Thursday, September 27, 2018

When healing brings pain: Go to the gym, Make a sandwich, Meditate

"The wound is the place where the light enters you" - Rumi


Recently, when working with a client we were opening a very tender area that brought out a great deal of pain. Not hesitating, and also not fully understanding, my client walked forward into the pain. A broken relationship opened up the wound and now he stood before its doorway and had only to enter and hear its voice. As he began to walk forward the cries, tension and pull of pain unfolded and began to envelope him and he soon found himself pulling back out and standing on the precipice in quiet awe of the well of grief he held inside.
We reflected after on the experience and the awesome stretch of emotions that were held in what seemed to be the cavity of his chest. He also shared his hesitation in the face of such deep pain.

I understand this hesitation, have walked it many times before, and what I have found is that healing is very much like going to the gym, making a sandwich and meditating on a mountain top all at once!

Going to the gym 

When people ask me if they can work with me in healing work, I am, of course, honored and humbled. The next question is usually, how often we should meet. Everyone's healing journey is unique and within each of us is the teacher and healer of this journey. We often, however, initially need a guide who has traversed these grounds before and can walk us through the dark corners and help bring in the light. To do this, we must treat it like going to the gym. 

If I want to develop my muscles, I cannot hope to do this by going to the gym once a month. It must instead become a consistent practice of 2-3 times a week on a regular basis to begin building my muscles, develop a routine and practice that I would most likely carry into my everyday walk of building up my physique. 

So too with the work of the spirit. We cannot hope to open our hearts to love by only attending to our hearts once a month. We must instead make it a consistent practice of going into those tender places where the heart hurts the most and begin opening it up. By walking into the pain every single week during a healing session, we begin to build and widen our tolerance for pain. This stretching out of our capacity to endure pain, also stretches out our capacity to love. Enduring pain does not mean holding your breath and waiting until its over, that only builds more walls, which may keep out the pain for a while, but it will also keep out love, tenderness, kindness, compassion and it will keep it from the one who needs it most of all, ourself. 

Walking into pain and grief says, I believe in you...I trust you...I have faith in you and your capacity to heal and walk into the light. 

By consistently facing and exploring those places within us that are tender, bring up the wells of tears and open up big fears about who we think we are...builds our endurance to hold more space for these hard emotions. When we can hold space for hard emotions for ourselves, we can begin to hold space for others and all of their emotions without making it about us...instead we just love those who are in front of us with all of their raw emotion...we can bring in the light, as we did for ourself during every healing session. 

Just like working out at the gym at a consistent pace begins to develop our muscles creating strength, it also stretches our limbs and makes us more limber, and lifts our spirits with overall health. So too does healing over time...we cannot hope to sit in front of others and all of their baggage and love them if we cannot first learn to love the beautiful creation within us that is behind our own baggage. 

Each weekly healing session when we sit with our pain and fear even if just a little bit longer each time, builds our endurance for pain, increasing the depth of our capacity to love. 


Making a Sandwich
Quote: The troubles of this world shall pass, and what we have left is what we made of our souls. Shoghi Effendi

I often refer to healing as making a sandwich. We go into our bodies by breathing into the pain and fear, but we must also create new mental mindsets and begin to understand the changes we are creating within us. Healing is not just about releasing emotion or trauma, it is also about understanding the world with a different mental frame. 

During healing sessions, once the pain or fear has lifted a bit, my clients and I discuss what is the shift that is taking place. For example, when someone I love is commenting on my behavior in a negative way and telling me all the things that are wrong with me, it can be deeply hurtful and I might think what they're saying is true. I often ask my clients to do two things:

One, check in - take a moment to do an inventory of yourself. Is there truth to what they're saying? Is there something I need to look at within myself? And if there is, then that is my focus, nothing else. No need to defend, argue, challenge, deflect. Just a humble acknowledgment that maybe there are some areas of growth I need to continue looking at. 

And if they continue or I don't see those faults they point out. 

Two, turn the mirror - sometimes, when others (including ourselves) point out faults in their loved ones, they are very often saying out loud what they think about themselves. We often see the world through the lens in which we see ourselves. If we take in what people say about us as truths it is as if there were a mirror being held in front of us and we're looking at ourselves the way they see us - it can be very depressing! If we have checked in and know what they are saying is not our truth, then turn the mirror around...the reality is they may very well be talking about how they see themselves. So what then should be our response? Compassion and boundaries. How painful it is to think negatively about oneself - I know, I'm guilty of having done this to myself as well! And how grateful I am for people who showed me a great deal of love and compassion when I was hard on myself, instead of anger and defensiveness. I am also grateful for when people responded with strong boundaries encased in love. Depending on the situation if someone is railing on and on about how awful I am or what I have done wrong that is so deplorable my response might be, Hmm, got it. Talk to you later. And leave.

