Not alone : solitude and inner presence

Dreamer

When we are not alone,

when we are on our own,

then we have achieved solitude.

 

The person who achieves solitude

is alone

in his or her unique experience of the journey,

yet such a person

is conscious of an inner presence

with which to dialogue.

 

One may only become an individual

by ascent to this dialogue,

by conscious and constant valuing

of the autonomy and teleology

of one’s soul.

James Hollis

 

Suicide Prevention Month :

I was 20 years old when my older sister made an attempt on her life.  To be honest there was so much trauma going on the memories of finding her body were obliterated by my psyche and later I took to addiction due to the distress caused that I could not share with anyone.  That was in 1982.  My other sister attempted suicide in 2013 and at the hospital she was blown up like a balloon from the effects of the drugs which was so distressing to witness.  I was asked to take a bag of her things home from hospital and it had about three medications including anti psychotics and anti anxiety meds and when I googled them some of the side effects were anxiety and suicidal thoughts.  I was fucking angry.

Later at the hospital I was asked by the doctor “do you know why your sister is on anti convulsive meds”  I hit the roof and nearly screamed the place down.  “You want to know why because they have been overmedicating her ever since she had a hysterectomy a few years ago and playing Russian Roulette with her meds.”  I then told her of my family history of addiction and how I was in AA.  I thought the men in white coats would come for me but a few nurses took me to another room while I cried and they really listened.  Later the doctor came in and said “we have taken her off that medication.”  It was still a long way back for my sister and for my mother who found her it was terrible.   My other sister who had attempted suicide years before was at that stage in a care home and she died never knowing about the attempt my sister took on her own life.

It pays to remember that witnesses to suicide are also traumatised for the rest of their life and may struggle to understand.  They need a lot of support afterwards and may be similarly forgotten.  Of course there were complex issues as to why my sister wanted to end her life and I fully understand them having witnessed a lot of the difficult treatment she received in the family from those who could not relate to her emotionally and had their own defences.

I am writing this to raise awareness.  I have suffered from strong feelings of wishing to end my own life, most especially after my last relationship which was quite emotionally damaging left me with profound feelings of low self worth.  I have always tried to reach out when I feel that way in past years and be honest about how I feel.   But this is just not possible for many.  We need to be aware that modern life is full of stress, dissociation, dislocation and emotional isolation.  We are urged to put on a front a lot of the time and can feel scared and afraid when we cannot cope in ways others seem to be able to.

Reasons people choose suicide are complex so let us stay open and not believe we have the answers for those who are feeling confusion and profound despair.  Let us be present for what people are really feeling and be present and open our hearts and really listen when we can.  We just don’t know how much a caring ear or smile or work of kindness may help someone who is silently contemplating if it may not just be better to end it all.  I recently had a call on a day I was in such a state and the man really listened.  He said to me his father had tried to take his life and if I ever needed to talk I should give him a call.  His kindness to me on that day meant a lot to me.  Life is full of inner struggle so let us show as much compassion and sensitivity to others as we can.

Writing from the body and our past to tap in : some insights from John Lee

If I could give you a dollar for every time I have been told that I should just ‘get over it’ or ‘stop looking at the past’ you would be wealthy.   As a species we are only slowly coming around to the realisation that our past stays trapped and encoded in the cells of our bodies and our neuro and biochemistry.  When I first got sober a few years in I came across the work of medical intuitive Carolyn Myss, a wonderful book and set of tapes I was lucky to be given by the bookshop where I was then working called Energy Anatomy.  Carolyn was asked to work in tandem with a doctor to get information about certain patients he was treating about their past and what she had to say co-related with the illness they were going through with astonishing accuracy.  Carolyn had no other information, she did not meet the people, the specialist in question would just phone her with brief information about the patient.  From this Carolyn ‘read’ certain information such as ‘her mother died when she was two, she had a termination of pregnancy when she was 18’ and so on.   The doctor was blown away by her readings and Carolyn wrote this line in her book : “biography becomes biology”.

