Tag Archives: healing

What would Grandma say?

Another week, another round of trying to get healthy.

I thought I had done well trying to ease myself back in after a round of the flu. But two nights of dance class and a night out drinking with the girls were fun … but perhaps overly ambitious. I spent last weekend in bed again, and have been pretty non-functional again this week.

The benefits of being sick:

I’ve been out of commission for so long, I’m having to step up my practice of asking for help. I’m so overly independent, I hate asking for help. I can’t even figure out what I need until I’m in tears and making jokes like, “Thank god I have the flu and have no appetite, so it’s no big deal that I have no food in the house.” Uh. I need to eat. And I know some damn good cooks who are happy to feed me if they know I need food.

I’m checked out of work enough, that I’m giving my co-worker plenty of space to step up and shine. Which she’s doing amazingly, of course.

I am remembering that my spiritual practice for now is to practice taking care of myself. Cooking meditation. Eating meditation. Resting meditation. Walking around the block and not any farther meditation.

My favorite new tool is “invoking Grandma.” My friend and I decided that we both needed a mom in our lives, someone who would yell at us, and know magically when we needed to get our asses in bed, and when we were just being lazy and needed to get up and face the world. In my head, she turned into a crotchety old Grandma who says fuck a lot, and won’t put up with my whining.

“Put some goddam socks on! I don’t care if you are wearing a skirt and it looks stupid! You are sick, and you need socks if you are going to go outside.”

“If you want to eat, you need to eat at the table like a normal person. What is this eating in front of your computer anyway? It’s so rude, and a waste of a perfectly good meal when you could be eating on the porch and get some sun while you are at it. Get your ass out there!”

“Are you on that Face-thing again? Why do you need to see what Janey Whatsit and Joseph Sonofagun ate for breakfast? Who the hell cares? And if you care so much, why don’t you just call them and ask?”

“What are you doing out of bed missy? Do you want to be sick the rest of your life, or do you want to get better?”

Grandma is kicking my ass. But I just might get healthy in the process.

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A Meditation on Panic

Breathe in. This is panic. Breathe out. Panic feels like this.

I spent 40 minutes tonight meditating on the experience of panic. Something about my day set off the cascade of emotions and body sensations that I call panic – racing pulse, tightness in my chest, cascading thoughts, an edge of tears. I knew today was going to be hard. The rush to leave town is always hard, and I’d packed in an unreasonable amount of responsibilities into a 12 hour period. I’d spent the weekend partying with friends, so I was less prepared for Monday morning than I like to be. So when everything I’d planned took longer than anticipated, and I realized that I was going to be working much later into the evening than I would like, I freaked.

Even when I anticipate the hard, the bodily experience still overwhelms me. I can rationalize as much as I want, and I worked this strategy hard today. “This time tomorrow you’ll be on the boat. This time tomorrow all this will be put into perspective. In the broader scheme of things, will you even remember any of these things you are so frantic about today?” But rationalizations totally miss the irrational experience of panic.

I went to the dharma center tonight, mostly because I was too pissed to let my work interfere with my meditation practice. As I drove to the center, the tears welled up as I let myself feel the overwhelm that I’d been holding at bay all day. I arrived, sat down, and closed my eyes. Breathe in. Ah, panic. Breathe out. I see you, panic.

I sometimes expect meditation to “fix” my emotions for me. But breathing did not make panic subside. Panic increased when I actually let myself feel it. I let the tears flow as silently as I could, worried that I was interrupting other people’s time for silent meditation with my need to sob.

I covered my face. Oh oh oh, I’m so ashamed. Ashamed? I thought we were feeling panic? Why is shame showing up? I’ve learned to ask less questions, and just go with it. Breathe in. Ah, shame. Breathe out. Shame feels like this. I’m letting so many people down. So many depending on me, and I told them I would be there for them. And I’m not. They are expecting me to be there for them, and I’m dropping the ball. So many old feelings, old messages, old ways of being.

