The peace I am seeking

I am learning that the peace I am seeking has to come from within. So many idols seem to be being smashed with me right now. I am beginning to see how I looked to my relationships for love and unconditional acceptance and how often that failed. Now I am feeling more and more that I must rely on myself and prayer. I am not even really feeling like socialising any more. I see the world going through so much darkness. Where I find light and tenderness is basically with my dog and nature and poetry and some writing or music. I am thinking more and more of Jesus lately and what he endured and how he was misrepresented and put to death. It seems that the true gnostic teaching that we have to find the way to God within got lost in much of Christianity.

Drawing close to peace and serenity for me now is all I wish for in my life. I see that the things of this world do not bring true lasting happiness, only peace and love in our hearts and minds and spirits and souls does that. It is something that cannot be bought and is conditional upon a spiritual experience of every day praying for love to overcome fear and petty selfish small mindedness. I am wanting to simplify my life more and more and I am sure 2020 will be the year to do it. I am also going to draw close to the silence more. Its where I find my recharge. Plugging into my own peace and happiness is my responsibility. No one else can give it to me.

Soul

Soul arises in the quiet space

The time of rest

After we embraced the early morning

Birds swooped your back

As we walked the gum leaf strewn pathway

Nearby a family played

As we sweltered within the heat

Accompanying the rising of the day

And on the return we took our time

There was no need to hurry

On the drive homeward your beautiful face

Shines radiant with a smile

There is light in your eyes

These special moments are the ones

I most long for

When the demands of a hungry world fall away

And it is just our two heartbeats

Resounding in the silence

I live for this feeling of peace

The sense that life has provided everything

For us

Because we asked

For so little

Today`s prayer

Crossed Hands

Dear God

Please help me to quell the fears and anxieties in my heart

Please help me not to be paralysed by a negative view or perception

Or allow past loss to colour every new interaction

Painting it black

Let me remember

That the present is not always like the past

That the past comes into awareness

Only for me to see it

And bless it on its way

Taking the lesson at the heart

And leaving any fear behind

Help me to realise

That an acknowledged past

Has only the power over me

That I choose to give it

Help me every day

To choose love over fear

And belief over doubt

Courage over insecurity

Making our lives harder : the value of simplicity

I look at the way our world is becoming more stressful and complex and breathe a huge sigh at times.  Just going to my local shopping centre over the past week has been a concern.  People are in a frenzy of buying.  Why?   In Australia over a billion dollars will be spent on Christmas tat while homelessness increases.  What if every family or person just donated 10 percent of what they are spending to those in need?    Its crazy!

I watched what my mother went through in the hospital too, just before her death.  They were jabbing her endlessly with needles and her poor flesh was all bruised.  Medical intervention helps to a point but what if that prevention is adding to the stress and lowering immune response and health.

Today I started the day pottering quietly in my garden in order to be close to the breeze and soft green leaves.  Here I could draw close to my dead Mum.  I had the hankering for a coffee so went out and got it then a lovely quiche for lunch which I came home and had with a nutritious salad.  I thrive on salads in summer as well as half an avocado.  Good nutrition is also something that works best when we keep it simple.

I am also glad to be back to AA meetings surrounded by slogans such as Easy Does It.   Simplifying life may be going against the flow of how things are these days in an exceedingly complex and highly driven world but its the only thing that makes sense to me lately.  How well we are present, how soft and kind we are towards what warrants that softness and kindness is surely more important than running round and round in circles trying to amass more of things that only leave us feeling emptier, tireder and more frazzled.   Surely at this time on the planet more of us can wake up to this fact and just learn to keep life simple and take things easier.  How much more of our busyness and over consumption can the planet handle?

Finding peace

Beyond

I went through the most intense rage a few weeks ago over the prospect of realising that I need to have my front tooth extracted, to be promised an appointment in July only later to be told they would not take be able to take the tooth out for 3 months.  On Monday the dentist called and they are going to take my tooth out in three weeks time.  I was grateful that I wont have to wait so long.  I can get the tooth out, get my denture and no longer have the prospect hanging over my head with all the attendant anger about the way things have turned out in my life.   If I continue to dwell on all of that pain I could go mad, but the point I am beginning to accept is I can not change one single thing from my past and so I now need to accept what my life and story has been so far.  All of that said feeling the rage was a very important part of the entire process.

