Find Your Feet

baby-baby-feet-bed-733881Are you a head with feet?

Many of us, especially in the West, seem to be. It’s as though we’ve prioritized intellectual thought so much that is where much of our energy is. This isn’t good or bad; it just may not be or feel balanced for everyone.

If you’ve ever taken a yoga class with me you know I like to repeatedly offer a couple of things. First, to find your feet; your foundation and “build from the ground up”.

Grounding has been such a big part of my personal journey and I have had to actually find my feet. In fact, I didn’t even really understand that I had a physical body at all until I was in my mid-30s. For some that may sound crazy – because of course I’ve always had a body. True. It’s not like I developed that physicality so many decades after birth. I’m blessed with a functioning, strong, beautiful body.

What I mean is that I didn’t know how to energetically stay in my body. I was so used to finding ways out. To traveling out of situations or emotions. This self-imposed training goes way back to at least childhood, perhaps other lifetimes. My preservation plan was always to abandon ship. To go up and out. I got so good at that I had to learn how to come back. Then, how to stay. For me, yoga is a big part of what helped me learn how to make space and invite those parts of me back – to actually be embodied.

So often I see people in classes skipping this important step. I see them avoiding or not in their legs, and I want to help even a teeny bit, to get others into their bodies too. I see it because it’s familiar to me… I’ve done it too!

Years ago, I kept realizing I needed to ground. After trying to avoid it, I finally listened and spent an entire year focusing on just the first chakra every single day. The root. That foundation upon which everything else stands (until you go upside down, but that’s another story). I never wanted to bend deeply in a warrior posture because that meant using my legs. I didn’t like that one bit. It also meant stirring up uncomfortable sensation and all the unconscious “stuff” that I had locked away in the backs of my hamstrings and calves. All that unprocessed junk that I stuffed into my body (maybe to falsely ground) whenever I fled energetically wouldn’t let me back in. There wasn’t space for me (not that I was trying to come back… I was quite used to floating outside of myself… a giant head with no body).

So, I had to start looking at all that “stuff” stuck in there. Particularly in my legs. Start heating it up. Start sifting. Start being with it – those sensations I never liked. So I could start releasing. So that there was space for me to return.

After that first year of focus, I was more able to be connect to this plane of existence. It’s a constant practice for me and a constant area of growth, but I am now more in my body. Years later (when I was probably complaining about constantly having to ground), a teacher said to me, “the more grounded you are, the more expansive you can be.” I had never thought of it that way and liked that concept.

The more rooted I am within myself the more I can then explore other aspects of myself and my energy. The more I cultivated this, the more supported I started to feel both in and outside of my body, the stronger my sense of belonging became. The stronger this all becomes, I have found my way back into myself. I don’t leave as much and because I’m more present – physically – and I’m able to stay with the sensations or emotions that arise much more. The other benefit of this is that I am also then ready to expand from that sturdy foundation up through the heart, throat, third eye and crown.

I know the path – the way up and out. What I had to learn was the way back into myself. The way to bring that intuition and guidance from “out there” back in. To apply it.

The other aspect of class I almost always offer is time of free movement. Following your heart, your breath, your body. Some kind of movement or stillness that calls to you or that you call for. This doesn’t always go over well with some students, but often it does – and for me to witness an entire room of students moving completely differently – well – it looks like magic. It is magic.

It’s a space to move beyond any should’s or have to’s. To just be. To just move.

Sometimes it can feel scary. It means finding a moment or two of connection when many of us aren’t sure what that’s meant to look like. Some people get emotional. Some are confused and unsure of what to do. Some are angry with me for not leading the class. Some people are totally blissed out. There’s a wide range of responses that this can stir up. It means not having to listen to a teacher or another person but listening to your own authority.

After all these years, I’m now realizing it’s a big ask because these moments of freedom in movement go against the grain of so much we are taught.

These movements on the mat set another foundation in freedom: a place to connect to your intuition.

For many of us this too, is disconnected. Overwritten by conditioning or fear. This intuitive piece is what I’m starting to understand underlies even more of my yoga path. It’s in more of my teaching than I realized.

I’ve worked and shared so much about reconnecting with emotions. That is part of your intuition. So is finding your feet. Being in your body. Being able to move in a way that feels right or good without anyone telling you what to do or how to look. This helps undo so much; helps reclaim so much.

