Struggle between Old Ways and New

Wednesday, February 21

Feeling really sick.  Sore throat and very tired.  It felt OK to lie in bed this morning.  It may be that Erica saying I’m beyond the end of my resources gave me permission to collapse.

Session with Erica was painful and difficult.  My old way of doing things, failing to take care of myself etc., is really fighting back against the new way that I’m trying to learn.  I realize that I’ve been hating myself — not in the active sense where it feels like hate.  But in the passive way of taking care of myself so I can keep going, instead of really letting myself rest.  It’s a tightness around my heart, anger that I can’t do this better.  Just knowing is not good enough, I have to change my behavior.  I have to change myself and the old ways are so easy, automatic, feel “right.”  A battle to the death?  No.  I feel a wave of compassion for that Jenny who is having such a hard time.  She’s a good person, and she wants what’s best for everyone, and her dysfunctional behaviors were learned in a hard school.  Those behaviors really only hurt her, not anyone else.

Meditation with the group was good.  I tried to meditate by myself in the morning, but my mind was leaping all over the place.  I kept worrying about the practical stuff.  I also did a lot of puzzles.  That works the best at quieting my mind.  Actually, I realize, I am in the present when I’m working with color and shape.  Erica said something about “little tiny practices many times a day.”  My practice is really to be in the present, and I do do that many times a day.

Reading the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, I see that I actually do many of the things they talk about.  “Sympathetic joy.” Active anger in support of justice.  Refusing to hurt someone who has hurt me.  Though I think that’s as much about my default of freeze as it is about conscious choice.

“Sympathetic joy” is being able to feel good about someone else’s happiness.  I have been offered a lot of that lately, people who are so happy for me, that I have found the right place.  I’m always surprised.  I expect the sort of put down I always got from mother.

“Refusing to hurt someone who has hurt me.”  I notice how quickly I make it be my instinct, not my choice.  Instinct may aid my choice by giving me a pause, but I knew I never wanted to hurt anyone because I had already been hurt so much.  I always sided with the underdog.  My fantasies were never of revenge, but about having them see me as a valuable person, or having them understand how bad they hurt me.

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Joy

Journal entry for Wednesday, March 7:

I was happy yesterday and the day before.  Reasonless happiness.  I’m not sure when I even noticed it.  I told Erica about it and she said “What’s that like?”  I had trouble finding words.  Lightness, buoyancy.  She asked about the energy, thinking “effervescent.”  But it wasn’t like that.  The energy didn’t vibrate, it was deep and calm, solid.  “Maybe it’s contentment” I said.  Erica said “It sounds like joy.”  Joy.  I remember feeling this way one evening driving back from Writers for Recovery.  And that long ago Christmas Eve Carol Service.  Not something I’ve felt very much in my life.  I think what started it was finally getting the paint color right.  I love it.  Erica was right.  Being “held in beauty” is very important to me.  It’s not a luxury to feel guilty about (“spent good money”) it’s something nourishing and supportive.  It’s a necessity.  In a world where humans have created so much ugliness, beauty must be fought for and paid for.

Getting the right color of the paint in my apartment here at Kendal has been a long process.  What I wanted was a very pale peach, a color I know from how Neskaya was painted.  My first choice, trying to get it from those tiny little samples, was awful.  It was too dark and too cold.  The idea of repainting it brought up childhood conditioning.  “What do you mean, you want it changed.  You chose it and you have to live with it.”  Combined with the old injunction that I couldn’t ask for anything that caused inconvenience to someone else.  Fortunately, my inner scientist said I’m not causing “inconvenience” to ask that it be changed.  No one responded to my request as though it were unreasonable. Then I realized that I wasn’t asking them to do it for free, I would be the one paying for it. More ancient conditioning: I can’t waste “good money” on something that unimportant.  “Good money” was my mother’s phrase, as though money were more important than what I wanted or needed.  My scientist said “What’s the point of money if you don’t use it to buy things that really make you happy, things that feed your soul?”  I asked for just the living room to be repainted.  Actually the darker pink is fine in the bathroom and bedroom.  But the second choice, while better, was still not exactly right.  Another struggle with my old conditioning.  Rodney, the painter, was happy to collaborate.  We chose some possible colors and he came and painted a large part of one wall.  He came back again and again, trying different colors.  Finally I chose one, and he actually used up the sample painting several large spaces, that were easy to reach, on three walls.  This was to give me another chance to be sure it was right.  When the whole room was done, it was much lighter, and the color had warmth.  It lifted my heart.  It was worth it.

