Tag: Ego strength

Righting the Ship

Righting the Ship

painting A Winning Yacht
“A Winning Yacht” by J.O. Davidson, engraved by W. Wellstood

It seems that it is time, well beyond time, for me to begin to gather my thoughts around all that has transpired in my life over the last decade. To offer what I have learned in case it comes in handy to you, dear reader, or someone you know. I don’t write here for my own aggrandizement. In fact, I often don’t write because I wonder what use another would find in my journey, and yet, I have learned so much from others. Perhaps my insecurity actually causes me to be stingy with my experience.

I’ve written much in the midst of my pain, but now that I’m in a clearing space I find my perspective is different, my view broader and broader by the day. I was listening to an audio by Andrew Harvey today and he talked about his “dark night of the soul”. He spoke of a specific experience that he considered to be THE dark night of the soul of his life, not just “any old dark night of the soul”. It made me wonder how one quantifies such a thing.

In many ways, I feel that my entire life was a desperate attempt to pull myself out of just such a place – I lived in the dark night way more often than not. And yet, my deepest despair, the closest I came to giving up and giving in came three years ago, when everything I had worked so hard to make happen in my life seemed to crash in on me…literally and figuratively. in spite of all of my efforts to do otherwise.

This time, however, I think I finally got the message that was trying to be sent to me. Or at least I am starting to get it.  It’s a multi-faceted, multi-dimension message that I will try to filter into some basic principles, truths and guidelines that might help you in your own journey toward a conscious life.

FIRST: The biggest and most useful step one can take to bring about change in one’s life is to seek one’s true, authentic inner voice. (I didn’t say it was going to be easy!) Finding our essential or core self takes some serious sorting through of all the voices and messages that exist and deciding what is what.  It’s not as obvious as one might think, or at least it wasn’t for me.

I listened to my feelings my entire life as if they were the gold standard for the truth.  I really thought I was listening to my true self. If I felt it, it must be real. Right? Wrong. Feelings are valuable, don’t get me wrong, but the psychology of my generation, elevated them to a height that was way beyond healthy. In reaction to the feeling deniers of our parents generation, it made sense, a necessary over-correction. The bad habit I had acquired from my training and reading wreaked havoc on my life. It wasn’t until I understood where feelings truly belonged in the overall scheme of things and began to put them in their proper place was I able to find some balance and some semblance of inner peace.

Just as harmful as being ruled by one’s feelings is mistaking one’s mind chatter for our true selves. More often than not, the mind chatter that directs our decisions and disrupts our self-confidence is chatter we acquired from our family of origin, the culture and the other significant people in our lives. Refusing to listen to this type of guidance takes us one step closer to finding our own true and authentic voice.

I deepened my connection to my essential self, my soul self, my real self through the practice of meditation and guided imagery meditation at the same time I was consciously sorting through the this-es and thats of my poor self-esteem using psychological and psycho-spiritual tools.  It’s a very fluid process, this strengthening of the core self and the quieting of the fear mongers in our psyche. It’s a push on this and pull on that until the ship begins to right. But it’s worth the effort.

BANISH THE DARKNESS
IN SEARCH OF MY EDGES
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.

REACHING

REACHING

ANTON PAVLENKO LANDSCAPE OIL PAINTER

REACHING

When I bent down to pick up the pieces of my life,

I shoved my hands into the black soot of death and

reached through the bitter haze of unspent emotions,

to find fragments of me, inert, motionless and suffocating.

*

When I bent down to pick up the pieces of my mind,

I found a tiny girl child, wrapped like a mummy

in wordless memories weightier than her

tiny shoulders could carry. Though carry she did.

*

When I bent down to pick up the pieces of my soul,

I found an embryo who bargained with the devil,

who gave up choice in order to live, an uneven exchange

that lasted nearly a lifetime. She kept her promise.

*

When I bent down to pick up the pieces of my will,

I found a stomping mad two-year old who knew

her own mind, and suffered the consequences

for the knowledge. She stomped anyway when she could.

*

When I bent down to pick up the pieces of my heart,

I found an innocent, carefree child with

a passionate love for all things seen and,

a deep reverence for that is unseen.

*

When I bent down to pick up the pieces of my body,

I found a source of energy and flow

that I never knew existed, for it had been

traded at birth…or before.

*

When I bent down to pick up the pieces of my spirit,

I found light and power, guidance and vision,

angels and guides  a thread through my life

never to be broken.

*

When I bent down to pick up the pieces of my life,

I put down the yoke of fear, set aside the sorrow,

and abandoned the dark rivulets of despair.

I cancelled the bargain with the devil.

*

Now, I no longer bend down. I reach up instead.

Outstretched arms, fingers pointing toward the sky.