As I let the shame cascade, so little of it is about now. And that finally helps me feel a little better, knowing that I’m letting go of some old feelings, and I’m not really feeling that panicked and ashamed of my current situation. It’s hard when current situations trigger old feelings – my rational mind kept saying, “Really, I don’t think things are that bad. So why the hell are you freaking out so much?” And while my rational mind was completely correct, it was also true that my body & emotional self had some old freaking out to do.

Breathe in. Feel. Breathe out. Feel.

How do You Celebrate Independence?

It’s Independence Day here in the United States, a holiday usually celebrated with fireworks & beer, family & friends, parades & barbecues. American flags waving, I keep expecting people to start a “USA! USA!” chant. I love getting together with great people on this day, but I’m never quite comfortable celebrating independence in a strongly pro-America way.

Instead, what if we worked on projects that helped us develop our personal independence? Our business plans, our investment strategies, healing old traumas, or whatever is holding us back from living the great life we dream about?

What if we supported the struggles of Burma for independence from military rule, or campaigned for our nation’s independence from oil?

What if we celebrated Interdependence Day, and honored our connections with each other and our world?

Pain for the World

In April, I attended a retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center on Transforming Distressing States. Joanna Macy was one of the teachers, and is an amazing feminist Buddhist ecophilosopher, who wrote World as Lover, World as Self.

One of the most profound shifts for me on this retreat was Joanna’s revelation about the pain we feel for the world that we totally repress. BP’s oil spill destroying the Gulf, thousands (or millions) of people dying in multiple never-ending wars, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict about to blow, Arizona getting more racist by the minute, and whatever else is going on that I don’t know about because I can’t even stand to read the news. Every new piece of information is like a blow that hits and retraumatizes that wounded, vulnerable part of me – it’s a wonder I can even get out of bed.

Because we believe that we have a separate individual self, we feel the pain for the world and assume it’s all OUR pain. Our individualistic culture tells us to do this, and look how much it helps keep us from fighting the larger corporate and political powers that are creating all this pain. While psychotherapy is generally awesome, it can contribute to this as well – when we talk about our terror over how the land and water is being raped and pillaged by masculine corporate interests, our therapist redirects us to talk about our “real” terror of our own bodies being raped and pillaged. As if there’s no “real” terror to be had over the destruction of our environment.

I’m certainly not minimizing or denying the reality of the pain and terror of our own bodies being brutally violated. But what if they BOTH get to be real? That when the pain & terror comes up, we can name it as about BOTH our own violation and the violation of our world? What if we flipped the therapist’s script, and when our trauma came up, we honored it AND asked “What other trauma is going on in the world that feels like this same pattern of individual trauma that shows up in my life?” And then we honored that too. For me it’s nearly impossible for me to tease out how much is mine vs. how much is the world’s … because it’s really all the same trauma at some level. My trauma ripples out and diminishes the rest of the world, and the world’s trauma ripples out and diminishes my ability to live.

I’ve found it immensely helpful to understand why I’m feeling overwhelmed, triggered, and ready to just shut down – there’s a lot of shit going down and it IS overwhelming and triggering to my system. A little Breathing Through practice is in order – just breathe it all in, and breathe it all back out. No need to transform it, and certainly no need to hang on to it. Open to let it in, and breathe it right back out.

How Kate Niles and The Book of John breaks me open and puts me back together again

Prologue

My dear friend Kate Niles just released her second novel The Book of John. Last September, she sent me an advance copy to read, as in the freaking Microsoft Word document that she had sent off to the publishers. I felt special and fabulous and important to have this advance copy by one of my favorite authors ever. But I felt like an ass when nearly 4 months had passed and I still hadn’t dared to click open the file.

The new year arrived and with it some shifts in energy that made me think that just possibly maybe this was the time to read Kate’s novel. I had finally started to make some peace in an on-again off-again relationship with a dear love with whom I was in a constant cycle of pushing him away and drawing him back. This book – as Kate herself and all her writing does – broke wide open my old stuck patterns and cleared space for a new way to be.