It is important to create mental frames that support your healing path: Someone's dumping their garbage is really just that, their garbage they haven't let go about themselves. My mind is a great storyteller and it often creates stories about what is happening in front of me that may not be true and usually places the world against me. Our mind's storytelling language can have phrases like: No one wants me. They probably don't want to be my friend. He probably doesn't care about me. 
Time to set up...Boundaries. I was not created to be someone's garbage pail to deposit all their bad feelings on and it is up to me to be clear about when to stand up for justice and say no. Saying no to abusive behavior towards me or someone else is taking a stand for justice. Boundaries help me stay in my power base.   


Meditating on a mountain top

Well, it doesn't have to be a mountain top...but meditation brings in the mystic and spiritual quality of healing. Healing is after all a power that is generated from spirit and is not really of the material realm. Yes, healing has physical manifestations of feeling lighter, happier and healthier overall. But ultimately, healing is mystical in nature and comes from a force that both animates and destroys the universe...so you know it is a powerful energy!

During the healing process when I work with clients and they have opened up a tender place, a wound, a traumatic memory...after all the hard emotions have spilled out and false beliefs have been aired, I ask them to bring in the noble self. This noble self is our highest nature...whatever this Divine Force is that animates the universe...it is the highest reflection of this Divine Force's creation within us.

Recognizing and accessing this noble self within is essential in the healing process - how else do we know who we are becoming? More importantly, as we begin to recognize our own nobility, we begin to see the nobility in others. It becomes the eyes in which we see the world!

There are, I'm sure, many ways to access and recognize this noble soul and meditation is one of those ways. Meditation has often been hijacked by the West to mean sitting in lotus position with eyes closed in a temple or in some hilltop in Malibu. Meditation can be a walking prayer, a hum when you work, a way of seeing the world through spiritual eyes, a conscious effort to stay in gratitude, a willingness to recognize the sacred act of opening up places within us that scare us. Meditation can be the consciousness of the energy that binds us to those we love and to those we don't yet know we love. It is the recognition that there is a Divine Source that participates in all of life's movements and is present in every effort to create more love, bring in more light and ultimately, is the balm of healing.

When we bring these three essential practices into our healing work, we begin to walk with more wholeness and see the world in a wider embrace of love...which we actively participate in.

So when healing brings in pain...I go to the gym, make a sandwich and meditate...it is after all, a lot of work to participate in the recreation of oneself!

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Healing Work: Why Change? Why Now?

Your Task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. - Rumi

I have been on a conscious healing journey since I was thirteen. I say conscious, because I think it began earlier, like eight, but I really sought out change when I was thirteen. When I began this journey I initially thought - there has to be something else other than the reality I have been given. This is not to say I didn't have loving parents, because I did and still do. I have two amazing human beings with world-embracing visions and a deep commitment and love for humanity who raised me. And yet, there were also deep traumas and wounds that needed attention and healing within me. Thirty years later, I find myself deep in this healing work still. Yes, I now work with others in accompanying them on their own healing journey as an intuitive healer, but I continue on my own healing journey as well. As I reflect today on this continued journey I realize it's purpose is not healing as defined by Western healing practices that treats a symptom of a malaise. It is instead a more holistic approach to healing that looks at the system, asks questions, and creates change where the system is no longer functioning to serve the human being it sustains at its highest level. What does this mean?

Here's how I broke it down in my own quest to understand what healing looks like for me today.

Our Blueprint  

We are born with the nobility and gift of who we are from the start. Often, when working with clients, I ask them to consider that this noble part of who they are is still intact and somewhere within them. One of the ways I consider how this noble part might look is by making the following statement: 

When the Creator thought of me, whoever the Creator thought of when He created Ymasumac, that is who I am at my essence, at my highest self.  

What flows from this statement has to be love at its highest expression. Why? Because, whoever the Creator is - beyond definitions of masculinity and femininity - is a being who created the mountains, the ocean, the rivers and forests, all of this majesty...whoever this Being is, also created me. So I have to be pretty fantastic. Why is it then, that I don't feel this way? Why don't I see my majesty and nobility? 