As I consider this it occurs to me that often people struggle for they feel they should not have the story or life they have.  With our chronic self improvement culture, it seems to me that we are often trying to be or do or get somewhere else than where we are.  Many of us don’t seem to truly love and accept who we are, how we feel or even what we need.  We seem to be hell bent on changing things, improving things,  upgrading things and for sure some kind of improvement or progress can be a good thing, but to self reject all of the time, to believe that we are defective in some way and can only be loved if we change, well where is the love, healing and acceptance in that?  This is the question I have been asking myself more and more lately.

I have a close family member in my life who is struggling with a huge issue at present.  In fact this struggle and issue has been going on for years and years and years.  My relative cannot accept the situation she is in.  The truth is that if she accepts the truth of the situation she has to feel pain and thwarting of her will.  She has tried so many ways to fix the problem, but no fix is coming.  When she shares about it with me I want to honestly say ‘let it go, you are hurting yourself more by your lack of acceptance”  but I don’t feel its my place to point out a truth that may hurt her and one she has to arrive at by herself in her own time.   So I have just told her I feel for her and hope that in time she won’t cause herself more angst by struggling so hard to have what it is she wants but cannot have.

At the moment I am so glad I have a 12 step recovery programme which teaches me to seek the serenity that comes when I can accept what cannot be fixed, cured or changed.  I am so grateful I have a higher self or higher power I can turn to when I struggle in similar ways to ask for help and get my own will out of the way. For sometimes in life our will is just not meant to be, what we want is not what the universe thinks we need and how we handle this critical issue can be the thing that makes or breaks us.

Acceptance does not mean we like a thing, or love a person.  It is just a saying of an unconditional ‘yes’ to the will of life which may act at cross purposes to our will.  It is an ability to say I will let go of my need for you to be different.  I may not be able to let go of my want and my hope, but at some stage in order to find peace I need to let go into the reality.  I may need to let the person go if they infuriate or consistently hurt me enough.  My letting go in that case is a sign of sanity to my mind.

I guess that place of peace and sanity is where I am finding myself living more and more lately.  It was definitely a stormy, stormy journey to get there.  A journey on which I got lashed almost to shreds on psychological rocks of pain and anxiety.  But today I can see more clearly where those rocks may lay.  When I find things are getting stormy I can take cover in a place where I am not as exposed to the elements, or I can decide to toughen up and weather the storm, letting it tear away what wants or needs to be released.  I can look for something beautiful or joyous to fill my day and uplift my spirit.  Once I am aware of my pain I can treat myself in a tender self soothing way and not make things harder by beating myself or others up.   I can stop in pray or meditation and ask for help or guidance when I am struggling with issues of anger or grief.

And I am finding that I can open my heart to life more fully even on the cold dull grey days like today, for I live in a world with other humans who also struggle just like me on those days.  When I reach out, get myself to a group meeting or just make the effort to connect I can find that I am less alone and that there is someone out there struggling even more than me.  Together we can share the burden so that we know we are not alone.  We can speak out our pain, we can recover from that deep aloneness which comes from being imprisoned inside wrong ideas of self rejection, or unfulfilled and sadly unrealistic expectations.  Often these form a prison that keeps us trapped in angst, preventing us from accepting the grace we find when we turn towards ourselves, life and others in openness, acceptance, surrender, trust and love.

There are no wrong turnings.

Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.

Guy Gavriel Kay

 

Acceptance : healing from the inside

Acceptance 2.jpg

The single most healing attitude we can hold towards ourselves is one of acceptance.  Even if there are parts of ourselves that we don’t like or that we struggle with, is there some way we can learn to love and accept these parts of us and understand where they come from and perhaps even learn to look deeper into where self critical views came from?

Self rejection seems to be such a huge part of our culture.  It becomes even more prevalent if we were raised in an environment or home where there was neglect or invalidation abuse.  In this case self rejection can become a huge part of our inner landscape, not really loving and accepting ourselves for who we truly are means that self condemnation and low self esteem become an habitual way of life.  The inner critic forms inside of us making feelings guilt, shame and powerlessness central issues we struggle with and we may try to hide these feelings from ourselves and others or silence then with addictions.

Add to this the complication of the fact that if as a child difficult things occurred which may have not been our fault we may have mistakenly come to believe that something we did played a part, for example the early death of a parent, illness in a sibling, abuse or chronic rejection.   Well into adulthood we may go on struggling with the critical voice inside of us or deeply unconscious feelings of guilt that cause all kinds of probelms.  We may also begin to learn to turn that critical voice outwards.  We come to believe in negative expectations.  If we feel we are not good enough we won’t learn to set appropriate boundaries against abuse or we may go on fearing rejection when there is actually no need to maintain such a fear.  We then learn to live from a self fulfilling prophecy which just brings more of the same to us.