I stand anchored, connected, grounded in the earth,

heart wide open, assembled.

All the important pieces collected.

In Search of My Edges

In Search of My Edges

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I’m trying to find my edges. The perfect unfolding of a new beginning, a new drama that is directed only by me.  As daft an attempt as this might be, it quickens my spirit and draws me forward. The edges of me, the beginnings, the ends, the boundaries of my soul  lend shape and substance to an otherwise chaotic world.

I came with edges and boundaries. I gave them away, bit by bit, piece by piece, in order to live. I made a bargain. Let me live and I will pretend I don’t have yeses and nos, definition or substance, thoughts, ideas or places to be. Let me live. Just let me live, and I will pretend I am you.

The driving force to live trumps all else, at least for me. I didn’t realize when I made the deal what a dark morass of pain and emptiness could roll in behind such an agreement.  The suffocating despair of giving up one’s soul for an opportunity to breathe the air. I wonder now if I would make such an agreement again. Sadly, I think I would. There’s so much beauty in the world, to see, to touch, to feel, to taste…even in silence…even in utter darkness. There is light…an ember…warm, smoldering love…even in darkness.

I’m looking for my edges. So I can stand again and know the name that lives in me and I in it. I’m carving a path toward definition, toward understand, toward peace, where truth is me and I am it.  Truth knows my edges. My edges know the truth. It’s holding on that’s difficult. It’s not allowing porosity to perplex me.

I have known what it is like to feel the weight of myself, the certain, unencumbered definition of me, no questions, only answers. But, like the magnificent loblolly pine, I know that enough wind will bend and even break me in two, sheer off a branch, or topple me entirely.  My roots are shallow too, and I’m never certain that I can withstand a storm of a certain magnitude. Unlike the loblolly, I find it difficult to bear the scars and still stand tall and proud, as if I were invincible.

The fortitude that is required to find and sustain my edges has yet to be determined. I suppose we can’t ever know how much of a thing we will need until we need it.  I stand in awe of the complexity of human nature , the knotted, tangle of nerve endings that propel a man like Robin Williams to make the choice he did. Was it a dialogue not dissimilar from those that often play in the far reaches of my own mind? Or is it just as simple as, enough is enough. Perhaps one can be defeated by a pain that finds its source in the mind, or a sickness of the soul that defies diagnosis and treatment.

I wish he’d chosen to dig deeper,  to hang on, to look for hope, to create a happy ending. It’s a selfish wish, but it would make it easier for those of us who live on the edge of darkness to believe we can make it too, especially since we can’t imagine being as magnificent , or strong, or as fully human as he was to us. And yet, maybe he knew his edges better than I know my own. He chose his precise limits, his very own no, in the most potent of ways. Perhaps it was the boldest statement he ever made. The truest truth for him. An absolute line in the sand. This…is me. Maybe it was the very first time he ever said yes to Robin.

I want my yes to be different. I want to find my own happy ending and I want it to be more like what I imagined for him. Still I honor his freedom to make his choice. My fear is that he really did not have a choice and that he really was not free. It is the same fear I have for myself.

Yes-sand-line

Creating a New Life

Creating a New Life

tumblr_lv3pwlJfzo1qm3oero1_400Writing is one of my best defenses against the darkness that can lay in wait as I go about working to live a life free of PTSD symptoms.   Too often I allow things to get in the way, like a computer with an issue, or the recent holiday weekend that gave both my husband and myself plenty of opportunity to visit with trauma inducing relatives. There was no way to avoid facing the very great temptation to sink back into old ineffective ways of dealing with such things.

As I step back and look at my recovery over the last three plus years, and his, it’s clearer every day that it is a process that moves forward a little bit at a time. Step by step, day by day, we get stronger, more resilient, more solid within ourselves, more solid in our relationship. Always, however, there are, what I like to consider as opportunities to strengthen our resilience, to go deeper and unearth any lingering misconceptions or to heal those not-quite-yet-healed broken places.

Over the last weeks I have discover that,  indeed, I have become more resilient. I bend when the wind blows, sometimes so far to the ground that I think I’m going to break…but I don’t.  I have tools now. I know what to do when the craziness threatens to overtake me. I no longer live on the edge of hysteria with that feeling that any minute I’m going to lose it somehow, break into tiny pieces, or curl up in a ball and die.

Instead, I go inside of myself. I breathe in the quiet place I have discovered there. No matter where my body is, it is there, waiting, ready to take me in, comfort and restore me and keep me safe. I always find strength and comfort in this place where my soul lives. Always. I need no thing from outside of myself when I am there. I need only to rest, to stay, to breathe and know that there is enough strength within me to survive anything.