Over time, with repetition, this all helps to rewire the brain, to refocus the body, and allow energy to flow differently. To learn how to be with myself continues to be the greatest gift from these teachings. To practice using the instincts I cultivate on a yoga mat in the world means I have more power and ability to express myself (or at least recognize when I’m unable to do so) and the easier I am with myself no matter what the outcome is from my attempts. At least I heard that intuition.

So I no longer “fail” when I can’t do something based on what I feel. When I can’t take the action I know I “should”. At least I felt the sensations. I noticed. I can learn from it and try again next time. I’m starting to understand that intuition can take a long time to recover, depending on how in tact it is.

When connected with that intuitive self, I’m starting to see that it means not going along for someone else’s ride of what they want from me or of me unless we both or all agree that it is the right action. This comes from learning how to trust in the sensations because I am in my body. I can feel them, stay with them, AND choose the movements that will serve me. I have the space to make choices based on these intuitive pieces of information that I’m no longer running away from but bringing back into my body. Over and over again.

On a large scale this also means I can be free in how I want to move, even within the existing structures. Or to invite them to shift. To see that intuition in myself and in others. That vital piece of the mystery that needs to be worked like any other muscle.

Practiced. Stayed with. Cared for.


Place Number 111: Avalon Calling

59138236_10157124212238377_7895409389207552000_nI often have a feeling come over me that I must write (like right now). I have no clue what will come out or where it will take me, and I know that I have to listen. It just builds up, pestering me, patting me on my shoulder, until out it comes.

This is the push of creativity. The one that can easily be denied unless we choose to listen.

To allow.

I’ve been on a nomadic journey over the past two years and I recently felt called to go to Glastonbury, England. It came strongly and I listened to that call too. The date even appeared. April 30th. So I went.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was the time of Bealtaine or Beltane – an ancient sacred ritual and rite of passage marking the cross-quarter point in the year between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. A time of that bubbling up of potency from the land below and showering down from the stars above, culminating in transformative, sexual and creative energy ready to start fertilizing any seeds in need of growth.

Creativity is continuous. It is a never-ending part of our life force energy and at times becomes particularly loud.

For me, standing on the Tor on the eve of Bealtaine with a dear friend, surrounded by the mists of Avalon and the not quite dark not quite light atmosphere suspended time. We had been there before, it felt, and had come again for some purpose. The beating of a drum and chanting of others also helped create something that I never could have planned or even expected. It was a spontaneous co-creation beyond anything from my imagination and yet I have felt it, tasted it, known it in dreams.

The entire time in Glastonbury was potent for me. Mystical. Synchronistic. What was unfolding around me was bigger than me and yet, I was also an active participant.

I have always dreamed of Avalon. Always was drawn to stories of Camelot and King Arthur’s court. Merlin. Morgana.

What I didn’t understand until now was how Avalon still exists. It’s energy is still here – superimposed or co-existing with what is now Glastonbury. The imprint of Avalon is strong and that is what I have also been feeling called to. That is what my soul yearned to experience and dive into. What I have been seeking for some time, I suspect. Without knowing it was real and that I could actually go there.

My heart opened in this place on new levels. It expanded and I could feel something within me shift that is beyond my comprehension. An opening followed by a closing after I left. A conversation in my head that tries to be rational, despite direct experience with the magical. The majestic. The creativity that pushes on my shoulder to emerge surged out and I felt radiant and then… made the difficult transition of trying to make sense.

It’s this other sensing though that I’m discovering; this sensing beyond me. This co-creation with a bigger picture. With spirit. With powers that be. With others. With energies that may be invisible but can be felt and seen within imagination or within psychic powers. These powers that have been subjugated for all of us for so long that we’ve been taught they aren’t rational and therefore aren’t important or even real.

Not only are they real, they are essential to health, wholeness, and living a full life.

Those are the very forces of creation and living that I’ve been following as I’ve tried to reassemble a fragmented psyche. Allowing myself to trust in these powers with every step on this nomadic journey with absolutely no clue where I’m going. To have a life that may not make sense but which serves me (and hopefully others) well. To feed that spirit and soul that yearns for not knowing exactly what or how. For being open to the mystery and seeing what happens if I pull this string or look under that rock.

I had to smile that my stay in Glastonbury/Avalon was my 111th place that I’ve stayed in the past two years. Of course. It is agreed upon that this number symbolizes the principles of spiritual awakening and enlightenment, high energy, inspiration and intuition, self-expression and sensitivity.