The way out of such a dilemma is the practice of self acceptance, self care and love.  When we have distressing critical attacks we can learn to address the critical voice and the shame it may be trying to pass onto us in a loving way.  We don’t even have to argue, we can agree with the critic that we are messy or absent minded or careless but recognise that such traits have nothing to do with our self worth or lovability.  As human beings we don’t need to be ‘perfect’ to be loved, we should not have to ‘earn’ love by forcing ourselves into shapes others would like us to assume or by hiding who we really are deep inside, even if we are deeply emotional and deeply hurt or angry.  All such feelings really are acceptable, but he hard truth is that in childhood and even well into adult hood we may have been around those who struggled to accept such feelings and so we learned to internalise a similar lack of acceptance.

We can also, as we grow in critical self insight and self acceptance, learn that we cannot always expect a perfect love from those around us, who in being human are not perfect either.   I struggle at times when I hear of those who suffered some neglect in childhood saying they are going ‘no contact’ with parents.  Often it is apparent the parent has suffered deep wounds, wounds they may have passed on, and I do understand if the abuse is bad the person would not want a lot of contact.  But at the same time it is true that human beings suffer in all kinds of different ways in the course of their upbringing and so often pass this suffering onwards.

When we choose to undertake a journey of inner healing we are on a course to open up to this so called ‘shadow’ material or dark side in ourselves and in others.   We are on a journey to explore all the blockages of separation, fear and guilt as well as shame that have kept us from the experience of love, we are also being called on a journey of forgiveness.  We don’t ever have to like what happened to us, forgiving does not mean we ever say that what happened to us is okay, but forgiveness is the conscious choice we make at one critical stage in our healing process when we get to see the cost of pain passed on over years, ages or generations and resent into and through our own emotional systems and in relationships and see with absolute clarity that the cost of holding onto it is too great a price to pay and solves nothing.

Working through our anger may take years.  We find it hard to let down that steely defence which in keeping us protected blocks us from truly expressing the deeper pain or sadness of the hurt we feel, grieving and mourning in order to pass through the process, releasing from deep within our cell tissue traumas that hurt.  We may never have the hurt, or anger or sadness validated by the other person. In order for many o fus to heal we most certainly initially need to seek validation from someone but most importantly in time we must learn to find it from deep within our selves and our own souls for this is where our true healing lies.

Once our reality is validated from inside it becomes so much easier to love ourselves, to know that we were always worthy of protection and care but that also life is not perfect and due to this we as humans can and do suffer all kinds of hurt and abuse.  We may think “this should never have happened to me” but the truth is it has.  Hate it as we must we have to deal with the consequences and further we have to learn how to live a peaceful and loving life from within that place in order that we don’t go on to re-enact the hurt upon ourselves or others over and over and over again.

Most certainly it helps to have a champion or companion on this journey.  In my own life the unconditional loving presence of my therapist Katina has meant so much to me.  I have and do struggle with such self criticism at times, mostly over things that were so far outside of my control, with Katina I get a reality check as to where I am being too hard on myself and I see also where others can at times be hard on me and I see that I can stand up for my truth in the face of that.  I had an incident yesterday where I had to do that with someone who was a bit of a bully and was trying to criticise me in a joking way.   I didn’t have to carry the anger of it as I took the steps to stand up for myself at the time.  In years past his criticism could have launched me into a negative spiral for some days.

Self love, self care, self compassion and self acceptance are such critical issues on our healing journey from neglect, emotional abandonment and any other kind of trauma or abuse.  These are the healing balm to counter the voices and forces of self condemnation and self rejection that we may have internalised while growing up in dysfunctional environments and societies full of shame based attitudes which can leave such a destructive lasting legacy and impact recycling for years.  Without them it is hardly possible to heal and grow as we so need to.

