Being present to the truth

We need to count by touching

Not by adding and subtracting

Mark Nepo

There are thoughts about life and then there is just life, pure and simple as it appears before you in all of its wondrous and at times terrible beauty, as you touch it and taste it, rather than analyse it. What is the story we make of life?  This is a question I am asking myself at present.

Recently when I started my Body Harmony therapy I got a bit offended when the therapist made mention of my being caught up in a story. I guess I thought on some level she was trying to imply that my pain was not real. This week when I just let out the feelings of deep sadness and grief I had trapped inside with very little of the story around it and she placed her hand on me knee and looked into my eyes with true deep empathy and compassion, I got it and I realised my fears that she was yet another person who was going to deny, invalidate and shut me down were unfounded?

My ideas of who people are, are not always right, (sometimes, yes, but not always). I have had two experiences this week with projecting onto two men around me in the park things that were not true when we finally began to talk. These two experiences have left me questioning my view of the world. How much of the story I make up around life and other people is actually real? How much also do I hold back after having decided something upon supposition or past fear will be detrimental to me or difficult or painful

I am not meaning to imply here that the impulse to be protected and safe while we seek healing is wrong, especially if we have been traumatised in the past.  Such damage can create so much fear of reaching out and may block us permanently.

One of the other impacts of trauma is that it captures your attention and takes it to another place where it is no longer so fully present to the sensations of today, instead we are caught up in past sensation or triggered by new ones which echo old and leave us no longer truly and fully present to the external and real in an open, feeling way.

I have tried to express this in an earlier blog about being caught between two worlds. What came up for me this week was how much the illness of my older sister took from me, how much separation came about as a consequence and how much fear of being present to life and love as a result. For some time I have been wanting to go and visit her surviving children, but I have been feeling held back. I know seeing them will bring up pain for me, but also deep joy and a part of me longs to connect while the other fears and holds back.

Another aspect of my past I relived in session this weekwas  the trauma of undergoing my first termination of pregnancy in 1983. It comes as a memory of being laid flat on my back with legs spread wide and pain going up deep inside me and spreading all through my abdomen, a terrible dragging pain which I seem to fight off every morning now when I awaken. When I am feeling all of these painful sensations and then feeling myself so powerfully pulled back to the room I sat in following the procedure with tears falling down my face, the present has faded out of consciousness.

I am being reminded by my therapist to be in present time to bring myself and my focus back to the room while still being aware of the sensation. then rather than thoughts there are deeper body sensations flowing like waves and often tears erupt which evokes a relief of the painful holding on and in. The sense of my heart faltering as tears break through to the surface of consciousness …. I am reminded of how last week when I went to the dentist and they tilted the chair back and then placed a heavy lead coat on me before taking an x-ray I was triggered back to other situations of being laid flat out on my back.

With so many of these deep body memories is it any wonder I struggle each morning to get out of bed? Its interesting to me that the more fully I feel the pain of these experiences, deeply feel it, allow it to move through me and release it, the more joyful desire I now feel to be present and engage deeply with life. My retreat into isolation all those years ago was driven by so much fear. There came a point in my sobriety where I had to begin to feel and engage in the deep pain I had buried. There was a desire to go back somewhere safe, to be in the old environment but also a resistance towards that too. It took me further 10 years to make it back to my home town and it has taken another four to begin to fully engage with the process through a number of stops, starts and replays of separation trauma where intense anger and fear came up for me.

you-cant-expect-to-have-a-deep-relationship-with-a-shallow-person

There is a joy I feel today in feeling real, in having places to go where I am truly seen below the surface by others being real who can see deeply.  Many people don’t touch that depth and they may fear it deeply, I am aware shallow may be a value judgement that doesn’t sit well with me, but I am also aware that in order to heal I need to find places of validation where I am truly seen and can be real in order to touch deeply and engage fully with what lives inside me.

For so many years all of this felt like a deep ocean that would threaten to drown me.  I needed help to navigate and deep sea dive it, it was just too much alone.  What came up too when I shed those tears about my sister and then my Dad’s sudden death was the deep understanding that all those years ago I had no place to express the pain, it got driven deep in my body, I used booze to cope, then there were the painful explosions as others drew close to someone who had a mine field of grief trapped inside her.  I felt true compassion for myself and for everyone else who wanders lost, looking and yet not truly knowing what for until that truth emerges in a difficult to find place which offers support, understanding and recognition.

