Saturday, January 25, 2014

Safety: The Key to Success

I’ve written much about safety in past blogs. It is the foundation for my session work and what I strive for and continue to gain in my personal life. I see safety or, to be more precise, a felt sense of internal safety, the key to successful living. What that means for me, among other things, is an expanded expression of creativity, increased joy for living, and self-worth that is no longer hounded by voices telling me I am a failure. These successes are in direct relationship with a deep well of inner safety… and, I must add, trust. The two go hand in hand, one cannot have trust without safety and vice versa: the safer I feel, the more I trust myself and the deeper I trust, the safer I am.

I also feel if we support people in developing this inner safety we will be much farther ahead in ending violence and hate; over-consumption and greed and ... well, lots of things but I am going beyond myself here, lets keep it simple. 

The problem is that too many of us see safety as an external characteristic: one to form rules and regulations around.  And while I am not knocking the policies that come out of safe practice guidelines—they have helped make our schools, job sites and neighbourhoods better places to live and work—safety is not unilateral.  It is complex and multifaceted but held together by the bonds of a secure internal dynamic.

Simply said, the safety I reference is that which comes from knowing who you are and trusting how you feel. But that an oversimplification and prone misinterpretation. When I worked in Vancouver’s downtown eastside I could name many who trusted that their physical need for drugs was valid and true. Drugs, as one addict said to me, made them feel normal. How can one fault that except to suggest that their “normal” was anything but safe? And, of course, it is easy to find examples of people who say they know who they are but crumble at the first sign of rejection or criticism. Safety and trust need something else.

To nurture internal safety we need to develop a strong sense of where our centre lies and knowledge that although we can sometimes lose our way, our centre is a constant if only we look inside. We need to know how our feet feel when on the ground and how easy it is to lose that connection in a moment’s trigger; and how, with practice, we can regain it back just as fast. On that note, we need to foster compassion for those times we do lose our grounding or sight of our centre and become aware of how we feel when sad or angry, hungry or tired, and how to care for those feelings in healthy ways.  We need to acknowledge our uniqueness. For safety to blossom we need to strengthen our capacity for stillness so that we can listen within and discern our truth from our myths and then trust that truth.  And safety needs, maybe most of all, an appreciation of self: the good and the “bad”, and all that lies in-between—finding the wisdom, as the Serenity Prayer guides, to know what to change and what to let be. 

These skills are neither easy nor accomplished without cultivation and patience, good friends and quiet sanctuary, but they are attainable. And no, not as a fait accompli, but as a daily practice that acknowledges and celebrates both our humanness and our Divine Spirit.

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Magical Mystery Tour of ...

I recently dialogued with a friend about ways in which we show appreciation for life. She had several practices including depositing notes of gratitude into a jar and posting photos of places, people and things of which she is thankful on Facebook. I am a beginner at this but now regularly hike a forest path I call the gratitude trail. When on it I recount all that gives me joy including my strong legs and lungs, the moss and fern, my friends and family. On other days my list arises sporadically and a multitude of wondrous things rushes into my head. It is an amazing practice and I find the more I do it the more beauty I see regardless of how bleak the day may first appear.

I wonder why I never did this before.

I have tried many a time to instigate it over the course of my life. Myriads of self help gurus promote the practice and even fashion retailers tell us to slow down and smell the roses but the practice never stuck with me. Why now?

Could it be the well-meaning friends who did their best to change me for what they considered the better?  Perhaps it was the years of good therapy or, then again, the many more I went solo? I’ve read countless psychology books both pop and academic; trained under a renowned BodyMind therapist and have long since incorporated meditation as a life practice… Is the expression of gratitude an accumulation of these many events however mundane; however profound?

Why are some children born so incredibly aware while I only begin (and I emphasize the word begin) to understand the foundation for true joy in my fifth decade?

We could perhaps unriddle this question by comparing nature vs nurture, education, opportunity and privilege; the choices we make and paths we take. We could also go metaphysical and explore karma and past lives or invoke Spirit and talk of God’s grace but I really don’t think we would find the answer.

I had a dream some time ago where I found myself working as an office clerk. Before me was an enormous tome filled with actuarian tables: labyrinthine formulas and complex statistics. I am utterly confused as to my work duties so I turn towards the manager and say:  "I wouldn’t normally ask this but since this is a dream... What job are we doing?" He sheepishly replies he has not a clue but, recovering his composure ever so slightly, points to the book and states: the answers lie there.

I love this dream. It suggests that life is indeed an enigma and we really are not supposed to know the ins and outs of all its workings. And while there may yet be found a formula, good luck in trying to unravel it.

So, to answer my question as to why I am just beginning to get a glimpse of what is truly important I must borrow from the Beatles: It's the  magical mystery tour of time. In other words, I haven’t a clue but the time is none other than perfect.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Journey Within

If you call forth what is in you it will save you.
If you do not call forth what is in you,
it will destroy you.

