Journeying with Generational Trauma
2019 came to completion with clarity that some endings were coming. Historically speaking, it’s powerful when my system undeniably lands on an ending, often because the joy of a new beginning is already en route. The clarity ushers in more momentum for the new beginnings, which can be both exhilarating, and also messy. Exhilarating because, “YES! (and, Finally!)”, and messy because, hidden in that “Finally!” is some clutter due to how long it took me to achieve said clarity. Have you ever had the knowing that something was done or complete, but you delayed? It’s like keeping cream in the fridge way past its expiration date- it’s just not going to end well.
So, in comes 2020, and I’m in the midst of 3 “letting go’s.” Life is taking me forward, and a part of me has already moved on. But also, I was in the middle of some messes. Why had I delayed these endings anyway? Why hadn’t I acted on this clarity sooner? It felt prudent to explore what was going on with my resistance to letting go. What was I afraid of? It was time to find out as my resistance was impacting my integrity and affecting others.
Who Would Have Known?
A lot of profound discoveries and releasing happened as I journeyed into these questions, revealing more and more clarity, but at some point, I kept feeling stuck – like I was going round and round, unable to fully move forward. I felt entangled, but it just didn’t make any logical sense. At one point, when I found myself triggered yet again, the word “displaced” came up. It felt random, and I couldn’t quite connect to the word, but I journeyed through the sense of pain and sorrow that I was experiencing, and things settled for me.
Days later, I found myself lost in thoughts again. I could feel a sense of fear, but when I looked right at it, none of it seemed real – but the word came back: displaced. I sat with the word, and it took me to remembrances of my young years, where I experienced a sense of being displaced in my own home due to various circumstances. Then my grandmother flashed into my attention, and I named how, coming to the US as a refugee of sorts, she must have felt very displaced. I saw the continued link to the word “displaced”, and knew it was pointing to some generational trauma, but it didn’t go super deep.
The next morning, I found myself once again having fears about these various endings. Again, the thoughts didn’t seem to be real, but at the same time I knew something was there. The word displaced came to me again, and this time it went right into my being. All of a sudden, a dam broke open, and I saw and felt what it must have been like for my grandmother to leave her own country because of her ethnicity. I saw generations of “her people”, being persecuted and killed for their beliefs and alignments. I saw the immense suffering she/they experienced by being who they were.
As I stayed connected to this download, I felt immense shame, confusion, pain and terror in my own body. There was a deep sense of not being safe, of being targeted, of being treated violently – all because of one’s innocent affiliation. The images were powerful. The felt sense was intense. My body was shaking, as if I was living out the images I was seeing. My very survival seemed in question. I felt like it was almost too much to be with. I reached out for support, and let my heart keep breaking open, wider and wider. Eventually breath found me, and my system shifted into the loving and life-giving flow of breath. Phew.
Confessing our Stories: “The heartbeat of racism is denial, the heartbeat of anti-racism is confession.” Ibram X. Kendi
This kind of inward journeying, as uncomfortable as it may be, is an essential part of my life. I journey with those who have been horribly oppressed due to the infrastructure of our culture, in ways I will never directly experience or understand, and so I must explore my own oppression, as well as how I have oppressed others. The world is riddled with white, black and brown bodies bursting with somatic trauma, in all the nooks and crevices, with black and indigenous bodies continuing to pay the highest price, while those from south of the United States borders are being overtly tortured. These stories of oppression are sacred. Connecting with the stories and realities of oppression, and of oppressing, are vital to our existence.
It is a lot to feel. It’s a lot to acknowledge. It’s a lot to get honest about.
When we confess to the pain, suffering and legacies of our ancestors, and feel into the depth of that with loving support and compassion, we may discover our hearts opening to the suffering of /within our own lineage, and also to the suffering that others have experienced or that we’ve contributed to. What we often discover is that compassion yields more compassion; compassion for ourselves/others allows us to have compassion for others/ourselves. Through this process we may find that we are able to open our hearts to life more fully as we are no longer in denial.
Safety in Presence
The week of that ancestral download was a hard week for me. While processing through such deep territory brought relief from what I’d been struggling with in my personal life, it left me feeling exposed and vulnerable, without much surface area to land on. It took time, but eventually my system acclimatized to that, and left me feeling open to include life, and be held by it at the same time.
What was it that allowed me to feel to the depths of such pain and suffering that day? I’d travelled into these territories before many times, but this felt deeper – both personal, and way beyond me. As counter-intuitive as it might sound, it seems to me that it was safety in Presence that allowed me feel into such abysmal darkness. It has been my experience many times that the safer our systems are, the deeper we can feel into the existence of humanity – into Presence itself. While this may not be the gift we think we are waiting to receive, it is truly a gift to sit within Presence, and safely feel into the pain of our being and the pain of other beings. When we are able to do this, there is no where we cannot go, nothing we cannot feel, and nothing to hide from.
The Journey Continues
I am constantly humbled by the process of embodied somatic inquiry, and the wisdom present in journeying this way. Nowhere to get to, nowhere to go, no hurry to figure out or fix – just an invitation to gently, lovingly and curiously look at what is coming up, however it presents itself in that moment.
“It is only through letting our heart break that we discover something unexpected: the heart cannot actually break, it can only break open. When we feel both our love for this world and the pain of this world – together, at the same time – the heart breaks out of its shell. To live with an open heart is to experience life full-strength.” John Welwood
Uniting with Presence allows a glimpse into the vast Intelligence of life/love, and the knowing that we are a part of that intelligence – not the center of it, but woven amidst. We can’t know peace when we are not at peace with the vastness of humanity, when we are stuck in fighting, in hiding, and in denial. It may not be not pleasant to journey into “not peace”, and yet once we learn it is safe to feel, even though there is pain, and discomfort, and fear, we learn that the heart has no limitation as to how far it can stretch; that there is no end to the depths of what it includes and nothing that it is not. Love is infinite.