Tag Archives: growth

Extra Crazy

A few weeks ago, I completely lost it. As one of my favorite integral psychologists (Dr. Keith Witt) would say: I went “extra crazy.” I take some comfort in the fact that we all go extra crazy from time to time, and that I’ve grown enormously as a result of the experience. Plus, my version of extra crazy (at least in terms of outward behavior) was pretty mild and short in duration compared to some other expressions. But still, there’s no escaping it. I went extra crazy, and it wasn’t pretty.

It was rage that consumed me, first directed at someone I respect and love dearly, then later that night turned against myself. It started out as simple irritation. Then I let it fester, and we all know what happens when we let irritation fester. It grew slowly into anger and finally into all-consuming, self-righteous rage. And unfortunately, I unloaded and expressed that rage in a hurtful way.

The grace of the situation was that the woman I unloaded on has enormous capacity to be grounded and present when extra crazy shows up, and even though it was hurtful for her, when I apologized the next day, all was forgiven and repaired between us. She could see I had gone extra crazy and that it wasn’t really about her, because she knows and has integrated that extra crazy part of herself — a part that we all carry.

The truth is the real violence happened within myself that evening as the rage turned inward. The outward expression of the rage was nothing compared to its ferocity when turned against myself. It morphed and transfigured into intense shame and self hate. The violence of my thoughts astounded me even as I was in the midst of experiencing their barrage.

I’m not sure how I made it through that night and showed up the next day to apologize and make repair with the woman who was the original target of my rage. I truly believe part of it was grace answering my prayer for help, as I knew I was out of control. But part of it also was all the work I have done over the years to learn to be present with the intensity of my experience when I am triggered. Even at the most intense moments, I was still in touch with another — and somehow truer — aspect of myself that was not suffering. This aspect was witnessing the whole thing, quietly but insistently whispering in my ear that maybe — just maybe — it wasn’t quite so black and white as I was thinking and feeling, that maybe there was more to me than rage and one hurtful act, that maybe I would learn something through this experience and have more capacity to love as a result. It was the “essential me” whispering truth in my ear. And the miracle was that I had the capacity to hear it and feel it at the core of my being.

In the days that followed, I came to fully accept for the first time that this extra crazy part of myself exists. I saw that I had been living in denial, believing until this experience that I was a purely “good person.” I saw that my concept of what makes a person “good” was completely made up and unattainable by any human being. And when I was finally able to turn toward this part of myself and meet it, I realized why it exists and what it’s trying to do.

This aspect is not often extra crazy, but it has the capacity to go there when triggered. It’s the part of me that has done everything it possibly can to help me survive and be as comfortable as possible in difficult situations. When not extra crazy, it’s the logical aspect, the part that analyzes challenging situations and comes up with solutions based on past experience. It’s the part of me that has figured out brilliant ways to make it through. It’s also my protector. It protects another part of me that finds this journey of life to be unspeakably hard and often doesn’t know what to do, and would simply give up if it weren’t for its protector. And it worked. I’m still here, even if a bit battered for the journey. With these realizations, I was finally able to embrace this part of myself with compassion and love.

Of course, this aspect of myself is also the part that can go extra crazy. It is all about me. It can seem like it’s concerned with others, but it’s really not. It’s manipulative, and it lacks compassion. It can only be in relationship on a superficial level. Connection, compassion, and empathy are not in its job description… although I realize now that before this experience, I expected it to be and do everything.

What has changed now is that I am no longer shunning this aspect of myself. I see where it fits, that it is an important part of me, and I also see where its role ends. I see that I had unintentionally abandoned this part of myself, simultaneously shunning it while expecting it to figure everything out. And at the same time, as I came to these realizations, I also more fully embodied what I might call my essential nature, the deeper aspect that is about love, and compassion, and empathy, and heartfelt connection. This deeper aspect finally showed up to embrace and support the other part that had been abandoned. And somehow through all of that there has been an integration into a greater whole, like there are no longer separate parts inside of me, but rather different aspects working together as a whole being.