I am thinking about this a lot today as I am just reading the book Writing From the Body : For Writers and Artists, and Dreamers who Long to Free their Voice.   It is written by recovering alcoholic, John Lee who in recovery has become a therapist and works with people working to both free themselves from repressions of the past as well and express what may have been trapped, locked or encoded in muscle, tissue and organ.  The first few chapters tell of his own process to unblock his voice and find access through writing to essential blockages and experiences of the past which he believes to stay trapped in the body waiting to be heard or freed.  I am so inspired by what I have read so far that I really wanted to share it here, since on WordPress there are so many writers who are working in this way.  To be inspired to me is to be filled with spirit, to be able to breathe.  In fact in the chapter Inspiration : The Breath and the Word he deals with the importance of breathing as we write to gain inspiration and to access our depth.  I am not sharing content from the chapter here but the previous one Descending into the Body.  It is my own belief that body is soul and what soul’s suffer stayed trapped here longing to be freed.  When we tap in we release on some level past experiences and metabolise them.  I am sharing it here as I just feel a burning need to do so.  I hope it speaks to you, dear reader.

To embrace our body’s truth is to embrace our past.  There is no other way.  The body is home to all that has happened to us, and it remembers.  Fortunately, if we engage in the process of remembering (re – membering like Osiris did gathering up our torn fragments) with full vigor, great riches emerge.  In his breakthrough book, The Poetics of Reverie, Gaston Bachelard writes:

In waking life… when reverie works on our history, the childhood within us brings its benefits.  One needs……to live with the child he has been.  From such living he achieves a consciousness of roots, and the entire tree of his being takes comfort from it. 

Not everything we discover in ourselves will be comfortable.  But we need to know he truth of our roots if we are to write from that depth.  Our roots don’t have to be pleasant to be comforting.  Just the act of claiming our own history, of pledging ourself to its truth, provides peace of mind.  It also feeds our writing – we must know our whole story before we can tell it.

Lee goes on to talk about how he was raised in the South of the United States to barely literate parents.  How early on he came to believe that he ‘wasn’t that bright’, how he came to be ashamed of his origins and also came to believe he had to be from somewhere else to be intelligent or gifted enough to write.  Over the course of his healing journey though he came to see that such beliefs were untrue.  He speaks of how he had to both own them and dispel them or at least engage with them and work to answer them back.  He continues:

That’s part of my story.  You have your own.  You have your own messages.  What were they?  Who spoke them? What did you feel like when you heard them? How do you feel about these messages, and the messengers now?

As I am typing this a poem I wrote a while back addressed to my father comes to mind.  I will try to find it later but it was about how he devalued the artistic and humanitarian in favour of utilitarianism and commerce.  How he forced me away from my literate artistic side.  It was a deep wound in me and one I have only begun to really address since starting this blog.  Truth is, from a young age I was writing and so probably were many of you.  I still struggle with the Inner Critic.  How I get around it in my blog these days is to let it speak so readers can see.  I then try to act against what is says.

As the chapter concludes Lee gives this advice to budding writers :

Now write a story, a poem, or a one act play, or a letter.  Write how you feel about these destructive messages.  Tell the whole truth at last.  If fears arise, name them and you will dissipate their power.  We don’t have to go on fighting our fear, telling ourselves “everything’s fine.”  As we write from the body, we touch the centre of ourselves.  In doing so we discover to our surprise that everything truly is fine, and that a part of us remains safe regardless of what happens to us in the world.

My truth is this :  I wasn’t disabled.  But I did become tense and scared when unreasonable demands were placed on me.

Write your own truth boldly, loudly.  Stay close to the body’s sounds, to its rhythms of breath and bone, they will tell you want to write.

I am sure so many of you have found such comfort through your writing.  The beauty of WordPress is that it gives so many of us a platform to express and free from ourselves what became trapped, locked, buried or impacted deep inside. When other’s read, like and comment we feel the joy of resonance and know nothing we ever suffer really separates us, only that which we fail to free or speak.   I will end this with a luminous quote from Lee’s book on writing :

Be strong then, and enter your own body:

there you have a solid place for your feet.

Think about it carefully!

Do not go off somewhere else!

just throw away all thoughts of imaginary things,

and stand firm in that which you are.

Kabir

A beautiful interview on being fully present

The gem of wisdom in this interview comes towards the end, so stay with it.  “To be loved means to be recognised as existing”  fully in all of our suffering.  I have been an admirer of Thich Nhat Hanh for some time.  This beautiful interview toward the end gives some lovely advice on how to listen and be fully present with compassion for others and also for our selves.  We can use his mantras to talk kindly to ourselves when we suffer too.

