Home » Blog » Awareness

Tag: Awareness

Moving out of the Fog of Disconnect: A Journey Towards Stillness

By Lisa Meuser.  

A question was sent to me:

“I feel I’ve often confused and conflated the two: What is the difference between stillness and frozenness? What is the difference between peace and playing dead?”

I love this question! While there may be a simple response to this question, there’s also a lot going on in this conflation. I’m going to give it a shot, knowing there is so much to say on this deep and rich topic.

 

Humans need support

All of us have likely experienced a frozen[1] state at some point in our early childhoods. Whenever we experience overwhelm as young beings, going into a frozen state would be a valid, normal physiological experience based on brain chemistry and our inability to process at such an early developmental phase.

Many of us have seen what happens when a bird flies into a window: we think the bird is dead, only to find it “coming back to life” after a quick shake, and then fly off.

When animals experience that frozen state they instinctually know how to “shake themselves” out of that frozen or stunned state. Pretty simple.

It’s a little more complicated for young unresourced human beings. We are the only species that requires loving and attentive care well into our teenage years (and beyond – our brains don’t fully develop until we’re 23) if we are to grow up to be healthy human beings. So while we may have the ability to shake off a frozen state, we also need nurturing, support and safe environments.

If, while growing up, we didn’t have adults around to help us process frozen states, or if we had adults who drove us into those frozen states, we likely never learned how to process frozen states in a healthy, functional way, and so we lost that inherent resource. As such, we adapt, but we stay a little frozen as the brain chemicals that were initially released get pushed down into our system, never fully released out of our systems. Meanwhile, not having our emotional needs taken care of starts to create mayhem for our psyches.  After all, humans are coded to want to feel good, comfortable and loved, and it is confusing and often scary for us when we don’t.

 

Adapting to dysfunction, the new norm

When we live in environments where there is unpredictability or chaos (which may show through manifestations of parental conflict or negligence, emotional or physical) we adapt by staying partially frozen, vigilant, and/or on guard, even when things are “fine,” because we intuitively know “it’s just a matter of time” until chaos re-occurs. After a while we get used to being in this state – it becomes our new normal, and we get used to disconnecting, and/or numbing out as a way to cope.

If we are living in challenging, chaotic situations or circumstances with a lot of conflict and/or highs and lows (fight or flight energy), we may even like numbing out and find comfort with it, particularly when compared to the alternative.  It may even start to mimic a sense of stillness, peace, or calmness when compared to the overwhelm of fight or flight.

Said another way, in this state of disconnection we’ve partially shut down, which can feel like relief from the alternative highs and lows of mania or dismay, or the chemical response of fight or flight energy[2]. It makes sense that we might prefer to feel nothing, than discomfort, pain, or terror.

This state may become our refuge, our safest place, our new norm. It no longer feels like a frozen state because by this point we’ve learned quite well to disconnect from our bodies, and live in our minds. We escape, using our minds, into a world of daydreaming, fantasy, reading, thinking, or some kind of social or entertainment media source. We may also use food, drugs, or other coping activities such as porn as a way to escape. Sometimes we turn to meditation practices that teach us how to go “up and out” of our bodies.

It’s all a perfect escape from the highs and the lows, as well as the frozen underpinnings in our system, and a way we can feel some control in an environment that is very much out of our control. Keep in mind, we’re coded to want to feel good, and we’ll do whatever it takes to experience this.

 

As if out of a deep slumber

What I’m describing is not something rare. In my experience, most human beings are functioning or have functioned in this way in overt or covert ways. Even if we lived in somewhat healthy households, our culture expects and pushes people towards numbing out, and caters to people who are in various states of disconnect. Generally speaking we are a species that is starving for connection, living in a culture that by its very nature functions through disconnection. It’s no wonder that we often feel like hamsters on a hamster wheel.

Many will live their lives continuing to adapt to this numbed out state. But for others, a sense of internal oppression grows in such a way that the numbness itself becomes confronting. This may happen when one is quite young, or much later in life.

Thoughts such as: “Something seems to be missing,” “There’s got to be more than this,” “It feels like I’m suffocating,” and others, may start to weigh in, while at the same time a sense of restlessness and dissatisfaction with life may arise, perhaps accompanied by feelings of emptiness, or hopelessness. We may start to realize that we’re dumbed down, or numbed out, and all of a sudden life may start to feel really shitty. It’s as if that numbed out state stops being “ok” and instead it becomes distressing. Feelings of depression or anxiety may begin, get worse, or become unmanageable. We may try (more) things to increase our highs to overcome this state of dis-ease. “Drugs, sex and rock and roll” may be a few favorites, although all sorts of behaviors to boost pleasure brain chemistry might be experimented with to help us feel better.

 

We’re not designed to be perpetually frozen

Humans are designed to cope with stress, but we are not designed to have a constant input of stress. After a while, our bodies – having been reservoirs for repressed energies and experiences – can’t keep at it.

We want to feel good, comfortable, and loved. We can only endure the lack of these things for so long, and we can only sustain dysfunctional modes of trying to achieve this for so long.  Our systems eventually start to crumble – psychologically, emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually.

People are often in this predicament when they reach out to me.  Together, we gently, and slowly connect to what’s going on, and in the process people start to become more familiar and safe with their bodies.

 

Peace and stillness, not what you think it is

As one starts to come into their body, they often experience what I call a “melting” phase. The body starts to “come alive”, as the frozenness starts to melt. It may sound great, and sometimes it is! And sometimes it’s uncomfortable or even a little painful.

Think of a time when your hands or feet were so cold that when you put them in hot water they burned. When the body starts to defrost it can feel a little like that. The heart, for example, may start to burn as it opens, as it melts. My “therapist self” thinks of this as a good sign, but when it was happening to me I had a very different perspective! As with most of the healing process, it is useful to go slowly and gently, with accessibility to loving support.

When the discomfort and pain start to become safely familiar, another challenge can be a sense of boredom. Again, I think of this as good news, as it’s another step on the journey. But when it was happening to me the boredom felt like I was doing it wrong, or it would usher in restlessness or agitation that was really uncomfortable, and felt counterintuitive to what I thought I should be experiencing.

When we’re used to highs and lows, and/or when we’re used to being numb, being with what’s here feels so unfamiliar that the personality or ego mind can get rattled.

