Monday, February 2, 2015
Return to the body
We are all familiar with the various dissociative strategies that we employ to repress or act out feelings we do not want to feel. Overeating, mindless shopping, surfing the internet, sinking into a marathon weekend of Homeland, multiple shots of tequila, writing another rambling, barely coherent facebook post – even through our spiritual practices we can split off. We can use just about any activity to distract ourselves from the alive, groundless, disturbing, on fire world of feelings and sensations. No judgment, no shaming, no apology – just curiosity. One moment of self-care. Just see.
But the most effective strategy of avoidance, one that we've all mastered, is to remove our sacred attention from our bodies, our feelings, our emotions, our sensations, and shift it into thinking. We become masters at thinking 'about' our experience, rather than actually 'having' it. In seconds, we can abandon what is happening and immerse ourselves in our conditioned histories – falling into the grooves of our traumatic narratives, dramas of unlovability, compelling stories of our flaws and failures, and fantasies of victimhood. All to avoid what is actually alive in the radiant here and now.
Again, no judgment, no shame, no apology, no beating ourselves up for how 'unspiritual' we are and all the rest of it. Just curiosity. Just a moment of self-care. These strategies were likely critical as young children in our families of origin, to keep alive the often very precarious ties with our caregivers and to ensure our own psychic and emotional survival. They were intelligent at the time, and quite creative. They just need an upgrade.
The next time you feel triggered, agitated, hurt, or annoyed, you could just pause and return your attention into your body. Offer a holding environment for yourself and your experience. What underlying feeling state are you seeking relief from? For just a moment, make the commitment to stay, even if for just a few seconds. Apply the enzyme of awareness and offer the gift of metabolization to these ancient companions. Perhaps you need not exit your experience as you had to do as a little one. Set aside the urgent, frenetic scramble to understand, interpret, transform, change, or even 'heal' your experience, again, even just for a few seconds.
You're okay. Go slow. Perhaps you can hold and contain so much more than you imagine. Perhaps these feelings are not even what you have come to imagine they are – and that it has only been the resistance to them – and the conclusions about what they mean about you – that have caused so much suffering and struggle.
Perhaps your present experience does not need to be 'healed,' understood, or changed. Perhaps it is fine as it is and will take care of itself if you will call of the war with it. Perhaps you are actually being unkind to yourself and abandoning yourself, as was done to you as a little one, by leaving your immediate experience and weaving a story about what is happening. This isn't a goal. Just an experiment.
For just a few seconds, stay close. Don't leave. No judgment. No shaming. No apology. Just a genuine curiosity. And radical self-care. And love. For yourself. You may notice that by doing this, over and over and over, the tangles and the knots of the body, the heart, and your precious, creative psyche and nervous system will start to unwind.
What you are is a vast field of awareness, warmth, and creativity. Rest there.