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Fear, Hope and Dreams… and Connection

By Lisa Meuser.  

These words plopped into my system one afternoon when I was in “way deep”. By way deep, I mean in communion with the raw essentials of life – that place where the universe whispers wisdom.

I could feel the universality of these words as they dropped in my lap, so to speak. Amidst all the differences that humans possess, it seems to me that we all have these three flavors running around in our being to varying degrees.

More than that, they are often co-existing and happening at the very same time.

That felt profound because we often try to have, or create homogenous experiences. In other words, we have beliefs or ideas that X is bad, and Z is good. And so we strive. We fight. We push and struggle to try to have a certain kind of experience whilst trying not to have another kind of experience. So, we may try to be “all happy”, for example, with no sadness. Or, we may try to feel “all good (comfortable).” A hidden assumption is the idea that if we have some sadness, all we are is sad, or if we have some discomfort, we have no comfort.

The reality is that humans are vast, and varied. We have the capacity to hold many resonances at once – even conflicting ones. We can be both hot AND cold. We can have some pain, and some experiences of comfort. We can be sad, and ok. All at the same time.

Being conscious of this frees us from having to resist or constrain our experiences. When we leave the restrictive and limited territory of either/or, and enter the vast territory of AND, we find a very different relationship with life. And, in the process, we discover allowance and kindness.

So… when it became clear to me – from the depths of my being  – that we can have fear, AND have hope, AND have dreams all at the same time, something big popped open and my system felt safer than it ever had.

There was a time when life was different for me – when fear wasn’t allowed, and when safety was not a lived reality.

 

FEAR. Hope? Dreams? 

For most of my life, I lacked a conscious relationship with fear. Instead my system had built up a habit of denying fear. Rather than acknowledge fear, I got lost in hope and dreams, and stayed disconnected from the reality of my experience.

This may not sound like such a bad way to live, except that to live in denial is to live in separation. Because I wasn’t able to connect to fear, I had to stay disconnected from my body, and I had to live in my head. My fear of fear kept me out of my body, and as such, kept me out of full participation with life. The hopes and dreams that I had weren’t embodied – they were rather superficial, lacking substance of being, and were mental replacements for being fully engaged with life.

It is not possible to fully participate with life when one is in one’s head, when one is trying to discount the human experience, and when one is pretending one’s way through life.

In trying to avoid fear, I fawned, faked and fucked my way through life in a way that helped me survive, but didn’t help me thrive. From the outside I seemed fearless. On the inside, I didn’t really acknowledge that fear existed. I was disconnected from my body to such an extent that I had very little self-awareness or conscious relationship with my experiences. I was involved in a façade that even I was unaware of.

 

Fear. Fear. Fear. Hope? … Dreams?

A series of things happened in my life that woke me up and brought my ability and desire to pretend to a screeching halt. As my psyche fell apart, so did my strategies. I went from being disconnected from fear, to being consumed by fear. All the ways I had maneuvered through life were gone. It is devastating when a personality loses its way – when all the pretending and strategies don’t work anymore.

I think back to those days, which I think of as my own personal hell, but which others have named “the dark night of the soul.” The hardest part of that time period was the over-abundance of fear, and minimal sense of hope or dreams. During that time, I could not see through my fear. Hence, the dark night reference.

When we’re in a dark room, we can’t see what is coming, or where we’re going. And it can be terrifying. As my psyche crumbed, my lack of knowing if things would ever get better, and the fear that they would not, led to constant suicide ideation.

It was a compassionate friend and loving somatic therapists who allowed me to keep going, to see what might happen…  to have a sliver of hope. The love and support they provided was a balm to my nervous system, keeping the flame of hope and shadows of dreams a possibility. The gift of heart connection was powerful in ways I didn’t fully understand then. It allowed me to keep on keeping on, whilst wanting to be done (i.e. dead) every day.

 

Fear. Hope, Dreams, too.

It took me a while to get real with fear. It was uncomfortable, humiliating, terrorizing, destabilizing. It was a scary time. Until it wasn’t.

Slowly, over time, I started to have spontaneous moments where small resonances of hope started to pop through as things started to feel different. It was as if, even in the darkness, some light had made its way through. The darkness became less threatening and less suffocating. I started to experience space.

This makes me wonder if it’s programmed into our DNA coding to hope, and to dream, amidst fear and darkness. Maybe it is our ability to imagine – to dream – that allows the chemicals needed to boost hope, even when the reality of our lives is dismal. Maybe it is in honoring fear, that these others once again find life. And maybe it is through connection that these sparks of hopes and dreams stay lit.

