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Claiming Self – Vision Fast reflections July 8, 2014

Filed under: Balance,Uncategorized — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 8:30 pm
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“But you can bury your past in the garden by the tulips, water it until it is so alive, it lets you go, and you belong to yourself again. When you belong to yourself again, remember that forgiveness is not a tidy grave, but a ready loyal knight kneeling before your royal heart.” – Andrea Gibson

A month ago today I was on the final day of 4 days and 4 nights spent in the wilderness, alone, fasting. For those of you who have not experienced a Vision Fast, sitting alone in the woods with nothing to distract you from yourself is a lot like handing a glittery invitation to all of your monsters, letting them know you’re having a 4-day slumber party and they’re all invited. They come in and make themselves at home, taking big gulps from the 4 gallons of water you’ve carried out with you and making themselves comfortable under the tarp that is serving as your only shelter. And so, with nowhere else to be, you talk. You listen. You argue. You fight. You cry. You surrender. You accept. You reject. You bury and cut away and take in and throw into the air. You dance. You come to know the texture of these monsters, the way their skin folds slightly at the corner of their mouth when they are telling you their story – the story they want you to believe is also your story. You listen to these stories with your whole being resting into the ground, being held by the earth and the words are familiar because they are stories you have, in fact, been telling yourself for years. Their stories are the ones that you have long held on to, stories by which you have defined yourself. Their stories are the ones that kept your voice hidden, tucked tightly into your socks, convinced that it was safer that way, easier that way. Their stories are the ones keeping you awake at night, watching the way the shadows of the moon move through the trees.

But the more you listen to these monters, the more and more those stories that they’re telling you start to sound like fables. The fundamental un-truth of them begins to get louder than the words themselves and under all the listening you start to hear another set of words, another story bubbling up. This story is tentative at first, testing the ground that it is stepping out on to make sure it’s solid. And once it is certain, it begins to get louder and louder until finally you have to strain to hear the monsters’ stories. It is then that you realize that you’re trying to hear these stories that have kept you small and in fact it might be easier to hear this one that is building in volume and momentum, that rings with a truth that you know in your bones like the soil beneath your feet. And with your naked self, you slip first one leg and then the other into this story, pull it up and button it around your waist. Both arms in and it slides down over your head and then your torso. And it is here, in the clear light of day, with a breeze rustling the nearby branches and encirlcing you with the sweet butterscotch scent of Ponderosa Pines, that you step into and claim this story. This is you. Not those loud and pushy monters, guzzling all your water and shoving each other for the best spot under the tarp. This. Clear. Strong. Capable. Unapologetic. This story that you wear with the utmost east, because fundamentally it is you. You claim your story. You claim yourself. And finally, again, you belong to yourself.

And in this belonging to yourself again, you are your own witness, your own cheerleader, your own critic, and your own lover. In the month that has passed since those sacred 4 days, I have stepped in the incorporation phase and that has involved a practice of unconditional embodiment. Wearing myself, owning myself, belonging to myself, embodying this vessel I am blessed with. And if I’m being honest, it isn’t always easy to connect to the blessing. Sometimes it’s just hard, hard to be in my body, hard to be in this world with all of its microagressions, hard to stay with myself. But I’m learning to listen, even when it’s hard, and to not force it but to practice remembering that story that demanded to be heard over the cacophony of monsters. That story that every cell in my body knows to be true. The story that is me.

It doesn’t take 4 days alone in the woods with no food to belong to yourself. It takes quiet. It takes patience. It takes staying with yourself, even when you want to leave. It takes listening, and listening deeper to get beneath those stories that keep you small. And so I invite you, too, to explore this space of unconditional embodiment, this space of listening and knowing and owning your story, this space of belonging to yourself. Even if only for 5 minutes every day. That is enough. You are enough. My hope is that, with this practice, you, I, we all begin to bring a little more of ourselves into the world.

To quote one of my wonderful guides, Pedro, “The world needs more of you in it!” I couldn’t agree more.

 

 

Train Rides in India February 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 11:10 am
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Reading through my journal from India, today’s entry a year ago:

February morning on the train to Goa, the landscape slowly changing outside the window. Slums and unfinished high rises, rooms open like gaping mouths, giving way to open space, the occasional river and a blue sky desperate to be seen through the haze of burning trash. Make-shift homes dot the side of the tracks. The land seems to devour, slowly, patiently, whatever tries to find stability in it. Rusted out tractors succumbing to the relentless presence of all that is not human.

Morning glories grow amidst feces and layers of waste. And it reminds me that the lotus blooms in the mud.

My edge today is that this, the rawness and dirt of this, makes me so uncomfortable. I say that and I struggle to find beauty in all of this. And then I see a woman laying vibrant cloths out to dry and a simple red-framed shack and my edge blurs a little. Perhaps the dinginess is not out there but rather this window through which I gaze that is tinted and tinged. How do I clean this window, how do I clear the glass so that I can take all this in through a lens not so clouded by discomfort?

Or perhaps all of that is some of it, being with discomfort. Not trying to see the flowers in the trash, but seeing the trash. Seeing the suffering and the dirt. Letting it make me uncomfortable because it should. I will leave here in a few months and return to a land that fears the messy-ness of reality and humanity. Where authenticity is a struggle because honesty and speaking your truth is sometimes messy. There is a truth to the filth, to the dirt, and to living a life in it.

