Author Archives: Lisa

November Gathering; discovering safety together

Belonging, community, connection and a healthy nervous system are crucial for our wellbeing. We come to learn about ourselves, together. For those who would like support in their journey, here’s an affordable option.

Please note: I’m experimenting with a different day/time. Please see below for details.

 

Safety is important. Our bodies, our spirits, and our psyches function with more wellbeing when safety is known from within.

We live in a culture that often disempowers and creates stress- and doesn’t teach us how to feel safe from within. Our culture teaches us to find safety in people, places, and in superficial doings and things. But it doesn’t teach us sustainable, empowering safety from the inside out.

Without this knowing, we often don’t know how to cope with being in an overwhelming world, or how to recover from traumatic experiences. We have forgotten that safety is possible, or maybe we’ve never known safety. Many of us have developed posttraumatic stress as a result.

 

We can learn. We can learn to slowly and gently know that safety is here. We can safely get to know safety.

 

Scott Kiloby wrote me:

“I see so many people want to be free but stop as soon as the trauma or core story really starts to come up. Then they run.  I think it would be great idea for you to do a group, gently guiding people…

We come together to find safety in our experiences, to discover that we are safe- even when we have trauma or loud core stories.

In this groupwe honor our experiences and we learn how that we don’t have to pretend or hide- or run. We gather to intimately connect and explore the nature of being human. We gather in a safe container, where we are allowed to be exactly who we are, exactly as we are.

All are welcome here regardless of political affiliation, sexual orientation, race, gender or background. You are important, and appreciated, whoever you are, whatever you believe.

From past participants:

“It is quite breathtaking to experience you working with a group; watching and listening to your communion with who-they-really-are. You have a gift, Lisa.”

 “You represent what Adyashanti talks about:  “A safe place for the world to come and rest.” You are that safe, benign presence in the world.”

Gatherings focus on practical and experiential exercises that are specifically designed for the development of self-awareness, self-love, safety and a healthy nervous system. I always facilitate a guided rest. There will be time for questions and optional sharing amongst group members. Sometimes I engage in a 1:1 facilitation while everyone else follows along silently. Other times I share ways to assist with self-inquiry, or ways to heal the nervous system. Participation is always optional.

There are no requirements to attend: anyone who is interested in becoming more intimate with themselves and becoming more available for their life is welcome.

Please contact me with questions: LLMEUSER@ME.COM

Upcoming dates:November 11that 5pm EST (please note new day and time) and November 30,1:30-2:45 EST. You can come to one or both.  We will meet for 60-75 minutes on zoom. Each call will be recorded, and yours to keep.

Investment: Sliding scale based on income: $10- $25 per gathering. To sign up please send PayPal to LLMEUSER@ME.COM, subject line “Gathering” along with your email address so I can send you a link.  These are free to those in my current deepening courses.

Minimum required 4. Maximum is 15 people.

To learn about me: http://integrativehealingnow.com/about.html

To read more about embodiment

For more, visit my blog, where I write almost exclusively about embodiment

 

Sleepless Nights: When a Curse Becomes a Gift

This was first published on the Living Inquiry web site as “Waking Up In the Midst of Sleepless Nights (and PTSD)”

 

 Artwork by Stefan Armoneit

 

Last night was the first night in awhile where it was cool enough to keep my bedroom door open. Delight!

And!

It also led to me waking up quite a bit during the night. This led to  experientially connecting with a question that came up in a recent gathering:

 

What can I do when waking up in the middle of the night?

Waking up in the middle of the night can happen for different reasons, and when that waking happens it can catch us in different states.  Sometimes we just need to reposition the blanket, or simply roll over, and we fall back into sleep. Other times we find ourselves jolted awake, and/or restless and weary. Rarely do we care about the former, but the latter can make for some challenging nights, and exhausting days.

It’s the staying awake that bothers most of us.

 

What wakes us in the first place?

Practically speaking it can be useful in exploring why we wake up in the first place.

I can’t imagine listing all the possible factors that lead us to waking, but I think naming some of them can be helpful. There are factors happening within us that contribute to our waking: the dreams we’re having, the state of our mind before going to bed, the state of our bodies, the level of stress or anxiety experienced during the day, the food we have eaten, our digestive systems, needing to use the bathroom…  And then there are all the miscellaneous external factors: pets, children, weather, house noises and so on.

Some of these factors are random, like the occasional thunderstorm or the extra helping of chili reeking havoc on the digestive system. Other factors are more systemic and seem to be directly related to stress.

 

Stress and Post Traumatic Stress (PTS[1])

 We all know that stress can cause wakefulness as well as lead to insomnia. When I speak with people I often find that behind the scenes of their wakefulness is some kind of overt or covert stress.

Weather woke me last night, but it reminded me of a time when I was experiencing a lot of PTS and I frequently woke up in the middle of the night and had a hard time falling back to sleep because there was so much stress in my system. While waking up in the middle of the night may not be a big deal for you, I’m going to share my journey as it has a lot of practical application.

During that time, period I was literally my own science experiment as I was constantly trying new and different things.  While waking up in the middle of the night was originally anxiety provoking and often terrifying, it wound up taking me on a journey where I discovered practices that changed my life and led me deeper into self-care and self-love. It was a life altering process.

 

What did I do?

I did a lot.

I utilized different herbs, vitamins and minerals (along with simple rest/meditations) throughout the day to help balance out my system so that my body wasn’t in overload when I went to bed. I also took natural remedies before going to bed to specifically aid with sleep.  I mention these things because stress and PTS is hard on the nervous system, and sometimes articles offering practical advice (diming lights/not using electronics at night, exercise during the day, aromatherapy, soothing music, etc) don’t include the nutritional needs of the nervous system.

Taking care of my nutritional needs often helped me obtain full nights of sleep, but I still sometimes found myself awake- uncomfortably awake. Simple breathing practices often helped but other times I would toss and turn desperate for sleep, not knowing how I’d make it without another decent night of sleep. That initial sense of desperation was a sign that my nervous system was already out of balance, which made it highly susceptible to even more distress.

Those middle of the night awakenings were often the most challenging part of having PST. I dreaded finding myself awake in the middle of the night because of how triggered I might find myself. My deepest fears would often surface if I didn’t quickly fall back to sleep: being abandoned/rejected/isolated, being attacked by my abuser, and being power over-ed or unable to find my agency/resourcing to “fight back.”  Few of these things made sense rationally, nor would arise during the day, but in the dark of the night my subconscious and unresolved trauma was often loud.

 And I mean loud.

When my nervous system was in overwhelm, my mind would kick in and I would be overcome by irrational thoughts. I would re-live events and painful scenarios. I often felt deep fear or restlessness, literally feeling terrorized by my mind.

 

Thinking strategies and somatic fear

When our bodies are in a state of fear, imagined or real, resourcing goes to our reptilian brain- the parts of our brain that are connected to survival/staying alive- as opposed to the parts of the brain responsible for spaciousness, awareness and curiosity[2]. This would be great news if a tiger was chasing us (who needs to be calm and present while running for their lives?) but when this happens while lying in bed it can be a pretty unbearable experience.

We’re already a culture that mainly relies on the strategy of thought, but doing so without the benefits of creativity and spaciousness makes for a very distressed nervous system. Not feeling safe to connect with our stress filled bodies, we think, think, think- and then we think some more. We’re literally convinced thinking will save us from the fear we’re experiencing because being present to a body that is overwhelmed seems out of the question.

 

The seeming impossible is actually the most sustainable option

With fear chemicals streaming through the body, feeling into that chemically invaded body seems like the least safe route.  But unless there is actually a tiger chasing us, that’s really our ticket to freedom. We must learn how to feel. In order to do that, we must learn that it’s safe to feel, even when our minds are telling us that we are not safe.

As the fear chemicals flowed through me I knew I had to find a way to gently relate with my physiology before getting sucked into the thinking mind that was convincing me of horror stories.

 

Experimenting with somatic practices. 

Somatic practices have been a part of my life for a very long time, but my circumstances motivated me to take my practices to another level. PST disrupts feeling safe, and so a crucial part of my somatic journey was going very slow and being very gentle in finding a sense safety in my being.

