A Facebook friend posted this poem three days ago. Asenath Avinash is also a bodyworker. Her place of employment is currently closed, but if you love this as much as I do, you could ask for her when they reopen. http://www.workwellaustin.com/
It’s a good reflection of the shift in the narrative many of us are experiencing now.
And we looked around, and we saw ourselves, and it was so funny, so strange to recognize, not the selves we had built, but the ones that were buried out in the long backyard of our lives, forgotten, rusted, decomposing, presumed lost, presumed even never to have existed, but there they were, just like the canal-bottoms in Venice, waiting for us, never having gone, never having left, and the miracle was being able to see clearly what was already there.
The miracle was how quickly the pollution vanished, and our eyes healed, and we looked out on a world that was fresh and different and we saw that businesswomen were really poets, and that scientists were really prophets, and that we were all vulnerable and worth protecting, and that toilet paper was a kind of false security, and that all our systems needed a pause and a fresh start and that most of us were really, very tired.
And we rested, and our children wondered what is happening right now? and we couldn’t answer. We weren’t supposed to touch anything or do any work or go anywhere, and it felt that we were being shown something.
So we stayed at home, and we mowed the tall grass and listened to birds and gave thanks for the garbage collectors and the grocery clerks, and we organized our closets and made pots of nutritious soup, and the introverts turned their cameras on and taught us how to make crafts, and the musicians picked up their instruments and walked out their front doors and sang in the streets, and nothing stopped them, not cars, not fear, and no one thought they were lunatics, in fact, we thanked them, we came outside to listen standing far apart, and feeling our interconnection.
We understood that something so profound was taking place, and that if it went on long enough, the fireflies would come back into our yards and the ladybugs and the milky way. The earth herself was waking up quietly, or rather, we were, and we saw that maybe we didn’t need so much after all, maybe in this new world, we’d find new careers or they would find us if we let them, and we wanted to stay put and be still and feel it out moment by moment. We didn’t want to touch it with our clumsy hands or make plans or disturb anything, and so we just watched it breathing softly and steadily like a precious newborn.
And we knew that, at some point, it would probably start up again, which was confusing, because, yes, we did need money, or so we had always believed.
On August 14, 1984, I experienced a dramatic spiritual awakening, but I didn’t know that it was at the time. It took years for me to find a context and to recognize it as spiritual.
Here’s the backstory. I, a single mom and full-time college student, employed part-time in a psychiatric hospital, took a much-needed vacation, leaving my beloved 3-year-old daughter with her grandparents for a week as I traveled from Norman, OK, to Santa Fe, NM, not that far in miles, but my first solo vacation.
In hindsight, this was a sobering period of my life. I was raising my delightful child by myself, with little help from her father at that time, which I hadn’t planned on. I was stressed from working and going to college without much money or support from anyone. My family was in another state, and I had few friends in Norman then, and no money for a babysitter so I could go out and meet people. I felt like it was all on me to make a future for myself and my child, one day at a time.
This vacation meant a lot to me — a break from constant single parenting so I could experience myself as an individual once again, which is such important self-care for mothers. I drove to Santa Fe, my first visit to that town. I believe I stayed at a bed and breakfast, but maybe I camped. I don’t remember what all I did as a visitor to the city that time, but while there, I learned that the Santa Fe Opera was holding auditions for opera companies. Singers from around the country went onstage, one at a time, and with no sets or costumes, sang famous arias for opera directors from around the world who were looking for new talent. Purchasing a ticket was affordable, and I thought going to opera try-outs would be a novel and entertaining experience.
On the appointed night, I wore my thrift store jeans, t-shirt, sandals, and backpack to the Santa Fe Opera — a magnificent structure with a roof cantilevered over the audience and wings open to the hills and distant mountains, an open-air experience in a beautiful setting.
There weren’t many people there, just a handful near the stage, presumably opera directors listening to the singers, deciding who to hire.
I arrived late and stood at the back, surveying the area in front of me, listening to the beautiful, almost unearthly sound of a talented soprano singing an aria. Might it have been something from Mozart? Verdi? Puccini? I don’t recall. To inspire you for the setting, though, here’s my favorite aria, so you can get a sense of the incredible beauty I was hearing.
Meanwhile, dusk segued into night. In the open-air wings on either side of the stage, lightning flashes outlined the hills and mountains in the distance.
