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The Living Inquiries Blog

When We Can’t Say No

By Fiona Robertson.  

In my experience, ongoing inquiry is bringing about a much clearer sense of my own boundaries.

I was looking this morning, and the words came, ‘I want nothing to do with this’, accompanied by crying. I saw an image of one boyfriend, who on our first date had an empty wallet. (When the relationship ended four years later, he owed me several thousand pounds).

More images came of the many, many times over the years that I have ignored my body’s instinctive gut reactions – disgust, dislike, or some other “no” – in favour of pleasing, being ‘reasonable’, excusing the other’s bad behaviour. Many are the ways I have dismissed or undercut my natural, immediate responses to the erosion or violation of my boundaries, having never experienced (until recent years) what it is to be healthily boundaried.

As I stayed with the images and feelings, I also saw how my inability to say ‘I want nothing to do with this’ in all those situations made true intimacy impossible. In a way that I still can’t fully articulate, I felt the deep sense of being compromised that comes when we can’t say no, and the lack of intimacy with ourselves and others that results. Finally allowing the truth of this “no” is liberating and enlivening, even if a little scary.

To read more about Fiona Robertson, click here.

Liar Liar! Our Dumpster’s on Fire

By Lisa Meuser.

Word is finally getting out – we’re starting to acknowledge that, for the most part, we’ve all been raised in a culture of dishonesty[1]. As a result, we, as individuals, born out of this dishonesty, often don’t have our own sense of integrity, own up to how our behaviors have impact, or talk about accountability. And we don’t often explore – and sometimes don’t even know how to talk about – how to be honest, have integrity, be accountable, and be responsible, especially without blaming or shaming ourselves, or others. Instead, we often deny and project inwards and/or outwards, to protect our hurting and often confused selves.

Let’s face it, it can be really scary to hurt and painful to be confused (or in dissonance). Pain, especially as a child, can feel like death – particularly when we don’t have loved ones to help us through it, and even more so when it is our “loved ones” who are causing the pain.

If we don’t have healthy support to be with our pain, we learn to adapt. We learn to do whatever it takes to be “fine.” We do that in lots of ways, and depending on our contexts or environments, we figure out ways to adapt or manage our surroundings (or ourselves) so that we feel safe, in control, and “fine.”


No Self

When I was a kid I was expected to be fine. I was punished for being angry, and shamed for crying. I had low levels of fear almost all the time, not knowing how to “be me” in a way that was safe. I learned how to feign[2] my way through life. Being dishonest with myself, and others, was the only way I could survive.

Feigning is a 4th fear response (when I’ve written about it before I’ve also sometimes referred to it as a strategy of not just feigning, but also to fawn, fake, fool, fuck… the list goes on, of ways humans engage so that we can feel safe in moments[3]). We’re all familiar with fight, flight, and freeze. Feign is often not recognized as a fear response because when one is in feign it can look so “normal.” This is an important adaptive skill that saved my life, but it also had a cost later in my life.

Pretending became a way of life for me, so much that “I” didn’t know I was pretending. I didn’t even know myself, because I didn’t actually have a self. I had gotten so good at adapting and feigning that I had no real me. I was safest in not even existing. As you can imagine, later I gravitated towards spiritual practices that helped me avoid myself.


Learning to Exist

I was talking with a client the other day about personality tests. We talked about how hard those tests were, because we didn’t have a self to answer from. We only knew how to answer from our imagined senses of self – based on others, based on past, and /or based on future, but without the ability to answer based on a self that lives in the now.

When we don’t have a sense of self, we don’t really know who we are, or how we are. What we do know is that we want to feel good – we want to be comfortable. Of course! Unfortunately, when we don’t really have a sense of self, we can’t be connected to a sense of comfort from within. More than that, we may not even know what our bodies like, or the simple things or practices that might bring us comfort. It’s important that we “get to know ourselves”!

Some people came over to my house not long ago for the first time. One of them said, “Your house is so comfortable! Soft blankets and pillows and warm scents and colors!”  Yes, as I became connected with my Being, I discovered that I could resource comfort in healthy, non-destructive ways.  Once upon a time, I didn’t know myself well enough to support myself in such simple, loving ways. Instead, I relied upon dysfunctional adaptation and feigning, chasing the desire to feel comfortable in unhealthy ways. This often involved trying to get comfort from others (usually individuals who were also unhealthy), and by engaging in certain behaviors that were destructive, often with those same people. Double whammy!  Getting honest that (1) I am a human being who has needs (comfort), and (2) there are ways to safely resource comfort, has literally changed my life.


