A huge part of recovery and life -is slowing down and accepting the unKNOWN. This is how you get to KNOW –yourself. ~Brittany Burgunder
A mind that is racing over worries about the future or recycling resentments from the past is ill equipped to handle the challenges of the moment. By slowing down, we can train the mind to focus completely in the present. Then we will find that we can function well whatever the difficulties. That is what it means to be stress-proof: not avoiding stress but being at our best under pressure, calm, cool, and creative in the midst of the storm. ~Eknath Easwaran, Take Your Time: The Wisdom of Slowing Down
Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves. ~Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
I created a ritual/meditation practice for myself around Venus retrograde. There are four questions I’m exploring over the forty-two days of the retrograde cycle.
My intention is to move slowly through these questions and spend ten full days on each. Meditating on the cards that came up for each question. Writing stream of conscious about the themes of the cards and what else comes up for me around the questions.
After day two of the first question I wanted to move on to the next one.
I told myself I felt “bored.” That I had explored that question enough. That I was fine and could move on to the next thing. I didn’t need to spend a full ten days on that first question.
But that wasn’t totally accurate.
I know the feeling I was having. It was akin to anxiety.
It was definitely uncomfortable.
I wanted to get to the next thing. I didn’t want to stay in the thing I was in. It was starting to stress me out.
I had the same feeling in therapy a few days before. A feeling that tells me I’m on the edge of something big, a break through, a release, a deeper understanding, healing. It’s a feeling I want to run away from. I don’t like it. I don’t like being in that quiet, in that stillness, in the here and now present moment, allowing what needs to bubble up to bubble.
It is so uncomfortable. I want it to stop and go away. I don’t want to stay in it. I don’t want to let it run its course. I want it to just stop.
When we have complex trauma living in our bodies and minds, slowing down, being still, staying in the moment – all this can be incredibly uncomfortable. Staying focused on one thing, digging into one theme, going down into the depths of our own wounding… Being in our body, present to it, to the discomfort, to the visceral shifting that happens when we slow down and stay in this moment now.
It is uncomfortable as fuck.
When we can sit in that discomfort, when we can stay present to it, allowing it to flow as it needs to… that is where our healing happens. That is where breaking patterns happens. That is where disrupting harmful cycles happens.
That’s why we do this work, right? To break the patterns and disrupt the cycles. To do differently than what was done before, what was done to us, what was done around us. To create relationships and a life and world that aren’t centered around our attachment wounds and trauma, but rather around liberation and mature love.
We are living in a world that has been in slow motion for the past few months. Our usual distractions unavailable. Needing to stay home, to not be in the doing-doing-doing of “normal” life. It has meant slowing down. Not being distracted and instead learning how to be present, in this moment, right now.
And for many, this has been highly activating.
Anxiety spiked. Feeling even less comfortable in your own skin. Being “antsy,” irritable.
Wanting so desperately for things to get back to “normal” while also knowing it won’t soon – and having this being that much more activating.
I invite us all to have compassion for ourselves. To acknowledge this time can be challenging and stirring up our “stuff”. To accept that the traumatic events we experienced in the past may be being activated in the present, and while that is not our fault, it is our responsibility to not perpetuate harm.
I invite us to explore the idea that this discomfort you are feeling can have benefits. It can be an opportunity to learn how to be be in it, with it, to allow it to flow. To do a little neural rewiring. To find ways of being in the quiet.
This isn’t easy. It’s not what I would call fun. It is intense work.
It asks us to learn self-compassion. It asks us to be gentle with ourselves. It asks us to take one moment at a time. It asks us to move outside our own comfort zone.
I’m finding myself pushing my own edges. Expanding. Finding the places where the next stage in my own growth and healing can happen.
I’m not enjoying it. And I know this work is important. When we are able to break patterns and disrupt cycles of harm in ourselves, that ripples out into the world. It ripples out in our relationships. We find ourselves being more gentle, with our Self and those in our lives. We soften, shedding the armor that once kept us safe but now keeps us isolated.
Learning to be still, to be present, to stop distracting ourselves from the discomfort of processing trauma and healing our wounds, is revolutionary work. As we shift and change ourselves we also shift and change the world. Doing this work, of being present, in the here and now, is anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, anti-oppression work. It is work that encourages relationship with our Self and helps us to learn to become more intimate with others.
This is how we create the world we want to live in, by starting with ourselves.
This essay was originally published in my weekly-ish newsletter on May 17, 2020. It has been edited for publication here. To receive my most recent essays and learn of my current online offerings, you can subscribe here.