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The Difference Between Empathy and Compassion

Notes from my talk with Erica on March 9:

Difference between compassion and empathy
Empathy [feel what the person feels] —> empathy fatigue: feel tired and guilty
Compassion —> holding space for their story
witness—> lets them know their experience is valuable
I am not responsible for taking care of their pain
thank you [response of witnesses to grief writing]
also lets them know you value them
Compassionate act confers dignity

Difference between Compassion and Empathy

When you feel empathy, you feel what the person feels.  You tend to feel sorry for them and want to help them, or think that you ought to help them.  A lot of this can wear you out.  You start feeling tired and guilty.

When you feel compassion, you also feel what the person feels, but there’s more distance, you are more of a witness.  You hold space for their story, which lets them know that their experience is valuable.

I think of the work I did in the grief workshop and in Writers for Recovery.  We wrote in response to a prompt:   “I remember…”   “I wish someone would ask me…”  The prompts would generate stories, which we might have been uncomfortable reading aloud, except that we knew that everyone in the group shared the same basic experience.  So when we listen to someone reading their story, we know exactly what that feels like.  We don’t feel like we are supposed to make it all right for them.  Mostly we don’t even know how to make it all right for ourselves.  But our friendly listening confers dignity on them.  Often it does help.  To have someone listen to your awful experience without judgement is often the start of healing.

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Learning Social Skills

I wrote this in my journal at the end of December.  It’s barely edited, and so somewhat clumsy.  But it’s a good example of how I work with my issues through journal work.

I had dinner with Carolyn, and she invited me back with her.  I spent some time in her room talking after dinner.  She talked about a sister-in-law who didn’t have any social skills, so I asked her for more information.  Because I wasn’t taught any social skills and I spent a lot of my life feeling defective.  I’m wondering how and when I began to learn them.  I think of Eleanor, my friend who was horribly traumatized in her childhood, and wonder how she learned her amazing social skills.  She’s not only very good, but very honest, and uses Non-Violent Communication naturally.  Such a different response to trauma and abuse from mine.  I know she learned some of her skills from TV — she watched some family show to learn how to raise her younger siblings.  She ended up losing herself in trying to take care of others, I ended up isolating.

I think of how hard Eleanor works on her difficult friendships with a number of people.  She’s very good when she meets people — but that’s her front personality — and she has one for jollying along her parents, but I think that costs her way too much, so she avoids contact with people generally.  I found it almost impossible to communicate with my parents, I did not understand them at all.  I remember that NVC came just too late to use it with Mother.

When and how did I start to learn social skills?  I guess it started with Bettie’s criticisms.  “You’re not interested in people because you don’t ask questions.”  “You don’t have to lose your temper.”  — I remember using that one on Daddy.  I don’t actually remember losing my temper at all, at least in terms of attacking other people.  I must have stopped that one pretty easily.  “You don’t take a course because you are good at it.”  I remember working on myself in workshops and in therapy, but it was all about trying to fix myself, not about how to do relationship.  There was co-counseling, but that was also more about fixing myself than learning about others.  Though I did learn how to listen.

Because of Bettie’s criticism, I saw myself as defective and tried to learn to ask questions.  I continued to find it difficult and made myself wrong for not being good at it, until I wrote about the Fourth of July weekend.  As I cast it into a monologue, I saw that when I asked mother a question, she would make me wrong for asking.  I also saw that taking a course in something I was good at was an effort to protect myself from making mistakes.  I was terrified of making a mistake.

I did learn some things from Dana.  The distinction between caring about someone and doing what they wanted.  I remember how helpless I was when he began to stonewall me.  I also remember that I discovered my natural friendliness once I was on anti-depressant medication.

The issue of caring about people being the same as doing what they wanted.  I asked Dana to plant some daffodil bulbs for me because I felt too sick.  When he said he couldn’t do it, I said “You don’t care about me.”  His response was “I do care about you, but I can’t do the daffodils right now.”  Looking back at it, I saw that Mother couldn’t make that distinction, so that’s where I learned it.  I still struggle with this one.

