Peter Levine, PhD is the author of several important book, such as Waking the Tiger and Trauma Through a Child's Eyes, and he developed Somatic Experiencing, a highly effective trauma resolving therapy. This quote inspired me today.
The word "trauma" refers to an interrupted capacity to process and respond to life as it happens. It's a condition of stuckness and involves an internalized belief that X is not possible to move on from. Our bodymind system gets held hostage by the past and it's actually IN the body tissues and communication pathways, like a traffic crash that never gets cleared from the road. Day after day, year after year we drive around the crash site, practicing a belief in the change to our direct route.
Traumatic experiences DO happen. This is what I hope will not be misunderstood. We do get overwhelmed. The heart of overwhelm is the disconnect between our functional consciousness and our "empathic witness". Remember or imagine a time when something got scary and you were able to rise to the occasion and do what needed to be done. That we are able to rise to hard occasions is reassurance that it's not so much what happened but how we responded, or how we were NOT able to respond that gets imprinted. And it's the inner empathy, the witness within each of us that can shows us our best way through hard times. It's how we learn, and learning is ultimately kind.
Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy helps consciousness return to the body tissues that are blocked. Because it is a body-oriented therapy, it does not rely on telling the story of trauma. Anything that has been held back from consciousness and capacity to respond in life can actually be released from the body's tissues. When the body no longer holds the trauma, we become free to move along. It's like, one day, instead of driving around the old crash site again, we pause, get out of the car and clear the debris off the road. From that day on, the path to where we're going is clear and easier.
We really don't have to manage our trauma for the rest of our lives, no matter what has happened to us. Even if an event caused a permanent change in some way, we still have our birthright to live in freedom and resilience. We are still worthy of our own love and compassion. The empathic witness of consciousness never leaves us, we just need help sometimes in reconnecting to ourselves. That's essentially how BCST works.
What's taught to kids as "history" and heroism matters. The people who broke into the Capitol clearly believe they are heroic patriots and their model is clearly the narrow, conventional, white warrior based story that was taught in school to most of us as kids. Some people don't ever get a wider perspective, maybe because of social/cultural isolation, spiritual disconnect (I'm not talking about religion), ongoing economic trauma and egoic personality worship that our culture breeds. We end up with people breaking into (escorted into?) the US Capitol, rummaging around, having their way with their Confederate Flags. I believe they believe what they're doing is right. I'm not saying they're lying, I'm saying they're lost.
Why do we have a mega narcissist running our country? Maybe because we have a narcissistic orientation that's been taught and modeled to kids for generations that idealizes civil war to uphold white supremacy, and maybe because impoverished egos will defend their own impoverishment to the death. Put a gold-plated idol/idiot with a loud and ignorant microphoned voice in front of them and they will draw energy from their childhood trauma and their patriotism taught to them by their broken spirited ball sports coach who taught them US History back in high school... and all the decades of white-male warrior patriot worship Hollywood movies... all the continual focus on war and weapons and enemies and killing and destroying and hate...
Anyone from our conventional culture who breaks through the veneer and wants to reorient to our common humanity and refocus to a better possible story gets turned into the enemy in the eyes of those who are still lost in it. It was trained into all of us over a certain age. NPR reported that the average age of the Trump mob that broke into the Capitol is around 40. I don't know how that was calculated but it means many of these patriots are from the older generations. Many are my cohorts, people I could have sat next to in US History class, learning about white men wars.
Our culture IS changing, thank goodness. This is a dying value set, all this focus on war. How sad and ignorant we've been, teaching generations of innocent children to believe that patriotism and belonging means separation, destruction and hatred of others. THAT is childhood trauma. Unhealed, that's what creates monsters. So, many of us have been doing the hard work to face this trauma in our own bodies and to learn how to reconnect and rediscover our wholeness as human beings with a birthright to freedom. Freedom is not about war, it's about inner peace that reaches out and helps and tells the truth.
These are my Facebook posts during my first ever experience as a poll worker. I highly recommend working the polls and I will definitely be doing it again!
I’m reading my poll worker manual, setting my focus on tomorrow and every day through Oct 30. Here’s a nice paragraph for that focus ~
“Amid long hours and strict deadlines, you must continue to provide gracious customer service. A cool head and sense of humor will ensue your success! You must be thorough, accurate, and pay attention to detail to avoid disenfranchising voters.”
I saw a t-shirt yesterday that said "VOTE LIKE YOUR ANCESTORS DIED FOR IT", worn by a black woman who walked with a cane who brought her grandchildren with her. They were radiating integrity and I had some chills. The long story was embodied in them. (sometimes generational story really shows up and makes me goosebumpy)
I loved seeing all the kids at the polling place! They were shiny and present and had things to say. Some of them voluntarily told me their names and some danced and played with each other while their adults voted, some stood with their adults as they made their selections.