Learning the science behind what I was experiencing helped me understand that what I was experiencing was a trauma/PTS response.  This helped me to understand that I was not inactual danger, but perceived danger which allowed me to feel safe enough to try new things- like slowly and gently staying withthe physiological experiences I was having.

I learned how to get curious and be simple: I’d find my toes, my fingers, my pelvic floor, and/or whatever felt safe to connect with. I’d breathe. Each time I found myself awake I’d curiously connect with whatever felt safe to feel/attend to. If it felt right, I’d involve my breath, and breathe into parts of my body. If it felt too triggering to connect to my chest or core, I would just stay with feet, or fingers, or limbs. I’d cycle back from my spinning thoughts to my body over and over and over. I fell back to sleep hundreds of times doing this practice. It became easier and easier.

I spent a lot of time during the day and at night gently exploring sensations, noticing what felt safe and what didn’t feel safe. I did somatic based inquiry during the day, and eventually during the night, to explore what was leading me to believe I wasn’t safe and to make meaning of this. I started to learn that I could have sensations that did not feel safe, while feeling save to have them.

Each time I stayed with challenging sensations I learned that I was experiencing something temporary. Each time I lived through a difficult experience I learned that it was safe to stay with something that felt scary. Eventually I learned how to be present with all that was happening when I would go into a full PTS response in the middle of the night- the thoughts, the sensations and the memories.

I became more and more resourced, more and more able to have the ability to interject and interrupt the fear responses that were happening. I slowly developed a relationship withfear and the stories, instead of being consumed by them. This was huge for my nighttime waking and also huge in my trauma recovery.

Over time, I felt safe in my body, even during the most fear-ridden moments- even when my body was shaking uncontrollably, releasing trauma[3]. After living through so much, some part of me trusted that I would be ok. Eventually waking up no longer trigger dread, but instead offered an invitation to feel more deeply into the belly of the beast and into my earliest childhood trauma.

 

Life emerged in the terror

Some of my greatest healings happened in those dark moments. I fought my demons, my greatest childhood fears and terrors, and I survived.  When I would find myself tossing and turning in my bed, desperate for sleep, not knowing how I’d make it without another decent night of sleep, I turned to my practices.

I remember a pivotal moment in my healing journey.

Although I was well into my healing journey, and the PTS was less, I still was having a lot of intense dreams that involved my abuser. One night, while still dreaming, I was able to consciously engage with my sleeping/dreaming self. I was able to remind my dreaming self that I could find refuge in my body, and was not victim to the stories and thoughts playing out in my mind.  “This is not actually happening. You are safe to breath the body that is here and now,” was the subtext. From then on, when I was awake in the middle of the night my body became my refuge from my spinning thought filled mind. I was able to be present with myself even when I was experiencing a sense of child-like terror. After a while there was nothing too intense that I couldn’t be present with, and that increased sense of agency[4]and resourcing literally changed my life. I was able to truly face my most horrible childhood fears and trauma, and the PTS shifted dramatically after that.

As odd as it may sound, those sleepless nights led me to Wake Up to a different way of being. My thinking mind, which had once been the safest place for me to “go” because what I was feeling was so intense, was no longer that refuge. Thoughts no longer delivered relief or provided solutions and even in fear states I was able to recognize that thoughts would not save me.  As that was seen through, my being became safe to reside in and with.

 

Embodiment is practical

Connecting with my body became the way I learned how to fall back to sleep (and go to sleep when I first go to bed), and generally speaking continues to be my “go to” when I wake up in the middle of the night. How that looks in action can be varied. Last night I woke to the wind blowing through the trees and as I melded my conscious attention with the sounds they lulled me back to sleep quickly and with ease.

Other times I might find myself unable to fall back into sleep.

Just a few nights prior I woke up and after trying my usual “connecting to breath and being” approach found myself still awake. I tried listening to the sounds of the nighttime creatures singing their symphony outside my window, and that didn’t lull me back to sleep either.

I considered reading as I find that this is a good option for me when I wake and it doesn’t seem that I’m going to fall back to sleep. If I can get over the fact that I may not have a full night of sleep and might be a little tired the next day, I often enjoy reading or writing in the quiet of the night. I have often found that giving my mind something to do, like reading, keeps the thinking part of me occupied so that other parts of my attention are free to connect my body. While part of my mind is engaging in words, other parts are connecting to my breath, pelvic floor, legs and feet. This is often very helpful in switching what feels like “head energy” into calm and present body energy.

I turned on my night lamp, but I noticed that I was too tired to read so I turned it off and tried again. After a few moments I discovered that my mind was even more awake, and while I may have been too tired to read, I was not too tired to think!

My “laundry list” of things to do was annoyingly popping into my attention like popcorn on the burner. I wrote them down so that my mind did not have to hold them (I have found this repeatedly helpful during the day and if I wake up at night).  They continued to come but instead of resisting them I just let them be, and at the same time I kept bringing my attention to my breath, and my body.

I patiently and curiously returned to this cycle many times and was disconnected from it many times by thoughts. I just kept reconnecting. The rhythmic cycle of my breath eventually lulled me back to sleep, but it took a while.  It is not that different than times during the day in which I find my attention caught in a mental whirlwind: over and over come back to breath, to body, to the here and now.

 

Night into Day into Life

I love that the night time wakings have shown me value and insight with regards to how to be in my day time wakings: curiously conscious and present to what is happening, as it’s happening. In fact, how I was able to make it through those PST/stressful nights is quite similar as to how one might make it through PTS/stressful days.

I find the reminder to keep reconnecting extremely practical whether it’s during the nighttime or during the day. I get disconnected from my being a million times a day. The invitation is to re-connect, over and over and over. This builds a safe and relational way of existing and being present. Instead of trying to avoid or change my experience I am able to relate and be withmy present experience directly as it is happening.

Whether it’s daytime or the middle of the night, I find it very useful to have the internal resourcing to identify what I enjoy, what makes me feel comfortable, and is soothing or/and safe. This requires that I have some self-awareness and that is a big part of the process!

In my nighttime healing journey I discovered a deeper sense of agency and self-connectedness allowing me to identify and turn towards what nourished me. I was then able to have the resourcing to, find fingers that felt safe, for example, or feet that felt safe. This was a crucial component of my healing and it continues to be an important aspect of self-care and self love.

This sense of agency and self connectedness shifted my world from being at the mercy of “out there”, and the thoughts and imagery that referred to an out there, to a deep sense of coming home “here.”  I continue to come home to myself- to attend to and love myself- any time I feel a sense of disconnect. I am grateful.

 

Last notes on wakefulness practicality

 There are so many more things I could write about with regards to waking up at night, but for now I’m going to list some tried and true strategies that I’ve used over time, many of which as self explanatory.

  • Watching TV or a movie. In some of my worst nights I put on a comedy that occupied me mentally so that my body could get a break from incessant thoughts.
  • Listening to music.
  • Listening to a recorded rest or mediation. I often guide myself through rests/meditations, but sometimes it’s just nice to let someone else do this. I have hundreds of recorded rests/meditations- feel free to email me.
  • Leading myself through a breathing or rest practice, or prayer.
  • Reading or journaling
  • Changing positions in bed or changing sleep locations or clothing.
  • Getting up for a drink or a snack.
  • Doing something practical around the house.
  • Gentle yoga or stretching.
  • Cool water on the face or behind the neck.
  • Resetting the house temperature: making it cooler in my room makes it more enticing to snuggle under the covers, which often gets me back to sleep.
  • Changing something up in the room- opening or closing window/using noisemakers or light blocking blinds.
  • Not looking at the clock or phone until it’s clear that I’m not going to fall back to sleep. Keeping my eyes closed has been instrumental in getting back to sleep quickly.
  • Redirecting attention from what feels like “head energy” into that which grounds me. This may include bringing attention to lower parts of the body: into the feet, the legs, the pelvic floor, or the lower belly. It may involve grounding to in something more energetic that is running through me/as me.
  • Connecting to an energetic presence or space that exists “around” me- that energy that seems to hold all that is, and is “greater” than me. This was helpful in a practical way when I had vertigo and would feel somewhat dizzy when I woke in the middle of the night. Instead of trying to get rid of the dizzy feeling I connected to something greater than me that was holding all of me. It was extremely powerful to rest in that energy while I was experiencing physical dis-ease.
  • Use compassion and mindfulness to support the body as it may shake, twitch, tighten, hold, release and so on. Email me if you’d like support with this.
  • Do some simple inquiry as it resonates for you. If you tend to make not sleeping a problem in and of itself you can try these inquiry questions: “Who is the one not able to sleep? Is there a threat in not sleeping?”  If you feel equipped you can go into deeper inquiry questions with regards to what you’re experiencing. If you’d like specific assistance with this please send me an email.
  • Know when to get help. Nighttime is often when parts of our subconscious arise into conscious attention. Without training, practical experience or an ability to connect with a sense of safety it can be very hard for one to hold space for un-integrated experiences and trauma. Finding someone to help you journey through what is literally keeping you up at night can be invaluable on a variety of levels.