The personality or ego mind often does not like unfamiliar, newness, or ‘different’- so this process can be very counterintuitive, and we will talk ourselves out of it any chance we get.

It was important for me to learn how to gently, patiently and compassionately explore the restlessness and boredom, rather than act out because of the restlessness and boredom. Again, this is why it can be useful to have guidance, so that the mind does not sabotage the evolution that is taking place.

As we “hang in there”, we may be faced with a variety of challenges based on the concepts we have about what is supposed to happen when we “wake up” or experience healing. Personally, I was so used to highs and lows that I often had concepts and expectations of “big bang” moments, or “abiding peace”.

I limited myself immensely by holding onto grandiose and false ideas. I even drove away expressions of stillness and peace as I held onto ideas of what I should be experiencing. It was important for me to slowly and gently wade through the various ideas and expectations, supposed to’s, and shoulds as I connected with the thoughts I was having and the sensations I was experiencing.  As those concepts shifted, so did my allowance and experiences of stillness and peace.

 

Getting to know ourselves

There often comes a time in the healing and waking up journey where, as self-awareness grows, we begin to have the ability to consciously interact with our brain chemistry. For me this was a huge movement into self-empowerment, and radically shifted my relationship with life itself. Prior to this I often felt swept away by states of being – particularly fear states. Learning about my brain chemistry was a big part in shifting out of powerlessness and into resourced agency.

We all respond to strong emotions differently as adults but the initial response originates in the amygdala. Some of us freeze, some people go into fight, some go into flee, and some go into feign/fawn. Regardless, that amygdala response causes the prefrontal cortex to be impacted in such a way that it temporarily stops functioning at full capacity. Long story short, this means that when we’re in a fear state, for example, we’re not thinking clearly. This is why, when in fight, flight, freeze or feign, we don’t make “good” decisions. This often leads us to do things we later regret. The sooner we detect that we are in an “amygdala response”, the faster we can “re-set” our brains and resume full functionality.

We each have different strategies that come with different physiological responses, and it is helpful to notice how we individually react. As I was speaking about this with a couple last week we discovered that he went into fight mode. He was able to identify that he feels heat through his body as this is happening. She was able to identify that she goes into freeze, which is accompanied by a sense of “getting small.” It can be a powerful step in being able to identify our signature physiological responses. Now he knows that when he gets hot, to pause. Now she knows when she starts to feel small, to pause. They are learning to communicate with each other when they notice physiological stress or amygdala responses happening. This allows them to avoid harmful behaviors and support each other.

As they identify that need to “pause,” they can turn towards activities that will help their brains to re-set so their prefrontal cortexes can come back on line. We spoke about different things each person could do to help this re-set take place. Sue, for example, finds it useful to connect to slow, gentle breathing, while Mark finds it useful to get a breath of fresh air, or walk around in his yard.

Pausing is a vital step in changing patterning, and it becomes possible to make this choice as we become intimate and familiar with ourselves. This increased awareness provides fertile ground for experiencing deeper expressions of stillness and peace.

 

Including our bodies, slowly and safely, with conscious attention

This understanding our physiology/ brain chemistry is particularly relevant as we start to “melt.”  Prior, we’d been disconnected from our bodies in such a way that we weren’t aware of a lot of the feelings or sensations throughout our body. After the “melting” starts, we start to feel more, sometimes for the first time in our lives. This can be uncomfortable, not because anything bad is happening, but because something new is happening, and we humans don’t always like new.

There’s reasons why many of us disconnected from our bodies, so it can take time for us to learn that it’s safe for us to include them now. Until we experience that safety, we may feel overwhelmed when we feel our bodies. It may remind us, subconsciously, of how we felt when we were very young and didn’t have the emotional support we needed to process big sensations and feelings.

The difference is that now we’re in adult bodies, in our safe homes, with far more resources and agency than we had as children. Part of this resourcing can come through learning about our brain chemistry, and in discovering how we can help ourselves when we are experiencing certain kinds of brain chemistry – mainly overwhelm, fear, or anger.

 

Getting to know stillness and peace through neutrality

An intricate part of my journey has been making friends with neutrality. Because I’ve been drawn to highs and lows, and because I have had so many false ideas about waking up and healing, I had to learn how to make friends with what I call neutrality – the space in between “good” and “bad.”

This has been profound for many of my clients as well. One shared:

“First I thought neutrality was nothing, and the place where I felt the trigger (in my body) was everything. And now I see the neutrality as something full, and “strong.” 

I will be writing more about this topic in the future as it has been revelatory in my journey.

 

We can learn to experience sustainable peace

A lot is covered in this post.  Here is a summary:

  1. Frozenness and playing dead are trauma responses.
  2. Our culture often plays into these trauma responses, in ways that further limit our well-being, by pushing us to feel good by numbing.
  3. Safely exploring trauma responses with support can help us to sustainably include our bodily experiences and expressions, instead of having to constantly disconnect and numb.
  4. Learning about our patterning and developing the awareness to slow down leads us to being able to make empowering choices.
  5. Peace and stillness can be experienced in increasing amounts as intimacy with self is practiced, as we learn that our bodies are safe to be with.
  6. True stillness and peace do not come from exclusion, shutting down, or escaping, but from allowance and inclusion.
  7. As the embodied journey deepens, stillness and peace can be known with increased sustainability.

In my journey, growing intimacy with self has allowed me to know support and love in such a way that stillness and peace are deeply and sustainably known in a way I could have never imagined.

There’s much left to be said as trauma, the psyche, and our culture weave an intricate web. I hope what I’ve shared will be helpful in a practical yet profound way on your journey of waking up and healing trauma. I would be honored to hear about your journey as you explore.

 

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

 

[1] Frozen is one of the 4 stress “F responses”; Fight, Flight, Freeze, and the lesser known Faint/Fawn; that are normal parts of our physiology under certain circumstances. Unfortunately, they often become part of our everyday life due to less than ideal environmental circumstances.

[2] Over time, we may find that we find more familiarity and comfort in extreme highs and extreme lows, and angst comes in when we are experiencing a state of peace or stillness (or their mimicked frozenness). I’ll write more on this shortly.

 

 

Listening Beyond Ourselves

By Lisa Meuser.  

