The Adventure of It All

What a weird day. One by one all five of my clients cancelled their appointments. If they had cancelled sooner, I could have made plans for today, but such is life.

This morning the people came to work on the chimney rebuild, and it didn’t seem like it would happen because of power lines, weather, and a lack of bricks, but somehow it worked out.

During my meditation as I waited for the workers to come, I couldn’t believe just how deeply I was able to drop into stillness, despite the awareness they were to arrive soon. I was even able to have a session and be mostly ok all day and not get activated the same as in the past from the all day thunderous noise in the house.

I have been sitting on a bunch of activation that started at the most recent biodynamic cranial sacral therapy (BCST) training, where we practice on each other. I have felt half cooked, emotional, and strangely aware that something big is shifting. I’ve been getting more BCST and Somatic Experiencing (SE) support to help the shift, and this morning had a session online.

I can’t believe how easy it is to do SE, sometimes even BCST, over a video connection. Today I noticed how much more open I’m feeling from head to tail down the center of my body, even at the start today when my body was freaking out with stress. It’s still strange. It started with a lot of vibration over a week ago, and now it is space. The ability to feel myself separate from the trauma reactions in my body is getting greater…more space between the two. It’s an odd split screen experience – totally knowing I am ok, watching the body be freaked out, unable to work or focus or sleep or whatever.

I had an awareness during the session this morning, one that’s been brewing all week, where I realize I have an expectation that if I speak up that the other will disconnect/freeze me out, or they will attack or retaliate/punish me for it. I felt it in my body, I was newly aware of where I learned it from, and I had an excellent guide who could hold space for all of it, even in moments where my mind tried to take charge of things (“should do it this way, not that way”, etc.).

In the end, what started as cumulative fear from major repairs on my house, triggers from the stuff in the air around the Supreme Court nomination hearings, and inertia from the discomfort of this blooming internal transition, became a doorway for me to access the trauma and discharge the energy. I could clearly access the sensation of the anticipation of the negative response, in my torso and face, and the suppressed energy of fight in the chest, arms and throat.

In the space that I had help making for experiencing that, things shifted pretty quickly, and a sudden curiosity opened up…what would it be like if I didn’t always expect it to go bad, or for everyone to be trying to take advantage of me, or punish me if I spoke up about something, even the smallest things? I could feel, can still feel now, the feeling of what that would be like, moving through life that way. Not in a pollyannish-glass-half-full-rosy-glasses-naive-trusting kind of way, but in a way where I have a reasonable expectation for people to do the right thing, that I have some recourse, if needed, but that mostly everything is workable – even when it’s not. It’s the feeling of space, and of lightness; of wanting to yelp with joy straight from my chest.

I realized with crystal clarity how much and how deeply I had inherited the suspicions and fears of my parents and grandparents, and how their trauma legacy had found a home in me, even though it no longer fits my actual life now. I don’t know what it’s like to live through a depression, or to be fed last because you are the last of 9 children and sickly and could be a waste of food. I have my own early traumatic experiences, but they are no longer my reality, and I got to experience this morning the distinctness of the lack of fitness of those responses for my current life. I got a sense of how exhausting and how completely, terrifyingly, activating that nervous system orientation of “everything out there is a threat” is.

And it is not mine. I can more easily work to shed it now, because I moved part of it through today. Even in moments when I have the mystifying impulse of addiction to dive even more deeply into that misery, I can still choose not to. I can choose to remember it’s just a chimney, women will persevere whatever the outcome of this most recent travesty, and there’s nothing lost in expecting the best from others. I can remember to feel into all the moments life and others have come through for me and smashed that old belief that everything is dangerous.

And just like that, there’s little more energy freed up for life, for the things I usually struggle to muster the courage or time for. It’s a good thing to have in these challenging times.