It can be a long and difficult journey to find the right kind of help.  Having had so many negative experiences I can only say you know when you are in the right place with those who will help you.  it may take some time to trust if you have tried and been hurt before, but don’t stop searching until you find the place where you can be real and present to the deep truth that lives inside you,

Permission to grieve

Can you allow yourself to feel your feelings? Most especially do you feel permission within to go deeply into the grief you feel?

I am writing this post is in response to thoughts and feelings triggered after reading a fantastic blog : The Mourner’s Bill of Rights. (I am sorry I cannot provide the link right now, I am having trouble accessing it.)

When my own grief hit following my father’s death in 1985 I was encouraged to go far away from my family alone to the other side of the world. I was already indulging a lot in addiction as there was so much earlier grief over my accident in 1979 and my oldest sister’s cerebral haemoraghe, psychotic break, subsequent abandonment and loss of her family, as well as her suicide attempt.

In the absence of knowing how to grieve, finding a place and permission to grieve I now know I turned to substances such as alcohol and the lighter drugs. What occurred for me was that my grief got buried and transformed into a frantic search for connection, most especially to men. I would open my body and my heart only to have it broken because my behaviour at times could be very much a push pull dynamic of fear, grief, longing and confusion all tied with a lot of mixed up complex feelings of which grief was one.

As result I had by the age of 31, six terminations of pregnancy over which I felt such shame.  At the same time on some level I was conscious that I did not want to bring a child in the world that I knew I was so ill equipped to nurture and support.

At the age of 31 I got into recovery and my drinking and drug taking stopped, but the emergence of my grieving process took a lot longer. Following my first AA meeting a dam burst inside me as I recognised a place I could let go of an old dysfunctional pattern of seeking relief and reach for healing,  a place where I could be honest about my life.  I heard the words “many of us do recover if we develop the capacity to be honest.”

At many meetings in the early days I would just sit and cry my eyes out, listening to other’s stories, empathising with their pain, connected to my own deeply buried pain.

In time I moved away from meetings and got into therapy after my husband and I moved overseas. In 1999 my grief broke open in therapy, I suffered a very deep depression and I needed the support of 3 days a week therapy. My husband got really angry about this.

I remember one day I was in bed at 10 am as I had been urged to take some time off work (something I NEVER did) for depression by my therapist. My husband came in to the room and shouted at me to get out of bed.  He made scathing comments about how my therapist was only after my money and was constantly asking what we were talking about.  I feel so sad about this now.  He had his own grief too, he just didn’t want to explore or feel it too much.  One day he said to me “I want back the happy girl I married.”

In time I started to feel I could not really go through this process of feeling in my relationship. Rather than move away I clung on and made the decision to move back to Australia to my family which was the very last place I was going to get any recognition of my grief process, and admittedly this ended in much more unhappiness for me.

At one level my Mum was trying to offer support but at the other she was telling me I had to move on and get over it. This now I know has to do with my Mum’s difficulty feeling and sharing her own feelings of grief.

At one point my sister asked my mother to choose who she would rather spend time with following the first Christmas in the four months after my separation Mum decided to spend with me. My mother chose my sister as she told me “she isn’t sad all the time like you”.   I was so angry and hurt but rather than express it I began to get headaches.

Following this I made the decision to move back overseas where I moved in with a family to lodge who sadly treated me in the same way. As I have shared before here I went over the handlebars of my bike one day while living with them and hit my head open and was in hospital for a week. They made it clear I needed to make other arrangements for a place to live as they didn’t want anyone sad in the house.  Their daughter had just lost her best friend and my sadness was an all too painful reminder.

I moved to Glastonbury and attempted more therapy, in time it was so difficult financially I made the decision move home again. I then went into almost total isolation at the coast house my Dad had built in the years just before my accident.

There I just wrote and grieved when I could. I had little support. I see that now. In time I attracted another relationship in which when my grief arose I was met with anger and rage. I clung on, sadly for four years to this relationship.