 

Listening to Life

I have been in a deep creative flow for quite a while, spurring my productivity on, and on, and on. Writing, working with clients, my own self-study and learning, parenting, and completing tasks and projects… It has felt effortless, aligned and in integrity, and I have been conscious and appreciative of that. I have had immense gratitude for the ease of flow, my capacity to receive, and the Source from which it comes.

And.

Ha! You knew there was an “and” coming, didn’t you?

And, the holding pattern of a self/personality can be extremely subtle.

Amidst all this ease and flow, productivity and growth… along with a deeper sense of inner agency and resourcing, that I have worked so diligently over the last years to come to know… Amongst all this evolution had come a subtle sense of forgetting, or what I sometimes refer to as amnesia when I forget my deeper relationship with what Is.

In the ease of flow I had innocently moved into a state of amnesia with regards to where all of this ease, movement and so on was coming from. While this amnesia moved in, so too had some movement back into identification and self-importance.

This is very normal for us human beings, particularly on the embodiment journey. Agency and inner resourcing can feel so utterly empowering… that it can almost seem like they are in charge of it all, giving the illusion that it is “me” that is responsible for all the yum in my life. So subtle – this flow and yum made me feel good, with a deep purpose.  Caught in this current, I hadn’t noticed that hitching a ride was also an increased sense of drive and worth.

Again, this is all the stuff of being human. There is nothing wrong with feeling good, having purpose, or having worth. And – this can easily rev up a machine within us that starts to resemble something along the lines of self-reliance, arrogance, ego, and/or, self-importance, and an absence of humility. In the process of becoming empowered, I had forgotten what was truly empowering me.

 

My Body Stepped In

I wasn’t seeing any of that, however, until a virus stopped me in my tracks. I was midway through my day when I started to feel “invaded.” I power-housed through, as is typical for me. By the end of my day I was exhausted from head to toes, with a fever, and chills. I have a couple of “tried and true” remedies that seem to quickly push illnesses out of my system, or at least giving me enough relief to keep my normal work schedule, so I figured I’d be fine the next day. Except that this was the second virus in two months… something very unusual for me. This got my attention…

 

It was Time to Listen

Maybe I was supposed to slow down… and actually cancel my sessions and meetings for the next day instead of pushing through as usual.  Maybe I had been pushing myself just a little too much? Maybe it was time to just stop, for a bit?

I have to admit, I had an ulterior motive for considering a break.

I was still thinking I was in charge.

Have you ever done something, because you think that it will lead to a good outcome? I assumed that if I just stopped for a bit, I’d quickly feel better. The hidden subtext of that was: and then I could quickly “get back at it.”

But I didn’t feel better.

I felt worse.

And then I felt worse-er.

I could handle the fever and fluctuating temperature, but the pain in my legs was overwhelming. When I was a girl I used to get menstrual cramps so intensely that I would squirm restlessly on my bed until the pain medication kicked in. It was like that, except that there was no pain medication coming.

I couldn’t find a comfortable position. I couldn’t find comfort, period.

I like comfort, and instead I felt restless and powerless… and worried. I don’t know about you but when worry comes into the picture so does suffering. And, well… I’m not a big fan of suffering.

This all let me know that something was going on, and that I needed to listen – sincerely listen.

What I heard was a call for deep surrender.

 

Giving it all up, while staying Open

It was time to stop producing. And it was time to stop trying to push myself into feeling better, as trying to prod myself to feel better (so I could resume being “me”) with all my amazing remedies had to cease, as that had taken on a fighting and gripping kind of energy, too.

Letting go of trying to heal myself (in the way I was inclined to) was not easy but once that revving engine in me started to pause I was able to “lean back into it all” and I felt a wide web holding me. From here I tenderly connected with that gripping energy through gentle somatic inquiry. I discovered that behind that fighting energy was a me trying to be in charge of a body that was quite committed to doing its own thing. This was utterly humbling in such a way that something further softened in my being.

As the gripping softened, space opened up and I continued to gently explore. I discovered that there was an underlying fear in my system, stemming back to when I was very young, and was often forced into a doing mode of being. I was able to study the inclinations of my being to open, and then close to protect. Open, and then close to protect. I felt this in a physical way in the muscles in my chest. As I stayed with that, the early traumas unwove themselves as it became clear that my system simply wanted to be honored, not pushed in any kind of way[1].

As these energetic happenings unwove within my being, they were unwoven within my psyche as well. It became overwhelmingly clear that it was safe for me to stop doing, pushing and fighting, and turn towards deep being.

 

Deep Surrender

No producing. No writing. No sessions. No pushing or forcing or any kind. A fervent processer, I was in too much pain to even think. Watching tv or reading were also out of the question. I was invited to deeply surrender into that which was larger than the body that was in pain, the personality that was used to producing, or the conditioning that was used to pushing.

I was very gently and compassionately guided to truly stop trying to be in charge.

Language gets tricky here. What is it that is larger than my personality, than my physical form, than my conditioning? Atheists might call it space, the gravitational field or some kind of base level of intelligence/physics that acts on its own accord. Deists might call it god. Spirituality might call it the tao, the field, or love. Non-dualists might call it awareness. Whatever we want to call it, without the distraction of writing, reading, clients and other tasks, including thinking and processing, I was brought to a deep rest. In the process, I found myself out of resistance and struggle, and into a clear connection with/as “something larger than myself.”

It was at this point that I was able to clearly and humbly see and name that I had gotten swept away in my ability to produce, my resourcing and agency to process, and my capacity to “keep going,” and this had innocently given me, as a personality, a sense of worth.

As I was writing this blog post, I found something my friend Trikaya Olliffe had written that expressed this in such a clear and beautiful way.

Love is the part of us that gives us the ability to chose, and we will choose whatever we feel is the greatest love because we will always seek what we love. So, if we love processing, we will always choose something to process. If we love power, we will always choose power. If we love safety, we will always choose what is safe for us.

Unbeknownst to my conscious attention, I loved processing so much that I had made it my god.

He continues:

There is a difference between processing and Presence. We can process emotional and mental patterns to evaluate them to gain knowledge about them. And while this is good, it is not Presence. Presence is a state of being that is more like an observer of a process rather than the action of processing.

