Getting Clearer

I’ve been wanting to write more posts and getting stuck because I’ve been in such transition I wasn’t sure what I was trying to do anymore. The time since the beginning of February 2018 has been a roller coaster, a clearing out. An old part of me still cringes at the indisputably profound progress in healing that was opened to me in this last year by the accident that fractured my right tibia.

Even though I know by now that there’s always the next thing that will come along  and knock me off balance, I am also getting more and more familiar and comfortable with the new expansion that reliably follows. I think the destabilization of the contraction periods is also getting smaller and shorter (1 day derailed, vs days or weeks).

These most recent times, though, after nearly 6 years of my own intensely focused (somatic) trauma work, it seems abundantly clear that I am closer than ever before to what I or others might call “normal”. It has NOT been a straight line. It’s been fits and starts, tears and anger and fear and frustration, and discoveries galore, mixed with joy, love and deep gratitude for my being and the being of others.

I more recently have a sense of my body as a squishy living thing full of organs and other parts that speak to me when they are unhappy. I discovered how deep is my conditioned belief of not having inherent worth, and had brief glimpses of the experience of relationship without that baggage. My digestion is working better than it ever has in my whole life. I am starting to have a bit of a daily routine for myself – something I’ve tried to execute for over 40 years without a bit of success – based on my own natural timing, that includes significant space to create. I am working on the fears and blocks around creating or even considering myself artistic. I am getting closer to knowing what turns me on, makes me go, makes my heart sing, and working on the shame and fear that blocks moving toward that. I feel so much more ability to sort through the advice of well meaning authority figures for what I need, and just let the rest of it go. I’m shedding old labels, and simultaneously not needing to rigidly obliterate them all.

In addition, I’m feeling less freaked out by the state of the world, more ready to take action on things I care about, and clearer than ever about what matters. I have new courage to be with others in whatever comes up. In short, ready to be an advocate for truth, with greater capacity to examine myself and pass through wild territory in myself and with others. I do not know yet where this will take me, and that fact no longer terrifies me.

I cannot tell you what a relief it is to start to feel like a real live person. It’s like the difference between Flat Stanley and 3D.

Part of my “reconstruction” has included thinking about what I am doing as a healer, helper, and professional. I hope to start soon sharing the reconstruction under my own name at cynthiaclingan.com, which I’ve had for 3 years but hadn’t been able to begin yet.

I find that the basic foundation of my goals has remained the same: to be a support for those working through trauma and/or awakening processes, and especially for those needing support for integration of the new awareness and all that it brings forward. I had to discover this myself, and managed to find a (very) few others noticing the same thing and working to follow truth in the face of many loud opposing voices. Many nondual and well meaning spiritual teachings point to elevated states, freedom, and bliss as the expected outcome of spiritual seeking and other practices, such as meditation. Very few however, point to the inevitable crash landing back to earth that can leave one wondering why they lost the bliss, and how to get it back as quickly as possible.

While waking up at all levels is pretty life changing, there is a certain Shakabuku in the visceral (not just intellectual) discovery of your true identity as awareness that alters your view of everything after that point. That’s been my experience, anyway. Nothing that I experienced after that discovery, which I jokingly refer to as my real birthday, could be taken as seriously – not depression, not pain, none of my stories or anyone else’s – was ever the same again. It has enabled me to be connected to something real as I walked through what came next.

Spoiler alert: profound awakening did not obliterate all of my trauma (aka: conditioning, karma, baggage, beliefs, bad shit that happened to me).

All in all, my own crash landing was more of a thud. What I’ve experienced since the “birthday” July 14 2011, started as a growing connection to life, with moments of bliss, some forced and others spontaneous, peppered with great gobs of misery and despair. No big travel plans or “walking away from it all” to start over as an enlightened version of myself. Constantly on the verge of resignation that perhaps what I’d been expecting all this time was just BS and I should get over it and figure out what to make out of my life. I still could no longer experience depression as I formerly knew it. Though my profound shift didn’t immediately change my life circumstances, it made everything that came after it more possible. Still no guarantees coming from anywhere, all I could do was keep going.

That birthday shift DID enable me to discover, and by degrees, connect with the reality of my trauma, and gave me a new ability to come gradually into contact with the experience of myself and reestablish the broken connections. I suppose this is what I really want others to know – so-called enlightenment is only the first hurdle. I now think it was actually the easier one. Addressing my trauma was crucial for sustainable happiness and ease as a fully embodied human.