 

Overwhelm

Breathe

Overwhelm

Here you come like a flood

Threatening to drown me

I gasp for air

And cannot breathe

Panic

Don’t lead me astray

Or throw me off the scent

Tears you are here

Underneath the wave that rises up

Reminding me of so many forces

And events I was powerless over

In the past

Power

I only touch you

When I put the focus on the Now

On little things I can do

Sorting out some of the mess around me

Or sitting still

Connecting to my breath

Saying to the little one

Locked inside my restless beating heart

It’s okay, darling I am here

Fear

You are present

I notice you

Fear

There were good reasons for you being there

In a world that often did not understand

And wanted to overpower

What seemed so small and weak

But was really trying to grow strong

Fear don’t make me do

What is against my will

Pulled on by forces of larger wills

Let me stand strong and true

In Leonine courage

Building a protective support around my heart

Not to keep out love

But to protect what really is love

From forces that seek

To destroy it

My sad self : reflections on trauma, Persephone and journeying in the Underworld

Persephone2

My sad self is not the whole of me, though at times it is so strongly present.  There is a side of me that is very dark and heavy and sad, that has lived in a dark and heavy places of isolation, separation and grief and known great loss and pain, awakening at 17 when an accident nearly took me out and stole from me that last semester of my final year at school.  Talking with my therapist a few days ago I spoke of how it felt like at that age a tear appeared in the fabric of the earthly reality and a dark hand reached up to grab me and take me down into the Underworld.  That was just the initial event of many traumatic experiences that unfolded spanning the years from age 17 to 31 when I finally got sober and arrested my active addiction in 1993.

The light returned for a time, then, when I met my ex husband.  We had some happy years of normality as we built a life together but in time the darkness of my unresolved past claimed me.  As I look back I wish I could have made other choices.  I wish I could have remained tethered in the daylight world and gone on to share a life with my husband but it all got torn apart around this time of year and so my sad regretful self is very, very strong some days.   I find myself captured by thoughts of what could have been were we able to build a new life in Cambridge.  I know its useless to regret the past in that regretting solves nothing.

Maybe too, as my therapist says, my ex husband wasn’t a proper life partner for me, maybe it was all ‘meant to be’.  That kind of shift of perspective can make my heart less heavy as I realise that I can be grateful for the time we did have together but also recognise there was a deeper layer to me than could ever truly find a home in that relationship.  And that I had an inner destiny calling me within that had not only a personal but a collective purpose.

As I shared in an earlier post Mercury, planet ruling perception, mind, communication and journeys turned backwards for a glance on Sunday, the 11th and it is not quite on my Pluto/Persephone in the first house, but nearly!  So I am looking back at all the changes and endings that led to now and this new beginning.

I read a very insightful chapter in a book on the Goddesses in Everywoman many years ago and in the chapter on the Persephone woman I found myself.  The Persephone woman’s life journey takes her to the Underworld either through emotional abandonment, depression, abuse, trauma or addiction.  There she lives out the dark side, perhaps sharing a strong connection to the ancestors.  I have Pluto Moon and in her book on that subject, astrologer Judy Hall tells the stories of several Plutonian Moon people, John Lennon was one.  He wasn’t a woman but the early abandonment of his mother left him with wounds.  The other family profiled in that book with a strong Pluto/Persephone signature was the Bronte family.   Several of the Brontes died young and there was mother loss that dogged them all, most especially the younger brother.  The dark heart of Pluto Moon is present in several of the sister Bronte’s books which touch on obsessive love and mental suffering and trauma experienced in and through relationships (Moon) with the traumatised (Pluto).

For myself I feel the heavy blackness at times.  Kat and I were going over the years of my life that led to my oldest sister’s first suicide attempt in 1982, yesterday.  It was such a hard year in my life anyway in other ways.  Following my accident and an aborted attempt to embark on studies up North I returned home to live in hopes of finishing my teaching degree. Instead Dad forced me to go to secretarial college.  As Kat said to me yesterday : “That just wasn’t you”.  I told her that it was as boring as hell and that we had type in triplicate with two carbon papers only being allowed two mistakes a page.  No tippex and no computer autocorrect.  That year my drug taking and alcoholism really escalated.