I get to do it again today and another 16 days after that!
Yesterday at the polls I was stationed for a while at the scanner/deposit box. It was a celebratory place to be! People were SO relieved to have cast their votes and we had lots of cheering, congratulating, clapping going on over there.
I was making sure people put their ballot on the GREEN arrow because it works better than the gray one below it. I was giving people their coveted stickers and reminding them to toss the finger cot into the trashcan. Eventually a woman told me that people were keeping their finger rubbers to take pictures with them and posting on social media. From then on I reminded everyone they could either toss it there or keep it as a voting memento and maybe even take a selfie with their voter finger. A lot of people did keep them and we had some cute laughs together.
VOTE! Lines are not as long since Tuesday. You'll probably be in and out in no time and it will feel SO GOOD!
Yes, there were tears at the polling place today. Sweet emotion.
I've been having the honor to assist some first-time voters through the process. Each one has made an impact on my heart.
A smiling Latina woman (smiles radiate thru masks) who looked maybe in her late 50s leaned in and whispered to me, "I've never done this before" and I said "I will help you." ... After her ballot was printed and we started to walk down to the scanner, her whole posture seemed bigger and she wasn't whispering anymore. She told me that she had always thought it just wasn't something she did, but now knows that she can vote too.
As she was talking it seemed her words were correcting the internalized message carried all those years. She was sharing a part of her private history with me, about that belief that told her she wasn't a person that voted. She said something like "It was easy. Now that I've done it, I really don't know why I never did it before." And now she's a voter! There was such integrity and relief shining out of her. A transformation. Even as I'm writing, I feel it.
It's inspiring to be at the polls with every person that comes. Some people bring heart gifts with them. I'm forever changed.
I want to preface this story from the polling place with this: I’ve been naming a few people’s race/ethnicity in the stories. That’s because we are voting over here and there are few things more meaningful than people showing up for representation, particularly those who are not historically well represented. To put it gently.
An older black woman came to the ballot scanner. She said that she really hopes it goes well and I said ‘there’s so much energy for it’. Then she closed her eyes and prayed right there, and I swear the air got still for a few moments. She was fully serious. It was like spirit came into gravity and it was felt. It was strong!
Yesterday just after I got to the polls one of my co-workers called me over to help someone get started. He was a fairly muscular black man wearing a mask w/ a colorful design on it.
He told me he's 47 and never voted before and expressed some embarrassment. ... After he made his selections and printed his ballot, I joined him for the ceremonial walk down the skating rink/basketball court to put it in the scanner. I started asking him how it went at the machine and then saw that he had tears in his eyes and he said "I feel very proud"... and then we were both crying and looking at each other and talking some more. He said "This morning I told my girlfriend that I felt nervous about today" (about voting for the first time)... and then... "I have a voice"... !!!
Such a beautiful human.
Yesterday we had a whole lot of first time voters. A lot of emotion and a lot of connection. There's a sea change, friends.
We're in the homestretch for early voting! Don't wait!
Yesterday I started just asking everyone how they feel as they cast their ballots and many people shared a LOT in very short time. A young white woman lifted her hands in a prayer and looked up, in tears. She and I had a little time just feeling it together, appreciating. It was fear and hope. I wonder what she's been going through.
A black woman sat at the resolution desk for a while and then walked to the exit. She said she's been in the military and because she missed responding to an address change a few years ago her voting registration was purged. That felt really sad and frustrating. Her boyfriend had already voted and was waiting for her at the door with me. We'd been talking and laughing, admiring his fantastic tortoise shell glasses.
All citizens ought to be automatically registered voters in this country. Why not? It specially angers me that someone can serve in the military and be purged. There is a limited ballot that is available to people who have moved away from where they're registered, allowing everyone to at least vote for the higher offices.
We had a young white couple who were not trusting the process. It took 4 of us poll workers to interact with them in various ways since they had a lot of questions that were not really questions but accusations. It was unsatisfying for everyone. I'm still siting with it, being on the receiving end of the angst that is also here. And it's easy to write off people when they're uncontained in angst. They brought that reminder like a neon sign, about the despair that can be masked through a lifetime of practice. I'm sure I've seen that many times at the ballot casting machine - the masking. I felt it in the woman who had been purged after being in the military. She didn't put it on her sleeve but it was there.
I want to give room in myself for it all and be part of the change toward dignity. We all need to belong.
We have one more week!
Ventana Ballet is doing small performances around town at the polls today! This is at Millennium now! (video attached)
We’re much busier than we’ve been for days and days.
It’s looking good for democracy!
We had our first person to come through not wearing a mask. A couple of others have asked upon arrival if we had masks they could have since they forgot theirs. We do! Glad to be able to help with that! But the person who didn’t ask seemed unconcerned. He had his mouth hanging open the entire time, mouth breathing into the air. He seemed pretentious, too, which is always unimpressive to me.
