Thursday, January 28, 2021

Matt Licata's new book - A Healing Space

While I was writing A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times, I had no idea where we were headed and how much transition was to come, not only in the outer world but also in our own bodies and nervous systems.

We’ve been through so much over the last year, a full-spectrum reorganization, including the loss of so many of our familiar reference points - personally, culturally, and collectively.

Where what we thought we knew about ourselves, what matters most to us, what we’re doing here, where we’re headed… so much of this has been called into question and in many ways has fallen apart.

The way things were supposed to unfold in my life: the person who was supposed to be by my side, the work I was supposed to do and find meaning in, the body that was supposed to always be healthy and strong, a psyche where there was never going to be any exhaustion, depression, loneliness, or anxiety.

It’s important to slow down now, to connect with the earth and the ground, to hold the broken pieces near, and to grieve. To mourn not only the loss of health and life, but also the dream of the way we thought it was all going to turn out.

The rebirth part of the death-rebirth cycle is realized by way of our willingness and capacity to grieve. The portal to resurrection and new life opens through conscious, embodied lamentation, as we gather the shards of the heart and collect them in a holy vase.

And open to the possibility that this process of “falling apart” is not some great cosmic error that we need to correct, but a harbinger of integration, an emissary of wholeness. To fall apart consciously, to allow the alchemical process of dissolution as an essential and sacred phase as we open to what it is that will emerge from the ashes.

It is love, of course, that guides the reorganization and its unfolding. But it is also love that is the substance of the ashes, and also of the tears, the tears of grief and the tears of joy… tears emanating out of the longing of the earth herself.

If the tears could speak, perhaps they would remind us that there is no medicine in a wound that is already healed, but only in one that is weeping.

My next online course - Resting Your Nervous System: Embodying a Trauma-Sensitive Spirituality and Discovering a Felt Sense of Safety - will start in March. Please visit the Befriending Yourself home page to add your name to the wait list or to receive detailed information. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Helping another to feel safe

So many of us feel shame about our trauma and wounding, as if it is evidence that we’ve failed, it’s our fault, and that we should be able to “get over” it and heal on our own.

Even if we “know” that these conclusions are not accurate, these schemas live implicitly in our sensitive bodies and nervous systems, where they remain open for neural revisioning when (relational) conditions are ripe.

These heartbreaking lenses of perception are reflected back to us by an increasingly disembodied and left-brain dominant culture, giving rise to the contemporary fantasy that I “should” be able to do it all on my own.

The tribe has broken down, replaced by the device and the slow cortisol drip of a sympathetically aroused collective. And we wonder why it’s all falling apart.

The emotional pain is tragic in and of itself, but underneath it is the underlying shame and deep sense of being alone, which is really at the root of trauma.

At times, it can be overwhelming to hold and metabolize fear and anxiety on our own. But with another nervous system, our windows of tolerance expand as they come together. This alchemical blending allows us to integrate experience that outside the relational field would otherwise send us into unworkable states of fight, flight, or collapse.

As relational mammals, we are wired to co-regulate. We are not meant to “do it all on our own” and it is not an indication that something is “wrong” with us if we cannot always contain our own wounding.

Rather, it is evidence we are alive, with an open, sensitive, majestic, and sometimes achy human nervous system.

We can do so much for one another, to help hold and transmute both transgenerational, biographical, and collective trauma. To slow down, with our presence and miracle mirror neurons, listen deeply, and be with another in a way that they feel felt and understood. Our world so desperately this needs right now.

If you want to help someone in your life, help them to feel safe.

Instead of “I am alone” with this fear, pain, and grief, “We are here together, and healing is possible.”

And then transmit this embodied realization into the neural circuitry of the world.

Photo by Annie Spratt

Thursday, January 21, 2021

A Healing Space

Dear friends,

While writing A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times, I had no idea where we were headed and how deeply our lives would be touched over the months to come.

Many of us are experiencing a deep restlessness and uncertainty, not knowing what’s coming next or how to best navigate during this transitional period. But it is precisely in times such as these that unique doorways to deep healing and transformation open, often in unexpected ways.

It’s so important right now to rest our nervous systems, to spend time each day in activities that ground, center, and guide us gently back into the experience of safety and connection.

There are so many ideas about what “healing” is, however many of them are outdated and misattuned to our actual lived experience. In moments of fierce grace, when the rug is pulled out from underneath us, our lenses of perception become ripe for revisioning.

There is an inevitable reorganization that occurs as part of the healing process. While it is so very human to “skip over” this essential phase and get to the promised rebirth, doing so prematurely prevents us from accessing the wisdom within the restructuring itself.

The alchemists, yogis, and mystics knew the importance of dissolution and experienced it as initiatory. It is the crumbling of an old dream – my life and the way I was so sure it was going to turn out – that provides the rich soil for creative, embodied transformation.