 

I’d love to hear about your own journeys with sleep, or if you’d like to hear something more on this topic please let me know! In the mean time, notice how your nighttime and your daytime adventures weave through each other in curious, mysterious, and relevant ways!

 

(For those of you waiting for part 2 of my Social Justice, Heart-Work, and Evolution series, it’s coming!)

[1]I used PTSD in the title because most people know what that is. I’m dropping the D, because I don’t think we always need to label our experiences based on the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). From here on out I use PTS, to refer to “posttraumatic stress”.  For what it’s worth, my own experience was more akin to complex PTS, but for simplicity sake I simply used PTS in this writing.

[2]This is a basic explanation. For more information I recommend Buddha’s Brainby Rick Hanson to most of my clients and course participants.

[3]Although it can be unnerving to experience the body spontaneously shaking, it is normal for the body to shake when trauma is being released. If you’d like more information on how to support the body through this natural release mechanism please send me an email.

[4]By “agency” and “resourcing” I am referring to a source of support and wisdom that flows from within.

October Embodiment Gathering: Safety Exploring our Humanity Together

Support yourself in becoming truly available for your life.

 

Artist: Elisabeth Moss: “In Presence We Bloom” www.elisabethmoss.com

 

 

Belonging, community, connection and a healthy nervous system are crucial for our wellbeing. We come to learn about ourselves, together. For those who would like support in their journey, here’s an affordable option.

 

Safety is important. Our bodies, our spirits, and our psyches function with more wellbeing when safety is known from within.

We live in a culture that often disempowers and creates stress- and doesn’t teach us how to feel safe from within. Our culture teaches us to find safety in people, places, and in superficial doings and things. But it doesn’t teach us sustainable, empowering safety from the inside out.

Without this knowing, we often don’t know how to cope with being in an overwhelming world, or how to recover from traumatic experiences. We have forgotten that safety is possible, or maybe we’ve never known safety. Many of us have developed posttraumatic stress as a result.

 

We can learn. We can learn to slowly and gently know that safety is here. We can safely get to know safety.

Scott Kiloby wrote with me:

I see so many people want to be free but stop as soon as the trauma or core story really starts to come up. Then they run.  I think it would be great idea for you to do a group, gently guiding people…

 We come together to find safety in our experiences, to discover that we are safe- even when we have trauma or loud core stories.

 

In this groupwe honor our experiences and we learn how that we don’t have to pretend or hide- or run. We gather to intimately connect and explore the nature of being human. In a world where it is not always easy or safe to be vulnerable, we learn that it is possible and loving to do so. We come to learn about ourselves, together. We gather in a safe container, where we are allowed to be exactly who we are, exactly as we are, and that we are indeed safe to be.

From past participants:

 “It is quite breathtaking to experience you working with a group; watching and listening to your communion with who-they-really-are. You have a gift, Lisa.”

 “You represent what Adyashanti talks about:  “A safe place for the world to come and rest.” You are that safe, benign presence in the world.”

 Gatherings focus on practical and experiential exercises that are specifically designed for the development of self-awareness, self-love, safety and a healthy nervous system. I always facilitate a guided rest. There will be time for questions and optional sharing amongst group members. Sometimes I engage in a 1:1 facilitation while everyone else follows along silently. Other times I share ways to assist with self inquiry, or ways to heal the nervous system. Participation is always optional.

 

There are no requirements to attend: anyone who is interested in becoming more intimate with themselves and becoming more available for their life is welcome. Please contact me with questions: LLMEUSER@ME.COM

We will meet for 60-75 minutes on zoom. Each call will be recorded, and yours to keep.

Upcoming dates: October 5 and October 26,1:30-2:45 EST. You can come to one or both.

Investment: Sliding scale based on income: $10- $25 per gathering. To sign up please send PayPal to LLMEUSER@ME.COM, subject line “Gathering” along with your email address so I can send you a link.  These are free to those in my current deepening courses.   

Minimum required 4. Maximum is 15 people.

 

To learn about me: http://integrativehealingnow.com/about.html

To read more about embodiment

For more, visit my blog, where I write almost exclusively about embodiment

Consciously Connecting to Anger, aka Social Justice, Heart-Work, and Evolution Part 1.5

Consciously Connecting to Anger, aka Social Justice, Heart-Work, and Evolution Part 1.5

This was originally posted on the Living Inquiries web site as The Gift of Consciously Connecting to Anger.

 

 

Artist: Stefan Armoneit

“Everything’s going pretty well in my life, but I feel **so much anger! **”

“I can’t get past how much anger I feel! I want to feel better, but I am stuck.”

“How can I **not**be angry, have you seen what’s going on in the world?”

“Being angry is a negative emotion and now is not the time to be negative.”

 

 

Feedback

The feedback from “Connecting to the Heart While Connecting to the Pain: Part 1[1]had 1 of 3 flavors, generally speaking.

 

Flavor 1: people wishing they too could move thru their anger in the way I did so as to get to “the good stuff.”

Flavor 2: people subtly moving past the anger stuff so as to get to “ the good stuff.”

Flavor 3: people expressing the sentiment: “damn, this anger is some heavy shit.”

 

Here’s the good news and the bad news:

The good news is that all of it is “the good stuff.” The bad news is that all of it is “the good stuff.”  Yeah, that’s some heavy shit!

 

I promise that Part 2 will be published, but felt writing a 1.5 would be useful.  Anger is a big topic, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so let’s talk about it!

 

Flavor 1:Wanting to move thru anger as to get to the “good stuff.”

I know this flavor well.

Part 1was an example of what’s possible, not necessarily probable, when anger is allowed in and it’s met with loving attention. It’s one example, in a sea of examples. Does it often go that way for me? Well, to be honest, these days yes. But I’ve also spent years lost in an ebb and flow of anger, and that was exactly where I needed to be after decades of being in denial. It was evolution for me to feel safe enoughto be able to connect with my anger, and stay there as long as I needed to. It didn’t always feel good, and it didn’t necessarily feel loving, but it was far more empowering than the hopelessness and despair I’d known.

 

Anger **is** good stuff. Anger is so powerfully good that those in power consistently try to either (1) get us stuck there so that we burn out into powerlessness/ hopelessness  (political/capitalist cultures), or (2) tell us that it’s unhealthy and unattractive (religious/spiritual cultures).

 

Anger is our friend

Anger is an appropriate behavioral response when our safety is at risk, or the safety of someone we love is at risk. Anger is an appropriate response when we are being violated, or when someone is committing violence against others. It is an appropriate response to injustice, to suppression/oppression, to cruelty and brutality. It is an appropriate response to harassment and to domination.

 

Considering that a good many of us have been oppressed, dominated, or violated, is it any wonder that the “powers that be” want us to either get lost in anger so that we get killed or ultimately become docile sheep too tired to fight, or not consider anger as healthy response to our circumstances?

 

Anger is an expressive gift that humans were given to help us process and release. When that gift is taken away, we loose a part of our humanity. Let me say that again: we lose a part of our humanity. Worse yet, we reject a part that we never knew we had. We deny it, and in doing so we deny ourselves.

 

Knowing this, is it any wonder so many are festering with anger- this forbidden but biologically human expression? The dissonance is enough to make one mad! Quite literally.