 

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Holding Beliefs Lightly

I’m really having to shift my belief system in order to keep moving toward what I need for this personal growth journey. Here are a few examples:

“If it’s meant to happen, it will happen easily”

Well, maybe. And maybe there’s something that doesn’t feel easy, but is exactly what I need to do to jump the tracks of the grain of the old pattern. It doesn’t look or feel easy, but it feels RIGHT; I just don’t know it until I’m in it, right there in the moment, or perhaps sometime after.

Ex: every time I travel to train, I feel, on the nervous system level, freaked out…by the preparation, airport security, the leaving home base, the orienting and navigating, driving a strange care, the time zone and culture differences, the training venue conditions. And then I adjust, and I come away with something amazing. But I think this keeps being true because I am drawn to certain experiences over others, and a deeper part of me is choosing these things from some intelligence that whispers “do this!”, rather than, “this would be good for your career/image/business”. It just so happens to wind up benefitting the latter, as well, anyway.

“I will always be limited by this ________, and in these particular ways: _________.”

If I let myself become attached to this limitation as a part of the way I know myself, aka “identification”, then I self select to make this true, reinforcing it over time. Or, I can challenge it, and keep holding it lightly because it may not always hold true. When that discovery is made, there is suddenly space, and new possibilities can arise in that space.

Ex: I want to hold lightly the idea that I will always have the environmental sensitivities that require diet restriction and trying to manage my environment. My teacher put it this way: “can you hold a space for the possibility that the inherent health in you is bigger than the harmful thing in the environment?”

“It has to make sense in order to do it.”

It’s amazing how many people, including myself, have fallen in to the optimizing trap, and especially optimization by money measures. I can’t even list the number of things I have done despite the clear indication that it wasn’t “necessary”  or made sense (cents?) by the measuring stick of dollars, and that have turned out to be invaluable in the end. For awhile I think I was bought into the idea that life was all about accumulating as big a pile of money as you can. I no longer think it trumps everything in decision making, and I feel resistant to quantifying my life this way.

Further, there’s the often neglected heart and gut when we make decisions from the head only, and insist everything be “rational”. If we counted our other innards as equally valuable sources of information, then all of our decisions could be considered pretty rational.

Ex: I rationalized ditching the idea of certain professional trainings that I wanted to do because of expense and thinking I was too tired. I think I may actually have been tired because I wasn’t getting enough of these sustaining experiences. Becoming a counselor when I did wasn’t rational, come to think of it. Nor was the Somatic Experiencing training which transformed my life.

“I have to do it myself.”

It depends. Some things I have to do myself, and other things I can only do with support. I learned to try to always do it myself because of relational patterns that conditioned me to hide my needs, emotions, and vulnerabilities to prevent people from backing away. It never really worked anyway, because it leaked out in ways that people saw anyway. A lot of them backed away, but a few stayed. The really good ones stay.

Ex: I can ask my husband for help. He can’t always help, but I can ask. I didn’t hide my state today at the training, and I received unbelievably marvelous and nourishing support, with not a hint of shaming. Which makes it easier (hopefully) to do again.

“Something is wrong with me because I feel bad, or ______ is happening.”

Often patterns that seem unworkable or persistent have to do with a nervous system imprint from something we thought we got over or can’t even remember because it happened so young such as: unbelievably enough, birth circumstances. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Think of all the things that can and do go wrong: separated from mom too soon or for too long, stressed out or depressed or hostile gestation environment, born early or late or not at all (c-section), or feet first, or cord cut too soon. These very first impressions of life on the young nervous system matter and can significantly shape our ongoing life experiences until the disruptions are addressed. I’ve not found any type or quantity of mantras or self help books or management strategies that worked as well for shifting patterns as Somatic Experiencing (SE) or biodynamic cranial sacral therapy (BCST).

Ex: at another recent event volunteering with many supportive colleagues, I attempted to hide my state (heavy, and tired) at first, because I was worried it would be deemed unacceptable. Instead it turned out that everyone was fine with it, and that made it easier for me to hold it and do my job with more ease.

“I have to be alone to get okay.”