So in the end, I suppose I am grateful I went extra crazy that day. It’s that exquisite paradox of both beauty and horror all wrapped up in one experience. I came out of it feeling more whole, more integrated, and more real. And yes, I came out of it with more capacity to love.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Lately, I’ve taken a tumble down the rabbit hole of trauma and trauma therapy. To say I’ve been humbled is a bit of an understatement. It has been an eye-opening process to see myself in the words and the stories I’ve been reading. I mostly don’t remember my childhood. The impact of trauma in my life has been pervasive and far reaching. Honestly, though, I would have denied it only a few years ago. I would have said I’ve never experienced trauma. I would have said that the amnesia, and the depression, and the rage, and the way my body shuts down have nothing to do with trauma. I would have said, “I’m lucky,” and I am, but that doesn’t mean I’ve never experienced trauma. In fact, now I would venture to say almost all of us have.

Just yesterday a new meme started going around Facebook: “Me too.” People were putting it on their walls to signify they have been sexually harassed or assaulted in the wake of the revelations about Harvey Weinstein. If we asked the same question about trauma, I’m guessing pretty much anyone who is honest would say, “Me too.”

I’m going to write a lot more about trauma in the coming months. But for now, I will say this: We can heal. I’ve been healing even being in some level of denial and ignorance about how trauma has impacted me. Our bodies, hearts, and minds want to heal. Our whole being wants to come back into harmony and equilibrium. As I practice presence — whether through meditation, heart-centered practices, feeling energy and creative forces, or tracking my body sensations — the energy held in my system around trauma inevitably arises. I don’t have to make it happen. I don’t have to dredge up painful memories. That energy is patiently waiting for the right opportunity — the right conditions — to begin the process of healing. It wants to be met in a new way. It wants to be digested, to resolve, and to let go.

I’ve come to trust this process. I’ve come to see that trauma begins to digest in the arms of compassionate presence. With trauma, our bodies and minds live in the past, though we don’t often realize it. But we can learn to trust the present moment. We can learn to trust our bodies, even when we feel like they have betrayed us in the most horrific ways. We can even learn to trust other people. We can heal together.

Me too.

Entering the Unknown

Many of us (maybe even most) are quite terrified of the unknown. Perhaps this fear has to do with a feeling of being out of control. After all, we have certain ideas and visions about how we want things to turn out. We often want to control the process as well as the outcome, or at least know what is coming in the hopes that we can somehow prepare and be ready.

I’m in the midst of separating from my husband. The unknown is now a part of my experience every day. I don’t know if I will ever find a companion and partner again. I don’t know how I will fully support myself financially. I don’t know exactly who I am in the world without my best friend at my side, or how to move forward with that hole in my life. I don’t know when the grief will well up, overwhelming and incapacitating me. I don’t know how my path will unfold, or the strength and resilience that may lie dormant in my heart. What seemed known only a short time ago is no longer known.

The process of Life Itself is unknown. We can either embrace this fact or resist it. When we come into contact with the unknown, we touch the invisible world. It is here where we encounter our shadow, those unconscious aspects of us, both light and dark, that tend to run our lives unbeknownst to us. When we shine the light of awareness on these aspects, suddenly we have choice.

map 3When we embrace the unknown, we also contact that part of us that is beyond conceptual understanding. Our minds can (and do) attempt to describe this world, but the descriptions and models in our minds are not the Reality Itself and never can be. The model is not the territory.

We touch the invisible world through direct experience. We can invite into our experience different aspects of our True Nature, or ask for our shadow to be revealed. Some of the more glorious aspects of our True Nature are often in shadow (unconscious to us), and have been called Health, Joy, Abundance, Gratitude, Clarity, Truth, Beauty, Peace, Unity… but these are just names. The key is that we invite into our experience something that is unknown to us.

Flower

We may have a concept, thought, or model of what it means to feel joy, for instance, or what it means not to feel joy. But Joy with a capital ‘J‘ is none of those concepts held in our mind. It is something else, and never what we think it is. The mind can only observe, label, and describe; the direct experience happens on another level. We must open ourselves to the unknown possibilities in order to experience who we are at a level we have never experienced before.