It was both freeing and inspiring to experience the clarity of that, as a first step for me is naming what has been out of my attention, which then empowers me to take a step back, notice more and reconnect with what is most important in my life.

 

God[2]/Love/Awareness First

Being forced to slow way down, so as to avoid that sense of restless pain, allowed me to study my patterning with fine attunement. The simplicity yet immensity of this “something” was humbling.

I felt deeply at home, and my intrinsic worth as a human being – just lying there and breathing – was self-evident, pardon the pun, beyond a doubt.

There was something sobering about lying in a bed for hours every day, knowing that my true worth had nothing to do with my level of production or actions in the world. I had value, just by being, and I felt the truth of that through every part of my being.

To feel the truth of that was a delightful by-product of that virus, and I set a conscious intention to stay aligned in this way when I was back to feeling better.

Again, I hadn’t been doing anything wrong in my life, perhaps per sae’, but my relationship with Life had become imbalanced, and while there is nothing erroneous with having personality or a sense of self[3], I had subtly put my personality before that which supports and guides life.

I love the wisdom of one of my guides, MaDar “There is a fractal wisdom in the universe: God first, God in me, and God in other.” While wisdom of this truth has been my direct experience, it is my daily practice which sustains this seeing.

 

Presence over Productivity

I have to admit that my life is full of so many amazing things that it is easy to get lost in doing and producing. Post virus, I can’t seem to “get away” with some of the strategies I’ve used in the past. Although this can be disconcerting to my personality, it is ultimately a good thing as it has brought about deeper freedom.

I continue to be humbled by the wisdom of life, as well as the conditioning that subtly (and sometimes overtly) rises up. I remain aware of the dance between this larger invitation of surrender and my personality/the culture that I’m a part of that values doing above being.[4]

While there is nothing bad about producing, being aligned with purpose, or with experiencing a sense of worth from either, there was a wisdom in my system that was being called to that was letting me know that I was getting a bit lost, and I had been too lost to notice. My body helped me wake up.

 

Sometimes our bodies get a bit loud so that we slow down to listen

My client shared this with me today:

It is so hard for me to say no to champagne offered me, even when I say “I’m not going to drink it this time.” It’s like I go into automatic pilot and just drink it. But the other day I felt off with a headache, and drinking the champagne didn’t smell good like it usually does so I choose not to drink it. That ability to pay attention and choose is new for me.

He usually isn’t able to slow down his habitual movements so as to check in with what he really wants to do. It took a headache for him to connect to his body, but once he was there he could connect to himself in a different way and consciously say no.

This reminded of my own illness, and how it took my body to “be off” for me to listen to it. Wouldn’t it be great if it didn’t take our bodies feeling “off” for us to pause, listen, and really tune in?

I know this is possible. But it does take some conscious work.

 

What might help us to listen?

Our bodies are wise, and are speaking to us. How loud do they need to get to be heard? Ideally, not very loud!

In order to listen it is useful to experiment with a daily practice of including my body/whole being, and connecting with it in a conscious and cognitive way. Asking questions is a beautiful way to develop relationships with others, and it can be a beautiful way to develop a relationship with ourselves as well.

I take time throughout my day to ask myself gentle questions, such as:

  • What does my body need/want right now?
  • Am I/my body being pushed or hurried too much? Do I need to slow down so that I can listen? Is there a call to soften- mentally and/or physically/physiologically?
  • Do I need a 5 second break to connect with breath/being? (Or a nap?!)
  • Does every creative thought have to be put into form? (This is a big one for me generally speaking as I have a lot of creativity coming at the moment.)
  • Recently I have discovered a speaker who is very catalyzing every time I listen to him, so I have stopped listening for now so that I can complete what is already coming into form. I can come back to him when it is time. I know the timing will be perfect!)
  • Am I feeling overwhelmed? Would it help to be more selective of what is getting into my attention? (social media, tv, etc)
  • Would it be useful for me to be still with the energy of creativity instead of immediately acting?
  • Am I experiencing a lot of flavors of ease and simplicity, or is there more urgency or command-type energy?
  • Are the flavors mingling with ego in some way?
  • Is there (white) savior[5] energy happening?
  • Are there things going on that have to do with my worth?
  • Am I getting caught up in what I’m doing, and forgetting to lean back into that which occupies my being?
  • What is the quality of my personal relationship with or as god/love/awareness right now?

Gently asking myself these questions can be useful in connecting with intention, grace, and usefulness/necessity of action. Asking these questions can also help me to be more receptive of divine gifts that are coming my way.

 

Listening to Life’s Teachings

The illness I experienced helped me to listen with a different set of ears, and opened me up to receiving a very sacred and profound gift.

I received the gift of knowing in my being, from head to toes and beyond, that I truly am enough, in every way, by merely being alive.  Deeper still was the embodiment of knowing that I am on Love’s journey, not my own. It is impossible to convey the humility and freedom that came from this teaching, and I continue to integrate it.

I am left with a deeper knowing of trust. I feel more connected to the actions that I partake in, and I feel less compelled to engage in ways that are not of Love. Lastly, I feel a sense of simplicity in knowing that as I slow down and listen, my capacity to create and guide others will be for the greatest good, as opposed to for my personality or sense of self.

I have immense gratitude for the support of some very loving people in my life who encourage me in my full commitment to stay slowed down and turned towards Love.

 

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

 

[1] Relevant to mention, I had just spent a month studying “should energy (I wrote about this last month ) particularly as it flowed through my family of origin. I can’t help suspect that this was synchronistic in preparing my system to go deeper within itself to connect to patterns and other operating strategies that I had developed in my young years. Those energies, often so loud for me throughout my life, had recently become quite quiet. Where there had been “should energy” there was a deepened space of allowance. The spaciousness from the should explorations seemed to pave a different way of being that was in alignment with trusting the wisdom of the journey and letting go of the outcome or destination. Again, this was huge for me, and I find it fascinating that it occurred before the virus and before this deepening.

[2] If the word “god” triggers you, I totally get it. After exploring my religious wounding I am surprised to have an affinity for a word that I used to have immense resistance to. For me, God is synonymous with Love/the space of awareness in my direct experience/knowing. Please use the word that works best for you- love, presence, the tao, light, mother earth, divinity, breath, star dust, flow, awareness, consciousness, source, space, life, etc.

