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The Living Inquiries Blog

Scum Of The Earth!

By Sumitra Burton.  

My first thought upon waking when I was sick recently was, SCUM OF THE EARTH!

It had been a way-too-short sleep in a series of similar nights due to being ill with a sinus infection, and I felt wretched. The words “scum of the earth” seemed to describe me in that moment. I recognized this as a perfect time to take a few minutes to sit and rest and take note of all that was coming up.

I’m really Angry! Nothing is going right!

I can hardly breathe….

I don’t really like her (a friend).

I can’t swim (pool is closed because of the virus).

Some of my kids are struggling financially.

I’m still overweight – even more now that I have to be home all the time.

It’s hard to meditate, because it’s so hard to breathe just now.

My back is twisted and needs an adjustment, and because of the virus, I can’t have treatments.

Everything’s wrong – I’m Really Angry!

Scum of the earth….

And so I sat, first of all to simply rest and allow everything to be felt and heard. I took all the words and – in my imagination – placed them tenderly into a basket. I sat with the basket full of words and felt the grumbling in my belly and the pangs in my heart.

Thank you for arising, I love you; you are welcome to stay as long as you need. This welcoming phrase allowed the softening to begin, the tender holding of all the feelings, with no need to change anything; just to hold them was all that was needed.

Of course you feel miserable, my darling (self). You can’t sleep long enough to be refreshed, and you can’t breathe properly. It’s okay to simply feel it all, to allow it all to be exactly as it is.

Tears flowed. Letting go, surrendering into the misery. No need to change it; simply holding it all. I could see the basket with all the thoughts carefully held in it. I allowed my arms to feel as if holding the basket – tenderly and with loving compassion. I’m here with you….

Gradually a sense of release began to be felt and the sense of the words began to shift:

I’m so grateful for the quiet times allowed by this stay-at-home order.

My home is comfortable and my yard with a canal and fountain in the back offers me space to exercise and breathe the fresh air and listen to the soothing sound of water splashing.

The baby plants I have started from seed on my deck call to me, to be tended and loved.

I am free to choose which friends I wish to have contact with, when to be quiet and when to connect with others.

I have enough money just now for the simple blessings of food and shelter and some extra to share.

As long as I don’t get the virus, I’ll probably live through this difficult time. And if I don’t, at least the struggle to breathe will be over!

All these words I added to the basket. I sat some more with the basket of thoughts and felt the peace of being able to accept and hold it all – for better and for worse. All part of the vast human experience.

A sense of Peace gradually came from the willingness to face and experience all these feelings that simply needed to be heard and felt, to be held. As I stayed with the peace and allowed it to seep into every cell of my body and mind, a gradual relaxation followed, into what felt like Love. I remained with this sense of Love for a while longer, taking it in deeply.

Renewed, I was ready to meet my day.

To read more about Sumitra Burton, click here.

Waking Up – A Rebellious Act of Love

By Lisa Meuser.

“Transform yourself to transform the world…”
Grace Lee Boggs

 

What’s going on?

Across the world, cities are coming alive with awakenings. These are important times, perhaps what Joanna Macy calls the “great turning.” Some have been on this path for a while, and for others it is rather new. Regardless, as always, we will need each other to learn from, share with, and lean on. Together we will evolve. Together we will wake up.

Including More

It dawned on me a few years ago that the matrix journeying I was doing with clients, looking into their lifelong webs and traveling back in time to generational lineages, was short-sighted. I was “progressive” in my field, but not progressive enough as I hadn’t seen that the matrix of the individual was directly related to the matrix of culture. Transformative wisdom teaches us that history is important – I had seen this from a micro lens, and, had excluded the crucial macro lens.

This seeing was my entry way into exploring how the dominant narrative culturally exists, and that our individual dominant narrative mirrors that: they are all webbed within a matrix. For example, when we live in a culture that is run by a white authoritative narrative, and we do, we will embody that authoritative narrative within ourselves, and we do.

This was pretty “radical” wake up back then. Social justice groups weren’t very interested in their own individual dominant narrative, and still often aren’t. Spiritual and psychological groups weren’t so interested in culture’s dominant narrative, and still often aren’t. But here we are – in a time when it’s clear that the micro and the macro are inseparable, and it is becoming crystal clear that as social justice advocates, we must be connected to what is going on internally, and as healers and somatic practitioners, we must be connected to what is going on with culture. As forerunners of change, we are invited to go deeper into the relationship of all things so that true change and transformation can occur.