 

Fear, Hope, Dreams

One day the fear of fear switched into a sincere and safe relationship with fear. The over-abundance of fear softened, the resonances of hopes and dreams increased, and a trust in life revealed itself. No longer were hopes and dreams a way to evade the present moment, or to fake my way through life. Instead hopes and dreams were the resonances of life and creation in motion.

As my system is now safe to acknowledge fear’s existence, my system feels so much stronger, so much more empowered and has a deepened sense of trust. It is strange to think that getting honest about fear can lead to empowerment. After all, wouldn’t it just yield more fear? In my experience, no.

Waking up can be an unbelievably counterintuitive process. When I fully acknowledge fear, instead of turning from it, hope springs forth with ease and playfulness and curiosity. It doesn’t come as an escape, or as a bypass, or as a strategy to feel ok. Hope comes as a form of creation, birthed from creation.

From creation comes something deeper – dreams. Perhaps it takes some safety to dream, to have vision. We’ve all likely either been in difficult spots ourselves, or known someone, or seen movies with characters, who have had their dreams beaten out of them. Trauma can do that to a person.  However, I have a hunch that it is in our human coding to dream, and I think, even in those darkest times, something lies dormant, in-waiting, that sustains the existence of dream energy.

I’m thinking of a time in my life when vision melded with dream energy, hope, and fear. It was after the experience of a miscarriage, a time that was filled with much confusion and devastation. On the heels of that experience, a life-altering vision came my way. I was gifted an understanding of how trauma works as a part of the human matrix, and it became my dream to connect with people using this new approach. It was this vision that birthed my private practice, which I named Integrative Healing.

There was also fear during this time: I was beginning a new business, utilizing an approach that didn’t have reputation or proof, and moving from mothering full time back into a potential career for myself. It felt as if hope and fear held a tension that catapulted me into a great adventure. I didn’t let fear hold me back, but met it full on, as I stayed true to the hopes and dreams that were birthing. Honoring the fear, as well as the hopes and dreams, allowed me to move deeper into my passion of building connection with people and with life.

 

Fear, Hope, and Dreams… and Connection

I wonder if science will one day find a way to measure the accuracy of this. I can only go off of my own lived experience, and the experiences I have as a somatic therapist. I’ve been in dark places. I have had clients in dark places. Did we have hopes, and dreams, amidst our fears? While sometimes experienced as dormant, it seems to me that yes, we did. In the darkest of times, the power of love and connection brought me back to possibility over, and over, and over again.

The more conscious we become of that which holds us back – fear – the more hopes and dreams are free to birth themselves into creation. We are at a pivotal time in history – it is the perfect time to learn how to develop a healthy relationship with fear, rather than be immobilized by it.

May we all move towards accessing the creative energies necessary to birth a better tomorrow. May we all learn how to tap into the resonances of embodiment. May we all feel safe to be with the magnitude of being human, and learn how to connect with each other – to support and love each other together – in our dance of fear, hopes and dreams.

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

Our Stories Are Sacred

By Lisa Meuser.  

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”  Rumi

I gently breathe in this quote. It has taken me a long time to know Rumi’s words. Most of my life I hid and denied my wounds, concealing them not only from others but also from myself. I repeatedly and systematically attempted to suppress, re-write, and/or rebuff the stories of my life experiences. This started when I was young.  I made excuses for and reframed others’ unhealthy and abusive behaviors. I learned to keep secrets to keep the peace.  Over time, I innocently abandoned myself as I learned to pretend that “all was well.”

I know I’m not alone in this. The majority of people express that they’ve had a great childhood. And yet, after a few questions, it is clear that what they are choosing to remember is coming from an act of self-preservation: it can be difficult to face the reality of our lived stories when we’ve denied them our whole lives.  We often prefer the story of “all was well”, even when it means we have to splinter ourselves to maintain that story.

While many of us always had a roof over our heads, food to eat, and clothing to wear, our more basic and fundamental needs such as emotional guidance and heart connection may not have been tended to. From the outside, I had an ideal childhood. And yet no one in my family was emotionally available or willing to really hear my stories, and after a while I disconnected from my experiences, from my stories, and made myself invisible as a way to cope. Maybe you too were a caretaker of others’ stories, as it was too hard to be with your own?

As I grew older I was bombarded with various social, political and spiritual messages that encouraged me to further forget about the past, and focus on the positive. Common phrases used in our culture include: “don’t dwell on the past”, “let bygones be bygones”, “look to the bright side”, and “be here now.”  Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that those phrases don’t have some wisdom sprinkled through them. But when we hold onto those mottos so fiercely that we aren’t allowed to be with our experiences, we violate ourselves. Over, and over, and over.