Was it sensory overload from the sound and the view, the glorious aria surround-sounding me with the dramatic weather and terrain as backdrop? Was it that a poor struggling single mother stood and listened in this beautiful opera house built for the culturally and financially elite? Both and/or something else?
The next thing I knew, I felt an energy — it seemed to be white light and yet it was palpable — piercing the top of my head and going all the way through the center of my body down into the ground under my feet. There was a strength and an insistence to this energy. You WILL feel this. It WILL be clearly undeniable. It WILL penetrate your being from crown to feet. It WILL change your life.
I was transfixed.
I don’t know how long it lasted, but it was long enough to make a deep impression. I had no conceptual context at the time to put this experience in. I knew nothing about the energy body, sometimes called the subtle body although at this time, it was anything but subtle. It was an undeniably enlivening, beneficent, mysterious experience.
Having no explanation, I shrugged it off as a one-off experience, and I tucked it away in my memories, wondering if someday I would understand it.
With hindsight, I can say that it gave me strength. Something unusual and special had happened to me. It marked me. Even though the physical sensations of being pierced by white light faded, I had this memory. In some way, I felt chosen, although why me, I can’t say.
At various times since then, I have had a sense that some higher power is looking out for me. It’s not that I never make mistakes or struggle with problems. I do. The real blessing is that I accept these as part of being human, not to be avoided but to learn from. I can change and grow.
Maybe this experience was fuel for getting through some hard years. My mother died unexpectedly two months later, and I grieved hard about losing her, having never imagined raising my child without her presence and advice. I had a bad experience with a psychotherapist. I felt a lot of sorrow and loneliness and struggle for years.
The experience let me know for sure that there’s more to life than just the material world, which was the mindset I grew up in. People I knew just didn’t talk about spiritual experiences. What is this energy that I can’t see (except sometimes I could — another story), that I can’t grasp (but I can now palpate and even feel it pouring out of me now)? Qi, prana, life force… It’s there all the time but mostly ignored, unless you seek it out through qi gong or yoga or energy work — or it makes itself known to you, like it did me.
Years later, I finally connected this experience to starting to practice yoga a couple of years earlier, in 1982, when my daughter was a year old — from the book Richard Hittleman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan (amazingly still in print) — because that was all I could afford at the time.
I was so yoga-ignorant then, I thought asana was pronounced a-SAH-na. I of course didn’t have the good eye or experience that yoga teachers use to help students get the most out of each pose. I was on my own, and I was diligently doing some yoga that was making a difference. Luckily, I did not injure myself. Practicing every day, learning new poses, getting into my body, building what we now call somatic awareness, was a highlight of each evening. I didn’t own a mat. I used a blanket or a towel. I did the work in front of me, day by day, as the book prescribed.
I’d always been flexible as a child, able to do backbends, cartwheels, walkovers, headstands, and I enjoyed my daily yoga practice. Sometimes my toddler joined me for a short time — we liked downward facing dog a lot. I finished the Hittleman book and may have gone back through it a second or third time. Once I got a television set, I watched Lilias on PBS and learned to pronounce AH-sa-na correctly.
I got other yoga books. Sometime in the next few years, I learned about chakras, the energy vortices along the body’s midline. There’s a lot of lore about chakras — colors, number of lotus petals, sounds, stones, etc. I don’t remember anyone back then tying the chakras to the anatomy of human body, to the places where the spine curves or to the endocrine glands, but I wasn’t looking at the right sources.
Saharasra, Sanskrit for the crown chakra, is said to connect us to the cosmos and to divinity, just as the root chakra connects us to the earth. Saharasra’s color is white or violet. It’s said to be the chakra from which all other chakras originate. It is located where the anterior fontanelle is in infants, where the coronal and sagittal cranial sutures meet, and is considered to be related to the pineal gland, which we don’t fully understand, except that it regulates the sleep cycle, a foundation for healthy living. Some say it affects performance, decision-making, psychological health, spiritual awakening, and self-actualization.
Doing yoga asanas opens up the channels through which prana/energy flows. My crown chakra opening was the result of practicing yoga for a couple of years. I cleared my energy channels, which allowed this further clearing and energizing experience.
It’s interesting that I now practice craniosacral therapy, a bodywork modality that works with the body’s midline and chakras and uses energy awareness to facilitate the release of restrictions (aka, healing).
