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How Full Is Your Well?

By Lisa Meuser.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

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

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

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

When The Child Within Needs Tending

By Helena Weaver.

These are challenging times. Today I was able to drop into meditation for the first time for a couple of weeks. I sat for a while, settling in, while my breathing slowed and deepened. Then I started to scan through my body and feel gently into the physical and emotional sensations within, gradually becoming more and more aware of how I felt in my body.

After a while I began to sense this layer deep down inside that felt shocked and frozen. A subtle, fizzy, tense feeling, capped by a floaty sensation. I understood then that I’ve been skating over this layer, distracted and disoriented by events of the last few weeks, feeling ungrounded at times without quite knowing why, other than that the times are extraordinary and shocking. But this inner frozenness also felt familiar – there came the knowing that this layer is always frozen to some degree.

Gently feeling into it, I began sensing that it holds the feelings of a young child – memories of Bahrain floated up – we were there between my 4th and 8th year. I began a gratitude meditation which had the effect of beginning to open the heart with love, which in turn began to unfreeze the freeze – which was scary for the frozen part as it had been freezing to protect itself from all the uncertainty and instability and all its fears of being unworthy and incapable of coping and holding itself. And a lot of sobbing began to happen that was a howling at times, coming up from deep in the heart and solar plexus, rocking the body. Back then, the parents used to have fights – there came memories of a scary one with things being thrown by him and me huddling with her. And the shouting, the shouting, the unpredictable explosions, the sudden way he’d burst into rooms and pace around them raging, complaining; his acid rain. All the endless dramas that fused them together consuming all their attention.

And remembering how that lonely young child growing up alongside these volatile, warring parents turned into herself, into her imaginary world, her secret garden and shut herself away inside herself, as we moved from country to country, Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, Turkey, Libya, here and there for a couple of years or so at a time, each move a loss of home, garden, friends, school, familiarity of local streets, and routines and habits of living, each new arrival a starting over that tested my adaptation skills and underdeveloped social skills past their capacity. I grew up introverted, shy, insecure, easily shocked, easily triggered, endemically wobbly. Actually, I’m not sure this little part of me grew up at all. It feels like she has always been in there somewhere, frozen, tucked away, hidden yet able to exert her influence through her anxiety, when triggered, and inhibit me.

Today, I realised for the first time, listening and feeling inside, how this external situation of Corona is mirroring this early past in the sense of being an echo of living choicelessly with a big, external cloud of dramatic, continual threat. Ah, yes. Those of us with early trauma know the reality of coping with unresolvable anxiety, with never feeling really fundamentally safe. But I hadn’t fully seen that this young part of me is so triggered by what is happening around her. That this is why I have periods, whole days sometimes, of feeling disconnected or floaty, or close to tears.

It makes sense now, though. I’ve been noticing the tendency to want to turn away and retreat and bury myself back in my magical garden. At times, I do need this, she needs to do this – and I let her. She loves to study languages, to play with words and sounds and the fun of working out what they mean – like code-breaking – so we’re learning Greek and French. This garden is protective and restorative, but not a place to vanish into all the time, (which is what she wants to do).

So today, it felt so good to meet this young part consciously and to listen to her, to receive her distress completely and validate her memories, acknowledge her fear. To gently embrace her in that fear, with acceptance and understanding, which made it easier for the fear to be fully felt without shame of it so that there could be release.

With that, she opened up, felt held by me, seen and even loved and some of the protective freeze dissolved. And then the gratitude meditation began to suffuse my whole system and the knowing came that we are all being held, all being loved without exception or question, just how we are in each moment, as we go through whatever we are experiencing, by something none of us can really name, whether we are aware of it, or not.

 

Journeying with Generational Trauma

By Lisa Meuser.

2019 came to completion with clarity that some endings were coming. Historically speaking, it’s powerful when my system undeniably lands on an ending, often because the joy of a new beginning is already en route. The clarity ushers in more momentum for the new beginnings, which can be both exhilarating, and also messy. Exhilarating because, “YES! (and, Finally!)”, and messy because, hidden in that “Finally!” is some clutter due to how long it took me to achieve said clarity. Have you ever had the knowing that something was done or complete, but you delayed? It’s like keeping cream in the fridge way past its expiration date- it’s just not going to end well.