One serious difficulty had to do with having no idea how I came across to other people.  Was I too loud or too quiet?  Actually I still don’t really know.  Though I think probably my intensity — and my intelligence as well — were too much for some people but attractive to others.  It wasn’t about me at all!  I’m just seeing this.

Here is an understanding that came while I was writing.

I remember when I went to Biddeford Pool for Aunt Betty’s memorial service, how I consciously made sure I got to talk to everyone I wanted to talk to, how I was able to escape from conversations I didn’t want to get stuck in.  I remember Josephine expressing admiration for how well I “worked the room.”

O yes I remember consciously working on relationships when I got divorced and knew I would need friends.  I worked on relationships with K and J.  But they both did/said things that hit my wounds.  Later, while struggling with Bella’s death, my S.E. therapist Caryn said I needed to ask for help.  I consciously set up relationships with five friends, and asked if they were willing to listen to me talk about my pain.  Gradually those relationships ceased to satisfy.  I remember consciously pursuing Barbara when she was also doing the hospice training.  And working on my relationship with Eve when we connected again.

I see that I actually have been working on my relationship skills for a long time, and I have in fact gotten very good at it.  There was a very painful incident (when I was a debutante, which I hated) when someone had given a dinner party for me.  When everyone was served, I waited for someone else to start eating.  That was the only way I knew it was OK.  So we all sat there not eating.  Finally one of the adults came up to me and said “You are the hostess, you must start eating.”  I felt hideously embarrassed, and only many years later, after I learned about Children of Alcoholics, did I realize that my parents had failed to teach me me any social skills at all.

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Depression

Typing up from a month ago, I came to this:

I woke up feeling a little bleak. just a little.  It’s as though I’m asking “What am I doing here?”  “What is my life about?”  And the answer is a complete blank.  But there are answers, they just aren’t immediate.  I’m here at Kendal so I can have enough support so that I can live a life that’s more than just a struggle to get through the day.  My life is about the practice of being in the present, the practice of looking for truth.  It’s also about creating sacred space, creating space for particular celebrations, teaching the celebration of diversity and enacting it, doing my best to awaken people to the depth and magic and beauty of the amazing universe we live in.  And also doing my best to explain and describe the pain people live with, domestic violence, PTSD, so that they can develop compassion for others.  Another part of what my life is about is to learn to appreciate my body and its wisdom, and to take care of it properly.

I was glad to see that I phrased it in terms of what I really do, not in terms of what is visible to other people.  Teaching about child abuse is something I’ve done since Journey Into Courage.  “Creating sacred space” is not something I do openly, and not something I’ve been able to claim for myself, so it was encouraging to find it appearing on the page.

I’ve been angry with myself for not adjusting to life here:  I should have got it done faster, what’s the matter with me that I’m having trouble with a lot of details, I came here for a better life and I’m not finding it, maybe I can’t do it…

Wrote this on Friday after my phone session with Erica

The conversation with Erica helped me see that the reason I’m having such a hard time adjusting to Kendal, getting myself to where I feel settled, is not because there’s something wrong with me that I can’t do it faster.  I really envy Pat that she seems to be comfortable already.  I know they moved sometime last summer.  What’s making it far more difficult for me to even keep going on the practical things, is that having the support of a group and meals is making it possible for me to get in touch with very deep, very early conditioning.  The work I am doing, unconsciously, in processing this very deep material, is making it very hard for me to do more than the simplest things on the practical surface.  But I’m not able to give myself credit for the inner work I’m doing because it’s below the level of consciousness.  There’s the exhaustion, which I find so hard to validate, because I don’t experience myself as working hard on something.  But a big chunk of my consciousness is engaged in it.

Today I even feel depressed, for the first time in a long time.  I’m discouraged and exhausted.  Carolyn was reading from the beginning of a book that she thinks is very well written.  It’s called “Nutshell.”  The story is told by a fetus, and it is trapped, helpless, and knows that there’s trouble between its parents.  It’s beautifully written, but that just makes it more immediate.  I can see that I was triggered by it.  Then I called Eleanor to ask how she is doing, and she had a long saga about what B is doing wrong, not taking care of the house.  I could feel my heart go into “shocked heart” where it feels frozen and electrified at the same time.  It felt awful, and it was after I hung up the phone that I really started to feel depressed.  I could tell how my energy was completely gone for any of the practical things I have to get done.  I remember the last time this happened, Eleanor was over-reacting, and what B had done was not as bad or as impossible to fix as she had made it sound.  So I’ve managed to pull out of the triggered fear, but I still feel pretty helpless.

