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Travelling Inward January 13, 2013

Filed under: Balance,Gratitude — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 6:40 pm
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The last three years have been full of travel for me. Not the travel that involves backpacks and trains and someone noisily rummaging through their luggage in a shared room at 3 in the morning. No, this travel has been internal. I have been journeying to wounds and scars and memories and strength and health and all the while learning that growth comes whether you are moving or not.

The first few years after I moved to this town, I remember being afraid that my growth would stagnate. Someone asked me years ago what my biggest fear was and at the time, without even a forethought, I said simply, “stagnation.” I was afraid to stop moving. Because in my mind, to stop moving meant to stop growing. At that point my most profound experiences of growth and transformation had come only with a backpack upon my back and foreign tongues swirling in my head. Pushing myself outside my physical comfort zone was the only way that I knew how to really grow. It was in that space that I shed the stories, shed the performance of myself and got to the essence of me. And then I’d come home again and cling desperately to that essence, vowing to not lose what I’d learned about myself and the places I’d come to discover – vowing to not go back to the old way of being.

But after about 6 months of moving to Boulder, with no big travel plans in sight, and the novelty of moving to a new place wearing off, I began to fear that staying in one place meant that those periods of profound transformation would come to an end. Or at least a temporary end until I packed up and took off again for someplace new that pushed me outside my comfort zone and reminded me of the essence of myself.

But, instead, something else happened. Something that has only become really clear to me in this time when I am in fact packing up my backpack and preparing for another journey. 7 years after moving to this town, 7 years filled with struggling to really unpack and settle in, I find that the growth that has happened while staying in the same place is profound on a level that I’d never known possible.

What happens when our internal environment becomes where we are out of our comfort zone, not our external? What happens when the places that push us and challenge us are not a foreign language or the uncertainty of ones location, but the foreignness of our own internal landscape.

Because it’s not about place, at least this time around. It’s not about something outside myself illuminating my essence. This has been an internal process and as such, I carry it with me. It is no longer about being afraid that when the external environment changes I will lose contact with this way that I know myself. And there is something so profoundly liberating about that. There is freedom in knowing myself in this way, and knowing that this self will continue to grow and change and evolve. And with that evolution I have learned to check in and to witness and to see the ways that things shift, and to trust in the unfolding.

I am comfortable now, in this once foreign landscape. I can speak the language, I know the gestures, and I have found some sacred hidden places that are full of joy. This land that was once unfamiliar to me, has become my home. And that comfort might be temporary, as all resting places really are. Inevitably, deeper travel will be spurred and more growth and learning this internal space will occur. The comfortableness arises not necessarily from knowing myself (because that which I know now is bound to change, thank you evolution). No, the comfortableness comes from trusting, trusting my inner explorer and trusting this self that I have come to discover and indeed, love. Trusting the growth and change and trusting the courage to continue exploring, to continue venturing beyond the reaches of what I know and being curious about what else is there.

This internal journey, in the way that I have known it for the past 4 years, is coming to a shift. An end of sorts, a transition into something else. It’s time for this self that I have discovered to go back out into the world. To learn what its external comfort zones are now, and to push it right out of them. It feels bittersweet, as transitions often are – full of sadness at the ending and a readiness for what is to come. And in this transition between coming and going I find myself feeling grateful for the events that set me on this journey and grateful for the beings that have walked with me through some dark and scary places – reminding me of the ground beneath my feet when it felt as if there was none. And surprisingly enough, I am grateful for the constancy of my external environment (in whatever ways anything is really constant) holding this space for me to delve into my own foreign depths.

This internal landscape is not all known to me, there is so much more territory yet to be discovered, more wounds to be healed and more tenderness to be found. And so I continue on, with this dance between internal and external. Inhabiting this body in a way that I only could through my internal explorations and carrying it out into the world to now allow my external environment to be the unknown, and to discover new landscapes with these new eyes. All the while knowing that I have found a home in myself, a land that still contains so much un-navigated ground but that now has some familiar resting places to come to when I need to catch my breath and recharge. This travelling is exhilarating and exhausting work. Thank god I get to do it.

 

 

Exploring Edges. February 27, 2012

remember: the body’s pain and the pain on the streets/are not the same but you can learn/from the edges that blur O you who love clear edges/more than anything watch the edges that blur. ~ Adrienne Rich

Edges. Pushing edges. Hell, finding edges. Exploring, lingering, waiting, hating, resisting, relishing, resting, breaking, blurring, reinforcing, meeting – discovering the edges within ourselves, those far reaches beyond which is no-man’s land, perhaps even literally. This is a practice.

