When I sit in a facilitator space, (learning or healing), being present is not so challenging. Being there, witnessing, observing and responding comes naturally and easily. It is after all my job, how I was trained and so in that, it is a regular practice. I can watch, feel and experience all at the same time.
What I am noticing right now, is that in my life – this is much harder. A voice comes in my head and tells me what I “should be” doing, or a feeling comes forth and I constrict or find ways to avoid. Even writing this, right now, is actually what I might call “permissible avoidance”. It’s work after all, so who could blame me or point fingers if I do this rather than feel, meditate or experience what is truly happening right now? I mean, I need to work, right?
What I truly realized today though, is that by doing this I ignore, avoid and devalue the other parts of myself – the other needs I have. My need to feel or recognize uncomfortable feelings, my need to have order and a clean home, my need to demonstrate love to my family and be present for them… and today I wondered what would happen if I said “yes” just a little more often. After all, uncomfortable feelings are valuable and they will stick around longer if I stick them in some pocket of my heart, my energy or my body. After all, cleaning the house will just seem bigger if left longer. I tell myself today that those things I avoid – those are still me – still my soul or my heart or my being whispering to me about my desires or the spaces where I need to feel heard.
That’s the difference. Right now, I see that. I see that instead of seeing those voices as desires or needs of my own I have been seeing them as demands or requests outside of me – someone else pulling the strings or someone else’s responsibility to repair or heal. I have suddenly found a new layer of the “have to”/”choose to” wisdom.
Today I am going to try to at least witness my habits of avoidance and make a conscious choice with full understanding of what and why I choose.
I discovered a false belief that she carries that someday there will be a time when I can just focus on – one thing. “In two weeks, it will be calmer and I can just focus on creating or healing or my family.” or “This weekend will be easier to…”
Even though life keeps proving to me that saying it doesn’t make it a promise, I kept believing that it did. Just this morning, I realized, I feel disappointed all the time because that is not realistic! Life will happen. Sure, there will be times that it all works out – but there is no promise – no setting life aside or stopping everyone and everything else so they might not interfere and change our plans. Most of us are, after all, living interdependent lives. Choosing relationship over isolation.
How many times have I said these things to myself? How many times has Spirit pointed out my folly? It’s rather like the belief that God will never let anything bad happen to me. It just simply isn’t the true promise. It’s a child’s view of deeper truth. What does this look like in my life right now?
Well, I quit my job to focus on building a business and healing myself. I felt the rush of excitement at having this simpler focus in my life – less distraction or others pulling at me. Well, one month in and I received a phone call from the property manager that we would have to move in 60 days. It may seem like nothing to many of you but my parents and I have been renting this home for 37 years. This is my childhood home, my children’s childhood home. As such, it holds life, death and a ton of wandering children’s belongings. You know what happens when you raise or help to raise 10 children? You acquire a lot! And then you tell yourself you will get around to sorting through it – this weekend – this summer…and then a parent gets sick, a friend is in need, your child gets depressed or you’re so tired from work or overwhelm…
Annnnd… here we are full circle. Ummm…someone is trying to tell me something about waiting around for the perfect time that never comes. Or is it more about “fairness”? Maybe I should accept that LIFE waits for no man.. Maybe it is more about embracing who I am – or finding balance. Could it be about choice? Balance? I am an inner-personal/intra-personally focused person – everything else in life is a distraction for me – an annoyance. I guess that means I have some strong avoidance behaviors.
So what is the deeper truth? What is Spirit’s promise here, if there is one at all? Perhaps Spirit simply is asking me to know choice and gratitude when the opportunity presents itself. To recognize that when I respond to the people in my life, it is because they are what matter to me. Responding meets my need to be of use, to matter to others, to belong…it is where my joy lies. And yet, there are other needs…to have order in my life, to have time for self-nurturing, to provide shelter and sustenance for myself and my family. And so I step back for a minute and recognize that this is just like any other time when there are conflicting needs – we hold it all – we compromise – we adjust and finally we bend and flow.The peace is in the knowing we are meeting needs by making choices – not by force – not as a victim but as a heart centered human.
My beliefs about family learning and spirit keeping require that we accept that learning, knowledge, wisdom, all come from everywhere and every experience. That we approach a problem with curiosity and be open and that something guides us or steers us toward answers. Still, sometimes I miss the opportunity, we all do for various reasons and that’s ok. So I want to share with you one of my experiences that felt like a missed opportunity.
I was recently introduced to the work of Judith Blackstone, a licensed clinical psychotherapist and contemporary spiritual teacher. She teaches a meditation practice that is about inhabiting the body and All That Is, at the same time. The newness for me or the primary difference in her teachings is that you do not disappear into the Oneness, you are an equal part in it. Makes sense, but I have a habit of leaving myself out that shows up in various ways. I suppose this is one of those ways. Shortly after that I was introduced to the work of Pat Ogden, a somatic psychotherapist. She speaks toward the physical response to trauma and how you can work from the body upwards toward the brain.
I share all this because, well, they were helpful to me, but also to express that this was my exploration of a problem, we as a family have been facing.
I’ve never found it easy to inhabit my body. Culturally we even reference it as “the body”. With good intentions, the idea is to recognize that we are not the physical. So it is far easier for me to access spiritual guidance than body wisdom and to have someone just say directly, “inhabit both spaces at once…don’t leave the body to feel All that is.” That was huge!
Here’s the most interesting piece.
I was holding all of this as the sun rose this morning and something came together.
Two of my sons spoke body wisdom to me this year, on separate occasions. They spoke toward the same thing in the same way and yet, I missed it. They said it quite directly but no, they didn’t call it that. They were just sharing something, a thought and a new goal and I’m thinking I didn’t have the presence in those moments to get curious about it.
The beginning of the story behind the story was the same, an experience of multiple collective family trauma and grief. But they each came to me separately noticing that their postures had collapsed – they had found themselves literally folding over and frequently sort of squashing things and decided to work on changing that. I didn’t until just this moment recognize how this shifted how they moved through the world or how it moved them further along in their grief process.
Myself on the other hand, I have been quite aware of the urges of my trauma body to collapse – to fold into child’s pose and to remain there. I’ve noticed it has become a symptom of my autoimmune flare ups. The muscles involved are precisely the ones that hold me upright. Still, I couldn’t see clearly till this moment that that is one way I could walk towards the continued healing of my soul. I see now, if I take action in the body, hold powerful postures, or postures of grace, I can feel Grace and Empowerment. Now that’s not entirely new to me but it’s new within the context of my recovery from this. In other words, a smaller more accessible piece than I had contemplated.
Now I can return to them and share my experience and understanding and ask about theirs. Now I am reminded the opportunity remains. I just needed a little “wait time” to acclimate to the information or to further experience it and maybe they did as well. In this conversation we might have the opportunity to explore the nervous system, the physical body’s response to trauma, the grief process, personal empowerment…it will all depend on the space we are in, the places where our experience and contexts converge.
There is so much that I see in this story.
I am reminded again, to include myself.
I reminded to be compassionate with myself and have faith in the process.
I reminded of the interconnectedness of our learning, how important it is to include all of our parts in our goals for “educating” and to recognize these important pieces to embodying knowledge and experience.
And finally, I am given for myself, a new level of understanding and solution to some of my specific challenges.
In other words, my experience confirms my beliefs in symbiotic learning and how the practices of curiosity, openness and mindfulness create an environment that makes life rich with learning constantly. Learning happens in conversation and experience. We don’t have to create opportunities to learn, they come and they bring gifts for us all.