As I began my healing work, I was guided ever so gently toward the discovery of my safe place. It did not come easily, nor was it anything like I expected it to be. I did not expect to go inside of myself and find an anchor, a lifeline, a living, breathing being that was at once me…and not me…that was a guide, a teacher, a lover and a friend.
I remember so clearly lying on the floor in the great room of my Lamaze instructor’s home. Propped up by the pillows I had dutifully carried, one under each arm, my belly leading the way from my house to hers each week, I lay in wait not only for the birth of my first child, but for the guidance I so desperately needed during the last months of my pregnancy. Her classes gave me an opportunity to literally and figuratively lay down my burden and be cared for just a bit.
The class was large. I was mostly silent, but I took it all in. Each lesson on one aspect or another of pregnancy and birth helped me feel a bit more prepared, though I instinctively knew that nothing could prepare me for the real experience.
At the end of each class, the instructor guided us through a relaxation and meditation exercise. “Your calmness will carry through to your child,” she would remind us. “Now, let’s get comfortable, close our eyes and breathe in peace.” She joined us on the floor and the room grew quiet except for the swish of air in and out in random bursts of good peace intentions. With each breath I took, I turned inward trying desperately to forget the drum beat of time that was catapulting me toward an unknown and terrifying experience.
Try as I might, I could not breathe in peace. I could not shut off my chattering mind and go inward to capture that peace everyone else seemed to be holding. Each week, I’d place my hands on my tummy, trying to hold and love my beautiful unborn baby while my brain went to war with itself. I wanted that peace she described and yet I remained saturated with fear and despair…and when I left her home I carried with me a layer of shame and guilt. I failed at bliss.
Decades later, at a very different time and in a very different place, I was handed another opportunity to enter in. This time I was either ready to let go, or, more likely tricked into letting go. The universe had seen to it that I lost every battle I waged for thirty long years. Then, a young woman was placed in front of me, whose guidance I would have to make a conscious decision to accept. I had no more tricks up my sleeve, no more clever nuances of intellect or ego to help me escape.
Deeply traumatized and frightened beyond reason, my body and mind were ravaged by life. I would either take her hand or die. It was that simple. I guess I wasn’t ready to die, though I wasn’t convinced of that when I closed my eyes and followed Crystal’s lead into our first guided imagery meditation.
Her gentle voice led me and I followed, breath by breath. It was if she knew exactly what I needed and exactly what to say. She held my spiritual hand and showed me how to allow the breath of peace to do its work. Step by step, breath by breath she led me to the door of my soul. It was only the beginning. The merest start, and yet, it was huge.
That day, I came face to face with the door of my safe place. A large, thick wooden door with decorative square panels and a large gold handle, its large brass knocker seemed to mock me. When Crystal suggested that I open the door I was overwhelmed with fear. Everything in my body resisted forward motion. I could not move my mind to allow myself to open the door. I stood frozen in place, shaking inside and out.
“What is keeping you from opening the door?”, she asked. What, or who, is taking your strength and blocking your path?” Eyes shut, tears running down my cheeks, I was one with my imaginary world. As I stood in that place in front of the door I told her what came to me in that moment, “I am terrified to go in alone”.
“Is there someone you would like to invite into the room with you? Someone who will hep you and support you? Remember, this is your space. You are the only one who can invite someone in and you can ask them to leave whenever you want. Is there someone who you can ask to help you open the door? They can be real or imaginary.”
Immediately, my husband came to mind. He reached for my hand. As I took his hand, he pushed the door open, but he did not go in first. He held the door for me as I walked in. He stood behind me for a few moments and then gradually disappeared. I was safely inside. I knew I no longer needed him there with me.
I breathed in the sunshine and fresh air as I tentatively and slowly explored the space in which I found myself. Surrounded by beautiful, lush green gardens and soft, colorful flowers I sat down on a smooth, round, rock beside a small pond. I watched the birds flit from tree to tree and the bees buzz from flower to flower. I listened to the water trickle down a tiny waterfall at the edge of the pond as cool breezes washed over my skin and the sun warmed my shoulders. This was a peaceful place. This was the place where my soul lived. I had come home.
It was hard to leave that day, but I learned quickly that it is always there for me when I choose to visit. Throughout the course of my healing journey from PTSD, and the continued healing of all of life’s woundings, I find strength and guidance here in this place. My imagination, my soul self, is my guide and teacher. Through guided imagery meditation with Crystal and more and more frequently alone in quiet private meditation, I find strength, peace, guidance, answers, direction and healing.
Creating a New Life