In later years one smart arse said to me “why didn’t you tell your Dad to stick it up his jumper!”.  That wasn’t done and in any case I didn’t have means to support myself on the back of my accident.   Anyway it was that year my sister’s husband returned her home to us with a one way ticket and one blue tracksuit with a beaten up old case for what she believed was a two week holiday.  He just disappeared and there was no return ticket.  Her four boys were with him.  Suicide attempt in that dark front room at the start of the  hallway, dark, dark emptiness descends like a shroud, laying all joy to waste!   A few years later my father’s illness grew and he was taken, leaving us alone.

Early on I learned relationships were dangerous. Life was unsafe.  Today when I woke up I just lay there and repeated to myself over and over again.   “You are safe, you are loved.”  Trauma repeat on any waking up and coming to consciousness tells me otherwise!  It tells me without words but with body symptoms “you are about to die, or be killed! Or something is about to be stolen.” (As it always is, I guess, as life goes on!)

Death is really rearing its head in therapy lately and coming up a lot (Mercury on Pluto in the first house makes sense!).  In the absence of outside forces collecting to cut me down or kill me I can then internalise the killer within in the form of a nasty anti life critic mean saboteur grim reaper who cuts all life, all joy, all promise, all hope, all faith off.   That is when I find myself once again deep in Hades/Underworld or the inner place of shades with a traumatised Erishkegal crying over and over and over again “Woe to me, woe to my insides. All is black, all is helpless, all is fucked death is stronger than life.  I cannot make it!” (Black side of black/white thinking?)

And yet another part of me knows that this is also not the entire reality of the life that I can have and live to embrace.  There is also happiness that is there when I choose to say to that Underworld place : “No! I have done enough time here now!  Now please, will you let me reach for life, for light, for love, for promise, for joy, for hope?  Please don’t kill me off any more.  Please today let me live free and dance through the fields with Jasper.”

Today I beginning to feel that I can actually make a choice but you know moments before writing this and articulating all of this I felt that I was sucked back so far down in the darkness again and literally could not move  This feeling followed a conversation with my Mum after which I absorbed all her sadness and tiredness.  I came off the phone crying because yesterday a put a schism between us due to my abandonment wound arking up.  She didn’t respond with empathy and then I think on some level that just made us both sad.  Today she sounded so very, very tired and then I thought of how at times I almost feel my psychic energy body is reading or mirroring hers which would be another manifestation of strong Pluto Moon, a very strong psychic connection not only with my mother but with the mother line.

Lucky for me I can use perception, my mind and astrological signatures and archetypes to make sense of this ‘stuff’.   When it has its hooks in me though its a different story,  I am sucked on by the psychic/soup/fog of which I am not fully conscious.

I started this blog to speak about my sad self and to explain how that is not the entirety of me.  I have a happy self too, one that can live in the present moment and positive life energy.  I just have to become aware when the darker, heavier, sadder side is gaining hold, feeling my way into it, connecting with it, but not allowing it to fully possess me is a skill I am finally learning.   I want to be able to be and express from both sides for Persephone never lived the entire time in the Underworld. In spring she returned to upside world again with gifts to give and dark knowledge she earned having eaten and tasted the fruit of suffering of Hades/Pluto fruit, the pomegranate.  She can give then to those who also voyage or get trapped in the Underworld too.  She can affirm that they are not lying or mixed up about that place, that it is real and does exist and is not just some form of aberration that so called saner souls can say is ‘madness’ or ‘insanity’, rather it is like a scar or birthmark that permanently marks the souls of some of us.

Like Innana (another Persephone woman), the recovering Persephone becomes able to travel down to meet the ailing, grieving, inconsolable, wounded, flawed, disturbed and sorrowing, hungering side of others or of ourselves.  Through empathy and compassion (and self compassion ) she develops the resilience to be deeply present with others or herself, for a while, holding their/our hand and saying “woe is you and woe to your insides”.  She can do this with patience and forebearance just long enough for her  Underworld sister Erishkegal’s suffering to be soothed, mirrored, contained and transformed.  And then Innana finally becomes free, free to return once again, for a time to earth, to light, to spring, to sunshine, to hope, to trust, to love at least until the next descent or call is heard.

The forgiving moment

This quote speaks more deeply to the issue of our struggles with forgiveness than any other quote I have read before.  It is so powerful and true, I just had to share it.

Don’t try to forgive yourself or anyone else right now.  Forgiveness is not a destination, not a ‘doing’, not something you can skip to.  First, accept, that this moment is exactly the way it is right now.  And the past was the way it was.

