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Just what do you see from your window?

By Marcia Martin.  

I was in a meeting a few days ago and we were checking in, visiting, just touching base. I guess I was distracted by the view from my office. Actually, I was not distracted; I was looking from my window. I saw people I care about. I saw the wind moving the bamboo outside the window and the leaves changing color as they moved with the wind. It was obvious some of us were stressed with the current happenings. Others appeared at ease, joyful, relaxed. It all depends on what you see when you look out your window, if you assign meaning to what you see and if there is “time” attached to this meaning.

This is exactly what the Living Inquiries are like for me. Sometimes I look out my window and see storms, wind blowing furiously and threatening life as I see it. Other times, there can be a calm breeze or it may be perfectly still. In the evenings there may be beautiful colors in the sunset. In the mornings fish roll and jumped with such energy, I always smile. All of this is experienced with a view from the same window. All of this changes, second to second, never to be experienced in exactly the same way.

This evening, I was sitting in my office chair, waiting for the sun to go down. Suddenly I was overwhelmed by this huge wave of sadness. As I sat with this sensation, words started to come up, “I have failed again”, “I am alone again”, tears running down my face, I simply allowed to the words to come, experienced the sensations and tears, just exactly as they came. And within a few minutes, it was over.

Now while this is certainly something I may take to a facilitator or spend more time with on my own, the point for me in this moment is to notice and allow without any agenda. As I write these words, I feel comforted. I have shared myself with myself. Sometimes that is all that is needed.

To read more about Marcia Martin, click here.

The Gift of Consciously Connecting to Anger, aka Social Justice, Heart-Work, and Evolution Part 1.5

By Lisa Meuser.  

“Everything’s going pretty well in my life, but I feel **so much anger! **”
“I can’t get past how much anger I feel! I want to feel better, but I am stuck.”
“How can I **not** be angry, have you seen what’s going on in the world?”
“Being angry is a negative emotion and now is not the time to be negative.”


Feedback

The feedback from “Social Justice, Heart-Work, and Evolution. Part 1, of 2” had 1 of 3 flavors, generally speaking.

Flavor 1: people wishing they too could move thru their anger in the way I did so as to get to “the good stuff.”
Flavor 2: people subtly moving past the anger stuff so as to get to “ the good stuff.”
Flavor 3: people expressing the sentiment: “damn, this anger is some heavy shit.”

Here’s the good news and the bad news:
The good news is that all of it is “the good stuff.” The bad news is that all of it is “the good stuff.” Yeah, that’s some heavy shit!

I promise that Part 2 will be published, but felt writing a 1.5 would be useful. Anger is a big topic, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so let’s talk about it!

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Flavor 1: Wanting to move thru anger as to get to the “good stuff.”

I know this flavor well.

Part 1 was an example of what’s possible, not necessarily probable, when anger is allowed in and it’s met with loving attention. It’s one example, in a sea of examples. Does it often go that way for me? Well, to be honest, these days yes. But I’ve also spent years lost in an ebb and flow of anger, and that was exactly where I needed to be after decades of being in denial. It was evolution for me to feel safe enough to be able to connect with my anger, and stay there as long as I needed to. It didn’t always feel good, and it didn’t necessarily feel loving, but it was far more empowering than the hopelessness and despair I’d known.

Anger **is** good stuff. Anger is so powerfully good that those in power consistently try to either (1) get us stuck there so that we burn out into powerlessness/ hopelessness (political/capitalist cultures), or (2) tell us that it’s unhealthy and unattractive (religious/spiritual cultures).

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Anger is our friend
Anger is an appropriate behavioral response when our safety is at risk, or the safety of someone we love is at risk. Anger is an appropriate response when we are being violated, or when someone is committing violence against others. It is an appropriate response to injustice, to suppression/oppression, to cruelty and brutality. It is an appropriate response to harassment and to domination.

Considering that a good many of us have been oppressed, dominated, or violated, is it any wonder that the “powers that be” want us to either get lost in anger so that we get killed or ultimately become docile sheep too tired to fight, or not consider anger as healthy response to our circumstances?

Anger is an expressive gift that humans were given to help us process and release. When that gift is taken away, we loose a part of our humanity. Let me say that again: we lose a part of our humanity. Worse yet, we reject a part that we never knew we had. We deny it, and in doing so we deny ourselves.

Knowing this, is it any wonder so many are festering with anger – this forbidden but biologically human expression? The dissonance is enough to make one mad! Quite literally.