Four years later I moved back to my family and home town again. Was I mad? What was I hoping for after everything? Validation, understanding, support are the answers. Instead I saw my sister’s descent into more acute bi polar disorder as she struggled herself and met with similar invalidation. I struggled to support my Mum following a painful knee reconstruction that ended up in serious clotting and over the next two years through several hospitalisations.  I also struggled to support my sister as she underwent shock therapy, unending medication and four hospitalisations.

Over the past four years I have been learning a lot about invalidation and how people who try to express true grief can be sidelined or exiled or their process numbed out with excessive medication.  I saw my older sister end up bloated from all the drugs she was given the moment a true feeling tried to burst our of her.  It was a sad story of abandonment and emotional invalidation playing out I have had to feel and witness.  I feel  little scared of being judged, but I wanted to stand by and love my family, or was it too painful to move away.

Going through all of this has taught me truths.  One of these truths is that the injuries we go through leave deep scars. The losses we go through which can be many when we come from an emotionally non nurturant or distant, preoccupied family like mine can be subtle and deep. There is also the deeper multigenerational sadness that we may unconsciously carry if we are attuned in this way. The legacy we have been handed to address and heal can be a painful one. I do believe that one person in the family may be the designated carrier for the more deeply painful emotions.

We can see this on an astrological level when there is a connection between our personal planets, Sun, Moon, Venus, Mercury and Mars and the planets Saturn, Neptune and Pluto. Strong Pluto aspects most especially show that it is our fate to undergo a descent into loss at some stage in our life, a loss which has a deeply transformative effect on our soul.

But in terms of the Pluto connection we may also encounter deep resistance within ourself or others from going there or even of letting go of the wounding and injuring patterns.

The truth is that we need to give ourself permission to feel and grieve, most especially in a society that may be defended against suffering grief and may exile those who are grieving or present them too much with shadow stuff others do not want to face.

In my own case I am still on the journey to accept and feel my own grief. I am finding more support now in this process after many challenges, stops and starts along the way.

When my oldest sister died last year I was able to grieve a small amount with her sons. There was an attempt at one point by her oldest son to shut the process down and turn the whole event into a “celebration”.  This son in particular struggles so much to accept his own painful feelings of grief and powerlessness over how his father abandoned my sister following her illness all those years ago.

In another case I was told by the second son’s wife that I needed to live my life for Jude now, rather than be pulled down by grief. A few years ago I could not have stood up to this in a kind way and spoke for my need to feel and grieve but this year I was able to.

My purpose in writing this blog is to encourage those out there who are undergoing grief to feel it deeply, to seek out those people who will help you to express it and to avoid those people who try to invalidate you and shut you down.

I do believe that so much of aborted mourning goes into addictions and war. Just look at what happened after 9/11 with the “war on terror”. That was during the last Saturn Pluto opposition in the signs Gemini and Sagittarius 14 years ago. At the moment Saturn has entered Sagittarius and will soon aspect Pluto again. Have we learned anything since then about the powerful reactions to and defences we can mount against fully feeling our grief and the powerlessness we feel when tragedy strikes?

For me I know I have gone a long way along in my grieving process and found ways to tap in, I also know at times my blocked grief and need to assert and express has led to painful body symptoms.  Our minds can lie but our bodies know the truth.

Grieving is not easy, it makes us tired and takes a lot of energy but it is also deeply enriching for in our grief is the love we felt for what we lost and what had value. Grieving allows us to let go eventually into the depths where we can feel most deeply the voice of our own soul.

Grieving itself may be our own dark night.  It is a process and we dont have a lot of control over it, but we can surrender to it, allow it a voice and a channel.  We can also expect to meet misunderstanding and misjudgement from some people.  Never the less trust your grief, give it a voice, don’t let anyone take that precious if painful gift away from you.

Loving through Letting Go

Last night I dreamed of the lover who last broke my heart and launched me on the deepest dark night of suffering. I was no stranger to loss and the meeting with him triggered all the pain of past losses, although I was not yet fully conscious of this suffering and much of it was replayed out over the four and a half years of our relationship.

He needed me to be without the wounds and scars that I bore, I still was capable of love and of loving but there were oceans of pain buried in my body and of anger too. He had his own anger, I am sure this is why we found each other.

In a strange way it would take the loss of this relationship to lead me to the place of suffering where awareness would grow and where I could find love in the understanding and empathetic embrace of therapy, writing, solitude, new understanding relationships and deep in the sanctuary of my own home.