Would it be an act of loving kindness to tell a young toddler who has scraped their knee to “get over it”, or “just focus on the present!”, or look to the bright side of the experience? No. A kind heart would console, support, love, and guide a toddler through their pain, through their accident, all the way to the “other side”- however that may look.  A loving approach would ideally allow for the child to retell the story as many times as necessary, until it felt complete for them. We’d empathize. We’d listen. We’d help tend to the wound. We’d support them until they were ready to return to the playground. And they likely would. We’ve probably all seen that when a child is held and heard, they quickly resume playing, their needs having been met.

And yet what we often do with ourselves is pretend our scraped knees aren’t scraped (or that our hearts aren’t breaking). We often pretend that everything is just fine, and then to add insult to injury we judge ourselves when our hearts continue to be broken – which we then take as proof that “we’re broken.”

In my direct experience, it is never that we are truly broken[1]. I have never met a client who is broken. Rather, it is the way that we’ve learned to connect ourselves that is broken (and we can see how this is a cultural imprint, as culture does not connect with the wellbeing of mind/body/spirit, and instead often does the opposite).

Of course the way we’ve learned to connect with ourselves is broken! Most of us didn’t live in households that provided the level of emotional care, nurturance and guidance that we needed, so we never learned directly, or indirectly what true love and care was.

Even though we’re adults now, the need for a kind and loving response, the space to tell our story, and our needs to be heard and supported, haven’t gone away. They may have gone underground, or been buried, but our biological need for connection and love remain.

Shame kept my stories hidden, from myself and from others, and I see this with almost all my clients.  What I also see is immense freedom when people feel safe enough to honestly connect to their stories – to their actual lived experiences instead of the pretend life they held onto in their minds. This freedom multiplies when they feel safe to share their stories out loud in a safe container.

Repression is oppressive, and oppression is traumatizing. Telling our stories has the opposite effect. Telling our stories, first to ourselves, and then to another, has a liberating influence that leaves one feeling a sense of real empowerment – maybe for the first time in our lives.

Naming our stories to ourselves is deep work. It takes time, because it’s counter-intuitive based on all the strategies we’ve learned to keep silent. Naming and then believing our own stories takes courage. It takes time to develop the safety to be in our truth, after giving it away for so long.  For me, being heard by someone I trusted was an immensely important part of that. I was so used to doubting myself, that I needed a trusted guide to support me as the stories met the light of day, outside of the realms of my mind.

This is why we know it is crucial that as we heal from our wounds, we find safe spaces and safe people who listen to and believe in our stories – to our sacred, lived experiences. This produces a beautiful fertile ground “for the Light to come in.”

Find safe spaces. Find safe people. Your stories are the hallowed ground of your being.  When you find a safe person or group to share in, consider honoring your stories by connecting with what you need as your story is shared.[2] Our sacredness doesn’t need to be fixed, and yet a fixing paradigm is very common in our culture.  You may want to let your listener know that you don’t want your story to be treated as something to be fixed or changed, and instead received, as if your listener is being given a gift – because they are.

When stories are free to live in the light of day, something unanticipated often happens. As we release what we had been resisting all our lives, as we allow the stories to live and breathe, the stories themselves start to disintegrate. But this time it is from Love, not from denial.  This will happen on its own, although it’s often counterintuitive. I’ve found that the process can be supported and then integrated  through the guidance of an embodied somatic therapist, facilitator or guide.

I have experienced – directly and in my relationships with my clients – the immense freedom that comes when stories and wounds are allowed, named, spoken, expressed, and felt.  It is something far beyond what the linear mind understands, and births a sense of empowerment that is known from  being. Neuropathways shift, one’s sense of safety in the world changes, and relationships with life are transformed. Possibilities we couldn’t even imagine reveal themselves.[3]

It has taken my whole life to fully understand that that wounds and their corresponding stories are truly sacred. These days I experience wounds, and the stories of wounds, as sacred, grace filled, and also as the way Home.  I will be leading a deepening course this spring that will provide safety to explore our sacred stories. Please contact me to learn more.

I leave you with a poem I wrote after being given a prompt “If we could write a tomorrow which is wider than wounds we have worn”. Much love to you, as you share your sacred stories, on your way Home.

 

Stories Return Us Home

If I could write a tomorrow,
it would be wider than but include the wounds we have worn…
it would include my wounds,
it would announce my wounds,
it would put my wounds on display so that others too
could include, announce and
display their wounds,
as we move into tomorrow.