My spiritual awakening was a disappointment for a while, because I just didn’t understand that the lack of color, vitality, joy, spontaneity, deep connection was due to the layers of adaptation my body had made for me to cope with unbearable circumstances. The repeated bracing and constriction in my diaphragm, shoulders and jaw, creating patterns of energy, tension, and expression that helped me contain my experiences, also prevented me from fully living and experiencing life with the only vehicle available to do so  – my bodynind. It took 2 years after waking up to realize the connection between my self-protection mechanisms (unconscious, for the most part!) and the lack of vitality, safety and connection I experienced in my life even after so-called enlightenment. 

I saw the last half of a Mister Rogers documentary the other night, in which one of the things he said when interviewed was, (and I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find a reference) “the most important thing we should be teaching children today, is to value to the unseen”. It struck me right to my core as truth.

I believe he is right. Nothing really compares to the real. Rogers has been lambasted for suggesting that every child, woman and man has inherent value. It’s at odds with a culture built upon the idea that you have to prove yourself, make something of yourself, never rest, in order to have value. The false belief that we lack value come from cultural underpinnings rooted in fear and trauma. The fear says, if we don’t keep a tight reign on ourselves, it will be bad news. However, every single time I ask someone what it might be like for them if they could feel they were ok no matter what, they report they would have so much more energy for life. When I then ask what they might do with all that extra energy, they all inevitably cite work productivity, social connection, service, and creative endeavors. This has been my own experience as well. My increased energy from trauma resolution has not led to greater personal material enrichment plans, but to a focus on service, creativity, self care, and stewardship. I used to dream late at night about what I might do in the world, and wake up to a pipe dream feeling in the morning. It finally seems real and possible in the light of day, but it has taken on a different flavor now – it feels now more like the dreams are of what I might do FOR the world. It’s so exciting to watch this organic shifting away from safety as my primary concern and energy expenditure!

Being yourself, following truth, valuing the unseen over tangible “stuff”, truly is a revolutionary path.

Doing the work of shedding layers of trauma and untruths after awakening is the real nitty gritty of the work. It’s messy and not always fun, but so worth every bit of the discomfort. Wishing you comfort and courage to stay the course, dear Bodhisattvas, embracing the mess until you reach your truly alive selves. Endeavoring from my end, to support that process for anyone, anywhere I can, with my story or the skills I’ve acquired along the way, or who knows maybe even resources someday. Just wanting you to know that it really is possible, and I’m here rooting for you. Don’t stop now!

 

 

 

 

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First Things First

The further I go in this journey, the more apparent it is to me how simple my needs really are. To feel the sun shining in my face, to watch the wonder of the bird sitting outside my window before it flies away, to be safe in the presence of another being myself and nothing else. To be connected to the earth and trees and sky and sun and all life. To surrender to the unfolding.

The uncomfortableness of the shedding (8+ months on!) of my previous labels and ways of knowing myself is getting easier to be in. I still don’t have answers for the demanding questions of my mind/egoic self

where’s this all going, what will it look like, will I like it, will it be dangerous, will people leave, will I still have a job? how? what? why? when? where?

I get why there’s an urgency to answer those questions. We are taught we must have answers to them before we can act. Trauma reinforces that impulse. There’s so much out there telling me what I should be, how much I can achieve, and pushing me to pursue external things of value and compare myself to others. So many messages imputing doing to worth. All kinds of self improvement strategies and plans I can put in place. Opportunities to engage in the struggle with myself abound.

And perhaps I WILL, eventually, do some of that

mountain climbing and achieving and pushing and perfecting and growing and striving and expanding myself beyond the definitions I have known, and fighting and raising my voice, and traveling and being a social justice warrior and conquering fear of sharks to learn to surf

…but right NOW it seems I’m working on

inhabiting my body from the waist down, reconnecting with the rhythms of the natural world, feeling safer in my own skin when someone else is in the room, becoming aware that I’m a squishy living thing with a body made of guts and bones, singing and dancing, staying connected to myself when I touch someone, being my own person no matter where that takes me or what it costs, practicing being accountable to my highest self, and questioning everything I think I know without shutting down or freaking out

It’s been hard to make this shift – surrendering to what is – but it’s become glaringly apparent that not only is there no choice anymore (fighting it is pointless and exhausting), but the place doing originates from matters a great deal. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if it’s the ONLY thing that matters. Whether it’s rehabbing this broken leg, or advocating for others, doing my job or the dishes. If the energy for the doing, no matter how well intentioned, originates from fear or trauma, it seems to perpetuate more experiences of fear and trauma, and just generally mucks things up.

And coming to this understanding of surrender hasn’t been a process I could rush or force. Letting go isn’t very intellectual, or logical, and hasn’t been particularly well-timed, or suited to my comfort or understanding. It just IS. It’s clear to me now that acceptance isn’t a thing that we can really choose to do, it’s a thing arrived at when there is no other option – when it is time to let go. Any time someone has announced to me they’ve “chosen to let go”, it’s been pretty clearly wishful thinking, an attempt to bypass the real feelings involved, or plain old adaptive disconnection from self.