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It’s never too late
That’s the depressing news, but here is the hopeful news: it’s never too late. It’s never too late to learn how to be angry in a way that feels safe. It’s never too late to feel the anger that we’ve stuffed down for decades, in a way that feels safe. It’s never too late to develop a healthy relationship with anger, so that we neither get lost in it nor deny it. It’s never too late to be friends with anger. At least that’s my experience.

Has it been easy? No. It’s been as hard as hell. It’s been uncomfortable. It’s been scary. It’s seemed nearly impossible. But bit-by-bit – with the amazing support of various allies – my system has learned it is safe, valid, and healthy to connect with anger. I never knew how unbelievably freeing it could be to become friends with anger.

So, if you are one who wishes they could move thru their anger to “the good stuff, ” remind yourself that anger **is** good stuff. Once you’ve honored it and allowed it to be, it will not have the same hold over you that it might now. Anger is sacred – it has its own timetable. Your anger has waited a long time to be let out of the basement. Get support, and be patient while you learn about yourself – all parts of yourself.

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Flavor 2: People subtly (or not so subtly) want to move past or deny anger so as to “stay in” or get to the “good stuff,” and/or so that they don’t get stuck in “the bad stuff.”

I know this flavor well.

I won’t spend long here. Bypassing anger is so fervently celebrated in our culture – in all areas – that it has created a complicated web of self-bondage/suffering, often in the guise of happiness/peacefulness. Denying a natural part of who we are creates dissociation and disembodiment, one byproduct being a sleepy mass of people who, well, don’t really live fully on the planet.

I often find that at some point in one’s journey anger cannot be denied or moved past any more. The body either starts to rebel (i.e. gets sick), the psyche starts to rebel (i.e. starts to suffer), or the spirit starts to rebel (i.e. wants to die). If one is lucky they will connect with an anger midwife (some kind of guide) who will help them to safely connect to the anger monster that has been locked in their internal basement for their entire lives, refusing to be stuck down there any longer. It is my own experience that it doesn’t take long to understand that the anger monster isn’t a monster at all, but just an energetic presence that is tired of being banished into a musky and dark basement.

Exclusion hurts.

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Flavor 3: “Damn, this anger is some heavy shit.”

Yup. I know this flavor well, and I’m going to spend a little extra time here because this seems to be what most of the comments were expressing.

First a story, then after that, another story.

A friend of mine does sacred bodywork – different modalities – with clients. She is very well established with a fabulous reputation in her community. She has worked hard to create clear and strong boundaries, as body workers are known to be easy targets for predator behavior. Let me just say that again: because predator behavior is so common in the realm of body work, she has had to painstakingly and creatively establish strong policies in her private practice – so as to keep herself safe – while she offers her sacred gifts to clients . [Author’s note: Why have I given you all this information, before telling you what has happened? Why have I gone out of my way to tell you how she’s gone out of her way to have clear boundaries and policies? Just wait one more moment..]

Last week she was in a session with a client who she’s seen many times.
She was deeply involved in the sacred work that she does, when out of the blue the client broke the silence and asked her for a hand job. She froze. She went into a fear response.

She was clearly not expecting this sacred space to be violated. Despite all the work she’d done to create a safe environment for herself, here was a client exhibiting sexual predator behavior.

I’m tempted to side track even more from this story to tell you about her elaborate policies that she’s put in place to keep things like this from happening. Why? Some of you reading this will not be able to keep yourselves from blaming my friend. Your first automatic thought will be: what was her role in this? What had she done?

To those of you doing that- jumping to her role in this – I so get it! I too have been raised in a cultural climate that blames the victim. I too have had a hard time being able to really sit with the abhorrent dysfunction of our culture’s toxicity, and instead, automatically, without even knowing I’m doing it, put the attention back on the violated. I too have redirected conversation away from toxic behaviors, away from the toxicity of what our culture has produced, and focused on the predator’s prey. I too have been a part of the toxicity in this way – implicitly and complicity. Me too!

Last week, however, that was not my response.

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Anger is an appropriate response to dysfunction.
I wasn’t worried – my friend is magnificently well resourced and resilient, and would only grow from this. My response was anger. My response was anger because we live in a culture that blames the violated. My response was anger because in no way was that appropriate in that set and setting. My response was anger because such predatory acts are too common, and too normalized, and too expected. My response was anger because my friend is an amazing healer who does deep and loving work, and does not deserve to be violated by the clients that she is serving. My response was anger because my friend got mad at herself for having the perfectly appropriate response she had. My response was anger because of how entitled her client was, in his request, and how, perhaps, clueless he was with regards to the impact that this kind of behavior has on a female psyche. My response was anger because of what this culture teaches males, and because of how dysfunctional it is that it has created sexual predators in the first place. My response was anger because of the tendency to spiritualize and trivialize such happenings. My response was anger because of how representative it is. My response was anger because of how this incident echoes the massive existence of other predatory incidents. My response was anger because of all the other levels and layers of dysfunction in our culture that exist and make women scared, in their own sacred spaces, in their own sacred bodies.