What does an edge even look like? I can only tell you what it looks like for me. For me, it’s the place where, when I am opening to vulnerability, right before it gets to be too much. That’s an edge for me, where I can operate in a way that feels safe and comfortable and easy (although not too cushy), but I can see that with a slight push I will be out of a space that’s comfortable. Your edges will probably look different than mine, but there is a universality to finding those spaces in ourselves where we reach a limit, beyond which is ever so slightly (or strongly) outside our comfort zone. And while I have long been a firm believer in the growth and transformation that comes from stepping outside one’s comfort zone, these days I’m exploring the edges. I am exploring the place just before I’ve crossed the line, perhaps in an effort to see if it’s totally necessary for me to push, push, push until I’m over the edge with nothing safe or familiar to cushion my fall should it happen. Trial by fire I guess. And that’s a lot of the way I’ve operated in my life. Jumping in – and disconnecting. Yup, that’s my clever nervous system at work. I take that step, push myself outside my comfort zone, and because it’s often scary out there, I check out, stop being present in my body and instead occupy the mental place that is ever so comfortable for me. Eventually, most times, I am able to come back, return to my body and resume the presence with which I am able to live my life when I recognize safety. But what if there’s a different way of doing it? What if I can stay with myself the whole time, instead of disconnecting and coming back? What greater depth would be possible if I didn’t have to take the time out to bring myself back into myself?

Because here’s the thing, while I will always place an enormous amount of value on the ways in which I’ve grown by crossing that line, I think the deeper change comes when we are able to stay with ourselves in these uncomfortable places. And I think that an inherent part of growing and evolving and transforming also means inhabiting yourself. Showing up for yourself over and over again. Trusting that no matter how uncomfortable or painful or grief-ridden or ecstatic or joyful a space may be, I’m not going anywhere. Developing that trust in oneself that comes from constancy. How much deeper the discoveries are able to integrate when we are present with ourselves – and isn’t that the point? To integrate our growth so that it becomes part of our very fabric, not dependent on an external influence.

A baby, as it’s learning to crawl will crawl away from a caregiver (parent, sibling, babysitter, etc), stop, turn around, check to make sure they’re still there, and then proceed on. Over and over again – testing the constancy, building the foundation of trust that there is a presence holding them, making sure they’re safe as they discover new movement. And so with exploring our edges: we find our edges and then check back in with ourselves to make sure we’re still present, and then return to the edge and see what happens next – all the while, checking back in, making sure we’re not going anywhere. But that means we have to find those edges, explore and be willing to go there, be willing to stay with that moment of anticipation, that moment when we could either step over or step back. And good lord, that’s hard.

If you choose to embark on this practice of finding the edges and hanging out there, let me throw in another piece – give yourself permission to step back. Geez. Seriously. Hang out for as long as it feels ok to hang out (find the edge within the edge), and then step back from the edge, take a deep breath, feel your feet beneath you, remember that you’re safe, remember that you have a choice in this. Always. You can choose to remain where you are, just as you can choose to explore the edges, and there’s no better than or worse than when it comes to those choices. Sometimes just knowing what those edges are is enough. And maybe if that’s enough right now and you just let that be there and hold gratitude for those edge, eventually, over time, you might find movement toward venturing out to them.

So, as I explore this in myself, in my own way, at my own pace (with a whole lot of backing the hell up) I’m discovering that in the process of staying with the edges, I find that they move, ever so slightly and every once in a while my edge is a little further away – my capacity has grown. And I rest into the growth, and then keep on keeping on, finding my new edge and hanging out there. Rinse. Repeat.

But, in this practice I’ve learned that nothing happens without gratitude. If I beat myself up for a limitation or an edge, all that serves to do is reinforce it. So to this (both in myself and you) I say: appreciate those edges – they have served brilliantly to protect you, helping you survive and function, given you a container in which to live and love and interact and engage all while maintaining a sense of safety. Thank them. And then ask yourself, what else is possible? Really. What else is possible? How can I do this differently? Give space for the edge to speak – the answer might surprise you. Or it might not. You might find you knew the answer all along.

 

 

 
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