 

 

It’s never too late

That’s the depressing news, but here is the hopeful news: it’s never too late. It’s never too late to learn how to be angry in a way that feels safe. It’s never too late to feel the anger that we’ve stuffed down for decades, in a way that feels safe. It’s never too late to develop a healthy relationship with anger, so that we neither get lost in it nor deny it. It’s never too late to be friends with anger.  At least that’s my experience.

 

Has it been easy? No. It’s been as hard as hell. It’s been uncomfortable. It’s been scary. It’s seemed nearly impossible. But bit-by-bit – with the amazing support of various allies- my system has learned it is safe, valid, and healthy to connect with anger. I never knew how unbelievably freeing it could be to become friends with anger.

 

So, if you are one who wishes they could move thru their anger to “the good stuff, ” remind yourself that anger **is** good stuff. Once you’ve honored it and allowed it to be, it will not have the same hold over you that it might now. Anger is sacred- it has it’s own timetable. Your anger has waited a long time to be let out of the basement. Get support, and be patient while you learn about yourself- all parts of yourself.

 

 

Flavor 2: People subtly (or not so subtly) want to move past or deny anger so as to “stay in” or get to the “good stuff,” and/or so that they don’t get stuck in “the bad stuff.”

 

I know this flavor well.

 

I won’t spend long here. Bypassing anger is so fervently celebrated in our culture- in all areas- that it has created a complicated web of self-bondage/suffering, often in the guise of happiness/peacefulness. Denying a natural part of who we are creates dissociation and disembodiment, one byproduct being a sleepy mass of people who, well, don’t really live fully on the planet.

 

I often find that at some point in one’s journey anger cannot be denied or moved past any more. The body either starts to rebel (i.e. gets sick), the psyche starts to rebel (i.e. starts to suffer), or the spirit starts to rebel (i.e. wants to die). If one is lucky they will connect with an anger midwife (some kind of guide) who will help them to safely connect to the anger monster that has been locked in their internal basement for their entire lives, refusing to be stuck down there any longer. It is my own experience that it doesn’t take long to understand that the anger monster isn’t a monster at all, but just an energetic presence that is tired of being banished into a musky and dark basement.

 

Exclusion hurts.

 

Flavor 3: “damn, this anger is some heavy shit.”

 

Yup. I know this flavor well, and I’m going to spend a little extra time here because this seems to be what most of the comments were expressing.

 

First a story, then after that, another story.

 

I friend of mine does sacred bodywork- different modalities- with clients. She is very well established with a fabulous reputation in her community. She has worked hard to create clear and strong boundaries, as body workers are known to be easy targets for predator behavior. Let me just say that again: because predator behavior is so common in the realm of body work, she has had to painstakingly and creatively established strong policies in her private practice- so as to keep herself safe– while she offers her sacred gifts to clients[2].

 

Last week she was in a session with a client who she’s seen many times.

She was deeply involved in the sacred work that she does, when out of the blue the client broke the silence and asked her for a hand job. She froze. She went into a fear response.

 

She was clearly not expecting this sacred space to be violated. Despite all the work she’d done to create a safe environment for herself, here was a client exhibiting sexual predator behavior.

 

I’m tempted to side track even morefrom this story to tell you about her elaborate policies that she’s put in place to keep things like this from happening. Why? Some of you reading this will not be able to keep yourselves from blaming my friend. Your first automatic thought will be: what was her role in this? What had she done?

 

To those of you doing that- jumping to her role in this- I so get it!I too have been raised in a cultural climate that blames the victim. I too have had a hard time being able to really sit with the abhorrent dysfunction of our culture’s toxicity, and instead, automatically, without even knowing I’m doing it, put the attention back on the violated. I too have redirected conversation away from toxic behaviors, away from the toxicity of what our culture has produced, and focused on the predator’s prey. I too have been a part of the toxicity in this way- implicitly and complicity. Me too!

 

Last week, however, that was not my response.

 

 

Anger is an appropriate response to dysfunction.

I wasn’t worried- my friend is magnificently well resourced and resilient, and would only grow from this. My response was anger. My response was anger because we live in a culture that blames the violated. My response was anger because in no way was that appropriate in that set and setting. My response was anger because such predatory acts are too common, and too normalized, and too expected. My response was anger because my friend is an amazing healer who does deep and loving work, and does not deserve to be violated by the clients that she is serving. My response was anger because my friend got mad at herselffor having the perfectly appropriate response she had. My response was anger because of how entitled her client was, in his request, and how, perhaps, clueless he was with regards to the impact that this kind of behavior has on a female psyche. My response was anger because of what this culture teaches males, and because of how dysfunctional it is that it has created sexual predators in the first place. My response was anger because of the tendency to spiritualize and trivialize such happenings. My response was anger because of how representative it is. My response was anger because of how this incident echoes the massive existence of other predatory incidents. My response was anger because of all the other levels and layers of dysfunction in our culture that exist and make women scared, in their own sacred spaces, in their own sacred bodies.

 

That’s a lot of anger, huh?  I mean, damn, this is some heavy shit.

 

Writing this now, I can feel the anger. It issome heavy shit, and I can feel it. And I’m grateful that I can feel it… because there was a time when I was so dead inside that I wasn’t able to be angry about things that deserved anger. I’m grateful because I have a system that is safe enough to feel anger when anger is warranted. I’m grateful because I don’t have to pretend and hide from such toxicity any more. I’m grateful because, not having to have to hide from anger, it is no longer a debilitating emotion for me, but a healthy emotional response.

 

I was actually reallyangry.

It had struck a chord within me, and it felt appropriate that it had. I never want to be numb to the dysfunction going on in our world. I never want to fall asleep, and shut down, because of the toxicity that exists in this world.

 

And so I choose to feel. I choose to feel because I have discovered, through my sometimes-painful journey, that I am safe to feel. I am free to feel. What an amazing gift that I have been given. It is the most empowering gift of being human. It is a gift I want everyone to have. It is my life’s work that everyone may know safety.

 

 

What does anger want?

I wasn’t able to go off alone and be physically still with this energy of anger, but I have learned that I almost always have the capacity to connect to my breath and my being regardless of what I’m doing. As I physically moved around in my house I breathed with the energy of anger. It seemed to permeate my being and beyond in vibrant aliveness.

 

Anger, when paid attention to, lands our attention in the body.That’s good news.[3]Bringing attention into my being has a different impact than putting attention into spinning thoughts/stories- I feel more grounded, as opposed to feeling spun out. I can be present, instead of getting lost in stories and fears.

All of the internal work I’ve done has helped me to know that my body is safe to be in.  As such, the energy of anger- as it flowed through my body- was safe as well. I brought attention to my limbs, my belly, my heart… to all the sensations anger seemed to be connected with.

 

It is my experience that anger, and any emotion, wants to be connected with, as simply as possible:  acknowledged, supported, felt, and/or validated. How this comes to happen can be mysterious, and it is not always an easy process. I am grateful that I have the tools and the training to be able to be present with myself. In my experience safety, compassion and love are crucial in being with challenging emotions and in discovering embodiment. The journey is endless.

 

Right next to anger is always something else

We often think that we’ll get stuck forever in a challenging emotional energy if we allow ourselves to “go there.” I think this belief has multiple layers, but one layer is based in the duality of the mind. The mind often sees things as being EITHER this OR that. I used to think that if love existed, anger didn’t. I used to think that if anger existed, love didn’t. I know now that that belief comes from a limited dual perspective, not from truth. Waking up to the lived reality that love includes all has changed my life. In my own experience love is so big that it includesanger.

 

This may not be your experience, but you may notice that while you feel anger, you are also experiencing “not anger.” One way to test this out is to ask yourself where, in your body, you feel the anger. Chances are, you are not feeling only the sensation of anger throughout your entire body from head to toes. Chances are, you are experiencing anger in some ways, and also neutral sensations, or even positive sensations, in other parts of your body- all at the same time.

 

When we’re in a heightened state we may forget that there are other experiences happening, within the particular experience that is filling up our attention. It can be powerful and useful to our nervous system and wellbeing to curiously explore what else is here right now? What else is happening right now?

 

 

Back to love, back to the heart

When my friend told me about her experience I was so very angry, but the anger was never bigger than the heart space I was inside of- it was never bigger than love. That has not always been my experience because of how unsafe it was for me to feel anger. My life is radically different now. I’m grateful that there is such an abundance of love that “even anger” is safe. Perhaps I am able to experience anger becausethe immense depth of love and heart space has revealed itself to me.