That’s a lot of anger, huh? I mean, damn, this is some heavy shit.

Writing this now, I can feel the anger. It is some heavy shit, and I can feel it. And I’m grateful that I can feel it… because there was a time when I was so dead inside that I wasn’t able to be angry about things that deserved anger. I’m grateful because I have a system that is safe enough to feel anger when anger is warranted. I’m grateful because I don’t have to pretend and hide from such toxicity any more. I’m grateful because, not having to have to hide from anger, it is no longer a debilitating emotion for me, but a healthy emotional response.

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I was actually really angry.
It had struck a chord within me, and it felt appropriate that it had. I never want to be numb to the dysfunction going on in our world. I never want to fall asleep, and shut down, because of the toxicity that exists in this world.

And so I choose to feel. I choose to feel because I have discovered, through my sometimes painful journey, that I am safe to feel. I am free to feel. What an amazing gift I have been given. It is the most empowering gift of being human. It is a gift I want everyone to have. It is my life’s work that everyone may know safety.

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What does anger want?
I wasn’t able to go off alone and be physically still with this energy of anger, but I have learned that I almost always have the capacity to connect to my breath and my being regardless of what I’m doing. As I physically moved around in my house I breathed with the energy of anger. It seemed to permeate my being and beyond in vibrant aliveness.

Anger, when paid attention to, lands our attention in the body. That’s good news. [Author’s note: Admittedly, this is not good news for everyone. Connecting with the body is the most challenging aspect of embodiment, and I absolutely honor that it is not always safe for people to be in their bodies, particularly when experiencing strong emotions.] Bringing attention into my being has a different impact than putting attention into spinning thoughts/stories – I feel more grounded, as opposed to feeling spun out. I can be present, instead of getting lost in stories and fears.

All of the internal work I’ve done has helped me to know that my body is safe to be in. As such, the energy of anger – as it flowed through my body – was safe as well. I brought attention to my limbs, my belly, my heart… to all the sensations anger seemed to be connected with.

It is my experience that anger, and any emotion, wants to be connected with, as simply as possible: acknowledged, supported, felt, and/or validated. How this comes to happen can be mysterious, and it is not always an easy process. I am grateful that I have the tools and the training to be able to be present with myself. In my experience safety, compassion and love are crucial in being with challenging emotions and in discovering embodiment. The journey is endless.

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Right next to anger is always something else
We often think that we’ll get stuck forever in a challenging emotional energy if we allow ourselves to “go there.” I think this belief has multiple layers, but one layer is based in the duality of the mind. The mind often sees things as being EITHER this OR that. I used to think that if love existed, anger didn’t. I used to think that if anger existed, love didn’t. I know now that that belief comes from a limited dual perspective, not from truth. Waking up to the lived reality that love includes all has changed my life. In my own experience love is so big that it includes anger.

This may not be your experience, but you may notice that while you feel anger, you are also experiencing “not anger.” One way to test this out is to ask yourself where, in your body, you feel the anger. Chances are, you are not feeling only the sensation of anger throughout your entire body from head to toes. Chances are, you are experiencing anger in some ways, and also neutral sensations, or even positive sensations, in other parts of your body – all at the same time.

When we’re in a heightened state we may forget that there are other experiences happening, within the particular experience that is filling up our attention. It can be powerful and useful to our nervous system and well-being to curiously explore what else is here right now? What else is happening right now?

 

Back to love, back to the heart
When my friend told me about her experience I was so very angry, but the anger was never bigger than the heart space I was inside of – it was never bigger than love. That has not always been my experience because of how unsafe it was for me to feel anger. My life is radically different now. I’m grateful that there is such an abundance of love that “even anger” is safe. Perhaps I am able to experience anger because the immense depth of love and heart space has revealed itself to me.

There is such deep love for all the participants of this story – for my friend and her family (as this one man’s behavior will have an impact on all of them). And yes, also for her client because our current toxic culture creates perpetrators – he too is a victim of this culture. My love extends to all who have found themselves here – few of us have created it; we’re the occupants of a pre-existing toxic culture. So yes: enormous love goes out to all of us as our hearts and psyches are evolving towards a better way to be in the world.