So as I explored this place and space geographically, I was also exploring it within myself. The child in me was radiant at finally discovering Avalon. The potential past lives I’ve lived also satisfied at returning to this place of knowing these secrets already. Of participating in ceremonies in that very spot, and knowing it’s something I’ve done before. The current me feeling and embodying the experience in my heart so that it’s there to draw upon again in future. To emanate and radiate out from the heart this creative energy. To shine it upon others.

It felt like an awakening. A re-membering.

And a realizing – that everything is creation – co-creation. It’s up to us to trust in those visions and whisperings. The nudges on the shoulder that say, write, sing, dance, paint, draw – create with me. It’s okay – you don’t need to know the outcome at the start or even at the end.

It’s the taking action and participating in the creation of life that is essential.

Create with the life force of the dream that wants to unfold. See it in visions. Share them. Co-create with something other than. Something larger than. Something you may not have been able to trust in or have faith in and yet, is there. Within you and outside of you simultaneously. Waiting for you to listen. To help in some way. To trust in the dreams you have and to surrender to living them.

When the Work is Done

41553787_167537330835758_8553860852582854881_n(1)What happens when a wound is actually healed?

When the aspect of yourself that once felt destroyed or beyond repair mends?

A simple physical wound you can watch. See how many times you might want to rip it back open again. How often you complain about the cast or the resetting of a bone. Then, at some point, we can accept that it’s healed. Even if we might be different or feel different as a result, and integrate. The physical process is similar to the psychological and spiritual ones. Only these, of course, are more difficult to see.

In a training not too long ago the teacher asked us what the world would be like if everyone was healed?

Imagine it. Every single cell and being in the entire world fully healed.

Can you?

What would we do? How would we be?

It seemed unfathomable to comprehend. So radical a concept that I had never given it any thought. I felt my brain stick and pause at the scope of what was being asked.

None of us had an answer.

The answer came forth that we would create. That we are creative beings.

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago and didn’t publish it here. I spent the whole day writing and editing. As I was reading what was written, my heart sunk with a feeling of disconnect. I found myself retelling, once again, the same old story. The same things I’ve shared in different ways many times before only with a slightly new twist. A new kernel of awareness, sure, and otherwise, a feeling of boredom came over me with this retelling.

The story no longer fit.

We are done.

It’s healed.

This realization took me on an internal journey questioning authenticity and creativity. How important it is to allow what has healed to be so. To not keep picking at the scab. To not stay stuck in it as an identity. How so very important that work is to do so that others can do it too. This is continuing to unfold as I reflect on how incredible the feeling is when a student or client no longer needs me. When they find out that it was never anything to do with me all along, but always them. When their stories shift and they can move out into the world too, more aligned and thriving in their own right. When they can create what it was they have always wanted in life. What they want to offer to the world.

I’ve often sought in work to make myself obsolete. Not in a bad way. In a very good way. I have been in many corporate jobs where I always found ways to make the work do itself. Or to be more efficient. That way I could go and do something else. It was like healing broken systems to free myself (and others).

My healing path is similar.

I’m certainly not 100% healed with everything ever possible in my psyche – ha! Not at all. And I no longer need to stay in the wounds that brought me to this path. They’ve been exposed and dug out and looked at and tended to with countless invisible salves.

They’ve healed.

What I thought was impossible at the outset has happened.

What then?

The stories change. The old ones no longer need to be told and I can step free of them. The ground that was seemingly ruined and gauged out is now solid yet flexible. No longer vibrating harm. And…

Creativity flourishes, flowing through me, uncharted and without attachment.

The stories become new.

New Year, Accepting You

44393555_10156682517968377_4120564097336999936_nWith the New Year upon us, I found myself wondering about the word resolution. What does it mean? What is the root of the tradition for using this time of the year to resolve? What needs resolution?

I used to set resolutions without really thinking about what it meant. Probably because it’s “what you do”. They weren’t all that meaningful for me and, as I think back now, they came from a place that wasn’t authentic or from the heart or concerned with actual growth, but out of pain or lack or feeling like something was wrong and needed to be “fixed”. A place of scrutiny, judgement and “self-improvement”.