When we do this, what we experience is always a surprise. It is always a brand new experience when we invite in the unknown. And the truth is, much is unknown to us in this Life. Control is an illusion in so many ways… maybe even in all ways. Letting go into the unknown is the ultimate form of surrender to the flow of Life.

 

Healing Through Conditions

When I am working with clients, they often have particular conditions or issues they are facing which they would like resolved. I know that my clients have the full capacity to Heal through those conditions. But notice that I used the words “through” and also “Heal” with a capital “H.” Healing in the way that I view it does not necessarily mean the condition itself goes away. If a condition does in fact go away or resolve, I tend to call that a healing with a lower-case “h.” And of course this is a fantastic outcome! But sometimes the condition won’t resolve in the Healing journey. In fact, on the most extreme level, we can experience a full Healing and, at the same time, still die from the condition. In my own journey, when I really grokked on a deep level that all of us have a terminal diagnosis, the question of what Healing actually is became a much deeper inquiry.

All clients are their own Healers and hold their own answers. When I work with clients, I do not know the specific outcome or how the Healing process will show up in their bodies, mind, or spirit. There are many levels of change that can and will occur in the Healing process. When I work with clients, I am supporting them in Healing on all levels related to their specific condition or intention. Conditions and dis-ease provide a fantastic focal point because the center of the condition is actually the portal to the Healing process itself. That is why I say that we Heal through our conditions.

For me as a Healing facilitator, supporting Healing in this way involves reaching into unknown possibilities and inviting in whatever needs to happen for true Healing to occur. I never know exactly how that will look or what the outcome will be, but I have noticed the response is always Intelligent and beyond what my mind could ever have imagined or figured out based on my knowledge and training. I am amazed by my clients every single time. It is truly an honor to play a small part in their Healing journeys.

The Change We Don’t Want

steering wheelWhen it comes to healing, it doesn’t seem obvious that we resist change. After all, we are usually suffering with some sort of condition that we really do want to change. In general, we simply want it to go away so we’ll feel better. Oftentimes we believe our chronic disease or condition is something that is wrong or bad, something that is somehow separate from us, and something that should be, and can be, gotten rid of without affecting the rest of who we are. Yes, we want the condition to change (go away), but we often do not acknowledge the connection between the condition and the beliefs we hold about and toward the condition. In other words, we do not realize that our relationship with the condition is an integral part of the condition itself. We actually believe this separate “thing” can be healed without changing anything else about us. Indeed, this is the very premise upon which western medicine is based as well as several alternative therapies.

Healing Involves Change

Healing at a deeper level involves change on every level of our being. Many chronic conditions and/or so-called incurable diseases (autoimmune diseases, neurological diseases, gastrointestinal issues, cancer, hormonal imbalances, mental diseases such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, etc.) can and do resolve themselves through the process of Healing as I describe it. However, major shifts such as these involve change that extends well beyond the symptoms going away and a doctor declaring us “cured” (or claiming we must have been misdiagnosed in the first place). These changes are not optional, but are rather part of the Healing process itself.butterfly emerging from coccoonWhen we are in the cycle of suffering, we think our suffering is being caused by the condition we are facing. Therefore, we think if we get rid of the condition, we will stop suffering. Perhaps we go in for surgery and have a cancerous tumor removed. Maybe we have our knee replaced and the pain we had before is gone. Perhaps we leave our stressful job or our marriage and feel a huge sense of relief. In the traditional sense, many would call these examples of healing. The advances in western medicine are absolutely incredible and invaluable in our lives. But simply having a knee replacement is, in and of itself, not Healing in the sense I am speaking of here.

In my experience, both with myself and with my clients, even when a condition is “cured” as in the examples above, if there is no other corresponding shift on other levels of being, the suffering will continue. We simply refocus our attention on another condition or issue that is “not okay” (either inside or outside of us) and continue to be enmeshed in the cycle of suffering.