 

Being human October 3, 2011

“…The heart itself cannot actually break, for its very nature is soft and open. What breaks open when we see things as they are is the protective shell of ego-identity we have built around ourselves to avoid feeling pain. When the heart breaks out of this shell, we feel quite raw and vulnerable. Yet this is also the beginning of feeling real compassion for ourselves and others.” – John Welwood

 

Finding my ground again after an incredibly intense week of CranioSacral training, and vulnerability is bouncing around in my head today. Apropos given the way my last week went. But I’m considering this new space around vulnerability I find myself in now, so I figured I’d take this opportunity to share my ruminations.

What is it we’re afraid of with vulnerability? Is it a fear of being judged? A fear of losing ourselves? A fear of being seen? As a bodyworker, I am acutely aware of the position I am asking people to put themselves in. Most people I work with have no relationship with me outside of the confines of my orange-walled office. Within minutes of meeting me, I am asking someone who has no connection to me to undress and get on the table and be seen in a way that most of us aren’t seen on a day-to-day basis. And not only that, but by getting on the table, one is essentially surrendering control, giving me permission to touch and manipulate their body. There is a level of exposure in massage and bodywork that I have a deep amount of respect and reverence for. Getting on the table, no matter how good a massage feels, is not often an easy task. It can feel incredibly vulnerable. I have so much gratitude for people’s willingness to step into that vulnerability and show up in the way they do.

And that happens in trainings as well, as the past week made painfully clear to me. The vulnerability blind-sided me, in fact, in its intensity, complete with triggers, lots of emotions, and a fair amount of physical pain. On the last day I was sitting in the circle while we were doing a check-in, and I’d shared the space that I found myself in and the difficulty that I’d been having during the week. I listened to others talking about their experiences and I marveled at our ability, mine and others, to step into vulnerability. To open and share and finds words, or actions, to express the places (dark and light and everywhere in between) we’d found ourselves in during the course of the week. Not everyone talked, but everyone was there and held space for those who wanted to share. And I found myself feeling perhaps more intensely than ever before the enormous presence of a group of people showing up for each other and themselves. In that moment, vulnerability was not something to fear, but rather to celebrate and honor. I recognized our ability as humans to connect with each other, to share our hearts with one another, and to hold each other with compassion and grace.

The other piece that I recognized in that circle was the universality of the human experience. Peers were sharing their stories of the week and I found myself resonating with so much of what was being said, connecting to pieces that felt true for me – maybe not in that module, but that I could at least recognize as having felt at some point in my life – and I saw that while experience manifests differently for everyone, the underlying emotions are the same. There is a universality and a connectivity in the shared experience of being human. Underneath the layers, anger is anger; sadness is sadness; loneliness is loneliness; joy is joy. And that commonality is really only accessed when there is a willingness to lean into vulnerability.

Seeing the commonality between us, in that moment, had a profound effect on me. I felt held and seen and supported because something in me began to trust that while my specific experience might not be something that anyone in that room could relate to, they were able to contact the underlying feelings. And it began to melt away any shame that was there for the experience that I was having. And finally, in a very sweet moment, I felt seen. Not for my issues or the things that I was pathologizing in my head, but for being human. For experiencing the complex range of emotions that goes along with the territory of being human. And by acknowledging my experience, I was opening up to that and stepping into a place of authenticity. Yes, I am happy a lot of the time. But I am also sad sometimes, and sometimes I’m even angry, and sometimes I’m tired, and sometimes I’m needy, and sometimes I’m insecure, and sometimes I am, well, you get the point. I’m human.

It is a gift we give one another, I think, to show up in authenticity and to be vulnerable in that, because it allows us to be more present with ourselves and others. And it gives others permission to connect to themselves. Their vulnerability, yes, but also their authenticity.

And then I read over this and cynical me takes over and says, “Alicia, sometimes you’re too quick to look at the bright side, the learning opportunity or positive thing to come out of darkness and it minimizes how hard this is. Sometimes it sucks to feel vulnerable and exposed and seen and you’re making it sound too easy to just think about what a great learning opportunity you’re having when you’re feeling blown open and exposed.” So, it seems important to listen to that part of my brain and acknowledge that it hurts. That it sucks. That naming our dark places is uncomfortable. And sometimes, just naming something doesn’t make it go away, sometimes it magnifies it. And then what? Then we have to sit with it, be uncomfortable and wait it out? Just because we’re human. I can tell you that most often when I’m in that space, I say to hell with this. If this is the human experience, you can take it and shove it, because this hurts too much. But guess what? That’s a valid response to being uncomfortable. It’s a pretty human response. So, there’s room for that too.

All of this is to say, this doesn’t wrap up neatly. It’s not as simple as leaning into vulnerability and trusting that you’ll be held, or even that it will feel good to be seen in your vulnerability. Maybe it’s been your experience that you won’t be and it sure as hell won’t feel good. But, in this training this past week, I realized that part of the healing work that I do (both with others and with myself) is to step into that vulnerable place, over and over again. To take care of myself in that vulnerability. To answer someone genuinely and with integrity when they ask me how I’m doing. To open and soften here and there so I can connect with my own humanness and in doing so, connect with yours too. And through that we can provide enough space for each other to hold that whole big beautiful spectrum of emotions – what it means to be human. And in doing so, actually see each other.

And if we can acknowledge those moments when the world brings us to our knees and we feel our vulnerability, maybe sometimes that vulnerability won’t feel so scary and we will be able to recognize (even if only for a fleeting second) that those moments aren’t the ones that destroy us, but rather make us more human.

 

 

 

 
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