If I could write of a tomorrow,
it would have less denial, less hiding, less pretending…
By naming and sharing our wounds,
we would weave something so bountifully amazing,
taking us wider than the wounds we have ever worn.

If I could write a tomorrow,
I would use my wounds
and all that I have learned,
to springboard into creating a world where
community and connection is paramount,
from birth to death,
woven into the very ways we value the
ways we spend our days
and deeper into the way we view
our very selves.

If I could write a tomorrow,
humans would not be commodities
or things.
Worth would not be earned but known.
Sharing would be common place and
love would be given,
not bought or sold in the guise of
consumerism and exploitive capitalism.

This may be my soap box, but it doesn’t feel like an
impossible dream.
When I
slow down
and
take a look
towards pain and suffering.

I look at it in the eye,
feel pain burrow into the
caverns of my heart.
As I do
something widens
and deepens.
Something called Love

takes it all,
filling me with a sweetness of now that
exists at the very same time as
sorrow, sometimes in the very same place.
Reminding me another way is
indeed possible.

I write of another way…
where we know and
live knowing that,
in our shared plight of
being human,
there is Love.
The joy, mystery, pain, and
beauty of
being human.

I write of
lessons
being learned from the
wounds of yesterday.
Creating an amazing
tomorrow to be a part of.
I commit

to staying with
these wounds, honoring these wounds,
taking responsibility for these wounds,
and the wounds that my foremothers and forefathers
were born from,
have created,
which birthed me
and which I have birthed.

I write of a now,
inviting all to share
unique dreams and unique pains.
To share without needing to fix or problem solve
but to celebrate.
A recognition that each
story is sacred and powerful
in its very essence,
as we return Home.

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

 

[1] And yet, I honor the phrase “broken hearted”.  The sense of the heart being broken references the wound of which Rumi writes, and is, in my experience, our ticket home in the telling of our stories.

[2] You might, for example, ask your listener;  “please just listen,” or “please validate what you’ve heard,” or “please say you believe me,” or “please hug me when I’m done.”

[3] “Every time you tell your story and someone else who cares bears witness to it, you turn off the body’s stress responses, flipping off toxic stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine and flipping on relaxation responses that release healing hormones like oxytocindopamine, nitric oxide, and endorphins. When we tell our stories and others bear witness, the notion that we are disconnected beings suffering alone dissolves under the weight of evidence that this whole concept is merely an illusion.” – Lissa Rankin

Life Is For Me

By Sumitra Judith Burton.  

Life is for me (not against me).

There was a moment a few months ago that this realization began to dawn on me, and it feels like everything in my being is now shifting to make space for this truth.

I had been running in an unconscious fog much of my life, with a sense of being chased by some kind of darkness that I couldn’t understand. It truly felt (if I’d ever really stopped to think about it) that life was against me, that it was creating roadblocks and terrifying situations that caused me to struggle to try to change things. Nothing was going as I thought it should, and I felt like a victim of intense unseen forces.

Through many years of struggling to make sense of “the story of my life,” which wasn’t unfolding at all as I had hoped and planned, I fought these unseen forces, trying to pull the scenes back in line with my original dream. To no avail. The more I fought, the more I failed. Eventually I just gave up. And that giving up seems to have laid the groundwork for this new understanding.

In the past few years of working with the Living Inquiries I’ve been gradually learning to relax into allowing things to be as they are. What a huge change from the earlier battle to bring things in line with my personal desires! I’d been taught as a child that I could create my own destiny – could accomplish anything I set myself out to do. Sounds noble, right? But, in fact, all this trying and doing led me into the fog of confusion.

Now it feels more like “something else” is in charge, a force bigger than this little me. And I don’t have to resist and fight everything along the way. It feels safe to let go, to stop fighting, and to relax into life as it flows through me.

I simply need to Rest, Inquire and Enjoy Life (as Scott Kiloby has often advised). Rest out of the mind as often as possible, even for very short periods, inquire with curiosity and tenderness into anything that seems to argue with what life brings, and enjoy what’s already here.

It sounds easy, though it’s not always so. Waves of emotion still come through me when something feels blocked. I don’t always remember to take time to rest, to really relax into “what is.” And I still find myself fighting with reality sometimes, afraid that relaxing into life is too easy a way out of the suffering.

But there’s a growing sense that Life is for me; is here to help me, not to harm me. And that’s amazing!

To read more about Sumitra Judith Burton, click here.

On Shame and Sharing

By Fiona Robertson.  

“The shame of being me was a frequent visitor during my dark night…It felt shameful to have all these feelings. The shame was difficult to feel, not least because it felt endemic to my whole being. Every cell of my body, every memory, felt shaped by humiliation. It had misshapen my whole being.”