I was in Santa Fe earlier in August, and I stopped by the Santa Fe Opera one day in honor of this memory. It’s had improvements and an expansion since 1984. La Boheme and Cosi Fan Tutti were playing that week, and I seriously considered going. However, the tickets were quite expensive, and I didn’t have anyone to go with or the proper attire for the opera, given I’d been camping. It might have been loads of fun, given some advance planning.
Instead, I took a yoga class (Prajna) in a great studio (YogaSource) with a great teacher (Linda Spackman). I attended a dharma talk on community at Upaya Zen Center. I ate some great Indian food at Paper Dosa. I danced and connected with a few people and enjoyed my four days in Santa Fe.
And nothing dramatic happened. It was just life, which is mostly pretty good.
I’ve been thinking about useful delusions, the beliefs that help us cope with the harsher realities of life. I’m talking about common, everyday delusions, not hallucinations or psychotic delusions.
I like to believe there’s going to be a tomorrow.
For some people, there isn’t.
I like to believe I will see the people I love again, many times.
Sometimes that doesn’t happen.
I like to believe the people I love know how much I love them, even if I haven’t told them lately.
They may not know what I see and adore in them.
I like to believe that I will continue to enjoy good health.
Until I don’t, because I’m mortal.
I like to believe that when I go to sleep, I will wake up.
I knew someone who didn’t.
I like to believe that goodness will prevail, and so will truth and beauty.
Sometimes they don’t.
I like to believe I can make a difference.
Sometimes I can’t.
I like to believe I have control over my life.
So much is beyond my control. Politics, economics, the environment, imprints, conditioning, ancestral energies, blood type, genetics, the weather, my own non-conscious mind…
I like to believe my plans will actually turn out how I planned them.
Nuh uh. Nope. Nada. Planning is cool. Just leave room for surprises because they are gonna show up.
I like to be optimistic.
Haven’t I just given you a bunch of reasons not to be?
I like to believe I will again see those I’ve loved who have preceded me in death.
I don’t know if that will happen.
Without useful delusions, the universe is a random and chaotic experience. Useful delusions bring comfort — and perhaps most of the time, they are true.
They can also be inspiring, giving us energy. If you aim high, you may achieve more.
Like perfection: perhaps your useful delusion is an ideal. Perhaps it gives you direction. Perhaps your non-conscious mind is leading you. Listen!
Just keep in mind, not always. Life includes shocks, losses, regrets, betrayals, conflicts, helplessness, sickness, death. It takes courage to face that truth, especially when it’s not in your face. It’s sobering.
You don’t have to think about it every minute. Just take it out of your pocket and acknowledge it every once in a while.
Sometimes I have second thoughts. My wild mind gets half-baked ideas that are so exciting, and the next day they don’t look that good. I took down my most recent post that was like that. It’s just not ready for public consumption.
So. New day, new topic. Please note I am not saying what follows to brag. I hope saying it gives those who need it encouragement.
For someone who was traumatized by a sudden, tragic, violent loss in childhood, who as a result had PTSD for decades before it was even a diagnosable malady — life can be good again.
I wake up happy to greet a new day, on most days. I feel balanced, grounded, centered, open, resilient, buoyant, strong, like a fountain constantly replenishing and renewing. I have more than enough.
Perhaps these good days are even sweeter because of the past. Trauma survivors, please savor and enjoy every good day, every good hour even, that comes your way.
It’s not as if the trauma in this bodymindfield is gone, over, done. Even when you’ve done a lot of work to remember, sort, get perspective, feel, self-soothe, reconcile, and heal that wounded self, a scar still resides in your nervous system. But it can disappear for long stretches of time.
You can work with your autonomic nervous system to rebalance it so that you read and respond to actual threats and to safety appropriately, but in reading what psychotherapists with 40 years of experience have to say, trauma is scar tissue in the psyche. Scar tissue will never be as healthy and resilient as unscarred skin. It’s more fragile. It’s not organized the same way at the cellular level. You can work with it to make it more pliable and reduce the scarring, but it will never be as if the trauma never happened, the skin unscarred.
Also, obviously, trauma resides in your memories, which are connected to your ANS. How often do you need to revisit those memories? Not that often for me, any more. I want to mention that some of the memories from the time of the trauma remained veiled from my conscious mind for a long time, and sometimes a memory shapes our behavior, unbidden.
Trauma is definitely something you want behind you on your timeline, not in the way of denial but in the healthy manner of moving on with your life, because healthy life beckons after trauma, if you let it. It may start with one peaceful hour.
Investigate peace, and savor it.
