Tag Archives: possibility

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.

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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.

 

A Different Kind of Gratitude Practice

Looking Towards Heaven

In a recent post, I shared how I had discovered that a key in experiencing gratitude was not to go out looking for things to be grateful for, but rather to receive and allow in the beauty, the goodness, the inspiration, the truth, the love, and the gifts of whatever or whoever is in my presence in this moment. When I allow myself to receive, gratitude is then simply a natural expression/outpouring.

Following this thread and deepening further, I’ve come to another way of practicing gratitude, one that allows me to feel and experience gratitude on many levels, without all the effort of trying to force it. I came to this practice through a realization that gratitude is a part of who I am on an essential level, and my experience of it is therefore not dependent on outside circumstances. In other words, I don’t need something to feel grateful for in order to feel grateful. If I’m not currently experiencing gratitude, I can simply begin to open to it — turn my consciousness toward the energy and essence of gratitude already within me — and allow it to come to the forefront of my experience now (regardless of my outside circumstances). I like to think of it as tuning my radio dial to “gratitude.” The best part is that I don’t even need a mental concept of what gratitude is supposed to feel like to practice this.

Blue flowerThe practice looks something like this: First, I let go completely of trying to bring to mind someone, or some situation, which I want to be (or think I should be) grateful forInstead, I bring my attention into my still, quiet center, and I begin to allow myself to open. Then, I ask to experience the energy and essence of gratitude inside a particular part of my physical or energetic body. I like to bring in physical and energetic layers. For instance, I might ask deep into the core of myself, “What does it feel like to experience the energy and essence of gratitude in my bones?” I feel deep into my bones. Then, I wait and notice. What do I start to notice as I tune into my bones? My intellectual mind has no clue what gratitude would feel like in my bones! It has no concept of such a outlandish thing… thank goodness, because then I can just feel whatever I feel, no expectations. Then, I might ask, “What does it feel like to experience gratitude in my tissues?” or, “What does it feel like to experience gratitude in the fluids of my body?” or, “What does it feel like to experience gratitude in every cell of my body?” I allow myself to trust that whatever sensations I’m feeling, those sensations are the embodiment — the vibration and experience of — gratitude. Amazingly, the sensations I have felt are often surprising and are not what my mind would label as “gratitude.” And yet, at the same time, I notice myself starting to feel more and more gratitude in my daily life through this practice.

I used to think gratitude had to come in response to something in the world, that I needed to find something “worthy of gratitude” in order to experience it. Now, I’ve come to see that not only is it about fully receiving the beauty that surrounds me in the world in this present moment, gratitude is also already present inside of me. And when I allow myself to feel and experience the gratitude already inside of me, then (or sometimes seemingly simultaneously) I feel grateful for something in my outer world. There is no effort in this; instead, once I am embodying the “vibration” of gratitude, I really have no choice but to begin feeling grateful for things in my life. In this way, I don’t have to hunt with my intellect for things to be grateful for. It simply happens naturally once I tune in.

In gratitude & love,
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Turning Towards

A healthy human being is characterized by a wider and wider capacity to experience [with presence] emotion and blends of emotion.” ~Dr. Keith Witt, Integral Psychologist

This assertion from Dr. Witt may sound simple, but I believe it to be extremely profound in its implications. In fact, I think it is key to understanding truly transformational healing and how it occurs. Dr. Witt and Jeff Salzman discuss this topic in Jeff’s Daily Evolver podcast episode entitled, “Transforming Trauma Into Power.” (I highly recommend listening to it in its entirety.)

What does it mean to have a wider and wider capacity to experience and be present with emotion? What is so challenging about it? And why is this capacity so essential for transformational healing?

Having the capacity to be present with our emotions means we have cultivated the ability to turn towards our unwanted feelings, pain, and other undesired material, as opposed to turning away through denial, distraction, or dissociation. One of the reasons this is so difficult is it goes against our most basic survival and instinctual drives, such as our ability to dissociate when experiencing a traumatic event. If we have used a response such as dissociation in the past and it worked to get us through a traumatic situation, our system will remember this success and use dissociation over and over again whenever it perceives danger (real or not). And this response will happen automatically and often unconsciously. That is, most of us are not even aware when we are dissociating.

Another reason it is difficult for us to turn towards our pain is we are often taught that certain emotions are bad and others are good. When we judge our emotions (and therefore ourselves) in this way, we tend to suppress those emotions which we have labeled as wrong. We do this in a variety of ways. We might dissociate (as already discussed above), go into denial, or use distraction (food, TV, drugs, alcohol, shopping, etc.). We might also shame ourselves in an attempt to control our feelings.