In order to be initiated in this way, we must slow down – and with a passionate, alive, and earthy compassion – attune to what is unfolding and being illuminated right now.  To take some time to mourn the reassembling of our world and to grieve all that we will inevitably lose as we heal and awaken.

It is an act of kindness to remember that the transformational process by its very nature is messy, glorious, and full spectrum… not only an act of creation, but one of destruction as well.

I wrote A Healing Space as an invitation into the temple of your own body, as a pathway back into the depths of your own soul, using the images and metaphors from rich and diverse traditions such as neuroscience, alchemy, contemplative practice, and the poetic imagination. It was written to be a loving companion to walk with you into the mysteries of your own heart.

In the end, perhaps it is really only love that matters now. But just what that is must be discovered in the fire of your own immediate experience, where there is unseen wisdom and guidance for the way ahead.

I hope you enjoy the book and find it to be a true friend accompanying you into the majesty that you are.

A Healing Space is now available wherever you purchase books, including eBook and audio editions. To learn more, read editorial reviews, or purchase a copy, please visit Amazon, Sounds True, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, or Book Depository



P.S. My next online course -
Resting Your Nervous System: Embodying a Trauma-Sensitive Spirituality and Discovering a Felt Sense of Safety - will start in March. To receive information about the course, a free talk that I'll give about it, and all of the details, please sign up to the mailing list at Befriending Yourself.



Sunday, January 17, 2021

The spiral of grief

Grief is not something we “get over” by following pre-prescribed stages, but a partner that we dance, play, honor, argue, and weep with as the cycles unfold. Its appearance and the ways it longs to be tended are unique for each person.

The timeline for this voyage is not knowable by the psychiatric community, nor by insurance panels or teachers of spirituality, but is birthed and unfolds within the open pathways of the holy human nervous system. To rush, force, or pathologize the experience of grief is to work against nature.

The grieving process may not have an endpoint or state of completion in which we come to some final resolution, where we “finish” and land in some untouchable place, free from our embodied vulnerability, somatic aliveness, and from falling apart and breaking open yet again. For it is this alchemical rotation of vast cycles of rupture and repair that touch and open the human soul.

While it may be tempting to hold some fantasied end state as a goal which we reach as we “master” life or learn endless new metaphysical theories, the heart is not interested in mastery. But in entering, playing, and unfolding the mystery in more subtle and sensitive ways.

The heart itself is endless, and the visitors of grief may companion us in their various forms for a lifetime. They arrive not to harm, but to reveal a portal into wholeness, mercy, and luminosity. Shifting shapes, circulating, and rotating, as they open and close passageways in the landscape of the interior pathways.

Grief is not so much a process that we “make it through,” but a non-linear, purifying midwife and shepherd of the unknown. It moves not by way of straight line, but by that of circle and spiral.

Photo by Myeongae Lim

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A holy reunion

When we are hurting, scared, and touched by emotional pain, there is a deep longing wired within us to be companioned, for a safe soothed nervous system to resonate and co-regulate with.

So much of our wounding – our grief, rage, trauma, heartbreak – is relational and is also embodied. That which we’re unable to integrate will drop into our bodies and held in an open, sensitive, holy limbic system… where it remains until conditions are ripe for re-emergence and healing.

While understanding by way of left-brain processing can be helpful and supportive, it is right-brain immersion in safety which fosters reorganization. The body will reorganize when it feels safe.

It is a corrective emotional experience, or we could say a reparative neural experience that brings that sacred soothing, where the orphaned emotions, sensations, and impulses are able to be held within a shared field of resource.

It is as if the little one, left behind at the moment of traumatic impact, is peeking his or her sweet little heart and head out into the interactive field and wondering, “Is it safe yet?” “Can I return home?” “Can I play again?”

They come surging into the relational field, not to harm or take us down, but for reunion, to receive what was needed at the time, but for whatever reason was not available. They will never give up and, like love, are relentless in that way.

While we are wired to co-regulate with another, let us be open to the nature of this “other,” which is oriented in the mystery and may nearer than we have come to imagine – hidden inside the colors, forests, and unexpected pathways.

As the veil parts just a bit, we may discover that it’s more creative, more intelligent, more (bitter)sweet and achy and majestic than we ever expected.

Photo by Sasin Tipchai

Thursday, January 7, 2021

The miracle of hope

Early relational experiences are encoded in our neural circuitry in the first 18 months of life. Stored as implicit memory, these patterns remain outside our capacity for conscious reflection, secretly shaping the lenses through which we imagine ourselves, others, and the world.

In those moments when we feel unsafe, the templates open and come online, coloring our perception. In response, we tend to numb or shutdown, or else become flooded with unbearable feeling. We long to return to safety as we are wired to rest there.