[3] In my experience, it’s not either or: it’s not either personality, or being attuned with/as awareness. In my experience they can and do co-occur within one’s conscious direct experiential attention.

[4] I just happened to find a bookmark that my child made somewhere in her single digit years. Quoted on the book mark, from her teacher: “Life is doing.”  Urgh. It’s everywhere!

[5] This is something I’ll be writing more about. For now I’ll say that it has a self-serving egoic energy, while I might be telling myself that it is altruistic.

Unravelling The Gods Of Childhood

By Lisa Meuser.  

I have a story to share

This story starts with a Facebook post I made after finishing a session with a client.

“When our parents aren’t safe, available, loving gods, we become vigilant and over responsible gods, thinking it’s all up to us, with wounds in our hearts.”

It’s been a long time coming, sharing this publicly. I’d experienced it in myself, and had been seeing it with my clients for years. It has been such a pivotal part of my embodiment journey that I’m currently writing a book about it – yet never blogged about it.

This is my abbreviated story of how I learned of my own religious wounding, and how it set me free.

 

Our relationship to the world

Religious wounding is not talked a lot about in spiritual circles, and yet I think it is imperative that this territory be explored on our journey of becoming deeply intimate with ourselves, because so much of how we view the world, ourselves, and our place in the world can be impacted by religious belief systems.

From an early age I had been aware of “something wiser” than my own personal self, but I didn’t know what that meant or how to talk about it. Jesus was sometimes part of that, but I didn’t really understand that either. It felt significant and important, and confusing at the same time. Being part of a “do as you’re told household”, I didn’t feel any space to talk about things that confused me, or that were “different” than what the authorities in my life were talking about. My religious upbringing (Lutheran) was linear, practical and doctrine-oriented, and, well, that just didn’t fit in with the rather mystical and supernatural experiences I was having. I suppressed and disconnected from most of those experiences, rendering them meaningless in my mind, forgotten to my heart.

I left Christianity midway through my years at a Lutheran Missouri Synod University (oh, the irony). Being from a white, republican, middle-income family I hadn’t explored racism, classism or entitlement, but from an early age something in me knew that the Christian doctrine I was being taught was deeply unjust. When I discovered that the chapel of the University didn’t allow women pastors at the same time I was starting to learn about the oppression of women (thank you Professor Jody), I was livid. That my church did not allow a female pastor was the last draw. I could no longer believe in “God the Father”, or his violent and oppressive rules. I was sickened by how this god judged and decided who was worthy of his love. This god was just as bad as my parents, with their republican and conservative pronouncements. I wanted no part of it. I became adamantly anti-Christian, and anti “God.”

It was a profound and huge step in my personal evolution to step away from the tradition in which I was raised. I didn’t consider what rejecting Christianity meant for me, I just knew that the beliefs of heaven and hell, sin, and rejection of certain people based on geography and gender didn’t make sense to me and never had. It felt too hypercritical for me to do anything else but walk away. I was glad to “get rid of” the label.

“That’s that!” I thought. I assumed that consciously recognizing that I didn’t align with the tenants of Christianity was me working through my religious upbringing. “I’m not that,” was the subtext. Time to move on.

Move on I did. I didn’t have anything to “replace” Christianity until a few years later when I found a spiritual practice that became an intrinsic part of my being. It was a bhakti and heart practice that nurtured the connection with god/awareness/spirit/love, etc that I’d felt when I was young. I moved on with new practices and perspectives, but what I didn’t realize was that I had not cleaned out the old before moving into the new.

 

Me and god, god and my parents

If I had been paying closer attention I might have slowed down a bit. I might have considered what giving up Christianity meant for me, or what was so infuriating for me. I might have considered that my bitterness for Christianity (and god and my parents) had some rich territory to explore, i.e. that I had some unhealed wounds. I’m in awe of the young people who make it to my door to connect to their wounds, because that was the last thing I would have considered back then.

Instead, lost in unseen self-righteousness and anger, while unable to connect to the extremely painful truth, I shut off from my feeling self and turned towards self-reliance. I thought all the problems existed outside of me “in those people” and in those beliefs, and that all I needed to do was walk away and find better ways of thinking. (This is such a common theme in our culture: we think harder, so as to feel less.)

I didn’t understand the psyche, how belief systems work, how much pain I was in, how strong my use of mind over spirit had become, or how dysfunctional my relationship with the ideas of love had become[1]. As many seemingly invincible teenagers and early 20 year olds feel, I thought I was “just fine.” And even better, thought that I was more in control and safer now that I’d moved further away from my beliefs of my family.

I didn’t realize that underneath my intellectualizing I’d felt rejected by god, and by my parents, and that the pain of that was too much to feel, so I rejected them first.

And, since I’d rejected him, I hadn’t considered for a moment that my relationship with god was anything but “just fine.”

 

When denial no longer works

I don’t know about you, but I was full-on in pretend mode when I was young. It was a way of life, and it seemingly kept me pretty safe in some crazy situations. As I woke up, lots of that pretending fell away. But then the real journey began – that of embodiment. In my reality tunnel, embodiment cleans one out, until only truth remains. But it’s not an easy process. There can be lots of sacred cows, and for me, my relationship with god was one of them[2].

It wasn’t until I was in crisis, recovering from an addictive relationship, that I stumbled upon my unhealed relationship with god. I literally collapsed into a sobbing pile of goo as a realization clunked into recognition: I still believed in a punishing god, a god that did not love me, a god that I had failed, 20 years after thinking I had given up that belief system and moved past “all that bullshit”.

It’s not rational, but those hidden beliefs had subtly kept me from feeling truly safe and at home in the world, and it kept me more in my head than in my body. How could I possibly feel safe in the world, and at home in myself, if I believed I was inherently faulty?

This can be earth-shattering territory to journey into, which is why many people never do. After all, if we don’t have to, why would we consciously look for or go into uncomfortable core wounding? Quite to the contrary, we generally hide from it at all costs. Our psyches are constructed to protect us from this wounding. And anyway, where do we even start? It can all be very overwhelming.

Yet there I was. It had became clear that there was something under the hood, as it were, that was not just being explored, but was having a tremendous influence over how I felt about myself and how I felt being in the world. It was my shame and self-loathing, wrapped up with god.

