ever turning inward
The only way I know something is true is to feel it in my body. It is a very specific feeling; it is as if the core of my body is connected to the deepest place in the earth. It is opening, but pointed. Relaxed, but focused. It welcomes contradiction and rests peacefully with it. When I can access this somatic knowing, I feel the clearest sense of gratitude. Due to the frantic and consuming nature of US society, humans are often completely disconnected from their internal gifts and wisdom.
This disconnection can be formed in a number of ways. Most notably, our birth family systems and the things we learn from them about ourselves. But also from our teachers, community members, and other authority figures we engage with as our cognition, attachment, and understanding of the world develops.
We are clearly affected also by our culture-at-large, especially because our interpersonal relationships are influenced by cultural norms, whether they are harmful or not. Media is now more of a choice which we can refine, if we wish, to take in content that is reaffirming instead of damaging. As a little kid in the 90s, if I wasn’t outside in the woods, I was most assuredly fixed to the floor, in front of the big old console tv (that thing was big as shit) with a steaming bowl of shrimp flavored top ramen in my lap. And yes, I do believe Saved By the Bell did a serious number on my psyche in the key of misogyny, homophobia, racism, and fatphobia.
As these grooves form in our young minds and spirits, they get wider and deeper for more of the same unconscious material to flow through. We begin to identify these things as our “personality,” in part, because we are inundated with the popularity of American individualism, while at the same time being told to not stand out in the crowd. It’s disorienting and scary as hell, so we develop masks, walls, and other artillery to protect ourselves from the pain of being othered.
The thing is, we are all unique, but often that uniqueness gets muffled by external influences whose words we take as gospel, because newly developing minds don’t really have another choice. And there is great power in that uniqueness, because it allows us to have a respectful, honest, and loving relationship with ourselves. If we want to move closer to this connection to self, it means we gotta slog through some swampy, sad places. There are many supportive ways to do this. I inadvertently chose the straight-up slog.
If you know me, you’ve probably heard me say that I had to move across the country, to the dark side of the great Skagit river to be able to hear my own voice. Years ago I shared it anecdotally, and now I see how true it really was. I moved to a tiny anarchist farm in Concrete, Washington where I didn’t have any friends, electric/gas heating, or indoor plumbing. I much more easily embraced the change of carrying my water to the cabin and chopping wood than I did to being alone every day. At first I did anything not to be with myself (watching the entire series of Seinfeld on old, scratched DVDs) but slowly, I began to spend more time with the mossy alders, and big maples, more time with finney creek and big rock, more time with my breath and my body, feeling the icey glacial water in the mountains, breathing in the rain-soaked cedar, doug fir, and oregon grape, tasting salmon and thimble berries for the first time and crying.
With the emergence of these new sensory gifts, also came the gaping emptiness of being. Without people to play them out, my patterns became evident and stark as the moon on the night she scared me with her tremendous beaming over the field. I guarantee that if I would have had human relationships to fall back on, I would have ignored this blaring, terrifying call inward. It was sharp and gutted me. I spent nights quite literally howling out tears, questioning my actions and the actions of those I’ve known over my entire life. I was slowly becoming acquainted with discernment, when before it was only an idea of a thing I knew I longed for. I sought out spiritual teachers in earth and human form alike: books, stones, sand, algae, energy workers, fruiting bodies, fern fronds, dance teachers, swaying branches, chanterelles, Buddha, the wind at night, and the stump on the hill that told me to stay just a little longer alone.
My own personal monastery was built with the love given to me by earth. This love holds tenderness and fierceness in equal measures and I have this love to thank for finding my way back to the truth that lives in my heart. I studied with great teachers in human form as well, brilliant and peaceful minds rooted in the desire to free others from suffering and find liberation. As I learned from them, I remembered these desires were mine also. They always have been. And sure, I still get bogged down by the goings-on of everyday life with the best of ‘em, but now I have a very cool compass (I like to think of it as similar to the glow-in-the dark compass rings in the movie, Big) to guide me home.
I believe wholeheartedly that everyone is able to reconnect with deep knowing. I believe we can do this by first organizing and identifying what our current internal narratives are. That in itself takes some work, patience, practice. A daily, or near-daily samatha meditation practice can help with this. Samatha is a Buddhist term, from the Pali Cannon, which translates loosely to “calm mind.” Here is a free download from the school where I studied Depth Hypnosis, the Foundation of the Sacred Stream. I practice samatha by using my breath to help me watch my thoughts as they arise. When a thought comes, I use my breath as I’m bringing it in or out, to let the thought drift away. The more we practice this awareness-type of meditation, the more we notice what thoughts we are having, how often, and the harmful paths they lead us down.
Once we have an idea of the types of thoughts that most consistently show up in our minds, we can begin working with them and tracing back their lineage. There are many different types of practitioners who can help you along this journey, and I encourage everyone to consider what kind of help they are wanting. In my practice, we would work with the breath, and calming the mind to first access your connection to a compassionate source within. In following sessions, we would identify the origins of harm which have cemented into your psyche which create the patterns you see in your life today. We then work to extract the underlying cause, using a variety of methods which address the stuckness on different levels of being: the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
The most important thing to me about this work, is that it depends on the client to take responsibility and direct their own course of healing. I am there to support, facilitate, hold space, reflect, and teach methods, but the client comes to their own knowing and their own truths. This happens by way of clearing their psychic space and making room for love + growth to become easily accessible everyday pillars, making life not only manageable, but rich with color, light, and meaning. Whether we walk this path together or not, I know the work is there waiting for you, the moment you are ready to pick it up. <3