This is a biggie. My particular history has made it difficult to connect, despite wanting it badly, and often being exhausted by social contact or unable to fully feel it. Continued work on heart, and relational and birth stuff is shifting this for me. It is a gradual and delicate process, full of fits and starts. SE really started to shift this for me, but BCST is deepening and making inroads to change in the very early patterns that nothing else had ever helped much before. Same for some of my clients, as well.

Ex: it never would have worked today to go it alone. Or maybe it would have taken a long time. I had to have a specific kind of support for my nervous system to shift. Hiding out would have turned down the volume knob a bit, but likely would not have shifted me into the kind of ease I got from the right kind of support.

So how do we start to shift beliefs and figure out what’s true?

I don’t really know. Maybe it’s divine intervention. Maybe it’s the spark of something inside that gets ignited at birth, or by some life event. Or a combo. Or maybe we come to this life with a plan. I can look back and see a 5 year old little girl trying to figure out the meaning of life and struggling to get out of bed in the morning, and having moments when she would look out the window and the stillness would pop in and she would try with all her might to make it stay. A struggle that led to reading, and wondering and asking questions even when it was ridiculed, and then a 20 year old who realized she had been taught to see the world as a hostile and dangerous place, and then to meditation, and awakening, and career plot twists and Somatic Experiencing, and now BSCT. The signals from the guide within get clearer and clearer, and easier to follow as the layers of trauma/conditioning/ego get peeled away.

What’s true is also always changing. That’s why the inner guide is so important. I used to think some things aren’t included in this rule, but I’m less and less able to say that now.

Can you hear it? All you have to do is start listening. And maybe also want to hear what it says. It’s there – the small still voice. Just start to be quiet, bit by bit, and it will lead the way.

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Can you?

Living a life of authentic expression takes courage.

Can you…

  • walk away from something you’ve invested heavily in when it isn’t right anymore?
  • stand up to nonsense about “flip-flopping” when you discover your old truth has been swallowed by a newer, truer, bigger one?
  • not water your expression down to the least objectionable thing so everyone can handle it?
  • abandon the temptation to measure your life in dollars, hours, number of books read, places visited?
  • ignore the people who, for some unknown reason, seem to think that they know what you need better than you do, and that you owe them an explanation that makes sense to them whenever you decide to veer from that course?
  • stop waiting for permission, or for others to understand the course you’re charting before you can set off?
  • quit being your own worst critic?
  • cease worrying what your friends or family will think, and rest in the knowledge that if they really love you, it won’t matter?
  • tolerate the freefall, as long as it might last, as you take the first step into the unknown?
  • imagine how good it will feel, succeed or fail, to be the explorer and discoverer of your own uncharted territory?

 

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The Endless Birth of the Self

I sit with the struggle of another shift raging in my body, marveling at the endlessness of this becoming process. My mind cannot keep up or make sense much anymore, though it keeps trying, exhausting itself. The experience is familiar, but somehow just a little bit new. I can sense the promise of more freedom if I can just keep going, doing the impossible – relaxing into the tension and compression and slow progress.

It makes me think of what the intensity of birth must be like – the waiting, the wanting to and not wanting to pace the floors, with no idea how it will go but having formed the imaginings anyway, the impatient desire for release, the bustle of loved ones coming and going with concern and earnest attempts to help – and some are so helpful – but not always being able to fully feel them there. These are just more ideas…my mind keeps trying to make sense of what I’m experiencing.

I notice the energy rise that wants to move it, to force a conclusion to this pressured straining, trying to imagine what it will all look like after this shift. It is impossible. The images can’t be accessed. Only the whispered hint of “you’ll be no one”. Alarm bells! Who is that? And how do I know it will be ok? What if I don’t like this “no one” person? What if nobody else does, either?  The scramble ensues as I search my data banks, all the books, all the teachers and teachings, for some sense of how this is supposed to go, of some predictable, acceptable outcome aligned with the new version of myself. Am I doing it right?