AND, I have anger, because these toxic ways of being in the world are not ok – for anyone. Not ok for her client, or his wife and family. Not ok for my friend. These dysfunctional ways of being in the world are not healthy for anyone. Heart work includes opening oneself wide enough to be able to let it all in: the deep compassionate love, the deep compassionate anger, and so much more. The heart can handle it all.

In my experience, being able to consciously connect with anger is truly a gift. It allows us to respond to injustice. It invites us to be a conscious participant in our own experience. It permits us to honor an intended aspect of our humanity. It empowers us and frees of stagnancy and despair. We don’t have to leave the heart to connect with anger. We don’t have to get lost in anger. We can learn to know love and know anger. We can learn that it is safe to experience both.

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Part 2
People often want to know how “I handle” challenging emotions or social justice challenges. I think it’s extremely helpful that people have options for providing support in their own unique evolutionary journey. I will talk about this in part 2, and will also dive back into heart work as a continuation of part 1 and part 1.5.

I hope this blog post was helpful in revealing that anger can be a valuable and perhaps even necessary part of heart work. As always, I welcome feedback and comments!

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

On Realising The Political Is Personal

By Fiona Robertson.  

We’re all familiar with the play of oppositional, fear-fuelled politics. Don’t elect them. They will damage you or threaten your lifestyle or your life in some way. Whether it’s the other political parties, other countries, a particular group, or a kind of people, the dynamic is the same: there’s them and there’s us and never the twain shall meet. In the early 1970s, feminists coined the phrase, “The personal is political.” I’d suggest that the reverse is also true: the political is personal.

Since I was young, I’ve sided with the underdog. I’ve worked and lived in disadvantaged, inner-city areas. I’ve expressed disdain for the one percent, the bankers, the flagrantly rich. As I looked with another facilitator, an underlying story became very apparent. I saw the words, “I have to be modest.” In addition to the words, there was a strong sensation and numerous images. Not only was there a self here who has to be modest, but also a command or instruction to be modest. I began to see how this played through in many areas of my life.

I don’t yet know how seeing through this story of having to be modest will play out. We look, and see what follows from the looking. There’s no prescription here. Whatever happens from now on, I’m no longer carrying that previously unconscious story of having to be modest, which was understandably triggered by images of people living in grand, distinctly immodest opulence. I no longer need to project it onto others; if it arises again, I’ll most likely be aware of it. If not, I can simply inquire further.

Wherever you sit in the political landscape, take a look at those you think of as them, whoever they are. Whoever you hate, passionately disagree with, campaign against, or shout at when you’re watching the news. Be it the political right, left or center, Muslims or Jews, black people or white people, refugees, feminists, paedophiles, the religious right, the religious of any shade, those in same-sex relationships, immigrants, Darwinists, homophobes—this isn’t about deciding who is right or wrong, but looking at how and where the political is personal.

Rest for a few moments, close your eyes, settle into your body, and take a couple of breaths. Then bring an image of them to mind and have a look at it. Simply look. Judgments about them may well arise. That’s okay. We can come to those later. For now, see the image there in your mind’s eye and see if it’s a threat or danger or attack—find the word that fits the best. Remember, this isn’t an intellectual or cognitive process; let your body give you the answer. If it responds in some way, it perceives a threat. However the response comes (as a sensation of tightness or contraction, a feeling of fear, some kind of emotion), let the response happen just as it’s happening. Take time to feel it. And then let the process unfold, looking at the words and images that arise, and feeling the sensations and feelings. See exactly where the threat lies, going by your body each time.

You may also notice that a self-identity arises in response to the perceived threat. You may notice words like “I’m under attack” or “They want to take something away from me” or “I’m inferior or superior to them.” Look for that self, too.

It may also be useful to use the Boomerang or Panorama Inquiries here. We use the Boomerang to inquire into one triggering person or situation and the Panorama for looking at more than one.

When we project qualities onto others, be they positive or negative, there’s nearly always a deficient self-identity in play. Again, rest and bring an image of them to mind. As you look at them, see what the image of them says about you and who you are. Who are you in relation to them? Ask the question and listen for the answer. Ask several times, as different answers may come each time. See which one resonates in your body most and continue looking for that self in the words, images, and body sensations and feelings that arise.

Using the Inquiries in this way helps to defuse the fear and sense of threat around any political issue. Even things that seem inherently real—global warming, refugee crises, financial crises, whatever you feel affected by or preoccupied with—can be inquired into in this way. Leave no stone unturned. To inquire isn’t to deny the existence of things or to arrive at a conclusion about them; it is simply to explore our experiences of them and to see where there are unexamined assumptions and beliefs operating.

