Monday, February 23, 2015

A new neural groove of self-care

Though it may seem obvious, there is a huge difference between feeling our feelings and engaging with them at a more interpretive level, caught up in the subtle narrative which can so easily get spun around them. Staying embodied to profound sadness, as feeling and sensation, is not the same as talking to ourselves about why we're sad, when it's going to go away, who caused it and how it is evidence that we are not enough, unworthy of love, and that something is wrong with us.

For many of us we can say – "Oh, I'm fully in my body. I'm in direct, intimate contact with the raw feelings and sensations of anger, sadness, grief, shame, and hopelessness. Don't tell me I'm not feeling all that! I've 'been sad' for so long!" But if we will pause, slow way down and get curious about what is true, we may discover that what we are mostly in touch with is a subtle narrative that we have wrapped around our feelings.

In this discovery it is important to not shame ourselves, go into a secondary narrative about how we've failed and will never 'get it right,' but to return with kindness into the body and meet what is there. We may have to return over and over and over again, committing to stay w/ the burning for short periods of time – not so long that we re-traumatize ourselves or become totally overwhelmed, but long enough where we continue to build our tolerance for intensity. We can push ourselves just a little, with a fiery sort of kindness.

The invitation is to shift your awareness out of the storyline and into the body, not as some 'goal' to get it right, but as a practice, because you are committed to kindness and to caring for yourself. Not because the storyline is 'bad' or 'wrong,' but because it is one level removed from the fire of direct experience. It is within the center of this fire, in the alchemical crucible of the body, where healing emerges. In this sense, healing is a somatic process, rather than ultimately a cognitive one. This is not to say cognitive insight and awareness is not helpful; of course it is. But it is through a full-spectrum approach to caring for yourself that the wounds of the heart are best unwound over time.

As we make the commitment to staying with our immediate experience, we are creating a new neural groove of self-care. This radical sort of attention and attunement was not available to many as young children, as their caregivers were often just too preoccupied or dissociated from their own experience to provide a holding space for another's. It is a tremendous act of kindness to train ourselves to stay embodied to that which we were not capable of staying w/ as a young child in our family of origin. This is how we can love ourselves and in turn be present, attuned and loving to another.