For it is from that neural scaffolding of safety that we can play, explore, be creative, spontaneous, flexible, emotionally supple, and able to take the risks that relationship will always ask of us.

Our expectations in relationship are organized in a fragile little nervous system that yearns for connection. The neural pathways are tender and responsive, as we seek attuned, right-brain to right-brain resonance with those around us, as well as with those within us. We want to feel felt, have our experience held and mirrored, and for a holding space in which we can explore unstructured states of being.

While traumatic encoding is deeply embedded, it can be rewired. While it may feel entrenched, there is hope. Even if your early environment was one of empathic failure, developmental trauma, and insecure attachment, it is never too late. The wild realities of neuroplasticity and the courage of the human heart is unstoppable and an erupting force of creativity.

As long as breath is present, the opportunity for safety and connection is available. Both the somatic narrative as well as the verbal narrative can be revisioned and brought up to date in a way that is poetic, kind, and majestic enough to companion you into unknown territory.

No matter what is happening in your life, you can start right now, in this moment. The opening for reorganization is always here and wired deep within you. Don’t give up. Love will never give up on you.

Please remember this and remind those in your life that there is always hope, not only some fanciful hope, but a hope that is wired into the true holiness of your body, soul, and nervous system.

Photo by Juan Gomez

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Offering a soothed nervous system

You don't have to fix anyone's problems. You don’t have to save them, heal them, or get them to take on your favorite metaphysical beliefs, theories, and techniques.

Just be there with them so that they feel felt and understood. Bear witness to their own organic wisdom as it recalibrates, reorganizes, and emerges.

Listen. Not only to their verbal narrative but to the somatic story as well. To the secret, sensitive language emerging from their heart.

Bracket your beliefs and systems for a few moments. Attune. With the poetic beauty and power of your mirror neuron system, enter into the miracle we-space with them, so that they feel felt.

I'm with you. I'm here. I feel you. I understand you. Be midwife as a new story is woven with new cloth, one that is majestic enough to contain the immensity that they are. One that is updated in real-time, integrated, spacious, flexible, translucent, and kind.

Extend to them a soothed nervous system, a sanctuary of presence, a field of permission where they can go through their experience without any pressure to heal or to meet some hidden agenda in order for you to stay close. Resist the temptation to “teach” them. But instead, “reach” them, finally, by way of the circuitry of empathic immersion.

It's going to be difficult to do this if we are out of touch with our own unlived life – with the unmet grief, the unheld sadness, the unmetabolized rage. If we have disavowed these visitors – including through our endless metaphysical theories and beliefs: it will just be too unsafe to enter the vessel with eyes and heart open.

Of course the mind has such a hard time with this. It just can't believe it. What about my theories and techniques and spiritual beliefs and all of it? I must convey it all and show them.

But the body knows. The heart knows. The holy nervous system knows.

The Other – whether outside us or taking internal form – is not in need of new information, theories, or spiritual beliefs, but needs and wants and longs for you… your nakedness, your tenderness, your raw unfiltered being, your love.

Art by Enrique Lopez Garre

Friday, January 1, 2021

A new year invocation

Take a few slow, deep breaths, allowing your awareness to drop out of the field of thinking and into the aliveness of your body. Down into your heart and then into your belly: opening, sensing, listening.

Allow your energy to continue downward, toward the ground, settling at your feet… just rest here for a few moments, held by the earth. 

Is there a particular feeling that you’ll do just about anything to not feel? Something too raw, tender, or shaky to touch and be touched by? 

How have you set up your life so as to never feel this feeling? 

Don’t think your way to an “answer” but just open and listen; receive a response from deep within. 

It requires a lot of energy to stay out of our embodied vulnerability. This is one reason so many of us feel tired at times; not only our physical bodies, but a deep, soul-level exhaustion. 

What is it that you’ve turned from over this last year? 

And what would it be like for you to provide a temple or sanctuary for these parts of you to return home? 

Knowing that the intimacy, connection, and aliveness we long for will never be found in the experience of partiality, but only in a radical, embodied participation in the full spectrum. 

When the visitor appears, it just might be the ally in disguise, coming not to harm or take you down, but as a harbinger of integration, a forerunner of wholeness. As a guide into the depths.

The guide, or the Friend, is not always sweet and flowy and familiar, but at times challenging, fierce, and “other” to what we already know. While not easy to receive and provide safe passage for this one, the Friend arrives with a fragrance of love. 

But the nature of this love is only revealed within the vessel of your own body, in that holy alchemical laboratory that is woven together by the scintilla of light, which make up the cells of your very own heart. 

Who is the visitor? Is there a piece of soul or a shard of unlived life that is reaching out? And how will you tend to them? 

Photo by Franz Bachinger