somatic Experiencing.

 

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Meditation and Trauma

I was checking out the groups on the Insight timer app on my phone after meditating yesterday, and there was a thread in one of them where a bunch of well-meaning people were offering a lot of advice to someone suffering with a huge grief reaction triggered by meditation. She described having opened up a well of grief that she could now not close off and could not meditate, and was hoping to try walking meditation.

People offered all kinds of things, from very spiritual sounding worthless advice to just “be with the pain”, to formal instructions on how to do traditional walking meditation.

I cringe when I see things like this happen. Apparently this person listened to a guided meditation designed to purposely connect her with her grief, or produce forgiveness, or something (she knew that was what it was about), and she was quite surprised to wind up flooded by emotion, and by her description, now quite paralyzed by it. It sounds like she’s trying to just go it alone and cope, and it sounds like it’s not going away.

This sort of opening to grief happened to me at one point in my meditation practice, and the MBSR teacher evidently had no training in trauma, and told me she didn’t know what I should do, but that it wouldn’t hurt me. I stopped meditating for a long time after that. I just didn’t have the skills or the capacity to deal with it. Neither did the teacher. Not long after, I sought counseling.

Meditation is not a cure-all. It’s not for everyone, and if you have an experience like this woman is having, I don’t recommend just trying to white-knuckle your way through it. Meditation is not a cure all for trauma, and if you know you have a trauma history, just know that triggering grief or other powerful emotion is a possibility when you venture inward. Meditation is portrayed by some to be sufficient for alleviating trauma. It is not. It is not a substitute for therapy. It can be a very helpful adjunct, but in my experience, meditation alone doesn’t produce the kind of depth and completeness of healing.

I also believe now, and have had Peter Levine say before, that we’re probably not meant to do trauma work alone. We are social creatures by nature, and not designed for isolation – not in living, and not in the healing process. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent sitting with or trying to “be with” some particular piece of content, and yes, perhaps some tiny movement happens when I do that. But by and large, the biggest and most powerful shifts have come doing essentially the same thing, witnessed with a guide (Somatic Experiencing practitioner or student) who provides just the right amount of support – no more, no less – for the content to be processed (shifted and integrated).

Meditation can bring us into contact with long-buried pain, grief, and trauma. Innocently making contact with the inner landscape, without a skillful guide, we can find ourselves overwhelmed and confused. We don’t just “get over” the things that happened to us in childhood, contrary to popular belief, or our wildest fairy dust dreams. Our bodies remember the things that happened to us, and we don’t currently have the kind of societal recognition or social support to make the skills and methods for processing what our bodies remember common knowledge.

Our educations consist primarily of learning to suppress felt senses, and to rely on our minds as our sole source of intelligence.  There is a way to come into contact with our body’s memories of the past, skillfully and gently, that promotes balance in body and mind. Somatic Experiencing helped me discover I had a body and that listening to it was the key to healing, and now I help others learn how to be more fully embodied and skillfully relate to their emotions and sensations. Call me or visit the Somatic Experiencing webpage for more info.

 

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More Playing, Less Working, Please!

One of the neat things that is starting to really come into focus as a result of my own healing through Somatic Experiencing the last couple of years is the dilemma about productivity. Lots of things are coming into clearer focus, but this just happened today, and it kind of took me by surprise.

In the beginning, when school started with kindergarten, there was work. And there was the trying to work like others seemed to. And then being exhausted, unhappy, and falling down. And there was beating myself up until I got back up and did it all over again. And sometimes feeling a surge of energy from the sheer willpower of it, or from the moments of high that come with getting in the groove of workaholism.

After successive realizations/awakenings over the last decade, it became easy to see the destructiveness of buying into a generic idea of productivity. I have seen how others were trampled and I lost connection with them and myself and the present moment by my pursuit of a cleaner house or a better work product, or a more perfect  ___________ (holiday, meal, yard…anything, really). With practice, I’ve been able to soften in these mindless pursuits a great deal, and be in the present, and value the process at least as much as the product. This has been wonderfully healing to myself and others.

And yet, the questions still plagued me. How much to do? How busy to be? What’s the right answer? What’s the right perspective on productivity? And what do I do with all the messages I get from “out there” about how I should be sqeezing every drop out of life and pursuing success with every ounce of my being? Am I wasting potential? Will I regret it down the road if I don’t work enough or hard enough?

And there I am, driving to Mansfield on a beautiful winter day. Everything is coated with snow from last night, and there’s a misty fog. It’s like something out of a storybook. It’s nearly two hours’ drive just to ski for two, and it’s a weekday, and I’m noticing the familiar guilty feeling popping up. And then I notice the stream of garbage that trails in the wake of the guilt: all the times I heard “lazy” and “slob” and “daydreamer”, and how in some strange way it makes sense to me to also notice that I feel scared that I could be punished in some way for pursuing fun while most others are working today. My car could break down, or I might injure myself, or be ill, or beset by some other malady, and I should know better. I would have deserved it.

Then, as I simultaneously puzzle over the new awareness of the fear and start to push away the ominous thoughts for fear I’ll attract the bad things just by thinking about them, curiosity at that moment says WAIT A MINUTE…

“HOW IN THE STATE OF OHIO does my car possibly breaking have a damn thing to do with skiing today? Or with having fun? Or with being bad, lazy, a slob, or a daydreamer, for that matter!!!?” Silence.

“What if cars breaking, or getting sick just happen?” Silence.

“What if it doesn’t matter how freaking much I work or play or achieve or don’t?” Silence.

More silence. There it is. THE VOID. The thing all the spiritual teachers and pointers are always talking about. It really doesn’t matter. The truth of it rings from deep inside. Something inside my core trembles for a minute, then comes to a rest and a feeling of some kind of greater settling or peacefulness sinks in.

And just like that, there’s another level of realization. It feels so obvious. The old belief/trigger/pattern is about my worth being tied to achievement. But they are not connected. There’s no right answer to how much to work. I work as much as my body (not the ego) says work, and play as much as it says play. I do my best to stay within capacity and use my inner guidance (not the ego) to aim toward the things that seem to call to me. And sure, I could also probably still be more efficient or organized, and watch less tv, or do less mindless internet surfing.

And what about the voices, the messages, from “out there” that say I should do more? It feels so incredibly simple right this moment. They don’t matter. Comparing myself to others or to some imaginary standard, even my own best days, will never lead to peace. It can, however, lead to greater “success”, and more struggle, and possibly more money, and less rest, and less balance, and less grounding. And I can do all that, if I want to.

Right now, I’m just gonna ski as long as there’s snow. Spring’s right around the corner, after all.

 

 

 

 

 

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