Pretending to Death 

I went home to see my family not long ago. In the course of a conversation, my mom let me know that things “are fine!” at home.  I was taken aback – our metrics for “fine” are clearly very different, and also, sometimes we can’t see what we can’t see. When we’re in a situation where we don’t feel like we have any control, we will very easily neutralize dysfunction and toxicity, by adapting and/or pretending, even to ourselves, in the process. While it is understandable that we adapt so that we can feel (the delusion) of safety, it can also be unhealthy, and even dangerous.

I know the reality of this. I was in an abusive relationship – and I knew I needed to get out, but it.was.so.hard.  Many of us have been in these situations in different ways – in dysfunctional relationships with people, organizations, places, behaviors, and things. We know X is “bad” for us, or that something “isn’t quite right here,” but we can’t stop/get out.

At that time in my life, a healthcare provider was uncertain what to do. She was seeing my health suffering and my nervous system in shambles, but she couldn’t make sense of it. “Are you having fun with him?”, she asked. She didn’t know that that wasn’t the right question to ask. Sure I was having fun. There was lots of sex, some drugs, and great rock and roll. In other words, lots of feel good hormones were flowing. I wasn’t having fun because I was in a relationship with *him*. I was having fun because I was an expert at adapting to dysfunction and pretending even to myself, and those feel good hormones made it so much easier.

Being in an abusive relationship distorts everything inside one’s psyche. The healthy sense of self that I had developed could not hold up under the cleverness of his sociopathy. He was the straw that broke my conditioning’s back, so to speak, and for that I will always be grateful. But recovering from that relationship was hard – the darkest nights of my soul.

Being forced out of my world of feigning was terrifying. I wanted to die every day of my life, but to most of the world I said I was fine. My life raft was my best friend – I could admit to her that I was not fine at all. And then a short while later, I felt safe enough to mention it to a somatic practitioner, who helped me to safely feel into how “not fine” I really was. Those first steps led me into a long period of recovery – where I learned that I had developed a deeply unhealthy relationship with Love, and to manage the pain of that, I had lost my Self. It took time to feel safe enough to no longer pretend to myself.  It took time to develop a true sense of Being.

At the core of the healing (and waking up) journey is honesty. It’s not so easy, however, when we’re in a culture of dishonesty, and when we’ve not been taught or given good role models of people who live lives from integrity, accountability, and honesty. It can take a while to feel safe to be honest. It can take a while to FEEL at all. It is important to get support from loving beings while we learn to have a self, a self who needs love and comfort. In addition to the blog posts linked earlier, here are some other blog posts, here, here, and here, which may provide some more information and support. If you would like some gentle meditation/rest audios, you will find them free here and some here that can be downloaded.  And, in the footnote are two more pieces not written by me.


The Burning Dumpster 

It was a client who sent me the image that goes with this blog post. I laughed for quite a while after looking at the image, as it is sometimes the case that she can be feeling quite “on fire” but when asked, says “I’m fine.” She knows that for most of my life I also hid behind “fine”. It’s so common, isn’t it?    To feel one way, but to say we feel another way.  We are on a journey, we humans.

Just now, playing around with the words, I came to a turnaround of sorts…. After years of pretending I was fine when I wasn’t, after years of being afraid of the feelings involved, afraid of not feeling anything less than fine… after all these years, maybe it’s fine to be not fine. Maybe it’s fine to be a mess. Maybe it’s even fine to be on fire (not literally, of course).

And, maybe it was also fine to be not fine, but to say I was. Once upon a time, that was a very useful strategy. Sometimes it still is.

I appreciate how we are all on our unique journeys – not being dumpsters, but being human beings – and that here, we’re learning how to name our experiences, feel our experiences, and journey with our experiences – as ever changing as they are.

So, how are you?

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

[1] Stolen lands, stolen and then enslaved people, corrupt capitalism… just to name the overt biggies.