 

There is such deep love for all the participants of this story- for my friend and her family (as this one man’s behavior will have an impact on all of them). And yes, also for her client because our current toxic culture creates perpetrators- he too is a victim of this culture. My love extends to all who have found themselves here – few of us have created it; we’re the occupants of a pre-existing toxic culture.  So yes: enormous love goes out to all of us as our hearts and psyches are evolving towards a better way to be in the world.

 

AND, I have anger, because these toxic ways of being in the world are not ok – for anyone. Not ok for her client, or his wife and family. Not ok for my friend. These dysfunctional ways of being in the world are not healthy for anyone. Heart work includes opening oneself wide enough to be able to let it all in: the deep compassionate love, the deep compassionate anger, and so much more. The heart can handle it all.

 

In my experience, being able to consciously connect with anger is truly a gift. It allows us to respond to injustice. It invites us to be a conscious participant in our own experience. It permits us to honor an intended aspect of our humanity. It empowers us and frees of stagnancy and despair. We don’t have to leave the heart to connect with anger. We don’t have to get lost in anger. We can learn to know love andknow anger. We can learn that it is safe to experience both.

 

Part 2

People often want to know how “I handle” challenging emotions or social justice challenges. I think it’s extremely helpful that people have options for providing support in their own unique evolutionary journey. I will talk about this in part 2, and will also dive back into heart work as a continuation of part 1 and part 1.5.

 

I hope this blog post was helpful in revealing that anger can be a valuable and perhaps even necessary part of heart work. As always, I welcome feedback and comments!

 

[1] Also entitled “Social Justice, Heart-Work, and Evolution. Part 1, of 2” on a different web site.

[2]Why have I given you all this information, before telling you what has happened? Why have I gone out of my way to tell you how she’s gone out of her way to have clear boundaries and policies?  Just wait one more moment..

[3]Admittedly, this is not good news for everyone. Connecting with the body is the most challenging aspect of embodiment, and I absolutely honor that it is not always safe for people to be in their bodies, particularly when experiencing strong emotions.

September Embodiment Gathering: Safety Exploring our Humanity Together

 

Support yourself in becoming truly available for your life.

 Artist:  Stefan Armoneit

Belonging, community and connection are crucial for our wellbeing. We come to learn about ourselves, together. For those who would like support in their journey, here’s an affordable option.

 

Safety is important. Our bodies, our spirits, and our psyches function with more wellbeing when safety is known from within.

We live in a culture that often disempowers and creates stress- and doesn’t teach us how to feel safe from within. Our culture teaches us to find safety in people, places, and in superficial doings and things. But it doesn’t teach us sustainable, empowering safety from the inside out.

Without this knowing, we often don’t know how to cope with being in an overwhelming world, or how to recover from traumatic experiences. We have forgotten that safety is possible, or maybe we’ve never known safety. Many of us have developed posttraumatic stress as a result.

 

We can learn. We can learn to slowly and gently know that safety is here. We can safely get to know safety.

Scott Kiloby wrote with me:

I see so many people want to be free but stop as soon as the trauma or core story really starts to come up. Then they run.  I think it would be great idea for you to do a group, gently guiding people…

 We come together to find safety in our experiences, to discover that we are safe- even when we have trauma or loud core stories.

 

In this groupwe honor our experiences and we learn how that we don’t have to pretend or hide- or run. We gather to intimately connect and explore the nature of being human. In a world where it is not always easy or safe to be vulnerable, we learn that it is possible and loving to do so. We come to learn about ourselves, together. We gather in a safe container, where we are allowed to be exactly who we are, exactly as we are, and that we are indeed safe to be.

From past participants:

 “It is quite breathtaking to experience you working with a group; watching and listening to your communion with who-they-really-are. You have a gift, Lisa.”

 “You represent what Adyashanti talks about:  “A safe place for the world to come and rest.” You are that safe, benign presence in the world.”

 Gatherings focus on practical and experiential exercisesthat are specifically designed for the development of self-awareness, self-love and safety. I always facilitate a guided rest. There will be time for questions and optional sharing amongst group members. Sometimes I engage in a 1:1 facilitation while everyone else follows along silently. Other times I share ways to assist with self inquiry, or ways to heal the nervous system. Participation is always optional.

 

There are no requirements to attend: anyone who is interested in becoming more intimate with themselves and becoming more available for their life is welcome. Please contact me with questions: LLMEUSER@ME.COM

We will meet for 60-75 minutes on zoom. Each call will be recorded, and yours to keep.

Upcoming dates: September 7 and September 21,1:30-2:45 EST. You can come to one or both.

Investment: Sliding scale based on income: $10- $25 per gathering. To sign up please send PayPal to LLMEUSER@ME.COM, subject line “Gathering” along with your email address so I can send you a link.  These are free to those in my current deepening courses.   

Minimum required 4. Maximum is 15 people.

 

To learn about me: http://integrativehealingnow.com/about.html

To read more about embodiment

For more, visit my blog, where I write almost exclusively about e

Connecting to the Heart While Connecting to the Pain, Part 1

This piece was originally posted on the Living Inquiries web site, titled “Social Justice, Heart-Work, and Evolution. Part 1, of 2”.

 

In every moment, new life.

I was going for a run this morning, on a new trail, in a new place. I came upon what looked like an extra large water pipe, but it was human sized- meaning I was to go through it. It was dusk. It was pitch black in there. And I had no idea what was on the other side. I started through, stumbling along the way, hoping I’d not lose my footing because there was stagnant and smelly water on one side of the dirt path that I really didn’t want to fall into. In the dark.  I made it to the other side, and onwards I went, into more unfamiliar terrain, onto more trails that were new to me. I ran blindly, not knowing where I was going. At every step, there was new territory. In every moment, new life.

 

It dawned on me: these runs I take into the wild, they are like the journeys I take into my heart. Sometimes my pacing is awkward… sometimes I’m not sure where my heart is. Sometimes my body is stiff or out of alignment… sometimes my heart feels closed and hard. But I go on these unfamiliar runs, and I continue to go into my unfamiliar heart. Sometimes it feels risky, uncomfortable, and just plain hard. But I go, because I always experience new life in my body, soul and spirit when I do. I go, because I know what the alternative is, and of that I am not a fan.

 

The alternative is, by and large, our current cultural structure. I will be writing more about that in part 2, but in short, our current cultural structure is pervasively led by the head, not the heart. As such, it is is not life giving, nor life sustaining, but more likely life controlling and dominating.

 

I am a fan of the heart, which honors curiosity, creativity, and expansion. I am a fan of the mystery. I am a fan of the unity and quality of all life.  I am a fan of new life- and that is why I run on paths unknown, and travel into inner territories not yet traversed.

 

 

Something is better than nothing

A few weeks ago, in late June, I was sitting in the place I spend most of my Sunday mornings- in my Unitarian Universality Church with my daughter. It was the week we started to learn that the US government was taking infants, babies, and children away from immigrants without proper documentation.

 

That morning Rev. Mary Ann spoke about what was happening on the front lines with regards to immigration. It was not a playful[1]sharing of information- it was horrific. The room was exceptionally sober. People throughout the congregation were crying, and many others had tears in their eyes, listening to the words she was speaking, trying best as we could to not only keep our ears open, but also our hearts.

 

She knew that a lot of people were weighed down by the insanity going down on the front lines of our government. She knew that many people felt powerless, and hopeless. She knew many people wanted to just ignore this, until it went away, because it was justso big. She urged us to do something. She then spoke about the many options of ‘somethings’ we could do; attending marches, making phone calls, sending letters, donating funds, and so forth. Please do something, she encouraged. She asked us to refrain from being complicit. “Nothing will yield nothing,” she said, “but something will always yield something, even if you don’t know what that is.”

Even if you don’t know what that is.

 

I thought that was profound. When it comes to political action, nothing will surely yield nothing.

 

Under the weight of what the government was doing, it was easy to think that actions might not have much of an impact. Rev. Mary Ann’s words were not only inspiring, they were also empowering. Even though we can’t know what that something will do, we know it will yield something.  And that gives cause to opt for something, any act, over nothing.