Facing forward, sometimes trauma from the past sneaks ahead and gets right in your face. Boo! Your ANS, which is instinctual and not really all that smart, interprets something as a threat that simply isn’t. Something happens in the present that unconsciously reminds the part of your brain that’s trying to keep you safe of a time when you were unsafe in the past, and you react sharply, as if past were present, get flooded with stress hormones, experience the fight-or-flight dance going on.
Hopefully, the thinking part of your brain will kick in to help you evaluate the situation! Are you actually in imminent danger? If the answer is no, then you get to wait it out while your system rebalances itself, recovering from the dump of stress hormones. Acupuncture and supplements for adrenal depletion can be very helpful.
Beautiful self-care is required when a memory hijacks the ANS and there is no actual threat. Be ever so kind to yourself. Rest as much as you can. Make beautiful cups of tea. Slow down. Light a candle and watch it burn. Take a long fragrant soak in the tub, preferably with Epsom salt. Just breathe. Listen to lovely music. Move your body with care. Do restorative yoga. Walk in nature. Spend time with a loving friend.
Afterwards, trauma resides in memories and the ANS. Build yourself a vast toolkit of self-care resources for the activated times.
Trauma can also play a huge role in your beliefs. We are run by our beliefs, and some of them are outside our awareness. Feeling cursed? Been there. Having bad luck with relationships? Been there. So many questions. Why me? Am I being punished? What did I do to deserve this? How can anyone love me? How could God let this happen? Does God love me?
What are some things you have believed about yourself, your life, your character, your worthiness, after a trauma?
At this point, all I can say about belief is to frame it in the healthiest way you can. If that means you acknowledge that you encountered misfortune — something that has happened to a lot of people throughout human history — and understand it’s just the way life as a human can sometimes be, and don’t take it personally, that seems like a great start. You didn’t cause this, you didn’t deserve it, you are not being punished, you are not cursed. You ran into some bad luck, that’s all.
This is how you build resilience and move on. If you need a little healthy delusion, I say go for it. If rocks or essential oils or photos of Ramana Maharshi soften the harshness, use them. I do.
Beliefs are about what’s important. Identity is who you are. By working with your beliefs, you start to change your identity.
We live our lives inside a huge mystery. Theoretical physicists say that two thirds of all existence consists of dark energy, and no one knows what it is. I just love this, my favorite new factoid! We.Don’t.Know.What’s.Going.On.
So feel free to make something up that works for you, that gives you strength and courage and takes the weight of oppression or unworthiness off you, so you can rise up to meet the rest of your life. Why not?
By all means, take credit for and celebrate the good stuff — for taking right action, or coming to understand what that means or if that was even possible then. For persisting in the face of hardship. For recovering some of your mental health. For those who understand and accept you, or are willing to make that attempt. For self-care and self-compassion. For bonding with all of humanity through your compassion for all suffering. For finding your path.
After trauma, you get to work with your autonomic nervous system, your memories, and your beliefs. Exploring and reframing your beliefs are where you can make the most difference. Have courage. You’re worth it.
People ask me about this because I’ve worked on it and continue to work it, in my personal life and as a professional in healing arts. I’ve documented bits of my own healing processes in this blog: from a severe childhood trauma, 20-year-old injury to my sacroiliac joint, a hiatal hernia, leaky gut, and more. I guess I have a little bit of street cred.
P.S. I’m still learning.
We live in a world with broken people and broken behaviors in it, including us and the things we ourselves do. Sometimes you know you’ve healed. You’re done. Sometimes it’s more like a spiral that you revisit as you get on with your life, mature, and find the resources to heal even more deeply.
You need breaks — because healing can be intense and you need to rebalance and integrate, which happens mostly in the non-conscious and is part of the process.
Even on your deathbed, the possibility for healing exists. We are all works in progress. It is a hero’s/heroine’s journey complete with allies, mentors, obstacles, blind alleys, discoveries, expansion, adversaries, stages/gates, divine aid, a transformative learning experience every step of the way.
Healing is multifaceted. It can be physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, seemingly by itself or in any combination, or all of the above, as well as outside of these realms beyond our capacity to understand. Everything is hitched to everything else, and we don’t know what “everything” is. Two-thirds of the universe is dark energy and no one knows what it is. We live inside a huge mystery.