When we’re looking in this way, we can let go of any notion of being politically, emotionally, or spiritually correct. The Inquiries allow us to be gut-level honest in any given moment. We may be shocked or embarrassed by what comes—that’s all part of the process. If there are places we dare not tread, we can look. What’s the worst that could happen if we look at these words or images, or feel these feelings?

When we take the time to disentangle the personal from the political, we often find there’s more clarity, flow, and spaciousness around our opinions. Perhaps we discover that the anger we’ve always felt toward the other side actually stems from an unconscious deficiency story. Or we find that we’ve aspired to be like our parents in order to gain their approval, side-lining our authentic selves in the process. Whatever we discover, we’re left free to hold whatever views make sense to us, minus the rigidity that comes from fear or deficiency.

This article is an extract from Fiona’s book, The Art of Finding Yourself. Find out more about Fiona and her work here

Watch below as Fiona discusses this article with Richard Cox:

On Realising the Political is Personal. 
Fiona Robertson and podcast host Richard Cox (50 minutes)

Fiona Robertson comes back on the Deep State Consciousness podcast to talk about her essay On Realising the Political is Personal. Fiona and podcast host Richard Cox discuss how our political positions are inextricably linked to our core beliefs about life, both in terms of the positions we hold and the dogma or open mindedness with which we hold them. They go on to discuss how cultivating a relationship with a sense of self which is deeper than the opinions we hold can allow us to drop our addiction to certainty and engage with people in a more relational way. They ponder what the implications of this would or could be for our polarised political climate. What if we were all open to inquiring about all our political viewpoints?

The Bliss of Infinite Patience

By Scott Kiloby.  

I now sit in bliss

A bliss that is built into the very fabric of my being

How this bliss came about is almost too unbelievable to explain

It defies the usual rules and understandings of society

While others were running away from the pain and discomfort in their bodies

I was sitting with mine, letting it come fully into the space of present awareness

While others were medicating their emotions and sensations

I was bathing in mine – naked and vulnerable

While others were chasing or following their bliss, I stayed with pain

As they passed me, I asked them, “Did you find your bliss yet?”

Mostly they would say, “no,” and then continue on their path

I did not follow that path

I sat down on the road, exactly where I was, refusing to move

I desired no bliss at all, instead I desired only my pain

I desired only what is

The pain oscillated from extremely excruciating to mildly annoying

I let those descriptions burn up in the fire of presence so that I could feel the pain more deeply, without the overlay of labels

I sat with infinite patience, in wordless wonder, and without expectation

I watched a million others pass me by, headed down the road, chasing the prospect of a future bliss that would eradicate their pain

Many of them seemed to find a bliss in worldly things, only to find that it was temporary

They would become weary again and would keep moving down the same path trying to recapture it over and over

I questioned why I was just sitting here many times

The answer came as a very quiet, intuitive voice. It simply said, “Sit with infinite patience.”

As I sat, I let every emotion and sensation be as it is, welcoming it more and more

The more painful it became, the more I loved it

Every now and then, I had to take a reprieve from this pain, for I am human like everyone else

I had to indulge and run from my pain like everyone else does

I did this to survive, like everyone else does

When shame, guilt and self-judgment arose out of the act of indulgence, I let those stories burn up in the fire too

Each time I returned to the pain and discomfort of my body, I returned with infinite patience

I desired the pain and discomfort of my body to stay

I made a home for it

I loved it absolutely and without reservation from a place of pure silence

I uttered very few words to it, so that I could fully hear what it had to say

I let it speak and then I just listened and observed, letting its song be heard and then vanish into thin air, line by line

In the rare moments of speaking to my pain, I simply asked . . .

“When were you created?”

“Where does this hurt come from?”

“What are you protecting?”

Those words evoked stories which then burned up in the light

Each time my body became more painful or more uncomfortable

I went more deeply and more silently into it, trying to keep the pain and discomfort there through pure observation

Each time I felt the desire to resist or reject it, I loved the pain instead, and then loved the resistance and rejection of it

It spoke for years

It had a long story to tell – about childhood rejection, not being loved, not being good enough, not feeling safe, needing to protect itself

As each story burned up, I nurtured the sensation of pain as if it were my very own child

I sat with it for literally hours on end, never leaving its side

I did this while others were out in the world, finding ways to avoid their pain

I had the thought, “Am I missing something out in the world?”