For many of you, what I’ve just said will make sense, and for others I may be using language that is new or confusing. Keep reading… I write many posts that will usher in useful context.

Some of you have asked about my own journey of waking up with regards to racism and social injustice. I prefer to center Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) voices, however since I have written on these topics in the past, I am sharing them in this post, as many have shared that they have been useful in exploring racism and our historically racist culture.  

If you don’t have time to read any of the posts below, please consider checking out this link.
It has an extensive list of resources that are categorized, and way beyond my own personal list of resources that I offer in one of my posts below. There is also this link, which has an annotated and non-annotated option. There are many great lists of resources, these are just two.

My Journey, Through Blog Posts

These posts are shared following the timeline in which they were written. You will see my own personal evolution, as you read them. There is a lot not included in these posts, but I hope that they will provide some useful information. The waking up continues! 

*Connecting to the Heart While Connecting to the Social Justice Pain. The first in a 3 part series, in this post I explore how to be more present to social injustices, while staying in my heart. 

*The Gift of Consciously Connecting to Anger, aka Social Justice, Heart-Work, and Evolution. In this post I dive deeper into how not to fall into overwhelm and debilitating anger when we start to wake up to social injustices. 

*Heart-Work; Guiding us Forward. The third in a 3 part series, in this post I dive more deeply into what I call “Heart work” and some practical tips to stay connected to heart while exploring painful realities. 

*Acknowledging the Racist Within: confronting my white privilege and ignorance. This is my “coming out” story of my own racism. 

*Resources that help me learn: Including our bodies in social justice: voices that teach. In this blog post I share resources that have helped me along the journey. 

*Loosening the Grip of Oppression. This blog post explores the oppression that lives inside our minds; learning about this territory is central to waking up and having compassion for our self. 

*Deepening With Each Other. In this blog post I write about how in 2019 I moved from being somewhat isolated to being an active and engaged participant in life, and some key learnings that came with it.

*New Year’s Clarity. In this piece I write about questions to connect with that will help guide me into 2020.

*Learning to Exist, Safely. In this post I write about how I moved from pretending, towards honestly. This is particularly relevant in these times. 

*Journeying with Generational Trauma. In this blog post I continue to dive beneath the surface in connecting to hidden traumas in my family of origin that had been holding my trauma in place, impacting my life. 

*Out of Overwhelm: Discovering Self-Regulation, Discovering Self-Love. 

Relevant for these days, in which there is a lot of overwhelm, for so many of us, I offer practical tips on how to self-regulate. 

I hope these may be helpful for you on your journey of waking up out of trauma and into being a more full and conscious participant with life. If you have questions based on something you’ve read, please reach out. If you are struggling and/or would like me to write about specific topics, please let me know.  A reminder that I love you all, no matter who you are, or what you believe. Love is waiting and available for everyone.

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

On The Range Of Our Inner Experience

By Fiona Robertson.  

I listened to a podcast recently about people who have no mind’s eye (a condition called aphantasia) and so do not see any visual imagery, including memories. Some of the people featured also have no mind’s ear and cannot imagine sensory experiences that aren’t happening. As someone who has always had abundant visual imagery – sometimes to the point of overload, especially when the imagery has been disturbing – I found it fascinating to hear more about aphantasia and I’m still wondering if it makes life quieter or somehow more straightforward, or if it feels like a loss.

One of the things we become more aware of as we inquire is the multi-layered nature of experiencing. There’s the immediate, environmental sensory content – what we are seeing, smelling, hearing, touching, feeling (what we might call outer experiencing), and the internal sensory content, (which we could call inner experiencing) – what we are thinking, seeing and hearing in our mind’s eye or ear, and what we are feeling emotionally. It’s easy – and common – to imagine that, with all this going on, not only is some of the content of our experience wrong (I shouldn’t be feeling this feeling or thinking this thought) but that the way we are experiencing is wrong (I don’t feel things strongly enough, or I feel things too intensely, or I’m supposed to see images but I don’t, and so on). Reading books and articles and watching videos about inquiry can be helpful, but can sometimes heighten the idea that there’s a right way to “do” inquiry, and if we fall outside those parameters, we’re getting it wrong.