 

God, the thorn in my side

This stuff doesn’t have a road map so, using somatic inquiry, somatic therapy and a few other tools, I just kept on **slowly and gently** exploring deep into my being. Trauma has its own timeline, and said simply, we are not in charge of how it works itself through. Loving support from others and myself was vital.

Almost always tendrils would lead to wounds connected with an early childhood medical event (which also involved my parents) that were still integrating. I had been exploring this territory on and off for years, but something was different this time. As I kept exploring, something deeper finally started to emerge that didn’t seem to be about my parents. I then deeply recognized that my wounds with god, as I knew god, had hidden behind, and were often interwoven with, the wounding I’d experienced with my parents.

What had initially been experienced as feeling rejected by my parents revealed a belief that I had been rejected by god. Where as previously it felt like my parents had abandoned me, it now felt like I’d been abandoned by god. What that left me feeling was not just rejected and abandoned, but bad and wrong to be someone who would be rejected and abandoned.

Oh the shame! And self-loathing. And creation of self-reliance and an inflated sense of responsibility to cover it all up.

 

Me and god, god and my parents: deeper in

Some of you may be asking, “How was it that god came into all of this? How was this all made about god?”

Recall back to where I referred to God as a father:

I could no longer believe in “God the Father”, or his violent rules. I was sickened by how this god judged and decided who was worthy of his love. This god was just as bad as my parents, with their republican and conservative pronouncements. I wanted no part of it. I became adamantly anti-Christian, and anti “God.”

In my innocence I thought all I had to do “see the truth” and walk away. This is a common mistake amongst those who have spiritual awakenings as well. We see something, clarity comes, and we think we are “finished.” And then comes the process of embodiment, where we find the energies of those beliefs. My system had “taken in” all those beliefs about good and bad, right and wrong, sin and salvation. My body, mind and spirit had been infused with linking love and god the father. If god rejected me, I’d be unloved. There is nothing more shameful to a human being than being unlovable. These early teachings, as simple as they were, had woven into my system, and were desperately looking for reconciliation.

 

But it’s richer than that

What I’ve discovered in my own journey but also with hundreds of clients is that our parents often act as our first gods. Obviously this isn’t conscious, but it’s in the subconscious stratosphere of the psyche. My friend explained it well: “My parents were gods to me. I depended on them to live.”

Our parents give us life and we are at their mercy for safety, love, food, and nurturance – on every level. They also reprimand and punish us. And so they become synonymous with how our culture often portrays god – the life-giver, the disciplinary, the mother, and the father. My friend continues, “From that I learned that god was loving, and joyous, and terrifying, and confusing. God was everything. God also dies.”

This isn’t rational, and quite frankly is too much for our child self to make sense of, but our beings pick up this information and make make conscious and subconscious beliefs based upon these ideas. It is only later in life that we can journey back through the layers of our conditioning to see the formation of deficiency stories that have influenced our whole life.

 

Deeper still

As I felt safe to journey into the medical trauma and prior traumas, and the imagined roles god (and my parents) played in those traumas, I was able to connect to various debilitating belief systems. I had believed that I was bad, and that I had been abandoned and rejected by my god (and my parents) because I was bad. Said another way, and more from the perspective of a child: god had let me down, I wasn’t good enough for god, and so ultimately I wasn’t good enough or worthy of god’s love. That meant I had to become my own god, so to speak. It was up to me to keep myself safe, because god and my parents had failed due to my badness.

The level of shame, self-loathing, and self-reliance (what we commonly see as a false sense of responsibility) that was under all of that was immense and had been following me around for… my whole life. Although I was not consciously aware of it, a sense of shame that seemed synonymous with my being was living under the surface and was wreaking havoc in my life.

Although my life was basically “fine”, I was making unhealthy and debilitating choices in intimate relationships. As I courageously worked through my self-reliance patterning, I innocently made a wrong turn: I trusted others unworthy of that trust instead of trusting that which was worthy. I did this because ultimately I didn’t have a safe and loving relationship with myself, or a healthy relationship with Love. This pattern dramatically revealed itself when I found myself in a narcissistically abusive relationship. The creation of a perfect storm destroyed my sails and crashed me into rocky territory I had been trying to avoid all my life. It literally took me to the darkest and most hidden places within myself that I had never felt safe enough to explore.

Eventually it took me to my unfinished business with god. After that torturous terrain was faced, I found myself experiencing a level of safety I didn’t know was possible, and a Love I had never known. My world had changed.

 

The rest of the story

There is more to say. Healing religious, parental and attachment wounding takes commitment, time, love, compassion and support. The rest of the story includes sharing practices I have developed with myself and others that help us let go of old beliefs, and in their absence fall into the experience of a safe body (and life) to reside in.

Life fundamentally changed for me as I cleaned up my past but it wasn’t an overnight change – it has been slow, steady, and eventually sustainable. Not having to be a vigilant and over-responsible god has relieved me of a burden that was not mine to carry. Groking the benevolence of Love has altered my way of being in a world that I do not have the power to control, but feel safe residing in nevertheless.

I have shared only parts of my journey here, and look forward to sharing more. I’d love to hear from you. What was particularly helpful? What was confusing? What do you want to know to know more of? I look forward to journeying together.

[1] See my Deepening Course starting in February, “Discovering the Embodiment of Love,” to learn more about that!

[2] After working with hundreds of clients, I now see that one’s relationship with “god”, however that is perceived/experienced/named, is most sacred (this goes for atheists too, although the language is going to be quite different)- even more sacred than that of one’s parents. And, it is also often very hidden within the psyche. For various reasons it can be one of the last places one “wants to go” when inwardly journeying. There is good reason for this, which I explore in my book.

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

The Scandal of Believing in Objectivity

By Scott Kiloby.  

Much of the disharmony in relationship can be attributed to the belief in objectivity—that is, belief in the notion that we experience other people the way they really are. As we’ve seen, the belief in objectivity tends to arise right along with the belief in being a separate individual. Through my own separate me, I see separate others. Once you’ve made this division in your mind, there’s a tendency for you to believe that you, the subject, can see other people and objects exactly as they are. And in that tendency there’s a kind of mental sleepiness, a blindness to the fact that every time you see anything, what you’re actually doing is thinking. You fail to see that you’re looking through a filter of thought.