The scramble continues…”what if I don’t care about anything anymore after this?”. I’m aware of the way the fear has grown in proportion to the imminence of this arrival. The familiar falling away of the things I thought I was so interested in, invested in has been happening for awhile. I’m wiser now, so knew not to take it too seriously, to just keep getting up each day and doing the next thing until it becomes clearer. Caring, and somehow also not caring, about the little, the big, and the in-between things, and trying not to be to concerned about it.

In the grasping there’s a flash of clarity as I realize and cringe at the depth of the addiction to the ways I know my self…how else could I feel so deeply fearful – almost convinced! as soon as I notice the possibility of being free of the suffering, the next second immediately judging, that this could somehow make me a dangerous/immoral/bad person? Aversion to my own ignorance and fear, and fear of the forward movement move in and out of awareness as the feeling of a hopeless deadlock. I am hesitant to spend much time there because either side of the conflict feels like it could swallow me whole.

I realize like a light suddenly coming on that the box of understanding I’m trying to use to define what the newness will be is too small to hold it. The thing I’m trying to set free is too big, too wild, too unknowable to fit in such a defined and small space. It doesn’t want to be tamed, labeled, or caged. I will have no choice but to let it go, to be whatever it intends to be. It feels difficult but possible to keep going a bit further. Bit by bit, is all that is possible.

The day intervenes with demands for eating and talking and working and cleaning up, and I check in periodically with the progress. It’s still moving along, and there seems to be a moment of relative ease – a bit of a breather. No telling how long it will last. I’ll rest for a bit until the next thing I have to do, and just do the best I can to get through it. I don’t know what else to do. Amazingly, I seem to keep being able to take another step, so I guess I’ll just keep doing that, trusting  this unknown, unknowable force that keeps pulling me toward yet another realization.

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What’s the Point?

On September 7, 2017, I wrote:

I didn’t practice the guitar yet today, or at all yesterday, or the day before, even though my goal is 1 hour per day. An hour isn’t enough time to practice everything I want to, so I respond by not doing it at all. And then another time I might spend hours online learning and practicing music theory…instead of actually playing anything.

My meditation was interrupted first by giant lawnmowers and air compressors in the neighborhood, and then again by the urgency of my recently acquired stomach issues.

Today I stared at clouds driving up High Street home for lunch, and the incredible darkness of the grays and whites contrasting with tiny bits of blue sky were mesmerizing and made me want to stop and stare, or capture it somehow, wondering how the many appearances of what is essentially just water, can be so captivating.

I picked up a new book I reserved from the library by an author of another book I own and have barely cracked and which both look fascinating. I have at least 12 other books currently in progress. Don’t ask me when or how I will be reading them.

I couldn’t resist the urge to flip on tv with my lunch, even when eating outside was possible and the earthing from barefoot on concrete makes it a real blast of restorative calm. I console myself by forwarding through and deleting most of the show (willpower!) and starting the new book.

I can’t seem to stick to a routine, the jetlag is killing me, and my sleep is still a mess even though I’ve been back from CA for a week, because I stayed up too late again last night even after taking the melatonin…Roger Federer being my excuse this time.

I am saddened by the swirling chaos and hatred spewing from everywhere, and terrified by the specter of imminence of nuclear devastation with which I seem to be confronted daily.

I want to move to a house with less highway noise, and fewer chemicals being sprayed everywhere, and the market seems ridiculously difficult, and I don’t want to wait, even though I don’t seem to have any time to get this one ready to sell, and I can’t find one that we can afford, either.

There’s so much that is depressing, and heavy and sad about life, particularly these days, it seems. There’s so much to do, and can’t do, and everything coming so fast, and grumpy Facebook people, and just add aging and diseases to the pile while we’re at it, and all the other regular ole transitions that human bein’s have to deal with on top of everything else. “What’s the point of it all?”, we might ask. I have clients who do. I ask it too, from time to time; and more frequently, lately.

Standard answers range from advice to just not think about those things, to lists of all the happy things in life that we’re supposed to appreciate: moments with family and friends, good health, flowers, pets, “beauty”. “So what?”, the depressed person retorts, “all of those things will die, everything eventually dies, even me, so why bother?”