Yet having spent nearly ten years both inquiring myself and facilitating others, I can attest that there is no right way to process. We all experience our experiencing differently. For some people, sensations are fleeting, coming and going rapidly. For others, they can last for days (I’m sometimes in the latter camp). Likewise, some people have abundant, vivid imagery while others have none. We all experience thinking in subtly different ways, too. Some people say very little during sessions, others talk more or less continually as they process. Most people are somewhere in between, or vary from session to session (again, I’m in the latter camp). It’s natural that we would conclude – when our own experience doesn’t match up to someone else’s description – that we are somehow lacking or defective, but that’s simply not the case. The more we inquire, the less we compare ourselves to some idea of how we think we are supposed to process, and the more we come to recognise, honour and value our own unique way of processing.

(For more information on aphantasia, https://aphantasia.com/)

To read more about Fiona Robertson, click here.

How Full Is Your Well?

By Lisa Meuser.

Almost daily, I journey with clients who are beating themselves up during these Covid-19 times for not being more productive, so I thought I’d write a little about it.

I think it’s worthwhile to consider why we might not be as productive as we think we should be. I think it’s useful to be reflective and ask ourselves questions…

  • What do we need in order to be productive?
  • What helps us to be able to be productive?
  • What gets in our way or diminishes our abilities to be productive?
  • Why does it matter to us if we’re being productive?
    and
  • How full is our internal well?While I love the terrain of the first questions, I’m mainly going to be focusing on that last question: How full is our internal well?

For most of the individuals that I’m speaking with, we have noticed that before COVID-19 came around, their well was already dry, or mostly dry. This is really common because we live in a culture that overworks, that over-thinks, that over-demands, and underneath it all, doesn’t value self-connection, self-awareness, self-love, nor the nourishment of our hearts, our minds, and our bodies. In fact, many in our culture won’t even have the luxury of considering their internal well.

When our wells are dry and then a pandemic strikes, we might immediately ask ourselves: “is this really the right time to think or expect ourselves or others to be productive? Does that really make sense?”  While it’s hard to counter those dominant narrative[1] thoughts that we hear all day in our own heads, and from the collective, it’s essential for our well-being that, if we are able[2], we slow down and ask ourselves questions.

Again I ask, “When our wells are dry and then a pandemic strikes, is that really the right time to think or expect ourselves or others to be productive? Does that really make sense?” Or, might it be a time to instead slow down and acknowledge that our well is empty, and first we need to, at least, begin to fill it. Perhaps it would be a radical act to get clear and name this, if at all possible, before we take on anymore: we need to tend to our depleted wells.

Yep, I know, easier said than done – those internalized, dominant narrative thoughts are strong, and scarcity fears and realities are intense at the moment. But, if you are someone who is wondering why they’re not more productive in this time, and if you are able to slow down… I invite you to ask yourself how full your well has been. Was it full before Covid 19? Was it full for a year leading up to Covid 19? Has it ever been full? If your well has not been full, please know this isn’t your fault. Please don’t think it’s one more thing to beat yourself up about. This is an outcome of the systemic, dominant narrative that we are all a part of that ignores our wells.

If you are beating yourself up for not being productive, or for having an empty well, I have an experiment for you. If you are able, choose to consciously decide to not be productive in all the ways. See what is possible to walk away from for a few weeks. Put the X away. Put Y aside. Acknowledge that this just isn’t the time. Give yourself permission not to be productive as you think you should be, knowing that any other expectation would just be a set up for more self-judgement. Additionally, give yourself permission to ask for help from friends, family, and/or from local service providers who are working in mutual aid.

As you put X aside, take up this curious question: what is it that fills your well, just even a little bit? What happens as you put aside X, and take up Z instead?? I took this question to heart. Slowing down to connect to the micro within moments, has been filling my well – watching the beak of a bird eating bird seed, examining the unfolding of a leaf or flower bud with my eyes and nose, experiencing a micro movement of breath within a breath, watching the tongue of my cat, feeling the aches of my heart, the growth in my garden, hearing the witty and wise comments out of my daughter’s mouth, taking part in community meditations, listening to the movements of leaves, the sound of feet on the floor…   All of these various “Z”s have been contributing to my well. What about you?

If your well is not full, the time of a pandemic is not the time to push yourself, judge yourself, pressure yourself into being a more productive human being. Instead, if you are able, gift your mind, your heart, and your entire being, the nourishment needed to let your well begin to fill[3].

When your well begins to start to fill again, it may be the time to take on some of the questions I posed at the beginning: What do you need in order to be productive? What helps you to be able to be productive? What gets in your way or diminishes your ability to be productive? Why does it matter to you if we’re being productive? Once your well starts to fill again, you will be tempting to engage in the very same behaviors that empty your well, so before you do that… I invite you to go slow, and stay connected to yourself.