That thought burned up too

I let my pain move freely and uninterruptedly within the stillness of the moment, with only the desire for it to be exactly as it is

And then there was a dawning . . .

A rebirth in which I realized that my pain and discomfort were gone

Like children that had been loved and nurtured for years, the pain and discomfort left the nest

They transmuted into presence

Now I sit in bliss

And I shall never follow the rules of society again

I shall never run from my pain and discomfort again

If I do run from my pain and discomfort, I shall be perfectly kind and loving to myself

I shall indulge in that reprieve and in those pleasures fully, letting any shame, guilt or self-judgment come fully into the light

I shall return with infinite patience

For my self, my body and the world move more freely now within this infinite patience

The limitations of self, body and the world vanish in this

Creativity flourishes here

Love and joy are natural here

No one could have told me that this infinite patience would have paid off in this way

I wouldn’t have believed it because it defies all human understanding

It goes against everything I have learned

I know the truth of this not because I was persuaded by others and not because I followed society’s way

I know this truth not by following all the others who were running away or chasing their bliss

I know this truth only by trusting this inner intuitive voice that said, “sit with infinite patience.”

I know this truth simply because it is my own experience

And nothing is more trustworthy than that.

This post is republished from the previous Living Inquiries website

Freedom Through The Edges

By Lisa Meuser.  

One moment Dave[1] was asking for a hug so he could tell me he loved me. A few moments later, after hugs and “I love you”s had been shared, the scene dramatically shifted. I was sitting on one side of the couch, my mom at the other. He was still standing – all 6 feet and 300 pounds of him – positioned in between us. All of a sudden, in a booming voice, he was calling me a “fucking cunt,” with some other minor insults thrown in for for good measure.  My mom, still sitting a few feet away, called out his name in “that tone” one uses to show overt disapproval.

Are you wondering what led him to have this outburst? Surely there must be a reason, right?

Those of us who participate in codependent or abusive relationships live with that inner narrative on a regular basis. Three common thoughts often occupy our attention:
“What did I do?”
“What should I have done differently?”
and “How could I have avoided that?”

I don’t feel obliged to tell you what happened for a few reasons.

1. In no sane reality is that kind of outburst/verbal attack appropriate.
2. I know it wasn’t about me or anything I did.
3. I know the context and the situation.
4. I know Dave. He suffers from rapid-fire bi-polar disorder[2], intense PTSD, and – on top of that – he has debilitating pain in his back and other areas of his body. He is like a walking landmine, and it only takes a small amount of pressure to set him off.

The short story was simply this: he was set off, and I was his target.

In the moments afterward, I immediately knew all four of those things. I knew I hadn’t instigated that response. I knew he was in immense mental and physical pain. I knew he was like a time tomb, and even he – to a certain extent – knew that he’d just done something really inappropriate. As he stormed up the stairs he continued to talk to us of his pain, offering various excuses and justifications for his outburst.

Back in the living room with my mom, the part of me that knew all those things was (surprisingly!) calm and present. I was conscious of how fucked up that exchange had been, but I didn’t take it personally. It was more like “Wow – life can really be toxic sometimes.” The television continued to play, and I continued to do what I’d been doing on my laptop. I felt present. Connected. Still. Safe.

Life went on as if it had never happened.

Except that it had happened. And it had made an impact. And that impact wanted to be acknowledged.

Little by little I started to review what had happened. Could I have done something differently? Should I have said something to him afterwards, and if so, what?  All these questions were trickling down to reflect this subtle narrative: How could I have been me, only better?

“How could I have been better?”

This is the kind of arrogance that codependents such as myself are raised with. It’s an innocent survival strategy – I coped with the dysfunction of my surroundings by thinking it was my fault. It was a way that I could have a sense of control within a life that felt really out of control and unsafe.

I quickly moved through that strategy and onto the next one.

It wasn’t me, it was him! What the actual fuck? I found myself fuming with righteousness, thoughts spinning to once again reveal an innocent survival strategy – trying to have control, even if it was all in my head. “This why I don’t spend much time at my mom’s house,” I said to myself.  “This kind of behavior is not okay. This is not the kind of energy I am willing to be around.

As I was fluctuating between inner stillness and inner chaos, Dave came back down the stairs. He came up from behind me, leaned over, and put his hand on my shoulder. “I didn’t mean to call you a fucking cunt,” he said. I took a deep breath. I knew he was trying to apologize, but I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to sweep it under the rug and I wasn’t willing to pretend it was okay. This wasn’t about blame. This was about honesty and integrity.