[2] Two other blog posts where I’ve written about Feign/fawn: Fear, Hope, Dreams…and Connection . Reconnecting with our Bodies. A Journey of Allowance.

[3] Feign as strategies of “fuck” and “fool.”  One of the reasons feign can be known as a “fuck” is because having sex can become a way we try to manufacture safety. Fooling others is another- for example, manipulating people through charismatic modes of being is often found in spiritual teacher and/or narcissistic personality types who get safety by cleverly having power over others.

 

ENOUGH

By Sumitra Burton.  

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of “enough” lately. What would it take to make me feel safe on the planet, to be able to relax and feel at ease with daily life? How much money would it take? How much food? When would I feel I have given enough, that I am enough?

My parents were young during the Great Depression and learned to be very frugal, both with money and other resources. I also grew up with frugality – only so much food, a few clothes, very few luxuries ever. We didn’t waste anything. Our homes didn’t contain as many things as homes do now, and life was simpler.

I started working early in life, babysitting from age 8 and then other jobs as I learned new skills. My siblings and I were expected to buy most of our own clothes starting in middle school, and to supply our own money for entertainment, makeup, etc. Money was considered “precious” in a way – and very much respected as essential for survival.

One of my inherited beliefs has been that money is not easy to come by. And sometimes it feels like money is a kind of god in the sky, looming over me, that I am trying to appease, seeking a way to gain its attention so that my pleas for success and safety can be heard.

This morning I did a self-inquiry session in which I asked myself how I felt about my relationship with money. Right away I noticed a tightening around the surface of my belly. The word hollow was there and a corresponding sensation of hollowness in my belly, and then the words unknown / unsafe. These words resonated as true in my body – what was unknown felt unsafe. I can’t see the future; it’s all unknown and can have an unsafe quality about it when I try to imagine what the future will bring.

I live at the mercy of Life happening. Again the words brought a sense of being out of control, of not having control over my life and resources. How can I be at ease when I have no control? Therefore, the tightening of my belly was making great sense. Hold on tight, don’t let anyone convince me to let go of this tension in my belly. I could feel my belly tighten a bit more and my eyes squeeze tightly shut, as if the tightening would make me safe, hidden.

As I felt into the tightness in my belly and eyes, an image arose of the internal belly – a tan-colored box with the texture of bricks. The words alone – tight – hiding were there. I stayed with the image, and it began to change shape, almost as if it felt embarrassed to be seen, as if its fraud had been caught, simply by being seen. Staying right with the image, I watched the boundaries of it shatter and dissolve, allowing the contents to spill out into open space.

As the image dissolved, I brought my attention back to the sensation in the belly. There was no tension there now, and it felt safe to be open. I rested there for a while, absorbing the wonderful sense of safety and trust.

Out of that openness another image arose – this time a moving image of me in a meadow filled with flowers on a sunny day. I very much enjoyed the scene of gathering and tossing flowers, as if tossing/ spending money with ease and delight. No worries about whether there was enough; only a sense of ease around trusting the direction and flow of the universal order in my life. Trusting – safe – respectful were the words that resonated with the scene.

I’ve found that I can drift along for periods of time in a constant state of light anxiety around money or other issues if I don’t stop and take time to practice inquiry. Just taking a few minutes sometimes – to notice what’s here, to turn towards the feelings and words that are hanging around, to watch and listen and feel what comes up – provides the magic of returning to peace and calm, coming home inside my body. What an amazing gift. When I feel at ease, at peace, there is no question of “enough.”

 

To read more about Sumitra Burton, click here.

Evolving Through Learning

By Lisa Meuser.  

This is an excerpt from a larger piece…   shared the day I graduated from a conscious leadership training.  I look forward to sharing more.

An intention – which became my motto – whispered deep into my ear and into my heart as 2019 was being birthed: Be in the world and Be of Love.

Let me first say, phew. And let me second say, PHEW.
What an intention. Surely, I will be journeying to embody this for the rest of my life.

2019 was a year where 3 different learnings converged, and where I became their constant student.

Learning number one came early in the year through a BTCC (Building a Thriving Compassionate Community) think tank. Stephanie Solomon presented something she’d recently learned from a Crossroads anti-racism conference.

Stephanie shared something that stood out to her from the conference: the difference between values of dominant culture and the values of transformative culture[1].

