Tag: Body Mind Spirit

On Loneliness

On Loneliness

 

It is … only in the state of complete abandonment and loneliness that we experience the helpful powers of our own natures. ”   Carl Jung;  Modern Man in Search of a Soul

 

Much of my life I spent locked in the cage of a deep and pervasive loneliness. It did not matter that I had friends, family or people around me. I struggled with this abiding isolation, helpless to make it go away. I berated myself for not “doing” the right thing, or “attracting” the right people into my life. Why when I married my best friend and was surrounded by children and friends that loved me was I still assailed by loneliness?

Figure at the Window by Salvador Dalí
Figure at the Window by Salvador Dalí

As I grew older, my parents died, my children left home, my husband and i were living with the consequences of a life time of destructive patterns of interaction, was I found myself in a “dark night of the soul”, as described by St. John of the Cross in his poem and treatise by that name – Dark Night of the Soul (Dover Thrift Editions). I saw nothing but endless isolation ahead, and death. I knew that I had to face my fear of being alone once and for all. I knew that I had to face it alone. That was all I knew, and it was terrifying. I believed there had to be a different answer to the problem than I had heretofore found and I became determined to find it.

Coming through a dark night is never easy, but it is always life and spirit altering. In my dark night I discovered a connection to myself and to my soul that now sustains me in a way nothing else was ever meant to do. I understand that now. One cannot escape loneliness through action or connection to others. One must heal the emptiness inside that separates us from ourselves. Only then can we gain true intimacy with others. It sounds simple, It is not.

Carl Jung discovered this as well. He discovered and articulated our need to discover the “powers of our own natures” and to live from within our own creative powers, using our own rich and magnificent resources. We have far more inside of ourselves and at our disposal than most of us ever imagine; more than most of us can even conceive, particularly when we are locked in the fear, dread and scarcity mentality of our culture. To discover our inner strength, the bubbling fountain of life energy that is ever-present to us, it is necessary to disconnect from anything that pulls us away from it and from that which draws our attention to false solutions and weak excuses. Only then, will we discover the richest part of this life we are now living.

Have you experience a “dark night of the soul”? Have you experienced deep and abiding loneliness? What did you discover there?

Unraveling Ourselves

Backwards Thinking

 

The Power of Our Imagination

The Power of Our Imagination

Friends and Acquaintances by Gale Franey
Friends and Acquaintances by Gale Franey

A person’s ability to imagine is a potent source of power that every person alive possesses. We may believe that our imagination has been displaced by pain and trauma or that we no longer have access to it, if indeed we had any to start. Or, we may be operating on the assumption that we need to think our way out of the emotional and psychological quagmire that keeps us fixated on our problems.  I believe,  that regardless of the state we are in, our imagination is available to us and can become a potent ally in our efforts toward health and wholeness.

We are all born with the power of imagination. Think about it. Can you remember a time in childhood when you were so immersed in play, your imagination so taken with the imaginary world you had summoned up that what your mind had created  seemed absolutely real to you?

I remember creating a home in the woods across from my childhood home. Tree trunks became walls, mounds of snow were fashioned into chairs and fixtures. What my friends and I created was absolutely real to us. I’m pretty sure to the eyes of an adult it would simply have been snow and woods. My perfectly crafted kitchen, complete with a pot of soup atop a beautiful white stove would have been rocks, and branches.

Our imagination is a source of power available to us at all times. Those of us who have been traumatized or who have suffered severely in our lives have turned a good portion of our imagination over to our pain.  What is fear if not a thing devised by our imagination? Perhaps the more potent our imagination, the more severe our pain.

Since my accident and subsequent PTSD, all it takes is a flash of an image at the right moment to set my heart racing. In a nano-second I am plunged into the arena of my imagination, re-living the accident as if it were presently happening. I had just such an experience last week while exercising at the club I recently joined.