So, in comes 2020, and I’m in the midst of 3 “letting go’s.” Life is taking me forward, and a part of me has already moved on. But also, I was in the middle of some messes. Why had I delayed these endings anyway?  Why hadn’t I acted on this clarity sooner? It felt prudent to explore what was going on with my resistance to letting go. What was I afraid of? It was time to find out as my resistance was impacting my integrity and affecting others.

 

Who Would Have Known?

A lot of profound discoveries and releasing happened as I journeyed into these questions, revealing more and more clarity, but at some point, I kept feeling stuck – like I was going round and round, unable to fully move forward. I felt entangled, but it just didn’t make any logical sense. At one point, when I found myself triggered yet again, the word “displaced” came up. It felt random, and I couldn’t quite connect to the word, but I journeyed through the sense of pain and sorrow that I was experiencing, and things settled for me.

Days later, I found myself lost in thoughts again. I could feel a sense of fear, but when I looked right at it, none of it seemed real – but the word came back: displaced. I sat with the word, and it took me to remembrances of my young years, where I experienced a sense of being displaced in my own home due to various circumstances. Then my grandmother flashed into my attention, and I named how, coming to the US as a refugee of sorts, she must have felt very displaced. I saw the continued link to the word “displaced”, and knew it was pointing to some generational trauma, but it didn’t go super deep.

The next morning, I found myself once again having fears about these various endings. Again, the thoughts didn’t seem to be real, but at the same time I knew something was there. The word displaced came to me again, and this time it went right into my being. All of a sudden, a dam broke open, and I saw and felt what it must have been like for my grandmother to leave her own country because of her ethnicity. I saw generations of “her people”, being persecuted and killed for their beliefs and alignments. I saw the immense suffering she/they experienced by being who they were.

As I stayed connected to this download, I felt immense shame, confusion, pain and terror in my own body. There was a deep sense of not being safe, of being targeted, of being treated violently – all because of one’s innocent affiliation. The images were powerful. The felt sense was intense. My body was shaking, as if I was living out the images I was seeing. My very survival seemed in question. I felt like it was almost too much to be with. I reached out for support, and let my heart keep breaking open, wider and wider. Eventually breath found me, and my system shifted into the loving and life-giving flow of breath. Phew.

 

Confessing our Stories: “The heartbeat of racism is denial, the heartbeat of anti-racism is confession.”  Ibram X. Kendi

This kind of inward journeying, as uncomfortable as it may be, is an essential part of my life. I journey with those who have been horribly oppressed due to the infrastructure of our culture, in ways I will never directly experience or understand, and so I must explore my own oppression, as well as how I have oppressed others. The world is riddled with white, black and brown bodies bursting with somatic trauma, in all the nooks and crevices, with black and indigenous bodies continuing to pay the highest price, while those from south of the United States borders are being overtly tortured. These stories of oppression are sacred. Connecting with the stories and realities of oppression, and of oppressing, are vital to our existence.

It is a lot to feel. It’s a lot to acknowledge. It’s a lot to get honest about.

When we confess to the pain, suffering and legacies of our ancestors, and feel into the depth of that with loving support and compassion, we may discover our hearts opening to the suffering of /within our own lineage, and also to the suffering that others have experienced or that we’ve contributed to. What we often discover is that compassion yields more compassion; compassion for ourselves/others allows us to have compassion for others/ourselves. Through this process we may find that we are able to open our hearts to life more fully as we are no longer in denial.

 

Safety in Presence

The week of that ancestral download was a hard week for me. While processing through such deep territory brought relief from what I’d been struggling with in my personal life, it left me feeling exposed and vulnerable, without much surface area to land on. It took time, but eventually my system acclimatized to that, and left me feeling open to include life, and be held by it at the same time.