When you believe in objectivity, you have difficulty seeing that your words, pictures, and energies paint others in a way that is unique to you. Your words, pictures, and energies make up your entire view of reality. Your views of other people are shaped by your memories, your personal history, your culture, your world view, and your psychological and emotional traits along with various other influences. You don’t see others the way they are. You see them the way you are. The painter is inseparable from the painting.

For a quick experience of this reality, rest for a moment without any thoughts. In the moment of resting without thoughts, you don’t know who or what a person is, precisely because no thoughts are arising in you. Your thoughts inform you of everything you think you know about anyone, including yourself. When thoughts begin to arise in you, notice that they’re coming from your own personal set of memories. Each of your arising thoughts has to do with a particular past experience, one that you interpreted in a personal and particular way. Your view of another person is actually a view of your own memories, as if you were in a relationship with your memories and not with the other person. And as emotions and sensations arise alongside your memories, your image of that person is reinforced.

Notice that this is always the case, no matter whom you encounter. At any given moment, the way you see a particular person—that is, your thoughts about that person—will depend completely on the particular words, pictures, and energies that are arising in you. And what you think about that person will have a lot to do with your education, your upbringing, your fears, your thoughts about yourself, and many influences from your culture that shape your attitudes about who people are or who they should be. This reality can be difficult to see until you begin meeting people freshly in the moment, without dragging your memories into each encounter and using them to interpret others’ words and actions in the present. When you’re not able to see that your thoughts are producing your view of another person, you buy into the belief that you are seeing the other person objectively, exactly as he or she really is. You can’t see that your view of the other person is relative and subjective. You can’t see that your view of that person is limited to what you think, feel, and sense in the moment.

From The Unfindable Inquiry: One Simple Tool to Overcome Feelings of Unworthiness and Find Inner Peace 

The Unfindable Inquiry is available on amazon.com

Part 2- Social Justice, Heart-Work, and Evolution; It’s Time.

By Lisa Meuser.  

I wrote a blog post back in August about the importance of doing heart-work for social activists, lest we become burned out on despair and/or anger. Titled “Part 1, of 2: Social Justice, Heart-Work, and Evolution”, it shared my own journey of heart-work, which took me straight into anger and then back out into deep and radical love. As I journeyed, this wisdom found me:

“I value my own heart so much that I must pause with and for her health before I do anything else.”

There was much left to be said, so at the end of that post I promised a part 2, which would continue to explore the radical act of heart-work, why it’s needed for evolution, and how to keep heart-work and social justice a sustained part of your life.

But I got a little delayed.

The overwhelming feedback from part 1 was that I needed to write more about anger; people were afraid of their anger, not sure how to handle it, and had some blockages to allowing anger, and so I wrote “The Gift of Consciously Connecting to Anger, aka Social Justice, Heart-Work, and Evolution Part 1.5”. In part 1.5 I shared my own journey illustrating how anger is an appropriate and healthy response to injustice that can actually empower us. I went onto explore how allowing ourselves to journey into anger doesn’t mean we necessarily disconnect from love. Love is big enough to hold it all.

Then I got delayed again, as my clients and Gathering Group members were sharing their experiences with sleepless nights, and so I wrote “Sleepless Nights: When a Curse Becomes a Gift”.

It’s time to return to part 2. This is a stand-alone piece, but in order to grok “heart-work” see my first piece, for an experiential sharing.

Thanks for your patience. ❤

 

Part 2

Heart-work, mysterious work

Sometimes our greatest “doings” come from within our deepest Being. In my experience these impacts can be profound, albeit mysterious.

Perhaps a part of what makes heart-work challenging is because it is somewhat mysterious, and maybe in that, a bit risky. In part one I shared the discovery that when I gave myself permission to hate, love found me. Deeply found me. While this may make sense in some ways, it likely seems more counterintuitive.

By giving myself permission to hate, love will find me? Are you sure?

This is my lived experience, as counteractive as it may sound. I’ve found that there is a mysterious sense of redemption that happens when I go deep into the caverns of my heart and into whatever is there, even hate. It’s not always easy – sometimes I have a lot of resistance and need the support of others to help guide me. Other times there is simplicity and a readiness to step right in on my own.

While it may not often be easy, after doing many years of intense embodied self-study my system has learned that it’s safe. This is important. It is my experience that when there is safety, there is an inexplicable knowing that makes surrendering into life – into Love – possible. Safety is a huge part of this journey. If this is a new topic for you, or something you’d like to learn more about, please contact me or see my KISS list at the end.

 

What is heart-work?

Heart-work, simply said, is starting with, or at the least, always including, energy of the heart. While our culture is largely intellect or mentally based, heart-work is body and wisdom based. While our culture is mainly past or future based, fixated on complication, heart-work is present based, connecting with what is simple.

Heart-work, generally speaking, is not easy: it’s actually counter to what our capitalist culture teaches. Heart-work is life giving and life fulfilling in its honoring and allowance of the individual, where I am free to be my fully human self. My hate and rage is welcome in the heart space within me. Tears of grief and trembling releases of fear are welcome here. Joy, celebration and happiness are welcome here too. Heart energy includes the entire being – from the toes to the head and everywhere in between. Somehow the heart space holds it all, until, if we are patient to go deep enough, there is nothing left but love or Beingness.

Sometimes the ‘doing’ that comes from deep inner journeying is enough. Other times it is the springboard or foundation which births more externalized doings. It is no easy thing to blindly stay with the present moment and go into discomfort and socially stigmatized emotions, but in my experience heart-work, or the path of love, invites just that.

I understand that this is not everyone’s path, and for that I’m grateful – because thank goodness to those on the front lines. I know not everyone has the luxury and/or the time and/or the know-how or desire to deeply feel, but instead know how to deeply act. I cannot bow down to them enough, and I am in full support of outwards actions. As for me, I don’t have that resilience anymore, unless I tend to my heart first.

“I value my own heart so much that I must pause with and for her health before I do anything else.”

Then I can, and I do, act outwardly.

 

A new way

If you are the kind of person who can have the most impact by jumping to action first, then JUMP! Again, I honor your role in this life.

AND, dare I say to all of us who want to move from the toxicity of our culture towards something completely different: We can’t push through and avoid ourselves – not love ourselves – if we are truly wanting to make change. So please, include your own well-being, as you work for the well-being of others.