I explored a bit about the history of setting New Year’s resolutions and discovered that we have been practicing this tradition for at least 4,000 years (starting in Babylonia). The tradition has changed over time, as they do. From focusing on the external – wellbeing of the community, honouring gods, reinstating or replacing an existing King, or offering thanks and gratitude for planting the crops, praying and, more recently, clearing off any financial debts from the previous year or returning items that we borrowed, to what we do now which is often more focused on the individual rather than the whole.

The time of New Year is different in different cultures and places in the world. For some, it’s in the darkness of the beginning of winter where we honour the ancestors who came before or choose to reflect upon what the past year has offered and what to bring into the next. For others it’s January 1st on the Gregorian calendar (the Romans or Julian calendar used to celebrate in March which honoured war but later moved the start of the year to honour the home and hearth). For others it’s still in the Springtime.

The practice of letting go what no longer serves you and calling in what you would like to incorporate for yourself (and your life) is one that repeats throughout many cycles – daily, monthly, yearly, and in larger cycles of decades or even centuries.

For example, each moon cycle provides the energy to release (associated with the Full Moon) and setting intentions or seeds to grow at the New Moon (as the energy is receptive and will increase in power through waxing to the next Full Moon).

Those aren’t resolutions though. They have a different quality – they’re often set as a positive affirmation or statement – sometimes simply a word that comes into consciousness and is planted way deep down within. A seed that needs to be nurtured and will grow with the support of the energy of the moon (or other cycles larger than ourselves, even though we are active participants in this growth through our own awareness).

My research led me to look up the definition of resolution which means a firm decision to do or not to do something or the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter. To me, that means that a resolution means there is something wrong. Something that we believe is a problem with us that needs to be fixed. The energy behind resolving to fix ourselves feels to me like an aggressive energy fuels the desired shift.

Like each New Moon, each New Year provides an opportunity for growth, but is a “resolution” something that is supportive to you and to that growth?

Why do anything under the guise of self-aggression? Self-hatred? Lack of worth?

Energy feeds energy.

Energy that stems from the roots of pressure (societal or self), self-hatred, guilt, or the believe that “if I just fix this or that, then my life will be better” or “I will be better”, seems to set up an equation of self-inflicted expectations and judgments that add up to an understanding that something within us is fundamentally wrong.

If we focus on a resolution that is fueled by this pressure, we’ll just keep adding more pressure to ourselves to fix something that isn’t broken to begin with.

You are already whole.

Those parts of ourselves that crave the change we seek are calling out for healing, not resolution.

Instead of resolving, why not look a bit deeper to what underneath all the chatter of the mind wants attention. What aspects of ourselves do we ignore? What standards are we trying to live up to? What measurements? How long is the measuring tape? Does it have an end? Where did it come from to begin with?

This year, instead of a New Year’s resolution why not find something to accept.

Sit for a moment and close your eyes. Feel into your heart and hear the part of you that calls out for that acceptance. Give yourself that gift. Receive it. As fully as you possibly can.

Stay with yourself. Listen. Start to see one thing you like about yourself. Accept it.

Start to see one thing you don’t like about yourself. Accept it.

See as many aspects of yourself as you’d like. Perhaps one is enough. Maybe more. Stay with any feelings that may arise in your body. Accept it all.

Maybe see one thing from the past year that you wish was different. Something you’ve replayed over and over in your mind as if you could reach back in time and force it to change or be different. What happens when you tell that thing “I accept you”, “I accept that this happened”, and then let it go. Even a little bit.

To resolve is to be at war with yourself.

To accept is to give and receive the unconditional love you need.

In time, self-acceptance replaces self-aggression and compassion grows from within you, radiating out to those around you, as you remember and recover your wholeness.

Cultivating Loving Kindness

Album Cover - Loving Kindness Guided Meditation

May you be peaceful.
May you be happy.
May you be free from suffering.
May you be free.

This is the version of Loving Kindness or Metta meditation that I first learned in my Healer & Yoga Teacher Training.

I can see the memory of sitting in a circle with everyone in the open-air studio in Puerto Rico. We closed our eyes and were guided through seeing different people in our lives and bringing to mind the words, thoughts, energy, or prayers above.

I felt different sensations arise in my heart and through the rest of my body each time. Then we were to bring to mind someone who we found challenging. The teacher specifically told us to not go for the “big one” (whomever that may be) as it was our first time practicing.

So, of course, I did.