 

(Side note. Pausing a moment for a desperate prayer and to state the obvious which is often over looked by the liberal left, which includes myself: may we please, pick our “somethings” wisely. Doing violence, to counter violence, for example, sustains the toxicity of our current death fixated culture. I will write more about this in part 2.)

 

 

First, some heart-work

I knew action was crucial. Passively praying, or pretending it is “all going to be ok,” not only seems inappropriate but also morally void in these times. Social justice is a passion of mine, and I find that activism, in some way or another, is crucial.

 

I wanted to jump to action. I’d already been called to heartfully connect with the victims of the atrocities, but because of the amount of anger and righteous indignation[2]I felt I simply could not. When I tried to by pass that and do something “easier”, again all I could feel was my own arrogance, blame and resentment, and I could not ignore how ultimately disempowering that felt for me.

 

My heart had been buckling under the weight of these crimes against humanity, and I had been trying to ignore her because it was all just so painful. Not only was she buckling, she was hardening at times, wanting to close at times, and wanting to numb out at times.

 

It’s not just that I don’t want to live with a hardened or a dissociated heart, it’s that I can’t do my work in the world with a heart that isn’t open.

 

I knew that I had to address that first- as my initial ‘something.’ I knew I had to go deeper into what was going on for me, and I knew the only place to go deeper into was what wanted to close: my heart. I was in need of some heart-work.

 

 

 

Getting honest with myself

I allowed myself some time to honor what I was experiencing. It felt overwhelming and almost too much to bear and I noticed that I was feeling some hopelessness in light of the political decisions being made. I continued to go slow, and as I got clearer I saw that the government taking children way from their families was hitting me on (at least) 3 levels.

 

  • I was impacted as a human being who has empathy and compassion for other human beings.
  • I was impacted as a therapist because I know how destructive childhood trauma is with regards to the development of a healthy psyche.
  • I was impacted as a mother: the idea of my child being taken from me broke my heart every time I thought of it.

 

Between the three, I was overwhelmed with emotional responses. I was angry, I was experiencing immense grief, I was afraid and there was some hopelessness under the weight of all that.

 

It was the hopelessness that cried out for attention, for in the wake of the hopelessness there was despair and wanting to give up. And I could feel that deep in my heart.

 

As uncomfortable as hopelessness feels, as much as I don’t like to feel hopelessness, I knew that I needed to move closer to that resonance and get more intimate with what I was feeling.

 

That was my first ticket into my heart: as I allowed myself to let in this feeling of hopelessness, my heart started to crack, and, like Leonard Cohen, I experience the heart breaking as the heart opening. I could feel more as I stayed with the hopelessness, and that led to the next layer, which was anger.

 

 

 

Then came Anger

Sometimes I still feel weary and/or afraid of letting anger in, or going down into anger. Couldn’t I just jump to love? (Or, let anger spur right action?)  No, I could not. I didn’t feel love, I felt pain and anger and rage and hate. And it felt like right action in that moment was to feel into it, as opposed to act from it.

 

As I owned that powerful righteous indignation I let myself fully feel it down deep into my being. My body felt rigid, as if I was holding, or griping, and my chest was tight. I didn’t try to change or soften any of it, but instead consciously joined with it as it was. I let the righteous narrative be as it was, and before long started to see myself and feel myself as if I were having a tantrum. I was, as I often refer to this state of rage, ‘Hulk Mad,’ and in true Hulk fashion I was throwing things around (in my imagination). As I stayed with the visuals in my mind’s eye, I also stayed with the resonance of anger in my body, and my breath breathed down and into these sensations that were traveling through my heart, my gut, and legs.

 

Then a different degree of violent images arose in my imagination- first of caged children and cruel adults. Then, of me- gunning down those determent guards (I am pretty sure there were some politicians in there, too) so as to free those kids. I allowed myself to have such awful imagery and sentiments, and felt deeply into my being while doing so. Whilst breathing consciously I stayed with the heart contractions and let them have their way as they moved through my body. The sensations in my heart were painful, as if my heart was being ripped or torn apart.  It wasn’t long before long the anger and the rage and the hate started to shift- on their own accord. I started to sob uncontrollably with grief as my heart continued to break open. As I patiently stayed with the anger, and then grief, there was a shift into love and my heart started to open up even more. I could feel the impact of the heart-work I was doing.

 

The contractions and the rigidity in my body had stopped and were replaced by a deep and wide warmth that flowed through and beyond my body- all around me, and all within me. Love started to pour out to those children, and the guards and politicians, too. The imagery had turned from a killing fest into a love square dance.

 

The pain in my heart had been replaced by a mysterious yet uncomfortable pulling sensation, as if I was being drawn into the space of my heart. “Come deeper, here,” my heart seemed to be saying. Here.

 

And that’s when something surprising showed up: Fear.

 

 

You’re afraid to love, Lisa, really?

Hell yeah – fear was there. I was afraid to really let my heart blindly love. I was afraid of going so deep into my heart that I’d get lost in there, in my ‘hearting.’ There was so much to feel.  Dare I let open my heart that wide? Could I trust my heart? Could I just jump in, without knowing where or what I was jumping into?

 

I didn’t know what “here”really meant, or where it would take me, or what it would “do”. I didn’t know anything, other than I was being called into a chasm that was deeper and wider than I knew. Like on those runs I take, I was being called to go into unfamiliar territory. I was being called to go into what seemed like emptiness.

 

I took it slow, and my dead friend Travis showed up to help me. He held my hand, and he reminded me that I didn’t have to go in deeper if I didn’t want to. I was feeling the deep desire to love, but I also felt some ‘supposed tos’. In the wake of those supposed tos, I paused, and I let myself not love, for a bit. And that was just what I needed because after that the love started pouring through on it’s own accord.

 

When I can honor doubt, and just let it be there for a moment, the trust that comes next is inevitably more powerful.  I don’t know how that happens- perhaps it is pure grace.

 

My heart continued to beckon me into it, and in doing so it softened, filled, and emptied, over and over in a dance that is impossible to describe.

 

 

 

Heart-work Motto

As odd as it may sound, I wonder if the first act of heart-work stems from the radical act of self-care.

 

Maybe this is the heart-work motto:  “I value my own heart so much that I must pause with and for her health before I do anything else.”

 

For me, in the above life-story, valuing my heart meant that my first ‘doing something’ was to deeply feel, because without doing that my heart was going to close, and then what good am I in creating the social change I believe in and advocate for?

 

 

Once I tend to my heart, all things become new

 After tending to my heart, after following the path of love, then I can be grounded and open enough to be myself. I can attend marches, I can write letters, I can make phone calls, and be a political activist. AndI can continue to work with the hearts and souls of my clients, and I can continue to be a mother, and I can continue to create, and write.  And I do.

 

When I keep my heart open, I get to live another day in creating change, in creating newness, and in advocating life, not death, as our current political and economic institutions pray to. But once my heart closes down, it’s game over for me- and they win. Believe me, they want my heart to close- they want all of our hearts to close, and stay closed.

 

They want us to feel too overwhelmed, too depressed, and too powerless to feel, to act, to be alive. They want us to get lost in the horrific images on facebook and television, and believe that we can do nothing.

 

Giving up isn’t an evolutionary option, but caring for ourselves is. In fact, the love and compassion that is at the center of self care may be at the heart of evolutionary progress on a macro level. As I tend to my heart and keep it open, I have more space and resourcing to participate in life on all levels. When I tend to my being, I have more available to tend to all beings.

 

We all must find that which sustains us. Taking care of my heart sustains me. It keeps me truly alive and furthering. Do what keeps your well being alive, and involved in creating a different, a new, tomorrow.

 

Stay tuned for part 2, where I’ll be writing more about the radial act of heart-work, why it’s needed for evolution, and how to keep your heart-work and social justice work a sustained part of your life.

<<< Find Part 1.5 Here>>>  

 

[1]The theme in June was play, and had became a paramount part of her services each Sunday because, despite what was going on in our country politically, she felt we needed to remind ourselves of the importance of play. Rev Mary Ann Macklin had done some research-convicts of unspeakable crimes most often come from childhoods where there was little to no play. Furthermore, she contended, the opposite of curiosity- something utilized in play- is depression. “In times like these,” her words sang throughout the room, “we need play.” And, she did, thank goodness, later in the service invite us into some experiential exercises so that we could connect with curiosity, aliveness, and playfulness.