What was it that allowed me to feel to the depths of such pain and suffering that day? I’d travelled into these territories before many times, but this felt deeper – both personal, and way beyond me.  As counter-intuitive as it might sound, it seems to me that it was safety in Presence that allowed me feel into such abysmal darkness. It has been my experience many times that the safer our systems are, the deeper we can feel into the existence of humanity – into Presence itself. While this may not be the gift we think we are waiting to receive, it is truly a gift to sit within Presence, and safely feel into the pain of our being and the pain of other beings. When we are able to do this, there is no where we cannot go, nothing we cannot feel, and nothing to hide from.

 

The Journey Continues 

I am constantly humbled by the process of embodied somatic inquiry, and the wisdom present in journeying this way. Nowhere to get to, nowhere to go, no hurry to figure out or fix – just an invitation to gently, lovingly and curiously look at what is coming up, however it presents itself in that moment.

“It is only through letting our heart break that we discover something unexpected: the heart cannot actually break, it can only break open. When we feel both our love for this world and the pain of this world – together, at the same time – the heart breaks out of its shell. To live with an open heart is to experience life full-strength.” John Welwood

Uniting with Presence allows a glimpse into the vast Intelligence of life/love, and the knowing that we are a part of that intelligence – not the center of it, but woven amidst. We can’t know peace when we are not at peace with the vastness of humanity, when we are stuck in fighting, in hiding, and in denial. It may not be not pleasant to journey into “not peace”, and yet once we learn it is safe to feel, even though there is pain, and discomfort, and fear, we learn that the heart has no limitation as to how far it can stretch; that there is no end to the depths of what it includes and nothing that it is not. Love is infinite.

 

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

Liar Liar! Our Dumpster’s on Fire

By Lisa Meuser.

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

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

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


No Self

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

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

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


Learning to Exist

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

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

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


Pretending to Death 

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Burning Dumpster 

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

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

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

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

So, how are you?

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

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

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

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

 

Facing What’s Inside

By Kristy Johnsson.  

If we want any aspect of our world to change – whether it be family systems or political systems – we have to meet the parts of us that uphold the status quo.

You know, the wildest thing is that after all the trees I’ve planted,
all the kids I’ve taught,
all the volunteers I’ve organized,
all the people I’ve counselled,
all the money I’ve donated,
all the votes cast,
all the ranting and raving,
all the writing,
all the researching,

all of it trying to make this world a little less self-destructive, the most potent action I’ve found isn’t an action at all.

It’s been looking at the darkest corners of my being and letting my heart bathe it all in profound acceptance. It has been a being-with, rather than an act of attempted control or influence.

It sounds so cheesy, but I swear it’s true. We just can’t be that helpful to anyone or anything if we’re committed to delusion. And in the midst of our trauma and fear and pain, if we lose touch with our feet on the ground, most of us are.

When I was 17 years old, my mom and I were engaged in a vicious fight. After I retreated to my room, she came upstairs and told me, “You think you have it so bad? When I was your age, my mother jumped out of a window and killed herself!”

That was the first time I learned of my grandmother’s suicide. An act she committed in front of most of her 11 children.

I stood there in shock, not just for obvious reasons, but because a clear image emerged that gripped me: I saw myself standing before a huge, drooling, fanged beast, and behind me stood a line of all my female ancestors that had met it before me. The message of the image was clear: “Now it’s your turn.”

I had never heard of intergenerational trauma, that our ancestors’ traumas leave marks on our DNA, but that’s clearly the insight I was having looking back. No one in my family knew that I had been struggling with deep depression and chronic suicidal thoughts for several years, but in that moment I knew that my grandmother’s pain and mine were inextricably connected. And now it was my turn to face the darkness within myself and her.

Facing both my unconscious pain and the pain of my culture has radically changed my view of myself and the world, as well as the way I hold myself and walk through this world. It has been and continues to be an incredible process in its depth and its insights.

Our pain, our patterns, and our beliefs touch everything in our lives. And when billions of people play out these patterns, we have the world we see now. No amount of political upheaval, education, tree planting, or activism will change the world so deeply and so permanently as when we face what lies within us and meet it all.

To read more about Kristy Johnsson, click here.