The truth is, I wasn’t willing to lie.

You see, I learned how to minimize my experiences (i.e. I learned how to lie) when I was very young. The old Lisa would have “risen to the occasion.”  With sincerity she would have smiled and hugged him and loved him. And as she was doing that, she would have been pushing another part of herself down into her psyche’s basement.  She would have been lying about the entirety of her experience, and wouldn’t have felt safe to do otherwise.

 

Forgiving without fully owning or acknowledging all aspects of a situation creates an inner split personality.

It’s a personality that gets love by being kind and forgiving and loving, even if it means getting stepped on, lied to, or manipulated. It’s a personality that can’t say no, choose herself first, or have healthy boundaries. That kind of personality stays in abusive and codependent relationships. That kind of personality minimizes violent or manipulative behaviors done by those intimate with her. She’s proficient at forgiving and loving others, but not so much herself. A sense of safety within is unfamiliar so she tries to get it from outside herself by altering who she is.

The current me did not rise to the occasion of pretending.

I did not minimize my discomfort and anger. I did not minimize the inappropriateness of his actions, even though I knew he wasn’t able to be any different. “I didn’t mean to call you a fucking cunt,” he said. “Please step back away from me,” was all I replied, with a calm but firm voice. Something felt unsafe, and I was safe to honor that. He straightened up, backed off, and immediately began to insult me again as he walked away. I understood. I understood for the both of us. We were both doing our best, even in our triggered states.

Unbeknownst to him, however, he was not merely mirroring the “him” from my childhood.

He was also mirroring a “him” from a past abusive relationship I’d been in, where my ex had repeatedly and cleverly redirected responsibility for his inappropriate responses and projected onto me. There was no accountability on his part – he was always dumping it onto me as the most skillful of gaslighters are apt to do.

But this was not my ex avoiding accountability.

This was Dave, who – for a variety of reasons – does not have the capacity or ability to manage the vastness of his pain. Holding him accountable for his outburst would be like holding a toddler accountable for his tantrum. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t an impact, and it didn’t mean I had to minimize that impact. So I didn’t. I was safe to be me.

My thoughts briefly reeled again.

That tricky bastard Doubt was sneaking in. “Was I making a big deal out of nothing?  Should I go apologize?” The old Lisa would have. She’d have thought, “Just move on, it’s not really that big of a deal.” This was the dissociation I grew up with. This was the strategy I used in dysfunctional relationships.  This was not the pattern I wanted to perpetuate anymore.

There arose an invitation to let it be as big as it felt.

Not in some kind of dramatic way, but by simply honoring what was arising. Something inside me told me I was processing old stuff that I hadn’t been able to process when I was younger. I didn’t need to confront my brother – I needed to be honest with what I was feeling, I needed to be with my internal landscape, and I needed to be true to me. So I was.

I slept well that night.

But the next morning I woke conflicted with regard to what it would mean for the future. Would I refuse to visit my mom again? I didn’t want to make her feel like she had to choose between us, and I didn’t want her to feel like I was abandoning her. I felt guilty prioritizing my own well-being because it meant potentially leaving her. I felt the pressure of all of this and started to cry, and the cries turned into sobs.

Then it hit me.

I suddenly realized that I was still grieving over how my mom had abandoned me and left me alone to deal with Dave while we were growing up. Moreover, I often took on the role of standing between the two of them, caretaking and assuming responsibilities I was unequipped for at that age. My mom hadn’t protected me from him then, she certainly couldn’t now, and I was finding myself in a delusion that I could some how protect her… and that it was my job to do so. I allowed myself to sob from deep within my being – grieving the mom that I never had, the protection and support that I needed but never received, and the inner conflict that I had known but didn’t have the resources to sort through. As the tears flowed, the torment and pressure released.

Something magical happened after the sobs quieted.

The holdings, tightenings and various grips in my body subsided.  All the problems that desperately needed to be figured out faded. The future worries that felt like burdens on my shoulders fell away. I spent the day feeling a sense of peace. I was still aware of some challenges that lay ahead, but there was no sense of the danger, urgency, or threat that had previously been there.

That evening there was a sense of calm back in the house.

I continued to look inward for any sense of conflict – for any need to create separation from my brother – and continuously came up empty.  The animosity towards him, the judgments towards myself, and the sense of being caught in the middle seemed to have shifted almost mysteriously. It’s hard to even put it into words, but it was as though working through that piece of childhood trauma opened up something in my system that was beyond both Dave and my abusive ex. It healed another layer of separation that had been between my being and god/Presence[3].