In the dream last night we were together again but there was the awareness that it was only for a time, and if the relationship were to survive I would need to let go and him too, no longer making demands. So it was in the dream.

This dream was probably prompted by listening to the song Heartbeats by Jose Gonzalez last night. This song and the album it appeared on was the soundtrack to our relationship and takes me back in a most powerfully evocative and haunting way to that first winter on the coast of our relationship : beautiful love making, dinners shared, picnicking and lying on the beach while he surfed, cuddling his lovely dog, Sally and listening to him play guitar.

This idyll did not last. Arguments began after many months of bliss. He wanted me to change into someone I was not. He could not explore that my being different was not a threat to him, most especially my sadness, I had gone through a lot of loss. Probably it was not the right time for us. But in a way it was the right time to try again for me, even if it failed and lead to even deeper loneliness and heartbreak for a long time.

The agony following his decision to end it for me was the worst I had known, containing within it the buried pain of three other heartbreaks as well the pain of my father’s death at 23 still not fully grieved, only grieved more fully through enduring echoing losses (of his father and mother).

This week I tapped most deeply into this pain. I became once again the deep sea diver of my own soul. The feelings of deep sadness in being fully felt passed. I must say this weekend even though it is dark and overcast here I am not feeling the deep soul ache of suicidal pain that has been with me from time to time over the past four years. My soul is healing. I can feel it and with the Sun passing through my twelfth house memories from times long past are rising up to the surface of consciousness like flotsam and jetsam.

I’m glad to have the astro awareness as it helps me to navigate and accept these cycles in my psyche and soul. And I am conscious too that soon Venus which was been navigating the second half of the sign Leo and has recently passed over my North Node in the first house will move forward to approaching square with my natal Chiron in the seventh where it will in the 0 degree of Virgo station to turn retrograde. This will be a time of navigating self value, of understanding where my pain has taken me, of the essential lessons of solitude have been necessary for me to live truly as the soul I need to be for me, while still part of the collective (my Sun Venus Mercury Jupiter and descendant are all in the seventh house in Aquarius opposite natal North Node in the first).

I see clearly this morning that the relationship I nearly tore myself apart to hold onto was not meant to last. I was meant to have this time alone and now I can remember the beautiful times before the fights without the terrible aching of pain and longing in my soul. All of this has been transformed for me. It has taken not only time but work. I needed to feel that pain and the other pains too, so intimately connected like a painful lattice tapestry in my soul.

This dark night is not a path I would have chosen but one I was destined to take and travel and was prefigured in a dream where an African woman with deep soul suffering in her eyes told me she had lost a baby the knowing was a dark light of acceptance around that loss.

And that we cannot hold onto love but must in letting go allow it its own time and space to effect the necessary dark alchemy on our souls.

Parting is such sweet sorrow

Tenacious invisible threads tie us to those we love through our heart through our gut and leaving after an all too brief time spent together can be so painful. We are aware of the final ending that will come only dimly but the knowing is there especially if we have faced loss before and had our heart torn out of our chest or broken in two from someone else’s leaving.

I was conscious of this pain today as I sat in the hospital with my Mum who is recovering from a fractured pelvis and my nephew arrived with his mother, my sister to visit after a three hour journey from his home some 250 kms away. These kind of get togethers are exceptionally rare and painful for my sister who has gone through so much over the past ten years including an ending of a 30 year marriage amongst so many other changes, endings and losses.

As I considered the three of us sitting there with my youngest nephew (not so young now – 33 but still the last in a line of 9) I was reminded of how much love is there and also of the many ways in which due to being hurt I have erected barriers and defences against love as well as the deep pain that comes as we say goodbye.

I don’t have any of my own children so in this way my nephews and one niece are extremely precious to me. There have been fractures in several of these relationships which never fully repaired and left me bleeding for years. I see the part I played in this and also how they may not be so aware of what has gone done in my own life to make these connections extra important.

I think of my Dads’ second sister who I only met properly 14 years ago, of the love she had for us so far away on the other side of the hemisphere, of how when I was suffering at the end of my own marriage and being treated cruelly by a family I was boarding with in the UK, she was the one to reach out and offer the comfort I needed.