The voice of “why bother?” could be called the voice of the ego. Not the ego of Freud, but the ego that is the energy movement with two basic patterns: Grasping, and Aversion.

And now, looking back, I still remember feeling the things in this story and wondering if there is ever anything more than this? Even knowing the movements of grasping and aversion, still wondering if that heaviness is a trauma thing, or a spiritual development thing, or is this really is just all it is, so I’d better get used to it? Maybe this is just life…

So, yeah, turns out that “maybe this is really it” was just another form of grasping – trying to figure it out and plan for the future. The 11 months of ongoing personal work, and meditation and life, since then, find me in a different place, and still shifting, with no idea where any of this is going or will land. At the moment though, it all seems much, much lighter, and just keeps getting clearer and lighter. Pain doesn’t disappear, but the experience of it is so much different…

  • I am taking action on so many things, and juggling so many things in the process, and asking for help as I go – and wondering what made it seem so impossible before
  • Meditation and trauma work keep taking me deeper into truth and increased resilience – the hard things don’t feel as hard, and I keep feeling shocked that this is really real
  • Truth is more and more important – living it, telling it, helping others see it
  • There is sadness, and discomfort and heaviness, but it is different now; I can’t fully buy into the story, so it’s not as heavy feeling, and I’m not working really hard to to convince myself out of it
  • I really get how compassion is a way to live; it’s not just about “being nice” to yourself or others. It’s not an act, or just for people you like
  • I have shocking new levels of ease being around others…shocking!
  • I feel sad for people who are hooked, stuck, triggered, addicted, frozen; but I’m less often triggered into fixing, anxiety or fear states, or anger by them
  • I really believe in the innate ability of all beings to heal! I didn’t come by it through mind – but now it’s a visceral knowing, as real as my big toe, or the nose on my face
  • Priorities are pretty clear – what’s worth getting worked up about is pretty obvious if I stop and look (guess that’s what that whole neuroception = ‘accurate assessment of safety’ thing is about, heh heh)
  • It’s so obvious to me now how living in survival mode makes more life experiences that generate more survival mode responses, repeat pattern, over and over…
  • I’m not having to ask the “what’s it all for?” question…I’m just in it, this big messy thing called life, doing the best I can, and the only thing that makes sense is to do the best I can in this moment. That is enough. It’s not a mantra now. It really is enough.

I can’t wait to see what’s next!

 

 

 

 

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When’s it Going to Get Better?

People frequently ask me how long it’s going to take when they begin the therapy process. Sometimes people get the impression from things they have read or heard that Somatic Experiencing is some kind of magic bullet. Or they will sometimes ask about one technique after another, wanting to know if they will be able to progress faster if they switch to something else or try the other thing.

Seth Lyon wrote a recent post about this related to TRE, which was helpful. It’s good to be reminded that the fundamental feature of healing relational trauma is time spent in a relational field that provides an experience different from the one that created it. Because relational trauma is generally a result of repeated experiences, we cannot expect to talk about an event one time or even have one experiential shift and expect to be “over it”. In my own work, I’ve revisited the same core issues multiple times at successively deeper levels, having significant, life altering experiences – each one getting me closer to the health and freedom I wanted but couldn’t even know what it looked like. Then one day, I spontaneously experience a moment of parting in adult relationship without the ache of impulse to cling, and it’s shocking in contrast to practically every prior experience of painful contraction with endings.

RE: the “get over it” mentality…it makes me sad when I see or hear about these sorts of approaches, mantras, and magic techniques, because I totally get the way they prey on people desperate to make change.

The change is slow. It usually has to be. We know ourselves in relationship, no matter how unhealthy. Shifting means a fundamental change in the way we know ourselves. If it happens too fast, it can be incredibly disorienting, and we are fundamentally set up to achieve stasis. So when we shift, everything within has to shift to accommodate the newness, and that’s a big flipping deal. That’s the self-correction, our righting reflex. It also means that sometimes it fools our perception. New change that feels good can be perceived to be “lost” after we assimilate it because after everything inside changes to adjust and align with the change, it no longer FEELS new. And if the transition is REALLY smooth, we might not even be able to pick up on it at all. We just start to eventually notice that something is different, almost as if by magic.