A chat between my daughter and me might help illustrate it.

She was watching me stare into space.

“Whatcha thinking about, Mama?”

“Oh….  I’m thinking about…the polarities of  ‘good’ and ‘bad’,” I replied honestly, kind of chuckling.

She wanted to know more.

“Something in me is studying… trying to know… something that lies within them…” my voice trailed off.

“Acceptance?” she asked.

“Acceptance… ahhh. Yes… but also… something else.” I sat and breathed, waiting for the word that was in the wings.

“Reconciliation,” I finally shared. “My system is looking to know reconciliation, not from my head, but from my being.”

I continued, “I think… that there is an invitation to live in the world, where we can acknowledge that there are such relative things as ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ and yet at the same time we can see and know ‘god’ in all of it, or maybe with all of it. Inclusion.”

We sat and breathed that in, no more words needed.

 

What does this conversation with my daughter have to do with the altercation with Dave? 

When I’m out of Presence – when I’m adhered to the mental realm and all the concepts and beliefs created there – I can’t help but prescribe to the duality and polarization of existence, and all the good/bad/right/wrong.  Through such a lens I can’t help but exclude much of the richness of life as I’m too busy defending my ideas of exclusion. How close to god am I, in such a state? How safe am I, truly, when I’m in such duality.

Living from a place of fear, not love, becomes the mainstay of existence when I try to make myself fit into various roles – good sister, good daughter, good person – and all that those roles entail.  In trying to live in accordance with self-imposed roles I innocently minimized what was arising in my experience, which kept me from being genuinely and authentically me. This pretending, based on the various polarities of “good” and bad” and the various concepts linked to them, cut me off from myself and from my knowing of god/Presence.

Working through yet another layer of pain body/trauma from my childhood, I inadvertently peeled back another layer of that (left brain) meaning making (the should, shouldn’ts, goods, bads, etc) – all which contributed to feeling separate from god/Presence. Not minimizing what I was experiencing meant I could be honest and authentic. I experienced presence, safety and peace as innocent byproducts of this authenticity, rather than as a result of my trying to “be good” or do what I “should.”

When aligned with Presence, there is no longer an investment in an absolute “good” or “bad.”

There is, instead, an honoring of the edges of what my human system is experiencing, within the experience itself – me interfacing with others and experiencing my humanity in the process, exactly as I experience it. From such a place, the need to make Dave (or myself) wrong falls away. I feel what I feel and, in honoring that, I connect with authenticity and Presence. Of course I can still make claims of “good” and “bad” and so on, but doing so from a place of Presence brings the experience of freedom instead of exclusion. Presence exists amidst it all – with no  requirement to choose sides, defend, or protect.

 

A couple days after “the incident,” my mom was leading mealtime prayer like she always does.

We were standing up and holding hands, and after she was done I requested that we pause and breathe together, hands still clasped. There we were, joined together. Breathing. I happened to be standing next to Dave. I could feel the two of us breathing as our hands were joined. Not having skipped over any part of my being a couple days earlier, I was fully available to be present in that moment. I said a few words while we continued to breathe. I acknowledged love, god, and our “perfect” humanity. I felt the bounty of humility. At different parts he and I chuckled, sighed, breathed, and nodded our heads together.

There was that reconciliation.

It’s a very different world to live in when I am not trying to minimize anything.

There is less fear, less anxiety, and less pressure. It isn’t always easy, though. Doubt arises, and a different kind of fear can come in as I move into unfamiliar territory of not pretending.

“Is it really safe to be me?” has been a question I’ve long asked myself. The answer used to be a resounding “No!” And while I still may get hints of “No” from time to time, they are short lived when I stay turned towards myself and am honest with what I am actually experiencing. From that place, I am safe to be the me that is arising in that moment – whoever she is in that moment – without minimizing.

This sense of safety is profound – physiologically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The nervous system is quieter, and less preoccupied with past or future. The right and left hemispheres of the brain are co-mingling as designed, instead of the left-brain dominating – as is often the case for most humans today. All of this sets the stage for the ability to be curious and aware, and in relationship with that which I am aware of.

Safety brings about immense freedom in a human being. Within this honest freedom to be authentically me, I feel intrinsically tuned into god/Presence. There is depth. There is width. There is space. There is the experience of unity, whilst acknowledging the vast array of flavors that exist within unity. And ultimately – maybe most importantly – there is permission to be fully human.

[1] Not real name of relative

[2] http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=education_brochures_bipolar_disorder_rapid_cycling

[3] That “force” or “knowing” which contains all, or exists “outside” of self.