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Hyperacusis

One of my trauma therapists told me that my extreme sensitivity to noise, called hyperacusis, is one of the symptoms of PTSD.  At one period in my life, before I got on anti-depressant medication, I suffered badly from the noise of small planes taking off from the Franconia airport.  During the 13 years that I suffered from this, I had to leave the house on days when the planes were flying.  I had to take everything with me: books, tea, food, and go to someplace where I couldn’t hear the planes.  Thank goodness I had friends who were willing to provide sanctuary for me.

During this time we got a new refrigerator, and I heard it go on, and run, and run, and run and run and run and finally go off.  The normal buffeting capacity of the normal brain when a noise goes on and on was not working for me.  One day I heard what sounded like a chainsaw, and my heart reacted with shock, and then I saw that it was a fly buzzing at the window.  That was when I realized how sensitive my hearing had gotten.

I’ve been pretty much OK for a long time.  I still have a bad time with the noise of lawnmowers.  But since I moved to a new place, I am noticing all kinds of new noises.  Eventually, I hope, I will stop hearing them.  I’m hearing different refrigerator noises from the ones in my house that I am used to.  I seem to keep noticing a particular noise that sounds like an elevator, but there is no elevator near me, and it goes off after only a short time.  I finally tracked it down to my refrigerator.

From my journal, December 2017:

I’m feeling pretty bummed out right now.  I think yesterday’s experience of a lot of noise overhead was very discouraging.  At least my response to noise is not triggered terror or depression.  But I can’t not hear it. yet.  It’s interesting that if I know what the sound is it’s not so bad.  I guess that makes sense in terms of trauma.  If you don’t know what the noise is, it could be a threat.  I remind myself that I did finally stop hearing the airplanes.

Noise from my upstairs neighbor: last night there was a sound, a loud “crack!” that sounds to me like a board, 2”x 8”x 12”, stood on its end and then knocked over.  It happened twice last night when I was trying to get to sleep.  I’ve been hearing it for several days and even looked to see if Mocha knocked over something.  Thinking about it, I realize it’s only been happening in the last week, since my upstairs neighbor came back from Christmas visiting.  It happens on a fairly regular basis, so it’s not something being knocked over.  I wish I could let go of the need to find out what it is.  Which is partly scientific curiosity, but it’s also fueled by the reptilian brainstem’s need to know if it’s dangerous or not.  Fortunately, my nervous system doesn’t get triggered into fight/flight any more, I’m momentarily startled, but then calm right down.  Thank god.  There have been times in my life when such a thing would have triggered a long bout of what I used to call “shocked heart.”  I remember when that would happen if I even saw a sign for an airport during the worst of the airplane phobia.

Several weeks have gone by and I am hearing a great number of odd noises which I am pretty sure are the heating system.  I’ve gotten interested in the great variety of the sounds.  Even the one that sounded like a board being knocked over has mutated and is most likely the heating system.

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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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Long Way From Home…

Saturday

I haven’t posted to this blog in a long time.  I moved into Kendal on November 20, and since then I have been overwhelmed with myriad details that have to be dealt with in a move.  Though I was glad I didn’t have to sell my house before coming, and could continue to sort things out, it’s not easy to be living in two places.

I have been so busy with moving, and having to get a lot of practical details dealt with (getting a new phone, registering my dog and car with Kendal, etc.) that I haven’t been paying attention to my inner process.  I have made a lot of silly mistakes, mostly losing something I just had.  My therapist suggested that it might be due to my attention being dragged off to some inner process.  So I spent some time trying to sink down under the practical stuff, and make space and safety for whatever it was to show itself.