Within us our parents, family, community build a blueprint of who we are informed by their own blueprints and the forces around them. This is the task of raising a child, you put all that you have in them and as you learn more, more gets put in them. If all that I have in me is also impacted by the forces of the world around me, then some false beliefs, misconceptions and other people's beliefs about who I am inevitably become a part of this blueprint. 
When you layer in trauma in your blueprint, a false sense of who you are becomes even more embedded as the emotional stranglehold of abuse settles into your bones and because of the spiritual immaturity of our current society, taboos are created around issues like sexual abuse, addiction, etc and there is no where to air out these abuses and so they settle in like truths deep in our blueprint. 
When you further layer in social injustices, where entire social systems are created to subjugate one people over another, create false truths about the equality of men and women, idealize one body type over another, the impact this has on our blueprint becomes imprinted in our DNA and passed on between generations silently embedding itself into our developing psyche and sense of self.

So it is no wonder then, that we walk out of our childhood sometimes bleary eyed or with a strong sense of urgency to create change. We are so afraid to have these conversations because we don't want to disrupt the tender relationship we have with those who raised us. Who are we to question those who ensured our survival as children? Who are we to question those who with all that was within them and with all they could muster gave us everything they had? We aren't. We are questioning the false beliefs, the half truths, the lies laying wait deep within us every time we try to make a move toward our truer self, only to be shut down by guilt, control and fear - all tools of oppressors. We mistake this pain and suffering as a sign of we are doing something wrong and we run back to the comfort of what we know, rather than consider that maybe, maybe this pain and suffering is the releasing of an old shell that in its stead seeks something new.

Dismantling the Old Blueprint

And so this is healing work, at all levels, healing work is about releasing something that no longer serves us and takes us away from our truer self to place in its stead something new and closer to truth. Of course, for many of us, me included, this begins with the healing of traumas. The leftover residue of abuse never goes away, it just finds a place within the folds of our body and makes a home. And then, like toxic waste, it seeps into the tender places of our system and silently wreaks havoc. This havoc can show up as physical illness. This havoc can also show up in how we view ourselves and the things we say to ourselves. Some of the most universal falsehoods unearthed in the sacred space of healing work have been: I'll never be good enough. No one is ever going to want me. I will always be alone. I am always going to fail. On the surface, most of us would say, no way, this is isn't true, I don't feel this way about myself. But these false beliefs are not on the surface. They are in our subconscious, a terrain we often don't visit, except in our dreams and even those sometimes terrify us.
I am not here to tell you how to heal your false beliefs or whether or not you should, that is a deeply personal decision and journey. I can only share what I have learned after thirty years of deep diving into my subconscious to unearth all those falsehoods that were placed in me sometimes by the hands of those I love most, sometimes by the hands of those who should never be trusted with the tender hearts of children and sometimes by a society that refuses to acknowledge or see the truth of who I am and builds social constructs to remind me daily that I am not enough. Whatever the case, I dove in, because I had to find another reality.

Initially, for me, healing work began to address a gnawing inside of me that something wasn't right and that I needed change. This, of course, was manifesting itself everywhere in rebellious behavior and aggressions as a teenager. As I began to do the healing work diligently with a healer once a week, I found that what I was uncovering was an entire universe within me that was built to sustain who I am. There were parts of this universe that I loved: The strength and resiliency of my ancestors, the constant presence of my grandmothers even though I had never met them in the physical world, the truth that I belonged to a universal family and that I had spiritual ancestors who had sacrificed and died for my well-being. There were also parts of this universe that manifested great pain and massive falsehoods: A sexual assault that remained hidden and forgotten by everyone except me leaving me feeling a deep void of loss and angst, a belief of not belonging as there was no social construct for who I was being I was neither Indigenous-Latina-European and with racial prejudice ripping through the core of all of this I always grew up on the outside of any community as no one would fully take me in.
These all made up part of my blueprint and the falsehoods needed dismantling as they were no longer serving me. And so I was diligent about the healing work. Focused on the dismantling. Despite the large impact it had on my familial systems, I continued, because I could not live with a full sense of who I was so long as who I was was defined by a mirror covered in dust. When we dismantle old blueprints, everyone gets challenged. Not outrightly, after all, it is my healing work, not theirs. But my behaviors change, my perceptions shift and this impacts my outer reality and relationships. And so much of it is in a mode of growth and learning, which means lots of mishaps and mistakes are made - by everyone - and this requires a strong sense of resiliency, tolerance and acceptance - by everyone, but mostly by me. There were some steady forces that held through the healing process - for me primarily my sister, mother and husband - they didn't understand my healing work most of the time, but they were resilient, tolerant and accepting of me and my path and this I began to realize, became a new teacher for me...