The tenets of our current modern day culture are rooted in values of dominant culture: scarcity mentality, based in competitive and individual preservation, focused on outcome,  either/or and us/them thinking (ie binary narratives of good, bad, right, or wrong) and a hierarchy of power which is exclusionary and immersed in secrecy. Many of the institutions that we know and love are rooted in values of dominant culture. They are our “normal.”

Then there are the tenets of transformative culture: a resonance of abundance, collaboration and shared power, transparency and accountability, both /and thinking, a focus on the process/the journey, and an inclusion of history. Transformative culture is alive with paradox. WWFaC[2] is rooted in transformative values. In our current culture, this is the exception.

Learning number two started to drop in not too long after Stephanie’s think tank through Angeles Arrien’s The Four-Fold Way[3]. In this book she reveals the ways of the shadow, and the ways of ancestral wisdom.

As I was reading, I discovered that the ways of the shadow often mirrored dominant culture, while the ways of ancestral wisdom often mirrored transformative culture. The overlap was remarkable.

Angeles Arrien helps us connect to these different gifts and shadows through the study of 4 archetypes – the teacher, the healer, the leader and the visionary. In short, the four archetypes invite us to:

  • Show up, and choose to be present.
  • Pay attention to what has heart and meaning.
  • Tell the truth without blame or judgement.
  • Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome.

When we lose our way, as we tend to do as humans, we find ourselves in the shadows. Willingly learning all the while, we eventually make our way / take ourselves back to sacred wisdom. And so it goes while we are engaged in the journey of conscious embodiment.

The way learnings 1 and 2 swirled amidst each other was immensely powerful for me. In their own profound ways, they both revealed various narratives we’re taught in this culture, and at the same time showed us that there is another way, if we are willing to courageously move into what’s possible. To do so truly is a radical happening in today’s culture, which encourages and rewards the status quo, and punishes and belittles those who dare to do, or even want, something different.

Throughout this year, it was constantly humbling to discover how deeply entrenched the dominant narrative and the shadow were woven into me in so many unsuspecting ways. And at the same time, it was deeply inspiring and hopeful, as there were very real tools and practices shared which could be utilized alongside other practices I already have in place. In the true nature of transformative and ancestral values, these learnings carried a spirit of compassion and spaciousness throughout them.

These two learnings were the backdrop of a third learning– the most encompassing learning I’ve ever known – Love First[4].

There is less to write about with this learning, because Love is an experiential happening. It’s not an emotion, and not a feeling: it’s a Presence, one which is viscerally and unquestionably  Known. The first two learnings laid a profound groundwork from which I could more deeply employ Love First.

Over the course of this year I persistently asked myself questions: am I employing the dominant narrative in some way? Am I stuck in shadow territory? Am I drawing from transformative values and ancestral wisdom? Am I moving from Love First? These questions, and all their tenets, became my rubric for how I moved in the world.

I got support from trusted embodied guides as I dove into those questions. We often found deep layers of dominant narrative/shadow patterning interwoven into my personality. While my support team was instrumental in helping me reconnect with clarity, it was up to me to be willing to ask these questions, and then explore how I would participate with being in the world, as well as if that participation would be of Love.

No one could answer these questions for me. No one could give me the right answer. No one could tell me if I was in direct alignment with my intention for the year, be in the world, and be of Love. It was up to me to constantly pause, reflect, feel, and most importantly learn. It was up to me to tell the truth, first to myself, and then with those I was participating with. I stumbled over and over and over. And just as many times I found a truth that no one could sway me from because it was from a place that was between me and God, between me and Love.

These questions are now a part of who I am, and I am grateful. Thank you, Mary Ann and Beth for your wisdom and mentorship. Love First, is embodied here.

 

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

 

[1] I’ve blogged about this a few times, mainly here and here.

[2] A local organization, where I completed the consciousness leadership training.

[3] We studied this extensively throughout the course. A short synopsis, or to order.

[4] I wrote about this in 2019 here.

Using the Living Inquiries With Family Constellations to Work With Trauma

By Olaug Rønningsdalen.  

Suppressed traumatic events, unsettled wrongs, broken relationships, etc. found in all families, leave behind traces that are relived 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.