 

[2]FWIW Righteous indignation has its uses, and can be extremely powerful- and perhaps that would have been the perfect springboard into action for me in the past.  Perhaps my new slogan for myself will be, heart work first, thenrighteous indignation.

 

Seeking to Know Life

.

Seeking from our mind is often an endless ride on a hamster wheel. Seeking from our being is part of our inheritance as a living being.

Each living thing has something within it that drives it to grow, to evolve- to go from what was, into newness. This movement to “life” is inherent within existence itself. In plants and animals we simply call it maturing, or growing. In human beings we can connect with it as aspect of “a me” wanting to know a greater sense of Me-ness. We may call it seeking: a seeking of life wanting to know itself in/as Life.

The trickiest aspect of knowing this is that it is Known from our direct experience, from our beings (from life itself), as opposed to our habitual source of thinking and imagining.

When we slow down, and open up, we can notice and experience our direct connection to/with/as Life- just as we can notice animals’ and plants’ connection with/as/through Life.

Take a moment and notice: in direct experience perceptions seek themselves… Hearing seeks hearing, taste seeks taste, touch seeks touch, and so on.

Does that seem true as you notice what perceptions arise and arrive?

A new participation is happening every moment in the being, not the mind, the BEing. The being is the life force life-ing. Life “goes after” life; not subject/object per say but inherently. Your mind doesn’t have to seek, your being seeks life itself. It’s born to seek, to know, life.
There is just this exchange happening, a participation. An intrinsic participation happening of a very different sort than the mind conceives. Life is inherently driven to do itself, to be itself, to know it’s greater realm of Beingness- through, in, and with Life itself.

Get to know Life.

August Embodiment Gathering: exploring our humanity together

Support yourself in becoming truly available for your life!

 

From a recent participant:

“It is quite breathtaking to experience you working with a group; watching and listening to your communion with who-they-really-are. You have a gift, Lisa.”

 

Belonging, community and connection are crucial for our well being. We come to learn about ourselves, together. For those of you who would like support in your deeper looking and/or aren’t interested in 1:1 sessions, here’s an affordable option.

 

Deficiency stories debilitate, demean and disempower us like nothing else. Sometimes coming from outside ourselves- through institutional doctrine familial conditioning- but eventually winding up in our own narratives, these stories seem to solidify a separate sense of self.

In an email to me Scott Kiloby shared“ I see so many people want to be free but stop as soon as the trauma or core story really starts to come up. Then they run.  I think it would be great idea for you to do a group, gently guiding people…”

 

This sense of separation is painful, and yet we often hide or pretend- or, as Scott said- run, staying separate and isolated in our pain.

In this group we connect together, and we honor our stories and our trauma, and we learn how that we don’t have to pretend or hide- or run. We gather to intimately connect and explore the nature of being human. We come to learn about ourselves, together. In a world where it is not always easy or safe to be vulnerable, we learn that it is possible. We gather in a safe container, where we are allowed to be exactly who we are, exactly as we are.

 

This monthly gathering will focus on practical and experiential exercises that are specifically designed for the development of self-awareness and self love. I always facilitate a guided rest. There will be time for questions and optional sharing amongst group members. Sometimes I engage in a 1:1 facilitation while everyone else follows along silently. Other times I share ways to assist with self inquiry, or ways to heal the nervous system. Participation is always optional.

There are no requirements to attend: anyone who is interested in becoming more intimate with themselves and becoming more available for their life is welcome.

 

We will meet for 60-75 minutes on zoom. Each call will be recorded, and yours to keep. Please contact me with questions.

 

You can come to one, or as many as you’d like!

 

Upcoming dates:  August 3rd and 24th.  1:30-2:45pm  EST.

September dates: Sept. 7th and 21st at 1:30-2:45pm EST.

 

Investment: Sliding scale based on income: $10- $25. To sign up please send PayPal to llmeuser@me.com, subject line “Gathering” along with your email address so I can send you a link.  Free to those in my current deepening courses.   

 

Minimum required 4. Maximum is 15 people.

 

To read more about embodiment:

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/05/embodiment-10-things-to-know-about-this-buzz-word-lisa-meuser/

 

For more, visit my blog, where I write almost exclusively about embodiment. http://integrativehealingnow.com/blog/

 

Honoring Lived Experiences

This was originally posted on the Living Inquiries web site as “Real life Interjects” on the Living Inquires web site.
Synopsis: Affirmations can create more cognitive dissonance, and suffering, when they are not coming from lived truth.

 

“You’re Good Enough, You’re Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like You.”

You might recognize this quote from Stuart Smalley, a character who played on Saturday Night Live in the 90s. Stuart was known for his positive affirmations, including the one above, and wrote a book of Daily Affirmations. Whilst the character and the book are based in comedy, there are hidden gems of wisdom in using affirmations and many transformational modalities are based upon their use.

While some approaches largely depend upon the use of positive affirmations, lauding their effectiveness, their critics suggest that they are little more than wishful thinking, essentially ineffective when it comes to sustainable change. Breaking it down simply, the first camp might assert that the positive affirmations will become reality if said enough and that until they become reality, you can “fake it until you make it” using positive affirmations. The second camp suggests that using positive affirmations may be like planting pretty flowers on top of a smelly, full septic tank- the pretty flowers can only hide the smell for so long, leaving cognitive dissonance- and smelly yet pretty flowers.

Who’s right? In their own way both camps sound plausible. After all, it sounds logical that repeating a positive phrase repeatedly would eventually start to “soak in,” right? And at the same time, it also makes sense that repeating phrases over and over won’t really get at the deeper stuff. In my own experience, both are true.
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Personally speaking, affirmations have been helpful for me.

While exploring the depths of my psyche using somatic inquiry or other deep process methods, hidden belief systems are often found, along with how they were formed and/or what continues to keeps them alive.

A belief system I recently wrote about was “ignoring my feelings is a loving thing to do.” I had been exploring presence, and all sorts of memories arose in which I saw how my mom took care of me involved her ignoring my emotional state – i.e. not being present with me. Through somatic inquiry I was able to remove various layers of meaning that were Velcroed to the belief system and the pain body. As the layers dissolved, so did the belief. I was left with the declaration, “being present with feelings is a loving thing to do.”

Whilst the old belief had felt quite real, somatically speaking, only moments ago this new pronouncement felt genuine and authentic. To help ease this new truth into place, it was useful for me to repeat it to myself every once in a while over the next couple days. Said another way, it was useful to gently utilize it as an affirmation until it became more integrated.

In my own experience, this is an effective use of affirmations: using an affirmation, which already has some resonance, in changing out old belief patterns. I suspect that the efficacy and sustainability of using affirmations in this way is hinged upon (1) the clearing out of an old core belief, which (2) makes room for a new affirmation (3) that resonates as an actual truth, as opposed to just a thought one wishes to be true. After all, knowing something from our being is more sustainable and meaningful than something from our minds. (Consider, for example: how fulfilling is it to love someone from our minds, as opposed to from our hearts?)
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Speaking of something coming from the mind, instead of the heart…

This brings me to my frustrations with the use of affirmations; they are often from the mind, hoping that they will (often magically) make their way to the heart. I call these empty affirmations (as opposed to affirmations which already have some felt resonance). Because we’re already a mind-biased and a body-phobic culture, I don’t think strategies that are mind-focused are ultimately healing. Generally speaking, utilizing empty affirmations requires even more mental involvement (pretending/ strategizing/manipulating) and oftentimes leads to more dissociation. For most of us, subtle affirmations may begin in our childhoods, extending into our adult years.
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The use of affirmations can confuse the psyche, starting from when we were young.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before. Many of us were probably told this in our childhoods by (perhaps) well-meaning adults. Many of us have likely told this to our own children, perhaps from an innocent desire to help, and/or comfort our child so that s/he feels better.

While well-intended, it is confusing for a child (or an adult) to be told that there is nothing to be afraid of when they are actually, in that moment, feeling afraid. It can be discombobulating or create a sense of dissonance when one feels one thing to be true and then is told that something else is the truth. Moreover, the child’s actual experience and feeling is discounted and invalidated. As you might imagine, shame is a likely side effect.