 

Love, calm, peace

Lotus

Love

You are an open vibrating field of energy

That only wants to accept, allow and encompass

Whatever arises

You are a healing ocean

That has the power to wash clear and clean

Our wounded places

And soothe our aching heart

Calm

You let things be and you let things breathe

You know when to let go

And help us to stop striving too hard

In ways that only bring pain

Peace

You descend as a companion

Who arrives when love and calm

Have replaced struggle, stress and pain

In that place where we find you

Our inner being

Opens like a lotus flower

After being closed so tight and hard

That everything inside us ached

Petal by petal

As you unfold

Often through pain

You reveal the deeper truth

That all that occurred

Was really sent

To awaken us

Love, calm, peace

Help us open our hearts

And welcome you in

So we can receive your blessings

Belly low

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Belly low to ground

You lie my little teacher

Spreadeagle in complete touch

With the moment

You are always present

Always trying to draw near to this human

Who comes and goes

You are the silent loving presence

That always wants to stay close

That always has a happy smile to give

The one who seeks out company

And shows infinite joy

At each new arrival

You win so many hearts

Others long to draw close

To your sweet animal innocence

You bring smiles to their faces

And joy to their hearts

You remind me what profound peace

There is in silence and stillness

And in sacred rest

There in your animal dreaming

I will never truly know

What goes on

But just having you close to me

Gladdens my heart

And makes the painful days

Bearable

I am so grateful Jasper

For all you give to me

And all I learn

By being close to you

Unconditional love and Complex PTSD

I really do believe the most powerful force in the universe is love.  This week I have had some powerful moments of feeling love break through to me, most especially when the defences around my heart have melted and I have felt such enormous grief.  At these times I have been hearing an inner voice that says:

Only love is real.

I am not meaning to imply here that the painful things that happen to us didn’t happen, that they are not real but that the real force that opens us to the truth of what happened to us is actually love.  For without it there are only defences, protections and minimisations all of which block the true flow of love.    And it is the absence of true unconditional love the ends up damaging us as children.

C-PTSD is a syndrome of the dearth of unconditional love or what the great therapist Carl Rogers, called “unconditional positive regard”.  C-PTSD can occur when unconditional love is shut off in an all-or-nothing way in early childhood.

Without the unconditional love of a parent (which includes the discipline to help the child set boundaries at the appropriate age related time) we simply cannot thrive emotionally and we are left with deficits.  These can be repaired later in life if we can find a source of unconditional love from at least one person.  Alice Miller has given the name “enlightened witness” to this source.  The presence of just one person who can be there to help the child know and mirror its true reality including painful responses to the trauma of loss of love will make all the difference for healing.

As Peter Walker points out and so many of us in recovery know we often carry this desire for unconditional love and positive regard into all of our relationships in later life.  In fact the sheer longing for it will bear testament to the lack we feel.  Healing and growing in awareness will confront us with the painful reality that very few people will be able to provide this for us later in life.  There is no one out there who can heal our childhood longing and hurt.  When we transfer it onto ordinary human relationships we ask too much and often we attract to us the vary partners who are most unsuited to give us this love.

Such a heavy demand can exact a huge toll on later relationships and part of healing requires understanding at a deeper level where our deep feelings of emptiness and longing come from and finding ways to meet them in different relationships and activities that nurture us and fill us with a feeling of peace. It also requires that we turn around and give to ourselves the unconditional love we longed for in childhood when we experience emotional distress and pain.

Although Michael Brown doesn’t ever use the term Complex PTSD in his book on presence, he does talk of unintegrated emotional charges which cause us pain that relate back to our childhood.  His method for working with them is outlined in his book.  Often we turn to others when we are distressed hoping they may give us this unconditional positive regard, some people will be able to do it but there will often be times they are not available.  In that case we need to turn back towards ourselves.   Sitting still with ourselves. Focusing on our breath. Speaking loving and soothing words towards our inner child, even opening up to ask him or her how she is feeling or what reminder from the past is being triggered for us will help.

Yesterday while sitting through a very long Catholic funeral service I started to feel distressed and agitated,  Part of me wanted to get the hell out of the room into the fresh air or far far away.  But for the moment I concentrated on my breath.  “What does this remind you of?” I asked my inner child.  She was telling me how much she hated having to sit through benediction services every Wednesday, how restricting and confining she found the space and the smell of the incense, how emotionally shut down and full of guilt and shame she found the service with its emphasis on the judgement of god for sins.  I was able to hear all of this and my distress soon ended.  I didn’t actually have to get away from the service, I could watch it as a witness and see how it and why it was affecting me more deeply inside.   There was some freedom in that. By simply being present with myself I learned something and not all things about the service were ‘bad’, I was able to see some of the good things without running away.  I shared about it later with my therapist.  Of how often I can get this urge to run and get away from heavy things but how lately I don’t have to react as quickly to do so if I check in.  It was a good observation to make.   I felt apart from but not lost somewhere deep inside.  The presence process had really helped me deepen my understanding.