Friday

What came was it’s about “home.”  There’s a way in which I never felt at home anywhere.  The music in my head a couple of days ago was “In the early mornin’ rain… she’ll be flying’ o’er my home in about three hours time…”  Then David sang it last night.  I can only think of moments when I felt at home.  Flying over Ireland in ‘77 or ‘78.  The Mound of Kerkado.  Sitting in the house on Bickford Hill watching chickadees come to the feeder, and not feeling the push to do something “useful.”  In the Rochester Zendo, by myself, on my sitting cushion, realizing “I’m going home.  That’s what this is about.”  Possibly dancing to the music of Alan Stivell, and feeling my Celtic ancestors rise up in my blood.  Possibly the Chalice Well — “all burdens laid down.” or the Ocean of Compassion?  I felt held.  Kindred Spirits and the Recovery Community and feeling at home with people who tell the truth.  Feeling like I belong, being able to let down all my defenses, feeling safe to be myself.  That’s what home is.  Feeling safe to be myself.  I guess there’s a way it doesn’t have anything to do with a particular building and/or belongings.

I realize that I’ve never really felt at home in the world.  The house where I grew up, at one time I thought it was a good house and deserved better than an alcoholic couple and their five children who were left to bring themselves up.  When I think of it now, I see it as narrow and dark, and musty with neglect.  I remember going “home” for a week in February, when I was living in Portland Maine.  It was cold, and the house in Cincinnati had not been built for cold.  No storm windows and the furnace couldn’t keep up.  Not only was I cold the whole time I was there, but I was in a state of frozen terror the whole time.  I didn’t understand it at all then, but now I know it was the “freeze” that happens instinctively when the creature cannot fight or flee.  The house in Biddeford Pool felt like home when I was a child, but when I grew up, and it began to change, the magical country of childhood faded.  I don’t think I ever thought about feeling at home, I suppose having never felt at home as I was growing up, I had no idea what it would feel like.  I do remember something I called “that twilight feeling,” that I felt in the evenings when I was twelve.  Mom & Dad had gone to a cocktail party and I was left to feed my three younger siblings and get them to bed.  Then I would wander around the house as it got darker, feeling like my life stretched forward into grayness forever.  I remember when I first knew that I was suffering from clinical depression, and the therapist I was seeing, a specialist in mood disorders, asked me when I first felt depressed.  I started telling her about “that twilight feeling” and realized that it was depression.  When I finally got on medication that worked, I was astounded to find that normal brain chemistry was something I had never experienced.

“… for home to me was certainly never anything remotely material.  It consisted, I have decided, in something I sensed as refuge: an atmosphere of safety in the love between my parents.  It came in a tone of voice, in the preparation and eating of meals, in conversations during washing up and being busy in the garden.”  from Dennis Severs, 18 Folgate St….   quoted in Deborah Crombie, Necessary as Blood, p203

Saturday

In the morning I talked to Erica.  It is so hard for me to get that what I am doing is a big deal, that my system is involved in processing a complex mass of material.  Talking to Erica, I began to see that I needed some art materials, I need to work with color and shape and pattern.  I realize that my job is not to try to put it all together in coherent fashion, my job is only to be aware of how it is today, and make a picture of it, or perhaps a visual rendering, or perhaps just an approximation.

Note:  I often hear music in my head and I pay attention to the song as a message to me from my subconscious.  Nearly always relevant.

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Big Life Change

The first step was feeling totally helpless and needing to have someone come rescue me, but then being able to just witness that I was “at the end of my resources,” without trying to figure out what I could do about it.  I’ve been here many times before.  At one point in my life I called it “shipwreck.”  Now I realize it is also AA’s first step:  Admitted that my life was unmanageable.  Calling it “the end of my resources” makes a big change somehow, a way of accepting it differently.

Then I stood up for myself, saying “No” to people’s suggestions for what I could do.  When people told me that was “courageous” I had to recognize that my old pattern of making myself wrong for saying no to an assignment was dysfunctional.

Next I went to the interviews at Kendal.  They are a requirement for getting in.  At least that’s what I thought, that they were going to see if I was “good enough” for Kendal.  Instead it was more like a welcoming.  They were trying to make sure I would be happy at Kendal.  I showed one of them the brochure for my Audio-visual Presentation: Sacred Sites of Ancient Keltia, and she said “They’ll want you to do it here!”  The last woman I talked to asked what was my life’s work.  I talked about Neskaya, then started to explain about Circle Dance.  When I said it was rooted in International Folk Dance, she said “You’ll have a whole group of eager people waiting for you.”  I felt wanted, a new experience for me.

