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The Living Inquiries Blog

Using the Living Inquiries with Family Constellations to heal trauma

By Olaug Rønningsdalen.  

Suppressed, traumatic events, unsettled wrongs, broken relationships, etc. found in all families, leave behind traces that are relieved by those who follow. The energy of previous generations’ unprocessed trauma is stored in the family system and can affect our lives in many challenging ways. Strong traumatic events that occurred in my mother’s family manifested themselves as a dark, threatening shadow over my life that I could not, for a long time, put into words. Those events had just fused into my experience of being. Only when I was familiar with Family Constellations did I begin to gain an understanding of the dynamics behind the fear, the bodily pain, the whole weight of all the undigested feelings that flooded my mind from birth. The family system could not start to rest until the hidden trauma had found a channel to come up through into the daylight and be seen and felt.

Family Constellation is a type of therapy that’s based on the idea that problems sift down through generations to cause stress in the here and now. Even if you don’t know the traumas of your parents and earlier ancestors, you can learn them through the morphogenic field of energy that surrounds your family. Family Constellations allow us to break these patterns so that we can live healthier, happier, more fulfilled lives. In a moment of insight, a new life course can be set in motion.

The emotional energy that oppressed emotions leave behind, finds a way to be expressed regardless of whether it originates from previous generations or our own lives. The work of Family Constellations revealed how I was woven into the family pattern, and where there were open wounds that I felt I had been dragged into – unconscious feelings which had occurred in others, but which were experienced as mine. Transgenerational trauma is something we are born with, and is most often amplified in growing up with those who have experienced trauma or who were themselves influenced by it. The traces, in the form of fear, guilt, shame, anger etc. and bodily symptoms, make an imprint in our nervous system.

Living Inquiries, with its unique tools to explore what is located in the depths of the mind and body, allows us to loosen this thumbprint of deep-seated, tangled trauma, regardless of whether they originate from our ancestors’ or our own lives. My journey of exploring layer by layer has gone across generations. It has followed an inner, unconscious knowledge that has brought up different themes in an intuitive order. Some topics have intermittently been given rest, to reappear later. Now, looking back, it is possible to see how the pieces have slowly fallen into place, making it possible to let go of it all.

To read more about Olaug Rønningsdalen, click here.

New Year’s Clarity

By Lisa Meuser.  

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I do enjoy New Year’s clarity.

New Year’s clarity?

At the start of a year, I often connect with a word, a phrase, or an intention that is calling out for me to find clarity with. Hidden gifts always await as  I the word, phrase, or intention weave their way through my being.

In 2019 I knew it was time for me to be more in the world, while not getting lost in it, as has always been my patterning. My intention for the year became Being in the world and Being of Love. This was a radical change for me in that in the years prior I had been focusing on my clients and my personal life.

Since jumping out of that bubble, I have participated more fully than ever as a waking being, in an unwoken world, and it has been one of the most rewarding and learning endeavors of my life. It revealed internal territory I hadn’t worked through, as well as a depth of agency and resourcing that I hadn’t realized was waiting within me to embody.

I have yet to identify where clarity of focus will land for 2020, but my journey of 2019 helped me to stay turned towards some vital questions that I’m sure will help. It is powerful, and necessary, for me to connect with what truly aligns in my being, in whatever it is that I’m doing – on a day to day, moment by moment, basis. As such, connecting to these questions has been immensely profound:

  • Are the activities of my life in simple alignment?
  • If not, why am I engaged with them?
  • If not, do I need to step away from them, or
  • How might I bring more of me into these areas so that I feel an alignment with what is important to me?

A year of increased integrity, a year with more alignment, a year of discovery and deep learning all came as I continued to keep asking myself these simple questions. Throughout the course of the year, these questions became living embodiments. Did I stumble along the way? Absolutely. Were there challenges? Yes! Through difficult times these questions helped me to return to what was important for me, over and over again.

Without even trying, I noticed that the various aspects of my life were aligning synchronistically with one another as I journeyed with being in the world and being of Love.  Acknowledging my hidden racism; deepened clarity of living from Love first; moving from head wisdom to embodied wisdom of Love; an amazing  conscious leadership training that helped me further awaken to ancestral wisdom and the healing power of our stories;  conscious social justice engagement in my community; a weekend of  discovering 5 Rhythms; a powerful Heal Thyself Diversity Training; continued explorations into unwinding the dominant narrative that is perpetuated by culture, and lives in all our psyches; and lastly, the paradoxical co-existence of fear, hope and dreams.

Although being in the world and being of Love will no doubt be a life long journey these questions helped me get more deeply resourced clarity again and again. When I wanted to give up, when I doubted, when I didn’t know how, I gently and compassionately returned to these simple yet wise inquiries. And of course I got help from my support team, who help me to journey into my hidden areas.

These questions – and many others(!) – will continue to burn alive in my being as I move into the unknown of 2020. I look forward to further deepening, creating, and relating with, and to, Life and Love.