The Dark Night of the Soul, page 81.

Several weeks ago, shame visited me again. Even though I am now usually able to meet emotion with minimal judgement, the density and intensity of it were stunning. Bodily feelings and vivid memories flooded in. As I looked and felt, I wrote:

The shame feels so deep. I am utterly mortified. Being this – me – is so utterly mortifying. I see everything through this lens. I’m mortified by everything; my body, my life, the house. Every inch of me, every memory. I’ve lived from this place of utter mortification. I am mortified at how my life turned out. So much of what I have or am is mortifying. My whole life has been built around this. I don’t know if there’s any disentangling from it. (I suspect we would almost rather kill ourselves than feel this.)

How do I get unmortified? How do I recover a shred of dignity?

By abiding and persisting. By sitting upright, breathing, and still being here.

I sat upright, music on, and kept breathing as the waves of mortification came and went.

So far, so familiar. I have tapped into this well of shame many times, a little deeper each time. Then came something I had not been conscious of until the moment it appeared: self-mortification. I began to see all the ways I mortify myself. Having been brought up a non-conformist protestant, I was only dimly aware of the role of self-mortification in Christianity, but when I read a little, I saw that I had unintentionally practised self-mortification in a variety of ways. The dictionary definition resonated strongly:

To mortify: to make death. To subdue by abstinence or self-discipline; to humiliate, to chagrin, to wound.

This is what has made me ill. I see all the patterns are self-mortification.  Now I feel like I can be here until it all comes home. I see images of my twenty-eight-year-old self, blown apart by traumatic events. I needed to become who I am now to be able to go back to her. Even with all the inner work I’ve done, I couldn’t get back to her until now. It’s a little shocking it’s taken this long. I have a sense of all the fragments coming together.

There is so much pain and shame in telling our truth. Yet it is in telling our truth that the pain and shame can finally be met. Shame (or mortification or humiliation) hides, believing itself to be guilty of heinous crimes or wrongdoing. When we are in the midst of it, we are convinced that what we are or what we have done is beyond redemption, as I have described. In reality, the sentence we have passed on ourselves rarely bears any relation to the supposed crime. At some point in our past, we were shamed or humiliated, made to feel bad for being ourselves or for some aspect of our being. Such shaming, coming as it does from outside ourselves, leaves us trying to cope with what has been imposed or projected onto our young selves without recourse to support. We develop a skewed and imbalanced view of ourselves and our imperfections. We believe there is something fundamentally wrong with us, and that we have no choice but to cover it up as best we can. Shame is convinced that we are on our own with our wounding, that it is inconceivable we could tell anyone else what is within us. Feeling shame evokes further shame. Trying to avoid or distract from shame sometimes involves activities or compulsions that bring about even more shame. And shame thinks the world sees it as it sees itself; it cannot imagine we could be seen from any other perspective.

Shame is a kind of death. Crippled by humiliation, utterly mortified (from the Latin mortificationem, meaning killing or putting to death), we die inside. How can we really live if we are unable to be ourselves? How can we survive when shame implies our complete isolation? Particularly if we were shamed as very young children, shame strikes at the very heart of our being, making it virtually impossible to be our true selves. We have a sense of how shame curtails our aliveness, but it feels as if feeling the shame would kill us. Indeed, people die of shame, either taking their own lives or via addictions or some form of self-neglect.

As I sat in my shame, I looked around the room. Everything was mortifying except for a set of headphones. I clung to them and sobbed. But it was in finding this one object – which for some unknowable reason was not tainted with shame – that it began to feel okay to sit and breathe and be with the feelings and images. The presence and touch of the headphones allowed a small aperture, a space through which the possibility of not-mortifying could emerge.

Shame believes that if we tell our truth, we will be rejected, ridiculed, hated, killed, or shamed further. We need to take it slowly and gently, allowing shame to feel its way towards safety, to find something or someone that will hold it as it comes fully into consciousness. Indeed, it is of paramount importance that we tell our truths in places of safety and equality. Places where our truths will be heard, honoured and respected. Places where our shame will be witnessed with love and understanding. The antidote to shame is sharing, telling the truth to ourselves or each other. When we listen to each other’s woundedness, when we hear each other’s stories of messing up, ending up in destructive patterns, not being perfect; when we hear the truth of each other’s lives, our shame begins to realise it is not alone and isolated. Our shame realises it can tell its truth and survive. Our shame realises it is deeply human, one amongst many. We can share our shame, and live again.

To read more about Fiona Robertson, click here.