Warming Up Your Party Balloon: Freedom to Feel FullyFebruary 7, 2012
Upgrade Your Swiss Army Knife: A Metaphor for TransformationMay 3, 2012
It’s a difficult time to be human here on planet earth. There is suffering and injustice wherever we look, and constant change and uncertainty. For those of us who are struggling right now, I want to share what helps me when I am so overwhelmed that I lose my perspective (which is just about every day). It’s all about perspective.
During times of enormous pressure, we need an enormous perspective: the soaring eagle’s vision, an ocean of fluidity; infinite space and eternal time.
In the timeframe of eternity, energy (or emptiness) contracts and releases; creating matter (or form) and dissolving it again in an endless cycle. A tulip reaches its glowing petals into the sky, dances proudly in the grass. Then it begins to droop and shrivel, eventually melting back into the soil. We are part of this exquisite cycle. Like the tulip, your amazing body is a temporary contraction of energy into a material shape. Your sense of “me” is a temporary contraction of consciousness into a unique personality. Each one of us is as lovely and precious as a tulip. This precious body and sense of “me” will also melt.
Our brief human life only seems substantial because we tend to focus on the form part of the cycle. But form is bookended on either end by formless eternity. Even though the body-contraction is relatively brief, we get fixated on the “on” button, and make much of ourselves. This natural misperception causes us to suffer, and separates us from our original home in vastness.
From the perspective of vastness, human existence is as natural as breath: our life is an inhalation, our death an exhalation. Life breathes generation after generation of human beings. From the perspective of eternity, we can enjoy our bodies, our quirky personalities, other people, and the surprising twists and turns of our lives without taking it so seriously. What a relief!
The vast perspective supports healing and social change, too. If contraction is part of the natural rhythm of life, then pain is also a natural, temporary contraction. As is disease. Trauma is contraction. Unjust laws and systems are temporary contractions. Within the vast view, these smaller contractions are just like ice. Ice is hard, and immoveable. Yet given the right conditions, ice easily melts.
If I am anchored in vastness, then even if I am sitting with chronic physical or emotional pain, it doesn’t have to swallow me up. Even if my distress lasts all day, all week, or for the rest of my life—I know that it will definitely end. It will soften and dissolve. It isn’t the last word, and it cannot define me or Life.
By the same token, any trauma (experiences that cause us to contract our aliveness to protect ourselves) that has arisen will dissolve; this may happen while we are still alive, or when we die, or it make take us many lifetimes to release trauma patterns. At some point, all of our traumas will resolve and dissolve.
So within a vast view, trauma and pain–like the body itself–are like the weather. Why worry about the rain, or the wind? Weather is natural, and it will change. There is no need to blame anyone or anything. Within the eternal perspective, there is no problem, and no urgency.
If in the long view, it is not necessary to change trauma or pain, why am I a somatic healer? Why bother to support people to heal their body-contractions? I have many reasons. Compassion is one. Maybe I can relieve someone’s suffering. Suffering is temporary, but it’s real. Even if I cannot help someone change their situation, I don’t want them to suffer alone. Another reason is that I love healing work. It is a fulfilling and fun role to play—as good a role as any in this life of form. So why not be a healer?
And there is no contradiction here: while healing work is practiced within finite space and time, it simultaneously unfolds in the infinite and eternal dimensions. In other words, when we heal trauma in ourselves, we are healing our ancestors and our descendents. We carry the trauma of our ancestors with us, so healing our trauma now heals them too. Similarly, our personal and social trauma will be transferred to the next generation if we do not heal it in ourselves. Finally, any healing we complete makes it easier for everyone everywhere who suffers from the same issues that we do.
All of the above arguments apply to social change work or any transformative vocation.
Most important of all, healing work and the vast outlook mutually support one another. At its best, healing work of any kind re-creates the conditions conducive to melting the ice of trauma and chronic pain. The conditions that are conducive to melting pain and trauma in the body include: compassion, acceptance, appreciation, gratitude, persistence and patience. This leads us back to the vast view, which affords us infinite space, time, humor, wonder, and respect for the preciousness of life. Embracing a vast view creates the conditions for healing trauma and pain in the body.
When these conditions are present, it is more likely that body armoring and pain will soften or disappear, and that our rigid, traumatized identities will relax. This softening process makes way for more aliveness, fluidity and agency to show up in our lives. Some of these shifts can seem miraculous, but they are as natural as ice melting. When I am blessed to witness my client’s pain or trauma contractions starting to soften and heal, it transforms me as well. The dissolving of long-held trauma symptoms is a tap on the shoulder, waking us up to the fluidity of matter. If we pay attention, these healing moments remind us that we are spacious beings, constantly co-creating with the love that infuses and creates and dissolves all things.
In the vast slow-mo expanse of emptiness-eternity, there is no hurry—we have all the time in the world, and all is well. Life is a flowing river, and we are being carried along it. May all of us enjoy the journey.