Continued from Part One (read part one here)
Aamir’s choice to ‘leave’ in August 2017, awakened deeper layers of my capacity to feel which, in turn, greatly enriched my understanding and practice of ‘holding space’ ~ both for myself and for the women I work with. I am still stunned by the synchronicity and power of the teaching that this event brought so vividly into my life.
Despite having been on a very rich learning and teaching path for many years, I began to see more clearly my own tendency to suppress difficult emotions and recognise the protective ‘leaving patterns’ that most of us play out every day. This is certainly not a gender based phenomenon. Women, men and crucially, our children ~ we are all on the spectrum of suffering from a world that fosters disconnection from ourselves, from one another and from Mother Earth herself.
What has been deeply rooting in me since this event, is the recognition that, as women, we have a very natural capacity and responsibility, to hold the healing spaces needed for us (as humanity) to begin to feel and find our way home to our hearts.
Holding emotionally warm, safe, ‘relational spaces’ that welcome authenticity and vulnerability, is the base-line for co-creating a new culture of care in our families, our communities and our work places. These spaces bring the archetypal energy of the ‘Whole Mother’ who holds, often fiercely, the loving container needed for the nurturing of wholeness that humanity is yearning for.
The leaving ‘pattern’ that has kept us disconnected from ourselves and alienated from intimacy, arises as soon as we begin to feel anything that we don’t want to feel. When that critical and, usually, unconscious moment arises, our habitual reaction is to ‘leave’ ourselves, though that may not be quite how it seems. On the surface of it, we want to find a way to blame and ‘exit’ from whatever external situation might have triggered those feelings. But what we really want to leave, is the intense feelings of emotional discomfort that we experience in our bodies. Whether we literally leave the triggering situation or not, we’re likely to find a way to ‘check out’ of the body so we don’t have to stay with our feelings.
Why? Because this is where old, unprocessed trauma lies. We ‘leave’ the body (and with it our sensate awareness) by distracting ourselves with anything that helps us to disconnect. Food, drugs, alcohol, sex, smart phones, social media (yes sorry!), chocolate (worse still!), over-work, complaining and blaming, or just endless loops of mind chatter. Even some spiritual practices and feel good self help books can be ‘used’ to deny what we don’t want to feel.
So when you meet your difficult feelings (consciously or not)… you’ll probably also meet a well practiced exit strategy which will likely have an addictive quality. [Today, mine is builders tea with honey!]
The bottom line is that we don’t need to beat ourselves up about this, nor is it remotely helpful to do so.
[Pause and breathe deeply for a moment or two…]
‘Leaving’ is an important and healthy coping strategy when we are in an environment that doesn’t feel safe. It’s a very sane thing to do!
Most of us learned to leave ourselves a long time ago, when it was way too overwhelming for our nervous system to fully experience the feelings of fear that were present. For whatever reason we found ourselves with no resources to cope at a time when, in a tiny being’s world, a lack of ‘holding’ in moments of pain and fear, could feel life threatening. Often we find that the root of this ‘trauma’ is related to the nature of our early attachment bonds to our mother and the core sense of safety that her holding brought.
Regardless of any mild or significant developmental trauma we may have experienced (that may not have been caused by any intentional neglect on the part of our mother or father), this coping strategy has been reinforced by our social conditioning ever since.
“Keep doing… go faster… if you slow down you’ll lose everything!” is the unconscious social motto most of us were and still are taught to live by.
The ‘google translate’ on this really means: “Keep leaving your body, don’t stop to feel and be present with yourself. It’s not safe.”
The problem with abiding by this hidden agreement, is that if we’re not present with ourselves ~ with the feelings in our body ~ we can’t be present to our sense of wholeness and the love that is available there. We lose touch with our felt experience of authenticity. If we exile the despair, rage, fear, shame and grief that we don’t want to feel, by continuing to suppress the power of that emotional energy, we constrict the flow of love, joy and creativity that moves through us and reduce our capacity to be present with an open-heart.
In that constricted state of being, we can’t locate our grounded centre from which arises our sense of inner guidance, wellbeing, healthy boundaries and trust in life. And frankly, we exhaust ourselves trying to hold it all together in the process!
At one level the solution to this is simple:
S L O W D O W N . . . get present in your body. Breathe… Allow yourself to feel and bring your compassionate attention to the emotional energy that is present.
However, for many of us, slowing down to feel is not as easy as it is simple.
In order to be with our most difficult feelings (like fear, rage, shame, despair or grief) in a way that feels safe and that ultimately resources us, we need to have a strong, compassionate inner ‘witness’. If we haven’t yet built a strong inner ‘self-holding muscle’ or, worse still, we have a reckless inner judge ruling the roost, we are likely to struggle. We’ll either stay in a place of numbness (which is still an important state to witness) or we can get lost in an unconscious loop of overwhelming emotional turbulence, masterfully reinforced by the self-shaming stories of judgement and unworthiness that we attach to them.