What about you? What draws you into conscious participation with 2020?  May you find some clarity, and let it be so!

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

Climate change

By Kristy Johnsson.  

They march the articles out across our newsfeeds: pictures of the Statue of Liberty submerged in water up to her chest, horrifying headlines reading “Are humans going extinct?”, images of forests on fire.

When I’m in a certain emotional space around this topic, I’ll sometimes walk outside and sit in the tall seeding grass, beside the conifers, willows, and aspen. I just sit there, feeling my body pulsing under me, the subtle river of sensations cascading through me, my attention hanging close to my breath, and to the movement of the brush around me. I feel suspended in time, this precious moment.

The teeming world around me feels alive, mysterious, other-worldly. It hits me that we used to see trees as people, that some cultures still do, and I feel why. I sense a subtle beingness in those trees, and then think about how old colleagues in the sciences would have had a coronary over that statement. I used to not be able to stay this still; the pain inside me was like a never-ending torrent overwhelming and drowning me. These days it’s different. I settle more easily, these barely perceptible undercurrents of life around me more noticeable as I do.

I feel a quiet begging inside, too.

‘Please. Where do I belong in this? Is this what it will come to? After everything, is this how it unfolds? I’m scared, but I’ll do it. What do you want me to do?’

I start to cry, my core heaving, noticing the sensations in my body as I feel a gentle insight (or a response?) that I don’t need to do anything. I’m okay, sitting here, right now.

Ah, the sweet spot.

Every time I meet these feelings of desperation and fear, and yet still honor and witness the protest in me, the thrashing and chaotic thoughts, without losing contact with where I am, something magical happens:

My embodiment of the dying culture that got us here becomes palpable. Those thoughts and beliefs, and the pain that tends to be associated with them, pop out in my awareness and I can see our culture manifest in my body-mind. I don’t fight any of it. I don’t berate it for killing our world, countless people, our bodies and souls. I see it play out, and in the space of seeing it, there’s room for new life: I realize that I don’t have to do anything to save this planet, or other people, or even myself. Nor do I have to do anything to be good or enough.

And then something even more beautiful happens, effortlessly and naturally: I find that feeling my good enoughness – including my pain and struggling – transmutes into motivation to step out into this holy mess anyway. Because I’m grateful to be alive. Because I’m in love with this wild planet.

To read more about Kristy Johnsson, click here.

Releasing Strategies, Finding Life

By Lisa Meuser.  

I’m driving, and all of a sudden it goes dark, and the road becomes enclosed. I know how to work the breaks, the gas, and the steering wheel, but everything is different so I’m completely disoriented. I‘m not sure what **to do**.  I no longer see ahead of me, and I can’t get back to where I was. I’m just here… in the dark, where almost nothing is familiar. All the previous tactics I’ve used to drive effectively are suddenly out of context. It’s scary. I don’t know what to do or where I’m going, and yet I must keep driving. I keep hoping this is a bad dream, but I don’t wake up out of this nightmare.

Does the above feel at all familiar? There has been a theme emerging amongst clients lately, and when enough similar experiences are shared, I tend to write about it because I know others are likely experiencing it too.

Although it feels like it was lifetimes ago, my own dark night[1] (ha! I wish it were just one night) will always be a part of me. It is hard to describe what it was like, but for those who have journeyed through such nights, or are currently journeying… we know.

We know what it was like to suddenly lose a kind of functioning that we had taken for granted… strategies that had once become our way of life, snatched away.  Replaced with a knowing that we simply could not go back from whence we came, no matter how much we wanted to.

 

A Way of Life

There is nothing wrong with having strategies – or approaches that help us to deal with life. To be human is to have strategies – little things we do to help us feel safe and comfortable. Most of our strategies got formed when we were young, and they usually formed to help us adapt to dysfunction. Over time, those strategies became how we lived in the world and, well, who we were.

Most of us have survived through varies strategies such as: Pleasing others. Care-taking. Making jokes. Being stoic. Eating too much, or not enough. Playing dumb. Stealing. Invisible-ing ourselves. Rebellious behavior. Obsessive reading. Over-sexualizing others and ourselves. Attention-getting. Isolation. Day-dreaming. Thinking and not feeling. Fanatic studying. Skipping school. Being numb. The list goes on, and on.

Many of these strategies are simple, but they can stack on top of each other. They can limit our full expression, and put us on trajectories filled with harmful relationships – inner and outer. They can cover up pain as well as beautiful aspects of ourselves. Even though they can make our lives miserable, they can make life tolerable, and give us a sense of identity, safety and familiarity. Until…

 

An Egg Cracked Open

Some people’s strategies will be maintained their whole lives. But for others of us… something will happen[2] so as render our strategies ineffective, or not as useful as they used to be. When this happens, it can feel like everything is falling apart, because, on a certain level, it is.