She is gone now and I was so sad when she died. But I was also glad for the connection we finally made which helped me to realise how deeply we are joined by ties of blood even when that person has not been a highly visible presence in our lives.

This evening as darkness falls, I think of my sister having so say goodbye to her youngest son after only a day and being returned to the hospital, of the pain of that. I want to comfort her having known that pain. And yet, I hesitate.

Lately a therapist said to me. “We come into this world alone and we die alone, so we better make sure we treat ourselves well and become our own best friend.” And yet the connections with others in the long run are what are so precious and valuable too. Leaving will remind us of our true separateness from others, that endings come in earthly connections but not within our own heart where the longing and love remains and our connection goes on.

Last Easter Saturday (a year ago) at this time I was by the bed of my sister holding her hand as she lay dying awaiting the arrival of her four sons, one of whom was flying in from overseas that night. I knew that in a few hours I would have to say goodbye along with the rest of the family.  We had had to make the difficult decision to take my sister off life support.

I remained with her for 8 hours and during that time they turned off the machine that was breathing for her. At 1 am I said my goodbyes and left the hospital.  I knew I had to let her go.  But at the same time it seemed impossible that she would pass, I was sure she would rally and rise from the flames like phoenix as she had in the past. Early on easter Sunday morning I got the call to say she had passed over at 3 am. Tonight I lit a candle for her by the photo of her on her wedding day with her little book on angels nearby.  Though I miss her, have grieved and still grieving her deeply, I know that as long as I live on we are connected and she lives deeply within my own heart.

Parting is such sweet sorrow and at times the sorrow is not so sweet but cuts like a knife.  In the cutting and with the separation we know the wound of love that is the price of having connected for whatever time we had. With some relationships we will have been forever changed by the connection for good or ill and the hurting that is left will be an essential part of our journey on the road of life and love.

In the privacy of our heart we remember, alone, in the silence and stillness of now.  Coming to terms with this aloneness and with the pain of separation is part of the bittersweet journey of life, love and connection along the path we travel.

Don’t run from your weakness

Don’t run from your weakness, you will only give it strength.

This quote touched my heart deeply when I read it in my daily meditation book on the subject Patience With Myself, this morning. It seems that like many people I can be loving and kind to others, but not always as loving and kind with myself, and at the moment, heading towards what I experience as a difficult time of year it is so important that I go gently with myself.

I’ve noticed that I’ve been feeling particularly sensitive and raw over the past few weeks. It has been a painful few years, I lost my sister around Easter, it was not only a sad loss but a blessed liberation for her soul, on one level. Her life was very challenging and difficult, confined as she was by the repercussions of a painful family history and a major trauma of her early thirties that lead through stroke, coma, partial paralysis, psychosis, separation and numerous challenges.

The aftermath of my sister’s breakdown in the early 1980’s as Pluto was passing through Scorpio, splintered and fragmented my extended family and in the aftermath of four painful years of tragic events, I lost my father over the Christmas period in 1984. He was diagnosed with cancer in November and dead by January 8.

It was in the early hours of Christmas morning that he was taken back to hospital following surgery to remove his stomach that went wrong, within just over two weeks he was gone, taken suddenly from us, no time to say a proper goodbye. His heart gave way during a procedure to perform a tracheoctomy, the process of inserting a tube in his throat to enable him to breathe following even further complications.

These painful events are now, of course, well in the past, but there are echoes over Christmas which often highlights the different aspects of our interconnections with those we have loved and lost.

It was four years ago that my last relationship broke up, following a separation over Christmas that evoked too much pain for my partner and brought to light old ghosts of Christmas past. Imprints of old leavings and experiences which replayed and over which we were both powerless due to the full weight of the historic past, were influencing our actions and reactions in ways, which were not obvious then, only became obvious in the light of hindsight and through the pain of processing the aftermath.

I am conscious, over this last week that there is a heavy weight of sadness around, a deep underground spring of watery feeling which threatens to rise up and flood the banks. Last night I received a call from my mother : she wanted me to go to a dinner with her and my brother and sister. It will be the only opportunity we have to gather together before Christmas. I didn’t want to go, I think that is the truth. I had to admit this truth to my mother who was, understandably disappointed. The sadness in her voice made me feel so sad. I told her how sorry I was for disappointing her.