MaskOn the other hand, when we engage in the process of Healing on a deeper level, real change is inevitable. One of the most significant of these changes is a perspective shift about and toward the condition itself. As we begin to experience and embody that aspect of us that is other than suffering, we realize that we Heal through the condition rather than from the condition. We see the condition itself as our means of Healing rather than that which we need to get rid of in order to Heal. This perspective shift in itself can end the suffering (i.e., the resistance) around the condition. But in order for that shift to occur in a truly embodied way, many other changes on many levels must also occur. We simply do not get to keep our current belief structures and worldviews (our ego as it is constructed now) and Heal in this way.

This process is absolutely terrifying to most of us because it feels as if we are giving up who we are (and how we think the world operates) at a fundamental level. And indeed, this is true. It is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects for us to accept and embrace on our Healing journeys. Most of us want to keep our current perspectives and beliefs and simply get rid of the condition. In other words, we don’t want to change. However, the kind of Healing I’m talking about involves change, and there is no way out of it.

Part of the Healing process is learning to embrace change and recognizing what that means within ourselves. It can be a very scary prospect. But fear is part of the process too. Indeed, the fear itself can become a path and doorway to true Healing.

In Gratitude & Love,
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AFOG — Another F*&%ing Opportunity for Growth

One day, a little over ten years ago when I was feeling suicidal, I was explaining to my sister and her husband my rationalization for it being perfectly okay for me to commit suicide. I was sharing how I had realized that if I killed myself, everyone would move on and be fine. People die every day, I said. People move past these things all the time, I explained. I was so deep in my own misery that I then went on to say one of the most cruel and hurtful things I ever remember speaking out loud. You see, my brother-in-law’s little brother had recently died in a car accident. He was a teenager or at the most in his early 20s when he died. In my utter narcissistic despair and obliviousness, I proceeded to point out to my brother-in-law that obviously he had moved on from the death of his brother, and that that was the proof of my undeniable logic. A deafening silence followed. My sister glanced at her husband. Then she locked her eyes on mine, and I’ll never forgot what she said to me: “Yes, people move on. But nothing is ever the same again. Their lives are changed forever.”

Those words and the energy behind them pierced through the veil of my despair to shake me awake. Needless to say, I didn’t commit suicide. But more than that, never again did I trivialize the depth and breadth of what we experience as human beings in this life, including the deepest grief, despair, and pain. The experience of loss, for instance, is not trivial simply because all of us must endure and move through it at some point in our lives. In fact, the experience can be utterly transformational in the most horrendous and most beautiful ways. Indeed, we will never be the same again.

Recently I ran across an article written by Mark Sandlin called, 10 Clichés Christians Should Stop Saying. Some of these clichés are said by more than just Christians and are generally used in an attempt to comfort ourselves or others going through a challenging experience:

Everything happens for a reason.

God (the Universe) never gives us any more than we can handle.

We could debate (endlessly) whether or not these statements are even true. But more important is how these statements are often used as a subtle way of trivializing our own or another’s experience. I cannot tell you how often people start to share with me the depth of their pain only to stop themselves with a “but” followed by a version of one of these statements. Another common sentence to follow the “but” is, “I’m seeing this as an opportunity for growth.”

It is fantastic to see that everything happens for a reason, or that we can handle whatever is in front of us, or that every situation is an opportunity for growth and evolution. But when we start to use these ideas as subtle ways of avoiding and trivializing our own pain, then we are bypassing the very path we must travel to grow, transform, and heal in the most profound ways.