Unhooking shame here is key. When we already feel bad enough, if we then inwardly relate to our feelings in a harsh, judgemental way, we end up shaming and wronging ourselves for having those feelings in the first place.
Feelings are meant to be felt ~ we just need to learn how to be with them and hold our vulnerability in a way that enables us to choose to respond with love.
It’s not a choice between love and fear… it’s a choice to bring love to the fear.
I have learned that this journey of growing a well-tuned and compassionate inner witness takes time, commitment and patience. There are moments when I can practice ‘staying’… when I am there for myself with profound love. And then, there are moments when I meet the growing edge of my capacity to hold a loving container for myself and I want to leave. In those moments, I know that I can either choose to suffer alone or I can surrender to a field of love and holding beyond me, and reach for support.
That greater ‘holding field’ of love and support can come from many sources beyond our human relationships. Calling on Mother Earth and the power of nature is always my first stop but we can also call on ancestors or any Sacred source or guide from the Spirit world to help us reconnect with love.
However, when we are in a state of fragmentation within ourselves, our faith in a loving force of life to hold us, and our worthiness to receive that holding, can be elusive!
This is why having an external witness (which can be an individual or a Circle) to hold a space for us to gently and tenderly feel and acknowledge those parts that we have exiled, is so essential.
This ‘surrogate’ witness brings the crucial energy of acceptance, as if being deeply seen and met in our pain by the unconditional love of the ‘Whole Mother’, helping us to stay with ourselves rather than abandon ship. ‘Her’ presence holds a clear space of empathic, energetic resonance in which we can gently and safely open to feel the ‘trauma field’ we have been carrying, in a non-shaming way that allows stuck energy to move, restoring the flow of love within us.
In that warm space of presence and acceptance, the parts of us we have effectively abandoned (often termed ‘shadows’) feel validated, included and honoured as part of our wholeness. We may need to experience this healing process one tiny step at a time, so we don’t get overwhelmed or re-traumatised, but the experience of being consistently met with loving acceptance in this way, no matter what we are feeling, gradually restores our nervous system and with it, our sense of wholeness and belonging to ourselves.
Having this kind of nurturing, relational experience of safe holding over time, helps us to internalise our capacity to hold a more loving space of acceptance for all the parts of ourselves as we re-inhabit our bodies and learn to show up authentically in the world. This space of self-compassion, when our ‘inner mother’ is present, not only enables the tender, hurt parts of us to be more fully integrated, it allows us to begin to experience and emanate the radiant beauty of our inherent wholeness.
It’s from this place of authentic relating within, where we stay with ourselves no matter what, that we have the capacity to respond to the fragmentation we meet in the world around us, with the love that is needed to restore wholeness.
This is where our courage to show up as feminine leaders for our world really lies; in being willing to feel and embrace our own fragmentation and from there, growing the container of love that we hold for others in the face of theirs.[Take another deep breath for a moment ~ check in with how you are feeling in your body. Stay with the felt senses in your body and allow your inner witness to hold a gentle space of acceptance and compassion for whatever you are experiencing now. Be with yourself for a minute or two.
As I do this, I notice a wave of anxiety about how to conclude all this! I could keep writing forever, but I’m going to see if I can find a way to wrap this up… I really appreciate that you’ve given yourself space to read this far…]
I cannot complete this blog without appreciating the many beautiful, brave women that I have worked with in Circle over the last few years. It has been deeply affirming and healing for me to witness the extraordinary power of our collective experience. The more we can collectively feel and integrate these painfully exiled parts of ourselves in the presence of love, the more we can collectively heal our past and strengthen our capacity to hold ourselves and others.
This is why the Circle holds so much magic. With the right kind of holding and agreements, it becomes a healing container within which each woman has the opportunity to hold a resonant space of love and witnessing for the other.
As one woman opens to feel, so those holding space for her, resonate empathically with her vulnerability. This is not only profoundly healing for the woman sharing but for everyone who is touched by the experience, because the energy is held and moves collectively. One opening heart, unlocks many others.
I believe that it’s in these intimate Circles, where vulnerability is embraced as our authentic power, that we can rediscover a true sense of belonging to ourselves and to one another, and find the courage to stay, right here… in our bodies… on this Earth.
There was never any question from me as to why Aamir had chosen the roots of such a beautiful, Sacred Mother Oak as his resting place and I am still deeply moved by how close he came to the warmth of the Women’s Fire and the circle of women who were gathered that weekend.
We will never know how he felt or why he chose that time or place, but I will be forever touched by the learning and love his choice has evoked in me and how profoundly it advocates our purpose as feminine leaders: to reroot ourselves in the heart of Mother Earth, rise together and hold the Sacred spaces needed for a new future to emerge.
I hope his choice touches you too. I’d love to hear your comments below…
With blessings and much love for the Winter Solstice ~ may you feel your way home to your wholeness.
Blessings and much love for the Winter Solstice ~ may you feel your way home to wholeness.
N.B. If you’d like to find out more about how you can experience the Circle work and join me and other inspiring women in the Rising Connected community that we are co-creating in 2019, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org