Maybe it’s a sign of growth that I can allow her to have this disappointment and act anyway to take care of myself and do what I feel I need to do for myself. As I reflect on it, others have disappointed me this year too, I had to bear the pain of it and acknowledge it as a necessary part of my healing.

The flood of feeling I feel at Christmas and at most other times, does not meet with recognition in my family. So many times I have acted against my deepest instincts and been driven by the longing to have it affirmed launching myself into yet another painful encounter that leaves me crying in the bathroom alone.   It may not even be that way, but I know there is this pattern, when we get together, I will be the one carrying and expressing all of the feeling, it is just what happens. It’s a dynamic I am powerless over.

I feel deeply connected to my mother’s sadness and longing for us all to be together at a time of year that is so deeply painful for her, associated as it is with the loss of my father. I broke down in tears myself, as our conversation was ending.

To be honest I really struggled when I got off the phone.  I could then get very hard on myself and tell myself what I should be doing. But the truth is, that part of me wants the comfort of space and distance from the pain of it, so that I can be with the pain of it in a way that is ultimately more healing for me, this will bring me happiness, rather than more pain.

Maybe I am putting up defences. Maybe this time, with the changes we have all gone through during the year there will be a softening and a sharing of feeling. Maybe by saying “No” and not going, not participating I am putting a block on something. These are the kind of revolving thoughts I endure as I wrestle with the issue.

My inner voice today bid me reach out to someone to share the feelings, someone safe who would just listen and with whom I was free to express myself fully. I then opened my daily reader and read the reading that I opened with at the outset of this blog.

Today I am conscious that I need to be with the inner child in me who at times gets overwhelmed. I need to take her by the hand and give her support and let her know it is okay to feel sad, to have lots of unfulfilled longings, to center within and listen deeply to those, showing her the way to go. I need her to know that whatever happens I will not abandon her.

Tian Dayton’s reading helped me, today to understand this. She wrote

Today I will give myself the same kind of comfort I would extend to a hurt child, knowing the comfort will help me have the strength to forgive and move on. I will hold the child within me and give her love and encouragement. The simple act of holding, of letting the child within me lean into me, sob, hurts, adore and need without shutting it down will be enough.

It is not even that I feel the need to indulge deep feelings of pain but moreso that I need to acknowledge they exist. At the moment I feel fragile and tender. There is a sense of something new, vulnerable and small that is trying to emerge and birth its power.

I was conscious this morning as thundery showers encircled my home that Uranus is stationing to move forward soon. At 12 degrees of Aries in my eight house there is banking up of energy for forward movement and growth that is rumbling around. I feel it echoing deep within my body, along the energetic channels hitting my natal Neptune at 13 Scorpio in the third, sextiling all my Aquarian planets in the seventh house and trining my North Node and Leo ascendant upon which Jupiter is stationing too.

It is an energy that is calling me towards authenticity. It is an energy that is not easy to express in words, but at its heart I feel it whispering to me of the longing I have to be conscious, honest and free. To live as I am, as the child within me intended me to be.

Christ once said, it is through the child that we find our way to the kingdom of heaven. To me that kingdom represents authentic honest self hood that recognises its interconnection at a very deep level with every living thing. This morning I felt that interconnection as the thunder around me echoed deeply the thundering rumble of energy moving within me.

To live in this moment for me I guess means acknowledging what it is, even with all of its pain and difficulty, finding deep within that the answers for that moment which show me in the next instant the way to move forward.  There is no formula just the unfolding of consciousness and expression in this moment that contains within it all that is necessary and essential to our growth.  In feeling and being with my pain and weakness I find the way to move forward with the strength and courage I earned through being vulnerable.

Vulnerability, once accepted gives me permission to be human, to struggle, to be weak and scared at times.  It gives me the ability to acknowledge what is rather than deny it or remain locked in a painful struggle.  Acceptance then allows a release of energy that was previously buried and trapped.

As it struggles to emerge into the light, the new shoot is tender and weak.  It will take time to strengthen and it is okay just for this time to surround it with protection and care from the wild winds that blow.  Like that tender shoot I am a soul in process, struggling to emerge, to be free, of that weight of the past, of pain that traps me when it remains unexpressed, unacknowledged, unreleased.  Healing asks of me this liberation, this release.