Disconnecting from our true well-being is the old way. That is the way of the patriarchy, of powering over, objectifying, and monetizing everything, of valuing thinking, thinking, thinking! over the heart. The old way doesn’t support love, intrinsic worth and value, inclusivity, and the unity of interweaving life.

The old way is life taking – it is death itself. The new way focuses on doings, actions and humaning that are truly life giving as it moves further away from the dysfunction of our current cultural paradigm and into creating something sustainable and loving.

Controlling and killing others is no longer what I want to participate in.

Utilizing internal resourcing, along with clear head and heart energy, ushers in the wise use of creativity and curiosity in living together on this planet. This is what calls me, as opposed to using control and force.

 

The heart path

When I say heart path, I’m not saying – “let’s just all sit around and feel into our hearts all day!” whilst singing Kum-ba-yah. I’m saying, let’s include heart energy all day, or as much as we can muster, as we go about our activism or social justice activities.

Our current toxic culture insists that the head or the intellect lead. Yet, the space of the mind alone is limited and is often absent of good intent, or what Buddhists call right action. The mental route is often exclusive, based on limited notions of right/ wrong/ good/bad. It is restrictive, rigid and dual.

The heart path invites heart energy to lead, knowing that the mind and wisdom will follow. When I start with the heart, what makes its way to the mind will quite often come easily, creatively, and with a new and renewed sense of empowerment because the space of the heart is limitless and abundant. The route of the heart is inclusive, curious, compassionate… and courageous.

It is also a route that has within it uncertainty and unfamiliarity. While the mind promises that it will solve problems, the territory of the heart isn’t linear, nor does it guarantee. It’s risky, open-ended, and wild. And that is why the path of the heart is considered the path of the courageous warrior – who doesn’t use a sword to kill and destroy, but to gently open and create.

It’s why, when I was confronted with opening my heart deep and wide (See Part 1), an existential fear arose… Going into the heart requires a leap of faith of sorts, because it is the territory of expanse, of ‘more’, of newness… and that requires a letting go and surrendering – two things almost all human beings struggle with.

 

Love is not neat and tidy, nor is the heart

Going into the heart can be messy. We humans like to know what we’re doing, why, and what for. If we know we’re going to get something out of surrendering, then we’re down for it. But surrendering without a promise of something? It starts to feel like going down into a sewer tunnel, with no knowledge of what the hell might be in there, and if it will ever end. That’s where a certain kind of trust, faith, or Knowing comes in.

The more one explores from the present moment and the heart the more one knows s/he will live through it and the more safe it feels to do so. Knowing, trust, or having faith doesn’t always make it easier in the moment – but maybe it’s lingering just close enough to make a difference. What is more motivating perhaps, is the understanding that I know what the alternative is – it’s our current culture: it’s death.

Taking a step into our own hearts provides us with an opportunity to deeply connect with our planet, with each other, and with ourselves. Feeling these deep connections, we are prepared to creatively, curiously and sustainably find new solutions to old problems – solutions that are not founded in the very same toxic approaches that have created the problems at hand.

 

Heart-work for the future

It is my experience that we must step outside the old paradigm to find new solutions on a macro level, and so it goes on a micro level. If we can, we must take a moment to pause, and go inward, before we go to automatic pilot and charge outwards. Countless numbers of us have tried that route, and it is not sustainable or healthy. The life of our planet and of humanity depends on not repeating the old, but communally engaging in something new.

You might say you don’t have time to take care of yourself, however, this mindset is part of the old paradigm. If we don’t take time to honor and love ourselves, we unwittingly add to the current state of affairs. Heart-work is political: our current culture hopes we will never take time to honor and love ourselves, it doesn’t want us to be healthy and resourceful human beings.

Heart-work is political, and also practical. We all know political activists, or have been them ourselves, who have gotten burned out. We care so much, and there is so much to feel, that it becomes too much. We get bogged down by our anger, lost in our outrage, and find ourselves bitter and/or hopeless. Sometimes we find ourselves giving up or shutting down. Other times we may disconnect from the world and isolate ourselves.

If one does not allow one’s emotions to be felt, internally expressed, and validated, then the amount of flow one experiences is impacted. Without the movement through there is a stacking up, which can easily result in overwhelm, leading one to simply give up or shut down.

Heart-work, because it is based in allowance and inclusivity, welcomes the anger, welcomes the despair, and welcomes the overwhelm and says, “rest here for a while.”

Heart-work allows fighting energy, tired energy, as well as the peaceful energy. It is sustainable because it is inclusive, based upon the moment, and on the needs of each unique individual and where they are on their journey. It is sustainable because it allows for respite and nurturance.

 

KISS: Keep It Simple Sweetheart

Heart-work is practical and simple, and at the same time new to most of us. If you are new to connecting to your inner terrain there are options for learning this new paradigm. They all include getting to know yourself:

  • Attend a mindfulness or meditation class
  • Hire a professional to assist you in navigating your emotional wellbeing
  • Learn how to somatically inquire into your experience
  • Take a yoga class
  • Spend some time outdoors
  • Eat good food, and drink lots of water
  • Explore journaling
  • Join support groups
  • Ask a friend to hold space for you
  • Explore your sense of safety in your body/being; learn how to feel and be safe
  • Build your curiosity muscle Here is a blog that talks about curiosity. Learn healthy ways to release emotions/support your emotional wellbeing
  • Exercise can be a powerful way to connect to repressed or active emotions (running up hills is a favorite of mine)
  • Work through your trauma with a skilled somatic therapist or facilitator

 

It’s time

Heart-work has given me the courage to be a change agent. Waking up is a political act, and in my experience heart-work is a crucial part of embodied wakefulness. Journeying into my heart has given me tremendous freedom to act, create, to be. Heart-work has led me to discover my true nature, and has allowed me to be more available for the hearts of others.

It seems to me that we have been preparing for a new heart-work based culture for a while. Mindfulness classes are taught in many schools. Bodywork is now recognized as an important part of physical health. Yoga and body consciousness have become mainstream. Even science confirms that it’s important to slow down, breathe, and take care of our internal mechanisms, as stress is linked to the six leading causes of death.

Should we accept the mission, heart-work might just be the next step in human evolution. Will you take it?

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.