I always choose a treadmill that faces a large window, so that I can focus on the big beautiful tree across the parking lot, rather than the TVs that are on the wall to either side of the window and always on. I had done so this day, but I just happened to glance at the TV, almost a side-wise, mostly unconscious glance at the screen to my left. Just as I did, an image of a man driving a car, his face painted with impending doom and terror, flashed before my eyes.  In the following nano-second the impact occurred,  and my imagination jumped into overdrive. In a split second, I was thrust into the midst of my own nightmare. Captured unwittingly, I felt as if I had no control over my suffering.

If we can recognize the power that our imagination plays in our lives,both for good and ill, we can begin to direct its course. We can choose where we will put it to work. You may say, “but we have no choice when fear overtakes us, when the physiological effects of PTSD become the driver of our emotions and imaginations” but, I believe we do have a choice. Our basic survival instinct may be broken. Our brains may replay horrific images and memories, seemingly without our say-so, but I believe we can, bit by bit, take back our power and retrain our imaginations to work in our favor and in cooperation with our healing efforts.

Using one’s imagination to counteract depression, anxiety, and trauma is a tool that is always at our disposal. Instead of choosing to let fear run the projector in our mind, we can choose hope, beauty, love, and reinforce these things as often as possible in our day-to-day lives. It’s not a quick fix. It’s a process, a practice, and ultimately a choice.

This is the fundamental principle behind the gratitude journal. When we stop and think about something good in our lives for which we can be grateful, a mini-film plays in our imagination – a reliving of something positive – and positive feelings flood our bodies. This, my friends, is far better than the flood of fear that when left unchecked leaves us only to continue suffering.

Making the choice to pay attention to what our imagination is doing, to become conscious of the imaginings that are transporting us to painful places and choosing, when we can, to imagine positive images and outcomes can begin to create an environment where healing can take place.  Our imagination can become our best friend instead of our worst nightmare.

Unraveling Ourselves

Unraveling Ourselves

“Unraveling external selves and coming home to our real identity is the true meaning of soul work.”

Sue Monk Kidd3c15e6af5a296dd861c2bd8ba93aa29e

There is so much to be done in the unraveling department. The good news is that once true unraveling begins, one starts to feel lighter and lighter. The heavy weight of pain and confusion begins to lift and the challenges one faces are laced with hope. Feeling one’s real and honest identity become interconnected with one’s soul is both energizing and life affirming.

If anyone had told me years ago that I would feel younger, happier and freer at sixty-three than I had ever felt at any other time in my life, I would have been convinced they were smoking something. I lived pretty much most of fifty something years under a black cloud, fighting, struggling, despairing…suffering inside in a way I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I was dedicated and earnest in my pursuit of self-understanding from a very early age. I was drawn to the spiritual life, like a magnet. I understand the human need and desire for a connection with the divine, implicitly. What I didn’t understand was my pain in the world. I didn’t understand how the world and the divine spoke to one another. The divine was speaking, but no one was listening.

Repeatedly throughout my life, I moved toward God and then fell away. I moved toward spiritual teachers and an understanding of an inner life, but when I attempted to carry it into the world I felt frustrated and alone. I did not know how to put words to any of what I knew to be true in a way that would convey to others.

The symbolic language I found and used to describe such things no longer worked in my practical, modern surroundings. I desperately wanted to find a connection between the two. I did not want to leave the world behind and go to a mountain top, although at times I wish I had. It could not have been more painful to be alone with God than it was to be alone in the world.

Now all these years later I’m beginning to see more clearly what happened. A product of my times, I found nowhere to go with my spiritual yearnings. Even seminary was an environment that was decidedly pragmatic in its approach to spirituality. One believed in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, even questioned and discussed them with other believers, but when all was said and done it was understood that the ultimate goal was to bring our faith and belief to others in the context of the church setting. What about bringing it into the world at large? Why must we put it into a box only to be brought out on Sunday morning in a pre-programmed environment? I couldn’t buy into any of it.