Accept your non acceptance in the present.  Forgive your inability to forgive, right now.  Feel your breath, the sensations in your body, the life that burns brightly in you.

Everyone is doing their best, even when it seems like they are doing their worst.  Everyone is dreaming or having a nightmare, battling with pain you may never understand.  You don’t have to condone their actions.  You may not be able to wake them up.  You don’t have to like what happened.

Simply let go of the illusion that it could have been any different.  You are different now anyhow.  Don’t focus on something you have no control over.  The past is a distant land.

Bring your attention back to this moment.  Your true source of power.  Your place of connectedness.

Wake up from the dream that anyone has any power to take away your inner peace.

Drop the need to be right.  Embrace the need to be free.  Come out of the story of “my life”.  Reclaim the moment

Forgiveness will come in its own sweet time, and you are forgiven for thinking otherwise.

Jeff Foster

Making aloneness of loneliness

Featured Image -- 33573

Arriving home

Deep reminders

Jasper greets me with excitement

Keeping his distance on the deck

Watching and waiting

Longing for food

I feel my heart fall for a moment

I remember how lonely afternoons felt

In childhood

Home alone

No container

Deep dive

Into empty space of absence

Being alone

Yet not alone

And reminders too

Of all those other Fridays

Heart empty and aching

I could only reach for anaesthetic

Fragments of today’s conversation with my niece

 So long estranged

Run through my mind

‘I only know how to be alone’

She said to me

Ancestral imprints deep

No self pity

Absence and longing for those

Who won’t return my call

Keeping their distance

I know why

There is nothing I can do

So slowly I ease into the evening

Tidying things away

Giving Jasper a pre dinner treat

Knowing that no matter how empty I feel

This moment

This very feeling

Is somehow a necessary experience

Full of deeper meaning

I can only welcome everything in

Then settle down

Feeling echo imprints of absence

Emptiness and pain

But knowing also

That as long as I am present

With an ope heart

For all these feelings

I am never truly alone

And that such presence

Makes aloneness

Of lonelieness

How being present heals disconnection and absence

When therapists are present with a client’s experience (in unconditional presence) something inside the client begins to relax and open up more fully.  What I have found, time and time again, is that unconditional presence is the most powerful transmuting force there is, precisely because it is a willingness to be there with our experience, without dividing ourselves in two by trying to manage what we are feeling.

For example, a client fears that she is nothing – that if she looks inside, she wont find anything there.  Although I first ask her to pay attention to this fear of being nothing in her body and we discuss how it relates to situations from her past, eventually I invite to open directly to the sense of being nothing.  And after a while she says … `​It feels empty, but there is also a fullness and a sense of peace`​, she feels full because she is present now, rather than disconnected.  It is her being that feels peaceful and full.  And she starts to realise that her sense of nothingness was actually a sense of being cut off from herself – a disconnection reinforced by stories and beliefs she has about the dreaded void at her core.  Of course, feelings don`t always transmute this easily.  Yet for clients who have experienced this a number of times it can happen more and more readily.

Feelings, in themselves, don’t always lead to wisdom,  but the process of fully opening to them can. When we no longer maintain distance from a feeling, it cannot preserve its apparent solidity, which only crystallises when we treat it as an object separate from ourselves.  In the above example, the clients fear of being nothing only persisted as long as she resisted that experience.  But when she opened unconditionally to being nothing, this inner division ceased, at least for a while, as she stepped out of fixed stance/attitudes/associations she held toward being nothing with their long history dating back to childhood.

In becoming present in a place she had been absent, she experienced her being, rather than her nothingness.  Being nothing translated into the empty fullness of being – where the fear of being nothing no longer had a hold on her.

John Welwood  :  Towards A Psychology of Awakening

You were there

Mother-holding-childs-han-001

You were truly there for me

You listened to me

In a way I was not listened to before

You validated how I felt

When I was tempted to be hard and punishing with myself

You showed me a path to self acceptance, compassion and love

  Your love was not conditional

On me being or not being a certain way

Your unconditional loving presence

Gave me the most powerful gift

This afternoon I cried while I tried to express in words

Exactly what you give

And have given to me

In many ways you remind me of my beautiful sister

I lost

And I will always be so grateful

For the day you came into my life

Thank you so much

For all you give to me

For being fully present

For this unconditional love

More precious to me

Than gold

 

(For Katina)