Why is it important to build the capacity to turn towards our pain? When we suppress our emotions or are otherwise unable to be present with our painful experiences, symptoms will eventually arise such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, psychosis, physical & immune system ailments, and in cases of extreme trauma, PTSD symptoms. The way to truly heal is to turn toward our pain and be present with the associated emotions and sensations. If we are able to meet our pain with compassionate understanding and radical acceptance, the energy of the held trauma naturally begins to metabolize, integrate, and heal.

One way to be present with our painful experiences is through what is called resourcing. This is a way of holding a resourced or healthy, powerful feeling in the body simultaneously with a challenging feeling in the body. Holding the two together in this way allows for integration and healing. Dr. Witt describes a simple practice in the podcast (at around the 36-minute mark) which you can try today that utilizes this principle.

I love what Jeff Salzman said when he describes this process for himself: “Whenever I find myself in a depression or anxiety or an anger vortex, I say, ‘This is good news! Here I have this ball of energy, and I have the opportunity to actually turn towards it and move into it.'” It is that willingness and that capacity to “turn towards” that results in growth and healing. It’s not just that you metabolize the experience and now it’s no longer a “block” or no longer causing symptoms. It’s that you actually heal with a big “H,” meaning you grow and you evolve. And that, I believe, is an important part of what life is all about.

Blessings,
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Necessary Conditions for Transformational Healing

When it comes transformational 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.

Reflections on Gratitude

Sunlight through treeYou probably know by now the power of gratitude. Everything seems lovely when you are enveloped in gratitude. You may even keep a gratitude journal or have engaged in other practices to help you feel gratitude every day. If you’ve committed to any of these practices and you’re like many people, you’re probably noticing significant improvement in your overall sense of well-being. After all, consistently feeling and experiencing gratitude is life changing!

You can imagine my surprise when I recently approached the big “G,” and instead of increasing feelings of gratitude and well-being, I felt as if I was on some sort of mad, desperate hunt for something to be grateful for. In fact, it even felt as if I didn’t have much of a concept of gratitude at all. As I began to look for things to be grateful for, my mind flipped through all the events of the day, one after the other, comparing and contrasting and categorizing, deciding if this or that thing was something I could (or should) be grateful for that day.

Well, you can probably tell already that I didn’t end up actually experiencing or feeling much gratitude this way! In fact, the whole exercise felt fake to me, like I was pretending to be grateful, hoping that the whole “fake it till you make it” thing would work out eventually. I figured if I thought about being grateful enough, it would actually start to happen. But to be honest, it never really did, at least not consistently, and definitely not easily. Surely being grateful doesn’t have to be so much work!

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Fortunately, a moment of grace in the midst of my struggle finally arrived. I realized I was missing an essential side of the equation: receiving. I came to realize that gratitude and appreciation are the natural expression/outpouring of receiving and allowing in the beauty, the goodness, the inspiration, the truth, the love, and the gifts of whatever or whoever is in my presence in this moment. Gratitude is not something I can force but is rather a natural and automatic expression/response that occurs when I allow myself to receive.

And so, in order to more easily feel the fullness of gratitude in my life, rather than looking for things to be grateful for and attempting to force the feeling, I look at what is in front of me now (no matter what it is) and make it my strong intention to open to receive the gifts — the beauty, the love, the teaching — being offered. I do not need to know what the gifts are when I open to receive. I simply ask to receive those gifts with all earnestness and trust, knowing they are there to receive. I pray in this way using words such as these:

May I receive and feel fully the gifts being offered in this moment.

May I receive and feel fully the beauty, the goodness, and the love this person is offering me now.

As I begin to receive the gifts being offered, gratitude and appreciation well up and pour through me naturally and without effort. The more I open to receive, the more gratitude expresses and moves through me, for it is a natural, reciprocal flow of energy. In this way, I never need to seek or look for what is “worthy” of my gratitude, for there is beauty in all things and in all beings, no matter the circumstance. It is only a question of receiving and allowing it in.

yin and yang

Energetically speaking, gratitude is a gift — an outpouring — a yang aspect of the flow of Love / Life / Energy. This is illustrated clearly in the expression, “to give thanks.” And, there is always a yin aspect to Energy, creating a balanced flow of the whole system (the toroidal flow of energy, the in and out, the yin and the yang). In this case, the yin aspect of the flow is the receiving and allowing in of the gifts — the beauty, the goodness, the truth — being offered in this moment. I find I cannot be truly grateful for anything if I do not recognize, receive, and truly feel the beauty in front of or within me in this moment.

It is in this recognition that I have shifted my focus to opening to receive the gifts in front of me, even if my mind is at a loss as to what gifts are present in that moment. I simply open to receive, knowing beauty surrounds me even if I cannot yet feel it. In only a few seconds, I often find myself overflowing with gratitude and appreciation.

With genuine gratitude,
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