But what is a child to do? Because they were met with a mental response to their emotional pain body experience, they are likely to then employ their own mental strategies to cope with the emotional overwhelm being experienced. In other words, they will dissociate. The child, not wanting to risk further rejection from their parent, may pretend that they are ok, stuffing their feelings down in the process. Or their response may get louder or stronger, in which case they may be labeled dramatic or “too sensitive.” Either way, they are discounted, which goes counter to what we all want – validation, acknowledgement and/or someone to be present with us whether they agree or disagree with what we’re experiencing.

(As an aside, one can see in this simple example how pervasive gas-lighting is in our culture: one person says how they feel and another (who has more power in the dynamic) says that they don’t.)

As it is not ultimately helpful for an adult to repeat an affirmation to a child when it goes counter to their actual experience, it is not sustainably useful for us to repeat an affirmation to ourselves when it is counter to our actual experience. (It may be temporarily useful, and I’ll get to that later.)

When, as an adult, we use this affirmation to help ourselves in this way, it can (1) mimic or echo the same discount or invalidation we received as children, which can (2) confound the dissonance even more, (3) perpetually discount or invalidate our own experience, which may then (4) lead to an internalized state of dissonance and/or (5) increase dissociation.

We continue to experience dissonance, and so we continue to struggle, maybe even more so. We want relief, but the (empty) affirmation denies our actual experience and creates more resistance to it. (Some relief may be found temporarily if any part of the psyche can “buy into” the affirmation. More on this later.)
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Real life interjects. Literally.

As I’m writing this on my porch, the sun is setting.

I look out and see the sky behind the trees turning into an orange glow, the tree branches swaying gently. I look up, and the undersides of the leaves are glowing orange, as the top of the leaves are deep green. The sunset is somehow shining upon the bottom of the leaves. I gasp when I see them. They are beautiful and they greet me in mystery.

I am reminded that we must look underneath, we must go under what we normally see, and invite in everything else that exists too.

And perhaps this is why I’m not always a fan of affirmations. I don’t want to make myself mentally ok using affirmations; I want to feel true OKness in my being. I don’t want to cover up experiences, I want to honor them. When I cover up a part of me, I am telling myself that I am not allowed to be as I am. When I say, “there’s nothing to be afraid of,” when something in my system says there is, I’m relaying to myself that something is wrong with me – that I’m doing it wrong – that I’m humaning wrong. The violence in that brings a tear to my eye.

I appreciate affirmations as temporary bandaids when used along with other adjunct work, but not as the main approach. When utilized as a practice, I see time and time again how they ultimately create dissonance and self-harm as it encourages pretending or diminishing as opposed to honoring. I see it in the clients that come to see me, heads filled with dissonance, trying painfully to have “the right thoughts” as they try to have “the right feeling” as they try to be “the right human.” The shame and disappointment are palpable.

Lastly, maybe more than ever, we are in a time of being called to wake up. I have noticed that affirmations can be used to pacify and placate. In my experience that lends itself to mindlessness as opposed to mindfulness. In a time when we really need to be paying attention, using affirmations to gloss over things so that we can go unconscious and be asleep to our lives does not appear to be what is best for our evolution.

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” C.G. Jung
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Small Steps

I imagine some of you saying- “ok FINE! But I’m not there yet. I don’t know how to really live in a state of complete acceptance. I can’t always let things be as they are!”

Me either!

In those moments, I may use the mind to connect with an affirmation I already feel some resonance with to help in supporting myself. In my experience it’s very different to use affirmations that resonate in some kind of real way as opposed to using empty affirmations. Affirmations are most useful when they come from an already lived resonance in the body that feels real, perhaps because there is a deeper level of honesty and authenticity.
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Real life Interjects, again

My daughter is on her first overseas trip and is struggling. As her mother, I want nothing other than to say a bunch of affirmations so that she will feel better, so that she will feel safe, so that she will feel ok.

What do I do? More than anything I’d love it if affirmations “worked” on her. I’d love if I could cast a magic word spell on her. But I’ve learned that empty affirmations don’t help her. Rather than try to pacify her fears with empty affirmations, I acknowledged her actual experience while also mentioning some positive things that resonate in some real way for her.

Off the phone, I am confronted with my own fears. Being 4,500 miles away “as the crow flies,” I don’t know if what I’ve said has helped her, I just know that the texts have stopped. It becomes increasingly clear that I can’t make everything ok for her, and I can’t make everything ok for me either.

As I hone into what is going on with me, how it feels to my being that my daughter is out in the world and afraid, I find a sense of powerlessness. Powerlessness is no stranger to me, but this powerlessness feels different than the powerlessness I grew up with. I don’t feel debilitated, I feel humbled. There is a resonance in my being that says it is safe for me to acknowledge, “I am not in charge,” while feeling all the big feelings that come with that. There is something in me that knows “I can trust.” These affirmations nourish me, as they feel true deep in my being. When affirmations don’t feel true for me, and are instead more of a platitude, I don’t use them.
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Faking it?

I’ll be honest, faking it doesn’t work for me anymore. If I use an affirmation that feels empty, I honor that feeling and attend to what is actually present in my experience. Anymore, if I use an empty affirmation to cover up my actual experience, pressure will start to build up in my system, I will start to dissociate, and I “go mental”- AND I will continue to feel unsettled. For me, the distinction between an empty and a resonant affirmation is huge and important to pay attention to.

However, there was a time when empty affirmations provided some ready-made assistance for my system, and if you fit into that category then please use them!

Sometimes we need to ground or “land” and affirmations may help with that. Ideally, it is in those moments that a combination of somatic practices and affirmations are used to help the nervous system gain some temporary relief. However, sometimes we aren’t able to land, period. It is during such times that the mind just needs a sense of certainty, and affirmations can provide some temporary relief at those times. Said another way, sometimes we can use the mind to help calm the mind.

Once the mind is just a little more calm, we can start to add the body. While the feet are on the floor, and the back is against the chair, the words “I am safe,” for example, might be repeated while slowly breathing. The nervous system loves practicality, so connecting with and feeling the floor and the chair (for example) can provide physiological relief. Adding in the words “I am safe” may still the hamster wheel mind so that the relief can be felt deeper.

When we really know safety, we won’t need the affirmation, but until that time, the affirmations can be a way to provide ourselves with temporary support. They can teach us to find a sense of inner knowing and trust.
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Sustainability

I find it more sustainable and ultimately compassionate to honor what is actually being felt or thought as opposed to try to manipulate it into something we wish it were. Honoring our lived experiences, even when they are uncomfortable, allows us to really honor ourselves, rather than deny or alter ourselves, which has a tone of violence in it. The “fake it till you make it” adage can only go so far until it becomes a form of self-harm, mirroring the lack of care and attentiveness so many of us experienced in our childhoods.

When we include things as they are, we can know sustainable connection with ourselves and with life. When we don’t have to bypass, pretend, and manipulate, a sustainable sense of peace and trust becomes a lived experience as opposed to a pipe dream.

A client today expressed this: “Sobriety for me means not trying to manipulate or control how I feel and think.” I loved this so much, and of course, it is a journey as it has been the default setting for most of us to manipulate, control, pretend and be asleep at the wheel of our lives. Let’s continue to learn, and journey, together.

 

Facilitator Training 2018 with Lisa Meuser and Fiona Robertson

Facilitator Training 2018 with Lisa Meuser and Fiona Robertson

 

If you’d like to apply to become a Certified Living Inquiries Facilitator, you are welcome to apply to join our upcoming training course which will begin this September.

One of our current trainees recently wrote this about her experience:

“I am treating this course differently than I’ve ever treated any endeavor in my life. I have always been driven to succeed, to establish mastery, to become expert and competent at what I begin. I needed to justify my existence by doing and accomplishing. I’ve taken a giant step back from that strategy, willing to learn experientially in whatever time it takes instead of coercing myself to master the material. The gift of this course and the Inquiries to me is immeasurable. I don’t have to do anything other than be exactly who I am. This work is amazing. “

For more information, check out https://www.livinginquiries.com/training/   or email me! llmeuser@me.com