To my way of thinking what was always wrong with the “church” was what is still wrong with organized religion. It’s religion in a box. It’s not about spiritual listening and learning and becoming. It’s not about looking for God in the everyday world of board meetings and while making peanut butter sandwiches for your kids. We paid lip service to that, but there really was no support structure for such a lifestyle.  Religious traditions are too small, too narrow, too limiting for what I believe God to be and the spiritual life to require.

When “religion” didn’t answer my questions or satisfy my yearnings I didn’t abandon the Divine that lived in my heart. I just stopped paying attention to her voice. She was still there, calling to me, needling me, tormenting me. I chose instead to turn my back on my soul and sought refuge instead in the psychological realm. Therapy. Medication. Pain. More therapy. More pain.More medication.

I learned much about the human psyche, but it did not help me grow in self-esteem or  value the gift of life, because at my core I remained disconnected from my essential myself, my soul self. I was ignoring that place from which all real self-esteem comes. If we are not listening to our deep, inner voice and hearing the messages and guidance of our soul, we will never find peace. We will never understand who we are or what we have to offer the world. We will never trust that we are valuable, or that we matter, no matter what. No therapist, no religion, no worldly structure  or construct can ever teach us that.

Backwards Thinking

Backwards Thinking

bffff3fc7ca8ab3fcb9ff07f7e7e1bc6The sun streamed through the kitchen window this morning, it’s warm inviting tendrils wrapping themselves around me like a lost lover. The relief I felt, the fullness of my appreciation for what I had been missing and the cavernous desire to take in as much of its energy as I could was  not dissimilar to the way I felt when my boys returned home after their first weekend camping trip, or my husband from a business trip.

I’ve become increasingly aware of the vast array of sensory healing that is available to us, and how little we are shown the way in a culture that focuses on illness and pathology more than it does on sustenance and healing.  We are taught to focus on what is wrong with us, not on the amazing power to heal and thrive that is inherent in the gift of life.

This is especially true when it comes to mental and emotional issues. Although the tide is changing, many of us are currently suffering the ill effects of a lifetime of living in an environment that neither feeds us nor teaches us how to manage our gifts and challenges. Furthermore, we were taught to ignore the very signals our bodies naturally gives us to guide us through these challenges.

In the simple example of the sun shining after three days of rain we are shown many things. My body told me loud and clear that it needs warmth, sun, and the loving sustenance of nature. It needs these things as much as it needs water and food.  If I had not been fortunate enough to be in a home facing the sun when it came out and had instead been in a cubicle facing a computer screen, a very real need would not have been met and my awareness of it would grow dull over time.

I remember sitting in many a classroom longing to be outside. I forced myself to go to work in an office day after day because that was the thing I was supposed to value, not the needs of my body, mind and spirit for nature. I told myself that cleaning my house and making money was more important than any signals my body might be sending me to the contrary.

We have it backwards. I had it backwards. When we work in cooperation with our body we do not become the unhealthy sloths we think we will become. Quite the opposite. We find renewed energy, renewed health, renewed focus and activity.  When we follow our instincts, our intuition, our yearnings and desires, we give ourselves what we need and energy begins to flow and health begins to blossom.

Coming back to my original self from a lifetime of backwards thinking and backwards living has been a long and not always easy process, but it has been a glorious one, a life-affirming one and one I would like to see everyone have the opportunity to experience.

Learning to fill ourselves with what we actually need rather than trying to fill ourselves with that which will never nurture or sustain us is a life long process. I experience hurdles and bumps and drift away from those things I’m learning to be true. The difference now, however, is that I stay true to who I am more often. I live in closer proximity to my soul self and perhaps more importantly I am learning how to get back there when I wander off.

The path I took may not be for everyone. We each have our own unique sensibilities, but we all also have an inner self that will speak to us when we choose to tune in and listen.  It is this inner guide that will lead you on your path of healing. It will lead you to exactly what you need and take you to the place where the sun will heal your hurts and fire up your energy and a sense of well-being will become more real than ever before. The abundance of life and love lives within each of us regardless of circumstances. It is our birthright. This I will always believe.