What is needed for true transformation and healing is the capacity to hold and feel fully both sides of this coin — both the horrendousness and beauty, the pain and the transformative power, the grief and the love. A friend of mine once shared that she calls these situations AFOGs — another f*%&ing opportunity for growth. I love this because the f-bomb acknowledges the pain of the situation, and “opportunity for growth” speaks to the transformative potential. I find that all too often, we want to leave out the f-bomb. We want to avoid the pain at all costs. But when we do this, we are denying an aspect of life itself. As Vera de Chalambert says:

“We must not send suffering into exile — the fear, the heartbreak, the anger, the helplessness all are appropriate, all are welcome. We can’t dismember ourselves to feel better. Difficult feelings need to be given space so they can come to rest. They need contact. We can’t cut off the stream of life and expect to heal.” ~From Kali Takes America: I’m with Her

The capacity to be fully present with both the pain and the inherent transformative power in these situations is often not easy. It takes an ability to differentiate and dis-identify from powerful energies which can be so overwhelming and all-consuming that we literally think they are us. For me, this is a journey. It is a continual discovery that pain and transformative power are often inseparable. It is a journey I embrace because, in that moment when my sister looked me in the eyes, I decided to live.
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Necessary Conditions for Transformational Healing

When it comes transformational to healing, it can be helpful to let go of trying to “make it happen” and instead turn our attention toward creating the conditions in which healing is most likely to occur. This idea is similar to what is expressed in the following quote from Suzuki Roshi:

“Gaining enlightenment is an accident. Spiritual practice simply makes us accident prone.”

The idea here is that we cannot make enlightenment happen through willpower. However, we can create the conditions, through spiritual practice, in which it is more likely to occur. And, we can think of transformational healing in a similar way. True healing does not happen through willpower, but it can happen quite naturally when the right conditions are present.

So what are the right conditions for transformational healing? I recently watched a webinar with Cassandra Vieten from the Institute of Noetic Sciences in which she discussed several key conditions necessary for worldview change. (You can watch the webinar here, which I would highly recommend.) I believe that everything she names in the webinar is not only key to changing our worldview, but also key to true healing. This is because healing involves transforming our whole being, worldview and all.

If you are looking to create an environment in which transformational healing can more easily occur, providing these “conditions” may be a good place to start:

  1. A community of support: This is perhaps the most important condition necessary for transformational healing. The community doesn’t have to be huge; in fact, it can be only two people. The key point here is that trauma occurs in relationship and so does healing. One important aspect of a community of support is that it must allow for vulnerability and truth-telling — the expression of doubts, fears, uncertainties, realizations, challenges — without anyone in the community trying to change, suppress, make wrong, or “fix” the person expressing his/her truth.
  2. Practices that help grow the personal capacity for acceptance of what is. Acceptance does not mean we necessarily like what is. It doesn’t mean we won’t take any action to change our circumstances. It simply means that we are able to be fully present with the truth of what is actually happening now rather than going into resistance, denial, or distraction.
  3. Practices that reliably lead to a direct experience of healing… even small experiences. Watching other people transform or reading scientific evidence assuring us that we can heal will not convince us that our own healing is possible. We must have repeated direct experiences to build trust in the healing process.
  4. Encouragement and ways in which to engage creatively in a scientific process of forming hypotheses, creating experiments, and exploring our findings. It’s also important to provide scientific explanations and data related to your particular approach to health and healing to help open and settle the mind.
  5. Tools, training, and education in practices and ways in which people can participate in their own transformation and healing. Truly transformational healing is an inside-out job, and the miracle is that we can be empowered to participate in and catalyze our own healing!
  6. Space and opportunity to identify and name intentions, dreams, wants, desires, and motivations around healing.
  7. Frequent reminders that:  a) Healing is a process, not an event, and b) things may feel overwhelming, but everyone absolutely has the capacity to rise to the occasion and be present with all arises in the process.

Of course, how to provide these conditions is the real art… and the endless joy! I have been fortunate enough to be a part of communities like this which provide all the conditions necessary for my own transformation and healing. And now, this is what I am working to provide both in my personal practice with clients, and also at the School of Inner Health where I assist with biodynamic craniosacral therapy trainings. At the school we work to provide the kind of environment described above in all our classes, with a focus on the body as the main “way in” for catalyzing healing and transformation. The result is an experience of healing in ourselves while simultaneously learning how to help others on their healing journeys.

Interested in learning about the trainings offered at the School of Inner Health? Check it out here.