This is the reason I am asking, ad nauseum, “Soooo, what seems a tiny bit different or better since we met last?”. This ability to pick up on small, subtle differences is key to moving the transformation process along, but it also is often necessary for getting a true perspective on the larger amount of change that has actually taking place over time.

The answer to the question “when” or “how long will it take” has two parts: 1) Every single little bit of relational work you do has an impact. I know it because I’ve seen it over and over and over. 2) The work is cumulative, and reaching your goals depends on the severity, frequency and duration of your past experiences, and consistency of effort going forward, as well as what your goals are. It is likely to be months or years.

The thing I’ve experienced my own process is that things just keep getting better as I keep at it. I am excited about reaching experiences in relationship I never even knew I could have, and realizing I’m getting ever closer to what I would call “learned” secure attachment.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that my clients who keep at it, get better. Not something I ever experienced with regular talk therapy, or CBT, or even mindfulness approaches. People learned to manage, or live with, the pain using those tools, but the core wound didn’t seem to heal. Integrated somatic approaches seem to be incredibly effective at making lasting change.

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Time Flies

I’ve learned a lot this year. Things have been changing so quickly that I haven’t been able to keep up with it in writing. It’s all been moving so fast, in fact, that I’ve been reluctant to write anything here for fear of discovering it wouldn’t still be true the next morning. The kind of learning I’m talking about is beyond thought. It’s a full body process that you can only live; you can’t really get there on intellect alone. It’s starting to slow down now where I’m feeling ready to write about some of it, and here’s a summary of my discoveries. I hope to provide more detail in subsequent posts, but feel free to ask me about anything.

There’s such a thing as too much travel
There is such a thing as too much work
The answers are rarely what we think…they’re generally much more simple and elegant than that
There isn’t any way to control what people will think of us if we say no
Living through each decision to risk being ourselves can be exhilarating
Unfulfilled commitments deserve attention and repair but not groveling
I fucking hate when I can’t or don’t follow through on promises to others
Greater self acceptance means accepting ALL of it
People are usually pretty willing to help if asked
Letting go of goals that no longer serve must happen, or consequences will ensue
Feeling greater pain when out of alignment with ourselves is actually a gift
Real relationship is so much bigger than what we’re conditioned to think it is
It’s very difficult to find place in Columbus, Ohio to live without the sound of perpetual traffic
It’s usually possible to slow down, but we go fast on purpose to avoid fully feeling
No, there’s really no such thing as an “other”
All experiences are just experiences
Arrogance has steep consequences
It’s not just OK to drop off the grid regularly, it’s essential
Periods of silence are not optional
All humans are beautifully and wonderfully flawed
Some decisions are painfully difficult…and this is the most important time to remain curious
Ignoring the needs of your body has a price; the longer you do it the higher the price
Play is not optional, but most don’t know this and it kills them in time
When in doubt, it’s ok to delay to avoid making a mess
When in doubt, it’s ok to risk making a mess and repairing it
Some self denial makes life worth living
Being a master of the obvious can be a really good and useful thing
Too much self-denial is self violence
The gift of real grieving is on the other side of fully allowing it without expectation of a gift
There’s no compensation for the pain of loss – accepting this is not nihilism, but freedom
Expect the unexpected
Balance is a verb
There’s no time like the present
Perfectionism in all its forms is a tedious waste of precious resources
There. really. is. nothing. other. than. the. present. moment. Nothing.
There’s always a choice between welcoming your feelings and putting sugar on top of them
There’s no end to realization
Going to bed on time is so good for me and I rarely am able to do it
Egoic consciousness can co-opt ANY experience, no matter how noble
Happiness actually IS the purpose of life

 

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