While simultaneously dismantling an old blueprint, I was also building a new one.

Building a New Blueprint

We cannot take away something and not put something new in its stead. Something always grows and develops in the absence or removal of something else. What is important is that whatever grows in the place of what was removed, be done thoughtfully and with purpose. And so, as I dismantled this
Author reflecting in the distance
Author in a state of convergence
old blueprint, I realized I was building up a new one at the same time. Maybe not at the same rate and at times I felt rather lost. I knew the old way of doing things wasn't an option, but there wasn't anything clearly in front of me to put in its place. This place is where we most develop our spiritual qualities and attributes, which become cornerstones in our new blueprint. 
Spirit time is different than time in a material realm. Spirit time can feel slow and then all of the sudden it is too fast! So it requires different feet to walk with and a different sense of time. It requires a deep abiding trust that there is a force in this universe - that many of us have defined as the Creator - that ultimately wants our highest light to come forth. This trust stretches us out, asks us to love deeper, hold on longer and be present more, because when growth manifests itself, sometimes it can be all at once and that can require humility and gratitude to keep holding the steady pace of what I have come to now know as love. 
So love becomes the foundation of my new blueprint, real love. Not love that demands expectations or rewards for hard-work. Not love that says I did this, so you do that. Not love that says success looks like this and anything short of this is failure. It is a love that has long-vision, that demands more of us and yet nothing at all, that sees us completely and knows where there's more need of growth, it's a love that exists outside of false dichotomies and in the place of constant search for truth...it is a love that is absolute.

When the Healing is Done

As I opened up new wounds, let go of pent up emotions, processed through the hard trauma abusive systems can leave in place, released false beliefs and cleared out this old blueprint; I steadfastly in its place put new truths of wholeness, nobility, faith, and a new kind of love and compassion, transformation came slow and than all at once. 

Recently, I was given an opportunity to straddle two worlds at once: Building and constructing my life's calling through writing, healing and education and serving my Faith community full-time. Neither of these are exclusive, they inform each other all the time. As a Baha'i, I have a faith community that asks us to grow constantly and release old belief systems that no longer serve us or humanity. It asks us to use tools like consultation and to carry qualities like a humble posture of learning in all that we do. As I reflected on the opportunity before me, my heart sang, my home-base supported me - so why then, was I wracked with deep pangs of guilt and fear? It was here that I realized, the continuous work of wrestling with the forces of disintegration and integration. These destructive and constructive forces are happening all around us as we see old systems become quickly dismantled and new ones painstakingly built in its stead. For example, in education the old system of educating through a teacher that stands at the helm of learning to impart knowledge on their students is quickly giving way to a new and developing system where the teacher serves as a guide and facilitator of learning, while students become active agents of their own learning. What this demands is not only a release in structure, but in how teachers and students carry themselves, the qualities they exhibit and express need to shift dramatically. This can cause confusion, chaos and upend emotions distilling a lot of fear and pain as the disintegration and integration process takes place.

So too was this new opportunity upending emotions, creating confusion and chaos in an old blueprint that doesn't understand the new reality I'm walking into. I have to say, I too don't know the new reality I'm walking into, but I am utilizing all of the tools I have been building into my new blueprint to help me with this walk. As I accepted this opportunity, forces from my old blueprint welled up inside of me and around me questioning all of my choices, going back years, unearthing false beliefs and norms of behavior. This old blueprint uses tools like guilt and fear to wrangle back control and compliance. This old blueprint, heavily impacted by colonization, does not believe we are noble human beings with the universe folded within us and if it attempts to entertain this idea, it only does it in theory, not as a reality we walk daily. Once I realized these feelings I was having were just the natural outcome of the destructive forces disintegrating and the constructive forces integrating within me, I was able to release and allow the process to happen. 

Today, I understand that this healing work is not just about the releasing of the old blueprint that keeps so many of us captive in a colonized past where nobility is based on material wealth and bloodline. It is also a sacred act, where the healing of the false beliefs of the past, release our ancestors from this bondage and ensure the future generation can take their righteous place among the noble ranks of humanity.