Needing More than Comfort

I’m really tired from all that’s involved in moving. Not just the physical effort and trying to organize things, but also all the bureaucratic stuff that is needed when you join a community.  I think about what Brother David Steindl-Rast says, in a conversation with David Whyte, about exhaustion.  The antidote is not rest, but whole-heartedness.  A lot of what I’ve been doing does not engage my heart.

I talked to my new friend Carolyn about Spirit.  She doesn’t believe in anything.  I realize that I don’t believe in god, but I do believe in Spirit.  She said she had never understood what people were talking about.  I tried to describe my understanding of Spirit.  I found it really difficult.  I finally said it was something about the depth in things.  She said she found that in music.  I said I could find it in dance.  I remember John O’Donohue’s definition of beauty — “it’s what makes you feel more alive.”  That lift of the heart.  That’s what I’m missing.  I’m missing how it feels to do circle dance in a sacred space.  How it feels to do yoga, or even Nia, in sacred space, and also with people I know and like.  I need a connection with depth.

If I had a writing group, that wrote and shared pieces with depth — as in writing about grief or about recovery — in the service of recovery —  in the service of health, of feeding the soul.  In participating in the Grief Workshop with Francis Weller, and in Writers for Recovery, I learned that sharing what you wrote is a big piece of the healing, because you are witnessed.

I’m glad I drove to Montpelier to see Karen in the flesh, instead of talking to her on the phone.  I was very tired, but I remembered that being with someone whose nervous system is regulated is a big help to someone like me, who has trouble with self-regulation.  I was able to just lean on her and be quiet.  We talked about “doing nothing.”  In my talk with Elizabeth earlier in the day, she said she still heard some activated energy in my voice.  Some degree of anxiety or excitement, unable to let myself down into the container, to let myself be held.  Or maybe I am held, maybe I am safe enough, I feel safe enough, to start missing that sense of “real life” that comes from being with people who care about all of us who are struggling with pain, poverty, ill-health, racism, mental/emotional dysfunction…  depression, addiction, self-mutilation, suicide…  Those are the people I want to help, or at least stand with, let them know they are not alone.  It’s not about being safe and comfortable.  But it’s only when I feel safe and supported enough that I can try to help the wounded, and maybe be effective instead of triggered.

In conversation with Erica, I talked about how my safety alone is not enough.  I need to be involved.  Erica said “You need to make room for appreciating yourself. Your desire for connection does not end with your own comfort.”  I think about what I learned from the Mandala of Truth at Kindred Spirits — how comforted I am by knowing that other people care about the things I care about.

Note: “self-regulation” means being able to return to normal fairly quickly after being activated.  For most of my life, if something scared me, I would remain in fight/flight terror for hours.

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