In my experience, those strategies will never again work like they used to. And yet, without proper guidance, we might try to keep using them. Eventually the dam will break, it’s just a matter of how mangled up our lives will get in the process. Traditional psychology or other approaches may try to help individuals reclaim those strategies or find other strategies, in an attempt to put things “back together” for a client. Or, individuals may keep trying to find refuge in their tried and true strategies of the past. There may sometimes be a temporary “fix,” but it’s short-lived. In my own experience, my life got more and more unmanageable as I held onto the familiar yet unhealthy strategies, which elongated the change process, making it more painful, confusing and torturous. At some point, I hit that point of no return.

 

What is Left after we Crack?

The good news is that there is something else beneath the surface of our strategies. In my experience in working with clients and traversing through my own dark night, there is true well-being beneath the layers of strategies that were originally created to adapt to dysfunction. There is Wholeness, and it is waiting for us.

One challenge is that we have to be patient enough to live through the chaos and discomfort of no longer having those strategies that made “everything ok.” There are other invitations that weave in alongside patience. As a friend shared with me:

…it seems to require courage, hope that {things will} change, openness to experimenting with choosing differently – plus a growing capacity to sit within the discomfort, pain, fear and shame and tolerate it. 

In my experience, these resources developed over time, and were not automatically accessible, but something my system learned over time.

It can scary to be without a road map. It can be terrifying to find oneself in a dark tunnel, with no end in sight. In my experience, it felt like death itself: a death while living that felt utterly unbearable. In fact, it was during this time that I lived with constant suicidal ideation. Shame and self-loathing was immense. Isolation and hiding, my learned patterning, made it that much more unbearable. It was only when I found a trusted guide who really heard me, who had been there herself, that my nervous system started to find hope and was able to start the long journey of repairing itself.

In my experience, we need guides during this time – so that we can fall apart, but be supported while this is happening. No one can experience someone else’s terror, but someone can be present while the terror happens. This support communicates deep wisdom to a nervous system, and prepares the being for sustained evolution and deep communion with life.

Through habitual patterning of my life, my attention had included certain aspects of my humanity, but excluded others. My guides helped me include that which I had excluded and they helped me direct attention towards reservoirs in myself that I had never known. This also paved the way for me to experience true self- compassion for the first time in my life. Over time, my neurology changed, and my nervous system’s relationship with life changed as my being was able to open up to discovery, instead of getting lost in hiding and protecting from life.

I didn’t know it at first, but eventually I found that there was something waiting to be found – true well-being. This discovery changed my life, and became a sustainable expression moving forward.

 

Moving Forward

I am sharing this short blog for a few reasons. I hope that sharing some tidbits from my stories and journeys with my clients will help let you know that, if you are journeying in this territory, you are not alone. I hope that it will communicate that there are those who can help shine a light during this pathless time. Lastly, I hope that it may drop at least a single drop of hope and light into your Being.

Please feel free to reach out for support. [3] There are those who have journeyed before you, who are journeying with you now. You are not alone.

[1] often referred to as the dark night of the soul

[2] This life changing event can vary from person to person. It could be from something that seems random, or tied to something very specific.

[3] I also recommend Fiona Robertson’s book, The Dark Night of the Soul: A Journey from Absence to Presence.

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

The Sceptical Art of Inquiry

By Fiona Robertson.  

I read today that the ancient Greek word for ‘inquiry’ is skepsis, hence the word sceptical. Sceptical philosophers, from around the world in both ancient and modern times, have doubted our ability to know, either partially or completely. Their view is some variant of the idea that we can’t know anything for certain, and we can’t even know that we can’t know anything for certain.

We inevitably come to inquiry with a knowing or belief that feels certain. In fact, we don’t usually call it a belief. We don’t generally say, “I believe that I’m not good enough”, but rather state it as a fact: “I’m not good enough”. There often comes a point in a session when a slight crack appears in the certainty, and we begin to entertain the possibility that what we thought we knew for certain may not, after all, be the case. Even though the belief in question has been painful, there’s a kind of security in the certainty, so it can be disorientating to open up to the possibility that maybe we don’t know what we thought we knew. There’s often a sense of fear – if I’m not this, then what? Or the realisation that we may have spent many years trying to solve an issue only to discover that it’s not the issue we thought it was. Inevitably, we end up feeling emotions or sensations that the belief or knowing has somehow shielded us from.

In a session, I once had an image of seeing the outline of an island through a telescope from on board a boat. I saw that I was seeing the hint of the possibility that maybe what I thought was the case wasn’t. And even in reducing the certainty to 95% (rather than the full 100%), there was some relief in my system. Even in asking the questions – including questions like, “how do I know that?” or “what’s telling me that?” we open up to the possibility of uncertainty, that maybe we don’t know for sure. 

For the ancient sceptics, the idea was that having an experience of not knowing led to the possibility of calm, which feels deeply familiar from our perspective. It’s good to know people have been inquiring in this way for thousands of years.

To read more about Fiona Robertson, click here.