It’s not necessarily linear. We can use linear strategies — I want to get from Point A to Point B — and it’s always a good idea to leave room for quantum changes, because they happen. People get visited by angels, get messages in dreams, recognize signs that provide direction in mundane life, health issues spontaneously disappear. And more. Always, and more.
Healing takes skill, and you can learn to do it, from your own experiences, from experts in it (healers, therapists), from non-professional others who’ve healed themselves, from getting informed about it (please be discerning, don’t believe everything you read, and maximize what’s helpful to you — if it’s hurtful, minimize it, but denial is generally not a good strategy).
Sometimes healing doesn’t work, or it is partial. It’s not exactly something we control. We are all mortal. The body wears out eventually, no matter how well you take care of it. Accidents, epidemics, natural disasters, unhealthy people with agendas or weapons or leadership roles exist. Accepting that anything can happen, that everything living has a lifespan, gives us a deadline, so to speak, and can prompt us to do some of our finest healing work. Who do you want to be next year?
There are issues that we simply don’t yet have the knowledge to heal. We are creatures of habit, conditioned by the past, and often those habits detract from healing. Examining and releasing your dysfunctional conditioning — beliefs, habits, patterns that don’t serve — is important.
Waking up is a synonym for healing. What is your place in the universe? Who are you? Why are you here? What’s your purpose? What do you bring to the table? What do you want to bring to the table? How can you make the world a better place, one day at a time, one conversation at a time? What is real? What is delusion? How do you know?
Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken. Awaken. Take heed, do not squander your life.
~ Dogen Zenji
You may think you’re alone with your suffering, but you’re actually not alone. Someone, somewhere, has gone through something very similar and come through to the other side. Seek them out, learn from them, learn from each other, share resources. Shame keeps you separate. I like Brene Brown’s work on shame.
Everyone gets wounded. Everyone is vulnerable — although, word to the wise, find people to share with who are compassionate, who can empathize. Not everyone is. Develop your compassion, including self-compassion.
There are some prerequisites: first, you need to believe that healing is possible. Beliefs are powerful. They run deep. They often run the show without your conscious awareness until you make it your business to become aware of them and question them. Is it true? Check out Byron Katie’s The Work to dive in.
Next, in order to heal, you have to allow yourself to heal. This is important, even when you are going to a healer. Yes, healers can “do stuff” to you, but you are the one who lets it work. This is a skill. Surrendering is a skill, and it has to do with allowing yourself to be open to change that’s beyond your control. , and it
This can be quite scary for some. Please recognize that needing to be in control may be exactly the thing that keeps you from healing. Healing is bigger than the you that you know, and it’s mysterious. Healing means taking risks to allow the unknown to happen, and it also means expanding into a bigger version of you that you’re not familiar with yet.
If you could heal using only what you can control, how’s that working for you? Wouldn’t you already be healed?
Finally, you already are a healer. When you get a scratch, it bleeds, scabs over, the scab falls off, and the skin has knit itself back together. Hurts and disappointments diminish over time and possibly, with perspective, may even come to be seen as blessings in disguise that called on you to grow and heal.
As long as you are alive, life wants you to heal and provides some resources. You can get familiar with and cultivate those resources.
A Facebook friend posted this quote this morning, and it hit me hard how much sense it makes. I have had issues making decisions in the past — I imagine everyone has.
Here’s something to keep in mind when you are going back and forth:
“If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another. The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.”
The planting of a tree, especially one of the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil. ~George Orwell
How are your trees doing, the ones you planted?
If you haven’t planted any, time to get busy! Fall planting gives the roots time to get established before winter, ensuring stability and adequate nutrients for growth in the spring.
Even low-water trees need regular deep watering in the summer for the first few years, especially where summers are hot and dry (like here in Texas).
Ginkgo biloba leaves, courtesy of ScienceDaily.com
I’ve planted several trees at my place. I’ve lost a few, mostly ones that can’t tolerate a cold Austin winter. These have survived a few years:
moringa (foliage dies with first freeze, comes back from roots in late spring)
When your children are grown, let trees become your babies. Plant them, tend them, enjoy them, and they will outlive you, reminding those who knew you of you, and after everyone who knew you has passed, they will provide for posterity.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.
Tomorrow, Saturday, April 7, 2018, I will be Investigating the Power of Silence with attendees at the annual Free Day of NLP, held at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. My presentation is at 1 pm.
To RSVP, please click here, which will help with planning for the free breakfast and lunch and free parking (you need to register your license plate number — otherwise it’s $3).