I stormed off a set of emails to Kate while engrossed in the book. Rather than a traditional book review, which I don’t have the first clue how to do, here’s my raw, unfiltered response to Kate of how the book moved me. I hope it inspires you to let this book move you too.

My Love Letter to Kate, or The Review

I finally started reading The Book of John last night. I’ve felt guilty, like a terrible friend for asking for an advance copy of the book and just letting it sit in my inbox for months.

I forced myself to go to sleep last night after devouring the first 2 parts. I have to work today, you know. I need to be responsible again after a few weeks of parties and friends and drinking and flirting with ideas of taking on a whole set of lovers (visions of sugar plums dance in my head).

But damn it Kate, if I don’t wake up at 4:20am, hours before my alarm is to go off, just overflowing with a stream of consciousness review of how amazing this book is, how heartbreaking it is, yet gently heartbreaking in that good way that all our hearts need broken open to air out the gentleness inside, so the pieces of our hearts can heal back together in more wholesome ways. Our hearts (my heart) are such a jumbled mess, it’s like they are Frankenstein hearts mashed together from the pieces of our previous lifetimes, our karma (good and bad) mashing them into something that just barely functions. And we walk through our lives waiting to have our hearts broken open so they can be re-healed in a way that makes them function slightly better, makes us slightly more capable of love, one step closer to Nirvana. This is how your book breaks my heart open.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so identified with a male character as I do with John. I didn’t realize that I’d given up on reading books with male characters (usually by male authors) because I feel so alienated from the world painted around them. But John. I don’t even know how you make me identify with him, with his painful insecurities which make him run from love and intimacy because OH MY GOD, if someone really saw just how horrible it was on the inside, if I let them in that close and then they SAW – the rejection would be worse than death. I’m nothing like John and I’m everything like John. I’ve been reading since 3 and I am best at those theoretical flights of fancy that John finds so impossible. Yet I settled for an MA when my inability to deal with life made me drop out from the PhD program I worked so hard to try to make work. I’d like to believe that I am not nearly as insecure as John, that his flaws are so much deeper than my own, that when faced with love, with soul connection, that I would transcend insecurity and be made whole in that love. Yet today I’m floundering, failing, wanting to run, wanting to stay on the surface of a relationship that everyone around me who remotely matters can see clearly is this deep soul connection, even my friends who’ve heard me bitch about the worst of it, and are just barely refraining from saying, “Can you dump him already, because I’m tired of hearing you bitch?” – even those friends are saying, “Clearly you two are in for the long haul.” And still I want to run far, far, far away. Still I want to choose something other, something easier, something  where I don’t have to get quite so deep. This is how you make me identify with John who both is and is not me.

And this is where I stop being guilty that I’m just reading the book, because reading a book by you is not simply for the pleasure, not simply for passing the time on a sandy beach somewhere. Reading a book by you makes me wake up at 4:20AM with a broken/healing heart, with a clarity of just how insecure I’m being in this world. Timing is everything when reading this gift of a book, and while I thought I was reading it as your friend, to give you feedback about how  great it is and how much I loved it, I will be honest that I am reading it for myself, which is really the only way to read. And the past few weeks, I’ve been oscillating widely, wildly between risking intimacy with this man and running away into someone else’s arms. And I’ve been watching that oscillation, wondering when I might get off the roller coaster, looking to good friends for insight and answers because I still don’t fully trust my internal experience that has me oscillating so wildly. And it wasn’t until my dear friend Nico turned to me on New Year’s Eve, and again on Saturday night to say clearly, “These excuses about you have to break up because he wants a farm and you want to move to the city – this is all just shit in your head.” – only then was I ready to read this book. Only then could I watch John who is me and who is not me flounder painfully in his insecurities. And because he is enough not like me, I can see the mistakes he makes, how even when he sees that he should ask for help that he’s asking all the wrong people for all the wrong things. How miserable running away to a tiny shack in the opposite of here really is. How tragic. Because he is not me, I can see how tragic this all is, how solvable it all is if he is just willing to risk intimacy and openness about all of his inadequacies, if he stays rather than runs from soul connections. It’s so clear because he is not me, so I can form the solution clearly with him, and only then see how applicable it is back to my own tragedy, how it’s such a big “DUH” in our lives, but I’m too often wrapped up in the drama and my old patterns to see the obvious solution. This is how your book heals me.