I brought my at the time biggest most intertwined-in-trauma challenge to mind. When I did, there was a jolt of energy and a huge crack of light and breaking open of emotion.

Yes, she was right…. perhaps I wasn’t quite ready… and….

It wouldn’t have happened unless I was ready. The jolt of energy was unlike anything I had ever experienced.

And, to be honest, the concept of this practice was also unlike anything I had ever experienced. We’re told things growing up (or at least I was) like “do onto others as you would have them do onto you” and, while that makes sense in some way, to practice it and to feel it in the body is something else entirely.

To bring to mind someone I love and feel the love then to send them peace, happiness, non-suffering, and freedom. To bring someone I don’t know well to mind and do the same. Someone I find challenging. Then, myself.

After that moment of first tasting Metta meditation, I practiced it daily for months. What I discovered was that by going into different scenarios that were emotionally charged or challenging, this meditation helped me to lessen, remove, or heal that charged emotion. I no longer held onto the charge which meant I no longer held onto the person in the same way. Non-attachment started to be created and allowed me to let go more and more, allowing me to move on inch by inch and not be stuck in the moments of the past. While also learning how to cultivate, grow, and deepen reserves of love. Reserves of what peace, happiness, non-suffering, and freedom feel like. To know how they feel in my body so I can call upon them more often in daily life. For myself and for others.

The transformational power of this practice has served me (and continues to serve me) well as I build up the reserves and learn how to love with kindness without bypassing emotion. For me, this practice has been about going into the emotions and transforming them. Learning that whatever I hold onto isn’t because of what others have “done”, it’s my own process of responding to them. It’s about going into my own selfishness and growing the “me” center of my brain into a “we” center.

Metta is one of the Four Brahma Viharas. The four are:

  1. Metta: loving kindness
  2. Karuna: compassion
  3. Mudita: sympathetic joy (feeling joy for others when they experience joy)
  4. Upekkha: equainmity

These are attitudes or ways of being towards other beings and work to bring relationships into favourable balance. They are also called the immeasurables. If you’d like to read more, there’s a wonderful article here.

Of course, for relationships with others to be or feel in balance, the relationship to and with ourselves must be. That is where the practice comes in.

That is why I want to share the practice with you by recording it so you can explore too. In the recording, I paired the Loving Kindness meditation I first learned with a Kriya meditation technique (focusing on the breath, spine, and a mantra or words) to first center your energy and give a foundation of grounding before diving in.

May it serve you well.

Available now on iTunesApple MusicAmazon MusicGoogle PlaySpotify, and all other digital music stores.
(International Release)

Taking the Steps

photo-3Today I went to see The World Before Your Feet.

I had the great fortune of meeting Matt (the “subject” of the film) just two days ago when we were both invited to share in a Thanksgiving feast with friends who have kindly hosted both of us over the years on our respective nomadic journeys. Though we have never stayed at their place at the same time, I had heard about Matt and that he was walking every street in New York from them. To me, what he was doing and how he was living made sense. I never thought to question it or his motives.

What I never considered (because how could I) was how much of an impact seeing parts of his story told would have for me. How I would leave the theatre and end up in tears moments later, standing on the 14th Street subway platform waiting for the 2/3 train.

I’m not here to write about the film. If you’re interested, definitely go and see it – it’s beautiful! It’s not my intention to spoil anything in the film either (but if you think I might… stop reading now).

So, what happened in those moments after?

I walked down the street to the subway and had a 10-minute wait on the platform.

Normally, 10 minutes feels like a long wait. Today felt different.

Today I had 10 minutes to listen to the man play the longing sounds of Auld Lang Syne on the Erhu (a Chinese “fiddle” of sorts). 10 minutes to walk down the platform past the other people waiting. Within the first few steps a thought inspired by Matt struck down upon me:

“You can’t know how to complete the puzzle – or even what it looks like.”

It repeated.

“You can’t know the whole puzzle.”

“You can’t know.”

My pace slowed as the bottom of my heart fell and the sides of it seemed to open up and out, creating a cylindric force of emotion channeling through me.

Grief. Deep, painful, grief welling up.

I was instantly reminded of a story I wrote years ago when I realized “you can’t figure out the angles of a circle” and within the intense emotion, I felt laughter mix into the grief because I’ve had a very similar realization before.

This was striking me differently.

A mixture of emotion was opening. Hitting into the depths of something beyond my comprehension.