I came into the pandemic with my well mostly full, as I had just taken four days off with practices and people who fill my heart, mind and being. After those four days, returning back to life as I had known it was tempting – my caregiving and fixing conditioning can be loud, and the dominant narrative seductively started blasting through organizations I was a part of, through my Facebook newsfeed, and through my very own psyche as the pandemic hit full force.

Fortunately, I am committed to seeing through the destructive ways of the dominant narrative and how I partake in them, and are surrounded by others who are too, so I immediately started to ask myself the questions I posed above. I keep returning to those questions and continue exploring whenever the “productive bug” gets in my ear.

In the spirit of tending to my own well, which I am being very mindful of these days with regards to how full (or empty) it is, I will resist the urge to share more, and instead keep this blog short.

I invite you to stay curious, stay connected to your well, and reach out for support as needed. These are challenging times for most, and you do not have to muddle through it alone.

To all my survivor friends, I love you, I care about you, I see you. You are worthy just as you are. I imagine us breathing in Love together and letting that breath be enough, knowing that we too are enough, just as we are.

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

[1]  I’ve written about the dominant narrative here and here

[2] Unfortunately, many may be in predicaments where, due to a variety of reasons, they do not have the time/space to slow down, ask such questions, or even consider their well.

[3] Again, it is important to acknowledge that many people will not have the privilege to consider their own well. If this is you, or someone you love, please look into your local area’s support services as many communities are forming mutual aid groups to help care for those who are in need.

Someone to Watch Over Me…

By Melanie Balint Gray.  

These days I find myself looking back at recent difficult experiences seeing if I can view them differently. I like to see if some new perspective has arrived, since I’m more aware that my initial view of things is never the only angle from which to see life. As I reviewed one afternoon in the fall I was surprised at what I found.

When my husband was going through six rounds of chemotherapy last year, the high-dose prednisone he was given made sleep nearly impossible, heightened anxiety, and made his nervous system totally raw. This lasted for 5 to 7 days after each chemotherapy infusion. It was sooooooooooo hard on him. And so hard for me.

In one instance his exhaustion, fear, and anger got so extreme. I’d never seen these levels of emotion emanate from this man before. I heard a voice in me telling me that I had to leave. That I couldn’t stay. A hotel. Yes, I’d go to a hotel. The words came and went. But, I noticed I remained, my feet planted on the floor, staring straight at him while he emoted. My body felt like it got jolted by every word he shouted and by any emphatic movements he made – and yet there I stood.

Was I nuts? Why didn’t I follow that voice? Why didn’t I seek shelter from the storm?

What I noticed as I looked back on this scenario was that not only was there the familiar impulse to
withdraw and shut down, but there was a counterbalancing impulse to stay put, get quiet, and openly receive the waves of the outburst. There was unspoken guidance that kept me there. I knew this wasn’t personal. It felt like he needed to allow these energies to flow and that it might be helpful for me to witness his expression of his pain. I didn’t want to short-circuit that process.

Weirdly enough, I felt I was safe. It wasn’t the safe feeling that accompanies a completely calm nervous system. Not at all! I was shaking. I went in and out of fear. But, safe I was… It was so odd.

And there was something or someone watching the whole thing occur. The present part of me which accompanies me everywhere (and always has even though I was often asleep to her companionship) was palpably there. Registering every shockwave to my nervous system, every tightening of the chest that made breathing shallow. She was there. Actually, she was me -an alert, awake, open Me.

Perhaps I was safe because I knew she’d watch over me whether I froze or ran or stayed put. The
security was in the companionship – me with Me. I, the one going through this human circumstance, was accompanied by this noticing aspect. And this noticing aspect, call it Presence or Awareness if you like, was there throughout.

This is where I begin to really stumble and bumble around trying to find the words to describe what I was experiencing. Somehow, this reunion of me with Me, seemed to allow for a different outcome. Not only could I be there for myself, I could steadfastly be there for him. Not in a completely held together fashion; any onlooker would’ve labeled me as, oh, I dunno, maybe as shell-shocked. But, that wasn’t the whole of me that was available in that moment. I was a duo—me/Me. Sort of…

I told you this stuff is hard to write about!

This kind of security wasn’t and isn’t dependent upon anything outside of me – a person, a treasured item, a burglar alarm, a weapon, or some distraction.

There was, is, and always has been Someone to watch over me…

To read more about Melanie Balint Gray, click here.