 

One More Hour of Peace

One More Hour of Peace

c33ce167d791d319f9af4a186ee0272bOn the mend from dental work performed last week, I’ve been  feeling a bit blue and lethargic. The gloomy weather hasn’t helped a bit! This morning, after three days of antibiotics I felt just enough better to force myself into motion. It’s difficult to know for certain whether it’s better to rest, or to move. I decided it was time to find out, so I took off for a long walk with my eagerly awaiting companion. He too was long overdue for some sustained motion.

It was  absolutely the right move. Walking, even on misty, cold days restores my soul and adjusts my perspective on life. Breathing in the moist air fed more than my soul! It seemed to vacate the cobwebs in my breathing apparatus and fired up my imagination.

Our imagination is so essential to the healing process. It expands our world view and allows us to see beyond our pain and whatever it is that is plaguing us in the here and now. Trauma forces us into a dark cave. It shuts us off to possibility. As wounded individuals, the fear and pain that is too often our constant companion takes over our imagination and turns it into a manufacturer of worse case scenarios of the highest order.

In order to thrive after trauma, we must take control of our imagination and point it in the right direction. Those who suffer the most as a result of abuse and trauma may just be the ones with the most powerful imaginations! If this is so, and I believe that it is, then the future bodes well for them as well, as when they are able to unleash this power in a more promising direction, the joy will be as high as the pain was deep.

It is difficult to understand sometimes, particularly when we have had a life long habit of trauma induced negative thinking, that we can harness our thoughts and use them to pull us out of the darkness. While it is important to understand our trauma from a psychological perspective, to grow in self-esteem and self-love, it is equally important to begin practicing a different way of imagining every chance we get.

For example, I recently submitted a few articles for publication to an agent that admittedly was a bit above my “pay grade” – but one can dream, can’t one? To make a long story short I received a rejection letter.  I wasn’t surprised and yet it triggered a spiral of negative thinking. My monkey mind went to work on me…over time! Of course, it didn’t help that I was fighting an infection and  was physically  off my game, but the fact remains it all added up to my overactive imagination turning on me.

It is in these moments, precisely in the midst of a downward spiral, that we must learn to grab hold of our imagination by a force of will and yank ourselves back from the brink. It is a choice. It doesn’t feel like one, but it is.  The trick is to catch ourselves in the act and then break the cycle. The more we are able to do this, the better we will become at doing it, and ultimately the better control we will have on how our past trauma impacts our present lives.

Going for a walk this morning was just one more step in breaking the power that trauma and abuse still has on my life. My choice to walk not only changed but it also interrupted my thought flow, it opened me up to the powerful imagination stimulus of nature. that readily available gift that always reminds me of all that is life-giving and sustaining. It grounds me in a way that nothing else does. As I walk my thoughts go, out of habit, without effort I fall into a more receptive mode. I listened to the damp woods, the trees, the rocks, the rushing stream and was able to take in their message, their gift, their strength. I was able to reconnect with my own positive imagination and I returned home renewed and restored, one more battle won, one more fear conquered, one more hour of peace.

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Gut It Out

Gut It Out

378a445020743408715c4111ffb81adaSometimes it just takes guts. Sometimes we can’t think our way to a solution. We can’t whine our way to the answer. We can’t emote our way to healing. Sometimes it just takes guts and putting one foot in front of the other and doing the thing we think we cannot do, facing that thing we think we cannot face.

I haven’t been writing lately. I’ve been gutting it out, head down, leaning into the pain. Pushing through, breathing the baby into the birth canal. She’s so ready to be born, so done with carrying the weight of the past, so ripe for life.

There’s a bit more pushing to be done before I can embrace the miracle of birth that will set her free, though it feels as though the hardest work is done. The months of sickness and burden, the trimesters of struggle and straining toward freedom and understanding.

A new consciousness has awoken. A new beginning is at hand. Birth, life, death. Birth, life, death. The cycle of life continues unfolding the fullness of you, the fullness of me. Lean into the pain. Gut it out. Let the birth take place. It simply needs your cooperation and above all else, your fearlessness.