You can’t know.

Grateful that I had stuck a few napkins in my pocket from the Japanese deli where I had lunch, I stood on the part of the platform that was abandoned and decided to let the emotion come up, sometimes dabbing away tears sometimes letting them stay. The laughter mixing in brought up more emotion and tears than just the grief itself, which I noted as interesting even as it was unfolding.

My memory flashed to all the moments in the past I had unabashedly cried on the subway in the past. Necessarily so. I thought about how much this city witnesses and holds. I thought about how this city has never felt overwhelming to me because it allows so much. Because the overwhelm isn’t out there in it, but inside of me. Or has been.

This city has been my greatest healer. My greatest teacher.

God, the pain coming up was deep.

There was an announcement made that it would now be 6 minutes until the next train. I took this as an opportunity to stand there, close my eyes, and feel. To be with what was happening. To actually feel into the sensations arising across the screen of my heart and throat. To let them flood up.

After a while of consciously feeling I thought about these past years of living nomadically. How for such a long time I dreaded facing the seemingly-always-asked-by-everyone question, “what do you do?” and “so… what are you going to do after your training in Ireland?” or “what are you going to do with it?” All the questions focused on earning. On making a living. On how, how, how are you going to….

Years of pushing, trying, forcing.

Of trying to know. Trying to see it all and know how to put the puzzle together.

At first the questions would make me angry. Angry at feeling like an outcast for choosing to do what I’m doing. Angry that if felt as though people wanted me to fit in a certain box that was not working for me. Angry that they demanded answers I didn’t have. Angry when they didn’t like the answers I did have. Angry that my very existence felt threatened by their questioning. Grilling me, as it felt.

When my answer has always been, “I don’t know.”

I’m being led this way and so that’s what I’m doing. It just feels right.

The truth is, I don’t have a plan.

The truth is, underneath all that anger was the grief that started to push its way up to the light today. Grief of loss I can’t even identify. Nor have I tried to. I just felt it there.

The truth is that it had nothing to do with those people or their questions which I allowed to feel like attacks.

I wanted approval. I wanted to not disappoint anyone. To satisfy them somehow.

The truth is, they were pushing up against my own beliefs of deeply-held insecurity by pressing me on questions of “how are you going to be secure if this is the path you choose” which, because of my own fears, I translated into needing to feel defensive of my choices.

Without even knowing it, I’ve held onto the pain that fuels that desire to defend.

To defend that I am living out my dreams! Dreams I hid away and denied for far too long.

So there I stood, in a tiny corner of New York City grateful to have been given 10 minutes where I wasn’t looking down the tunnel for the lights of the oncoming train, having a massive movement of energy through the core of my being.

I still don’t have answers to those questions. I need them less and less. I need others to have them less and less too.

Through the past twenty months of living nomadically, those desires of craving external validation have shifted. I’m not sure they’re gone but they don’t have as much power. I don’t get asked those questions as much any more either, as though the constant barrage reached inside of me and helped polish (through a challenging process) all those bits that needed to become more secure.

All of that pain coming up on the platform had been locked away, waiting to rise to the surface, ready to be seen, healed and released. Ready to be embraced with the deep laughter that came right up beside it, waiting for me to have the capacity to hold both. To continue to transform ties holding me back into the freedom to that allows me to step securely into myself and my own power to actively create my life.

The freedom to give myself permission to not know. To not know how to complete the puzzle or even what it looks like, and to keep taking steps anyway.

To let go… a little bit more.

Where I Want to Be

IMG_7469When I stepped onto my own healing path, I never actually expected to heal.

Not really.

I craved it at the same time I pushed it away.

I wanted desperately to feel better and didn’t think I deserved to.

Perhaps, I wanted to punish myself. To inflict pain and suffering. I was filled with guilt.

Healing was an abstract concept somewhere outside of me – maybe in the distance or at some far out point of space or time that was unreachable – unfathomable. Not allowed.

Yet, I reached for it. I reached for the intangible mystery of a question mark that healing often is.

What made me reach?

What made me keep going every time I bumped up against something big and scary and painful?

What was it other than, somewhere, way deep down, I must have known that it was possible? The belief of the impossibility of my own healing there as a layer of protection just in case it didn’t happen. I could undeniably trust the deniable.