After I have rested in my inner sanctuary for a time, when I can, I carry it forward in another way. I might run a hot bath, for instance, pour some Epsom salts in the hot steamy water, light a few candles, plug-in one of my favorite audios (usually something by Clarissa Pinkola Estes) and climb in. I run the hot water just enough to keep the bath comfortable and I sink down into the arms of one of nature’s greatest gifts and as I do I consciously continue to breathe deeply and slowly,  aware of the warm moist air as it washes over, around and through me.  I close my eyes and listen to the loving lilt of Dr. E’s voice as she weaves her words into my hurting places. When it is time, I climb out of the tub, dry myself off and slowly move back into the world.

Every day I become a little more certain, and trusting, about the necessity of creating a new life in order to let go of the old one. It doesn’t seem that it’s necessary, or even possible, to go back and fix the person we became as a result of the past. I’ve spent way too much of my life trying to understand how I got to the places I found myself. It all seemed such a mystery in spite of the years of research and therapy. I’ve come to understand that the underlying impetus for my desperate attempts to understand, was not just that I wanted to rid myself of the pain, though of course I did, but I believed I needed to fix myself.  My basic, fundamental belief was that there was something very wrong with me. I was flawed, broken, not right somehow, and I needed to do something about that.

But, I am not broken. At my core I am whole and perfectly imperfect like every other human being on this planet. I never needed to “fix” myself. I needed to love and accept myself. The need to fix oneself carries with it a sense of shame and embarrassment that siphons life and courage from us like a giant vacuum cleaner. We do not become cleaner and more acceptable to ourselves and the world, we become depleted, empty and vacant.

Though my mind continues to look for understanding and knowledge of the ways of the mind and the psyche, my sense of self no longer rests in that place. It belongs to another dimension entirely, and always has.

Dorothy Sander July 2014

 

 

Finding Your Inner Guide

Finding Your Inner Guide

Duke Gardens, Durham, NC
Duke Gardens, Durham, NC

Many of us, particularly those of us who are members of the “scar clan”, the walking wounded, have an unhealthy tendency to minimize our accomplishments. We look around us and see only those people who excel, who have accomplished what we have accomplished and more. As our access and, perhaps more precisely,  our exposure to what’s going on in the world is heightened by technology, particularly while we are healing we need to be careful, and intentional, about what we allow into our view. If we do not, we may find ourselves shrinking away in horror at our utter ineptness by comparison to what we see.

Focusing our attention outside of ourselves is always a path to destruction, as in doing so we lose sight of our own inner directives and talents. The people we put on a pedestal are people we only know very superficially. The Oprah’s of the world. We may think we know them, but we only know the facade they carefully choose to share with the world. This is true all the way down to the people we connect with in social media who seem to be very much like us. They may be, but again, we do not see as clearly as we might the road they have traveled to where they are now, or even what their road really looks like.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of comparing our insides to their outsides.  (Thank you to my good friend Jill who first uttered these words to me.) It’s a wonderful little phrase that sums up a crucial concept that we should repeat to ourselves often on our healing journey and long after!

We can only walk in our own shoes. If we are fortunate we may have one or two other people in our lives with whom we have a deep enough connection to walk a bit in theirs and who set a higher standard that we can model and grow toward.  By and large, however, those “successful” people against whom we measure ourselves really have no bearing whatsoever on how we live, what we do and who we are. We only see their outsides, not their insides. We have no idea what is really true about their world as we are only seeing a very small piece of it.

It takes time, effort and attention, but when we become aware that we are doing this, it’s important to take several steps back and find our core selves again. If we do this often enough, it will become a habit and a way of life. If we ignore the signals, we will spend our lives trying to be someone we’re not, living a life we were not meant to live, all the while feeling like a failure.

We are meant to live our own lives. We are meant to use the gifts we were given. We were meant to be as fully and completely present in love to the world in which we live. Period.

When I start comparing my insides to someone’s outsides, I have learned to use this as a signal that I am not paying enough attention to the needs of my own soul, that I am not tuning in to my own heart.  I now use this awareness to draw myself back into the fold, calling my attention back to my inner guide and resources. If need be, I shut off the TV, I limit my time online, I turn my attention away from external input of any kind, even books and spend more time alone.

We all have different levels of tolerance for solitude. I am a person who requires a ton of it, but the important thing is that when we become aware that we are living “outside of” ourselves, increasing our time spent in quiet will help us to restore our inner balance.

In this quiet space I write and meditate.  You may enjoy doodling, drawing, needlework, creating a vision board, or simply doing nothing. Follow your instincts. Whatever facilitates communication with your true self and helps you clear away the debris of the world is what will bring you back to you. The first step is to disconnect from the outside world.