An hour has passed while writing this, and it is still not time for my alarm to go off. I’m going to put on a pot of coffee and start in on Part 3. It’s been ages since I’ve stayed up late to finish a book, but I don’t think I’ve EVER got up early to finish one!

Epilogue of Love

Well, it’s finished, read madly this morning, making me late for work – a great start to the new year!

My raw reader response from this morning still stands, with this epilogue. I get to the part about sin, about evil being the denial of another’s humanity, about the sins we commit daily against ourselves when we deny our own hopes and dreams. And I say outloud to myself in the early dawn shadows, “Shit. This is the place in a Kate Niles novel where I start sobbing. Where the container busts wide open, where any last vestige of grasping to inadequacy is obliterated.  Fuck you! Thank you!”

I love you! Thank you for writing another book that helps me rebirth myself yet again. Please please please, don’t you dare ever stop writing!

P.S. Find out how Kate Niles’ brand new book The Book of John breaks you open and puts you back together again. Now selling in your favorite indie bookstore (and those big behemoth ones too)!

Sex Positive and/or Anti-Violence

Great conversation happening with Kelly Diels and friends – how do we make sense of the contradictions that make up our core beliefs? Must we side with one camp or another? Or is there space to reconcile beliefs that don’t quite fit with each other?

I’m most intrigued by the contradictions Kelly points out in feminism and sexuality:

Want to be able to discuss violence against women and the importance of claiming your sexual pleasure without setting up permanent camp – or throwing rocks – at either end of the philosophical spectrum.

I’m internally contradicted about how to respond to this. While I absolutely believe that most people under 40 get into rape crisis work because they are pro-sex, I also saw the devastation that rape crisis work wreaked on our sex lives. It’s hard to feel very pro-sex when the thought of sex makes you want to curl into the fetal position. Or when your brain starts replaying scenes from every rape ever described to you just before you reach orgasm. Or when your own past trauma is so close to the surface from all the talk of rape, that every touch is a potential trigger. Rape crisis work is a major hazard to healthy positive sexuality.

What would the rape crisis movement look like if we revolutionized it to be a pro-sex movement at heart? If rape crisis centers were outgrowths of positive sex spaces, rather than the other way around?

Edit

There’s a way that I lose my writing voice when I start to edit. It’s worst when I try to edit while writing, try to overthink my audience, what they want, what they will think about whatever is going on in my head. When I try to write “a blog post” and be all official about it, it just gets bland.

Monday morning at 4:20 AM, I remembered that I write best when it comes out stream-of-consciousness. When I don’t worry too much whether the uninitiated reader has all the background necessary to understand what’s going on. I woke up that early, thinking about my friend Kate’s newest book The Book of John (check out the excerpt). “New” as in “not actually out until May 2010, but I’ve got the freaking Microsoft Word version because I’m just that cool.” I started reading the book Sunday night, and forced myself to go to bed because I had to work early on Monday morning. But damn Kate and her damn books, they get under your skin, they whisper into your dreams. They have some secret way to tell your cat that there’s more important things to be doing than sleeping, and they hypnotize your cat into meowing in your face, pawing your shoulder until you are wide awake and thinking about how heartbreaking this book is.

So I surrendered to the power of Kate’s book, and got up and wrote her a stream of consciousness review. And even now I can’t imagine publishing it direct to this blog without editing the fuck out of it. And since “the fuck” is the juicy part, if I edit the fuck out of it, there’s really not much left. So I’m writing this review of my review, trying out my looser voice, the voice I use freely in emails to friends, but still haven’t quite found a way to publish it to the interwebs. Kate is beyond an inspiration to find my own voice, speak my own truth, own my vulnerability as the most precious of the crown jewels.