I still sometimes feel fingerlings of energetic tethers or surges of seemingly forgotten memories of trauma arise. Only they aren’t as frequent and they don’t run the show now.

I have healed so much.

The thing about healing is that once it becomes a way of life, it really could be endless. There are always more layers. The trick, for me, is to know when to stop ripping open a wound and carry on. How to not let healing become an addition or habit, but a tool for continued growth.

Recently I did experience a bump of things resurfacing – mainly collected and unexpressed anger. I had just found my feet when I received the news of my grandmother’s death, another dear friend’s passing, and my dad’s heart surgery all happening at once. It was a lot.

In the past, I have swallowed my grief. I let myself cry, of course, but I also set limits on it. I tried to “be strong” for others by not expressing my tears. I’ve tried to keep it in or pretend it wasn’t happening. I certainly wouldn’t let other people see it. I’ve let it get tied up with guilt to make sure I would suffer. I went numb from holding onto it. Then, for many years, I was swimming in an ocean of trauma-fueled grief that felt wild and endless, fluctuating between crashing waves, attempting to suppress it or let it out and drown. It was bigger than me during those years of feeling unreachable.

What I noticed in moving through this time was I could feel so much more in the moment than I allowed myself to in the past. I felt the acute grief of loss. I let myself cry whenever it rose up. I didn’t hold the grief back. It came, sometimes violently surging through my heart and I could be with it, completely. Often, it felt hard. Painful. Huge! I let it. I let myself feel not only the grief but sad. Stressed. Frustrated. Afraid. Confused. I didn’t hold any of it back. Not for anyone else. Not to hide from anyone else. I let them see me. I didn’t swallow my emotions, no matter how big they felt or how strong. I didn’t have a single thought of guilt, just pure love transformed into grief.

It was liberating.

A week or so after my grandma’s funeral, I started to notice myself having thoughts of feeling stuck in life – I could see an old track play through my mind of how I don’t have a romantic relationship, a house, a job, a family. That I don’t even know where to live, and if I don’t know that how can I do or have or find anything else? Over and over these thoughts repeated endlessly from morning to night for a few days, forming a pretty bow (or knot…). I started to feel completely lost and adrift. These are not new thoughts. Only this time, I saw that they were there to accomplish a few things.

In the face of death, the thoughts represented things that feel “tangible.” In the face of uncertainty, I was reaching to create something in my life that would feel real. That I could touch. At the same time showing me all of the things I was lacking in my life, underscoring loss, and letting me fall into the pattern of berating myself and trying to figure out how to “fix” it: where I should go next. Where I should live. What job I might maybe want. How to find a partner. Not finding answers, I fed the loop more and more.

The thoughts also made me feel more sad that I already was feeling – a way to tell me that I wasn’t letting myself go all the way into the emotion. Even though I thought I had expressed so much (and I had!) I was still quite sad. Of course I was sad. I was in mourning. So I let myself be. I was sad and draggy and mopey. I told people how I was feeling. They listened and understood.

Since I had let myself feel the acute grief as it arose, once I went into the sadness, and truly accepted and myself be in it, it felt safe to be there. In that safety, I remembered that all along I knew I was exactly where I wanted to be right now: at home. That’s where I wanted to be and that’s where I was. There was nothing more to figure out than that. It was the thoughts of a fictitious future that were afflicting me. As I stopped, and allowed my sadness, I heard the words, “be here now.” It was as if Ram Dass had floated down beside me. I smiled.

Be here now.

And I am.

I am where I want to be.

Allowing, accepting, and sharing my sadness shifted everything. The thoughts dissipated (and haven’t returned). Even without answers, I felt instantly lighter and more at ease. The next morning I woke up feeling like I had energy for the first time since hearing all the news.

Now I can feel how the foundation of all the healing work I have done is serving me so well. Before I stepped onto this path I wouldn’t have been able to manage so many big things simultaneously and incorporate them so well. I would have (and did) let myself get lost in that drift that started to pull until it turned into a tidal wave. It’s no longer about healing that one experience that oriented so much of my work. It’s through that trauma and healing that I now have the ability to continue to heal with whatever arises. To move through it, to know that it will resurface and be triggered at moments, and to be okay with that too. I don’t need to safeguard or worry or avoid or blame, I can handle it.

There is no timeframe for healing with grief. For me, I’ve had to learn how to grieve fully so as to not let myself get stuck in any one moment. To know that it’s okay to let go.