For a while I continued to feel sad about the things I was leaving.  But I also thought about the work I did in the Francis Weller workshop, in particular feeling and expressing my grief for “the career that didn’t happen.”  Now suddenly I’m seeing that some of that career will be able to happen when I’m at Kendal.

Sorting and downsizing, burning the original notebooks from the 60’s and 70’s, made me question why I keep writing.  I came to a place of seeing that it is satisfying in itself.  The blog in particular.  I’m putting my ideas and experiences out there and people can read them or not, that doesn’t seem to matter, putting them out there is what counts.

The next thing was looking at the New Story Hub and seeing an article by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.  A friend had sent me a link to one of his talks on YouTube, and I liked what he had to say a lot.  He’s a psychic and a Sufi.  So I read this piece which is titled “Darkening: A Four-Point Plan.”  His four actions are:

1) Witness.  Looking at what is going on, without wanting to change what you see.  I’ve been witnessing the pain in the world but also feeling my helplessness to change it, so I’ve been in a lot of pain.  But if I let go of my need to do something about it, then I can witness purely, and I don’t get disabled by depression.

2) Grieve.  I’ve been doing a grief practice since the Weller workshop.  It would be better if I had a group to grieve with.  Makes me think of the Truth Mandala.

3) Pray.  I’ve been doing the loving-kindness prayer for all beings, since it seemed to make the most sense.  I’m not asking some higher being that I don’t trust to do what I want.  I’m just saying what I want.  I can also sincerely ask for help for the earth from whoever/whatever can do it.  I’m comforted, as I recite the words of the prayer without any felt sense, but with the belief that repetition of the proper forms can be counted as prayer.  And also feeling supported by knowing that people all around the world are saying that prayer.

4) Act.  Vaughan-Lee reminds us of Mother Teresa’s words: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”  I also thought of something I learned in DMA, a course in creating what you want, about the value of a “symbolic gesture.”  You do some small act to indicate that you are willing to do what it takes to have what you want.  So signing a petition, sending a small sum of money to support a cause, are “good enough.”

The most important thing for me was that reading this convinced me that I’m already doing what he’s talking about.  It  validated me on a very deep level, and gave me a tremendous boost in self-confidence, and a sense of the total dissolving of the belief that I had to “prove that I deserve to live.”  Since then I’ve been able to feel my love for things, to have a felt sense of loving and being loved, to feel excitement about the future.  It’s so amazing!

I suspect that part of this is knowing I am moving to Kendal.

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Saying “No”

Wednesday, September 28

The session with Erica was very painful.  I cried a lot.  I didn’t write anything down.  I didn’t feel connected to her.  It was hard to say how I knew that.  I said something about how her face was flat and broken into pieces.  Not really, but that’s how it seemed.  I felt dead, like a piece of wood, porous but dry, no juice.  I think she asked how it felt to be witnessed, and I could feel a little water trickling in from above.  While I was trying to find words to describe the felt sense of “dead,” I wasn’t paying attention to my breath.  Possibly she asked about my breath, and I didn’t know, and she told me my breathing was slow and deep.  After that I paid more attention to it.  I told her that she & Lynelle had both made good suggestions for how I could take care of myself better, and I refused to do them.  I felt bad for refusing to do the assignment, but Erica said something about dignity, and then praised my courage.  When I told Lynelle about it, she said it was courageous too.  I told Erica I couldn’t do anything to help myself, I needed someone else to help me.  She said “You are at the end of your resources.”  Yes, that’s exactly right.  And there’s nothing to do but be with it.

I told Erica that I didn’t feel I could say “thank you” for the session, and she said “Then I’ll thank you — for your courage in telling me your truth…”  She said several things but that was the most important.

Looking at it later, I saw that I felt very wrong to refuse to do the assignment, but in fact I was standing up for myself against someone’s unreasonable expectation — no, that’s what happened in childhood — this expectation was reasonable, but didn’t take into account my degree of being triggered into a very young state.  In the past I’ve judged myself as “weakling and coward,” when I’ve been unable to take what I know to be an action that might help my situation.  So it was a big surprise to be told that it was a courageous stand.  And also a stand on truth.  No more saying “I’m fine” when I’m not.

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