There is no substitute for going through. Whether we arrive at that place of no choice through crushing logic that becomes sudden visceral understanding, or being slowly wrestled to our knees by daily helplessness that weakens into final surrender, the result is the same. Utter relief, gratitude, and no wish for anything different. Not the so-so, lukewarm, unsatisfying, vaguely numb leap over it all of premature acceptance.

For the thousandth time, I find myself grateful and astounded. I did not know what this business of “living” could or would be like (who knew I needed a pelvis??? and a digestive system???), and I could not be in this place where I now find myself without the support of my partner and of somatic practitioners and community that I am so lucky to know.

Visit traumahealing.org or contact me for more info about somatic approaches to trauma resolution.

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And Then, the Contraction…

In the interest of full disclosure, I want share that, like many, many times before, I am experiencing the contraction that predictably follows every expansion. It includes the following;

  • Doubting I had an expansion at all
  • Wondering if something is wrong with me or I am going backwards
  • Loss of interest in things that previously motivated me
  • Questioning the reasons for my work, relationships, preferences, beliefs
  • Disillusionment with yet another layer, formerly unseen at this depth, emerging
  • Wondering what will become of me if the state persists or I am unable to resume previous egoic identifications
  • A vague sense of some transformation afoot, with a backdrop of listlessness, groundlessness, and emptiness
  • Seeing even more deeply the ways I have suppressed my self to get along, make peace, or spiritually bypass
  • Weird depression-ish feelings in trying to continue to suppress or be inauthentic
  • Feeling pissed off and not sure why
  • Having no idea where it’s going next

It would be easy to write it off as winter blues, or political fatigue, or approaching milestone birthday, but I know better. I’ve been here too many times before. I am motivated to share by my friend Elena’s recent post about awakening. Those experiences are life changing, but there is a ton of dishonesty perpetrated in writing and speaking about it as the end of the experience.

It is the end of a certain kind of seeking, the ability to completely buy into any beliefs, but it doesn’t fix the human conditioning. Some degree may drop away, but what remains will likely become more clear and painful over time, dropping away in layers and phases if one stays true to oneself and follows wherever the experience leads.

What I’ve come to recognize over time, for my clients and myself, is that the uncomfortable spaces between the expansions are absolutely necessary. They empty us out, preparing for what is next. We can never know what “next” will bring. We can only know that it is the only thing we can do if we want to become more truly who we are, more at ease in life, and avoid the sickness that comes from suppression.

 

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Wonder

The weekend before this one I had the great honor to be at a training with Peter Levine in California. It is called Eye of the Needle, and it is about near death experiences (NDEs), including anesthesia and other altered states. With this new learning, the work becomes new (again!), and my understanding of Somatic Experiencing (SE) takes on yet another dimension.

I have more of a sense of working with the whole being, stitching together the fragmented parts into coherence, and new understanding of my own and my clients’ experiences of such states. I’m feeling grateful for the practice (good and not so good) that I got to have while there. I have a new sense of my own growing resilience and skill, and the amazing resilience of humans, as well as my own patterns of trauma and all of the defenses and adaptations that have carried me through to the present.

I just can’t believe it was only last Monday I was sitting in the sand on the beach in Encinitas at the end of D Street, swatting giant sand fleas, and feeling the thunder of the pounding surf reverberate through the ground into my sitz bones when the sudden awareness struck of a new and indescribable sensation of being more like a whole organism than a collection of parts, thoughts, emotions and experiences. It was so unbelievably striking and unexpected. After feeling into it for a bit, I could sense the pull of it, something in me wanting to lean even further into it, and started to seriously wonder:

Can I really let go into this life?

Can I let it take me and pull me into it in the way the ocean waves reach out and take every thing from the shore into itself?

Can I let myself become one with the gigantic expanse of fluidity that is experience itself?

Can I learn how to play on the shore, surf the waves, creep along exploring its dark silent floors and perilous reefs, and float on the surface, as though it really were my home, this thing called life, called ‘existence’?

Can I really allow myself to fall into this being a human being?

And each time I check inside, there’s that spark of knowing that is saying,  ‘yes’, I probably can. I keep checking to see if the feeling of being more whole is there, and yes, there it is. I know that in a little while – days, maybe weeks – it will no longer feel new, and so will have seemed to vanish or be lost, but that is only because it will have become more integrated into my whole being, readying a home in me for the next expansion.

I look forward to discovering what it brings next.

 

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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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