~ Gospel of Saint Thomas

An acquaintance of mine, Irene Bilton of White Rose Wellness, recently posted the above passage on her FaceBook Page. Although I am not new to this quote (I pinned it up on my desk wall many years ago), the timing of her post was perfect. Not only did it relate so well to how I am feeling these days but it is the subject I have wanted to write about for the last few weeks. Kind of nice to get a boost, or opening sentence, from an unexpected source.

Just under two years ago I started a morning routine. Every day, just at waking, I ask the parts of myself—aspects of my personality—that I am not in full relationship with to come home. The words have varied over these many months but the intention remains the same: I want to become more aware and more accepting of who I am… all of who I am and not just the more tolerable aspects of me. And I am sure you know the parts of self I am talking about: the ones that embarrass, irritate and even humiliate us. Yeah, those ones.

The thing is these parts that seem to shame us are aspects of our self that we don’t really know or quite understand. They are like work friends, the kind we share a third of our life but probably would never take home to dinner. These parts create uncomfortable feelings within us because they tend to arise and make themselves known when we least expect it. For example, I have always been impulsive. At best, I take creative risks and, at worst, I put my foot in my mouth and hurt people. It is not all of who I am but is definitely a part of me. Moreover, I have always known this about myself; I just didn’t have a strong enough relationship with it to hold it in check at the appropriate times.  When I finally did explore this impulsive part—got to know it better, why it took over like it did and what it hoped to accomplish with its deeds—I realized it was just a part of myself that felt neglected and wanted to be noticed. So, now I take leadership over that part—re-parent it, so to speak— and give it the healthy attention it desires. I deepened our relationship. I got to know its ins and outs and whys and wherefores so much so that this part now trusts me to take care of its needs. In other words, this impulsive part doesn’t surprise me (as much) in those times when I am so wanting to come across as calm and reflective.  Indeed.

I’ve been consciously working with my internal parts for sixteen years, ever since I started training as an ARC BodyMind Therapist. But some parts of our self—our proverbial blind spots, as it were— are really ingenious at hiding out. Our friends and colleagues may see them and we may even get glimpses of them but these parts are elusive and tend to wisp away on the slightest breeze when we try getting a closer look. These aspects of our personality are usually formed in childhood as a way of coping with life. As such they tend to be quite independent after years of success and are not too open to change. These parts, therefore, need time and patience and, most importantly, safety to let themselves not only be known but be guided under new management, i.e. our true Self. (For more info on parts check out this article, The Community Within, or come for a BodyMind Session.)

Perhaps it is not so coincidental then that a month or so after initiating my morning routine, I took on a minimum wage job as a cashier—the lowest of low in the big box pecking order. I have written much about those initial days (see blog postings from May – July 2012) but in summary I probably learned more about myself in these past two years than, well, maybe in all my life and yes, not all of it has been pleasant. In fact, most was not as I was reintroduced to parts of myself that didn’t appreciate the position I had put myself in. But I got through. Most of what I learned was to smile at myself and forgive my foibles; to smile with others while letting go of my attachment to their foibles, and to open my heart while being patient and accepting when it wouldn’t budge on demand. I continue to learn these lessons ever day; some days they sink in better than others but I am okay with that. It is just the way it is.

Then, this fall, I was gifted again. After 18 months of stating my intentions and asking for my parts to come home several deeply entrenched and relatively unconscious parts did just that.  The most dramatic came in a dream as I watched from above the metaphoric sufferings of someone held in a retched prison. In waking my first thought was that I had been given a sign or a message that these were the type of people with whom I should be working. It took a few minutes for me to realize that the protagonist of my dream was, indeed, a part of myself. Sigh. I have since let that part out of “jail” and work with her, this part, that is, daily. In other words, I am taking better care of myself in a way I hadn’t thought possible (or even knew was needed).

I tell you these things because not only is life more interesting when we have a stronger relationship with all aspects of who we are but that it takes time and commitment to do so. There is no quick path to inner awareness—it is a life-long journey. I had no idea back in February 2011 what would come of my morning prayer or how long it would take but I am so very grateful and blessed that I stuck with it.

I end with a poem I posted in October.

Folk ask me
how it goes with my life:
What’s new, they say, what’s happening?

I shrug. Same old.
How can one describe
the changes within,
the writhing, tumultuous ride
I find myself on?

What can I say of the trust I feel—
that it is all good
and sound naïve,
or express doubt and
betray my confusion?

My body ferments with risk
of turning sour
like milk gone bad or expired juice.
I am not ready for this. Instead
I throw away the moldy jam and
toss the black spotted greens.

I wash the shelves with vinegar, acetic and pure.
I eat plain. 

This once barren field
is transforming. No longer fallow,
no longer carefully cultivated
the wild yeast within me grows.
Pregnant with life:
fertile, abundant, alive.

As it was meant to be.

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