I know an entire household here in Austin that was just diagnosed with Covid. Some of them have been galavanting around and now they’re sick. Covid is not gone. It’s on the rise again.
And again, even if you have an impressive list of daily supplements, you do pranayama all day long, your immune system is awesome and you don’t get symptoms... you can still pass Covid-19 to others who might not be as fortunate as you.
Just wear a mask.
Especially when you go to the polls to vote, where a lot of people in all sorts of conditions are TRUSTING their fellow citizens with their health because they are concerned about mailing their ballots due to all the smearing and blocking of voting by mail... Please wear a mask. It’s what we’re doing right now to care for each other because masks reduce the spread of Covid, which can severely affect and kill people...
It has felt really good to be working the polls, helping people feel welcome, important and SAFE to vote. A lot of older voters have commented about the risk they had to take. It’s important that we all add to the sense of trust.
Please respect your fellow voters and wear a mask at the polls.
...That was the last post. It goes without saying, this has been a strange long year. Today is December 29th and late October feels like 2 years ago. We DO have a new President Elect as well as many new and returning public servants. I'm choosing to call them public servants, as a reminder... We STILL have tremendous division and challenge to face. We CAN face our reality and keep stepping in the direction of dignity and health for us all. We ARE NOT separate in reality.
About being white and healing racism ~ the grieving process. Grieving our lost humanity.
The 5 stages of grief (no particular order, non-linear process) are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
I must have been in denial for quite a while, just to get on with a life I thought I was supposed to live, which, come to find out, wasn't really mine anyway. I think I'm past denial now. It seems to have run its course, along with that prescribed version of my life, So now what?
Depression. Self-defeating focus, embarrassed, burdened by things I couldn't do anything about. The depression part has holes in it now days. I get depressed for minutes, not days or years anymore. I've learned that the only way honestly out of depression is to befriend myself while in it. Maybe that's all depression is for, to get our attention back to ourselves. To relearn kindness.
Lately, there's a back and forth between anger, bargaining and acceptance.
At first as I started writing I didn't know what the bargaining could be about. How do I bargain with racism? I just realized bargaining has to do with trying to be nice, a good person... No wonder I didn't want to see that because trying to be nice and good is not actually nice and good, it’s an image that inevitably needs to be defended. Plus that's pretty much the crux of implicit racism. Being unknowingly insincere with a story to back up the insincerity. A BLM yard sign in a freshly gentrified neighborhood. (I'm not criticizing the signs, I'm just saying...)
The anger part is what got me to want to write this. Practicing anger is easy as eating delicious pie for me. I'm not against pure raw anger by any means. I'm learning to respect my emotions. I'm talking about when it's groomed and habitual toward no useful outcome. The epiphany has to do with seeing how MY anger about racism, as a white person, is indulgent and it's like an addictive replacement for what's being asked. I think that folds into the do-nothing system of implicit racism.
What's being asked is the healing of our humanity, through me, all the way through. It's very different from the paralysis of burdened weight related to depression. It's feeling and seeing genuinely and sincerely, in this real-world pain and letting myself become a vessel.
Our real world pain heals thru each human gut, heart, mind. All the way through. We become capable to walk and talk freely, the freedom of wisdom, not ignorant “freedom”. Also not hung up in criticism or unhelpful arguing. I’m not against criticism and arguing. It’s part of our process. I just feel something beyond that too. Embodiment of what’s being asked.
People who are hurting directly from racism don't have time for heady exercises or emotional grandstanding. The shit just needs to stop. Racist ideology is a lie and always has been. Everyone hurts from racism, we just don't all feel it in that direct way. White people don’t “have to” feel it because we're skin-tone privileged by a made up ideology to benefit us. Excruciatingly circular ignorance.
I know that racism, prejudice, bigotry of any sort is a soul wound of the world that starts in the broken heart of the one holding the views, then it slashes out, wounding and killing others' lives, bodies, dreams and generations. And I know that ignorance - limited experience defended by belief - is what we all go through. It's called being human. And that's not an excuse or permission to continue with ignorance, it's a call for acceptance that finally ignites real healing, deep and lasting.
The way we see our fellow humans is the way we see ourselves and our earth home. We need serious healing, now. To heal is to make whole.
We grow wiser and help each other. It has nothing to do with "being nice" but it has everything to do with being, humbled and sincere and embodying healing.
It's no wonder the strong resistance is happening. This maddening resurgence of white supremacy, false Christianity, false president. The disease of our culture is the commoditization of life, the branding, marketing, packaging, consuming, discarding. The lack of orienting to reality. The spiritual deficit that's being recognized. Paradoxically, there is no actual spiritual deficit. It’s impossible. Spirit is unchanging and always right here now. We just have a weird American-style mirage going on. So the shift could actually be simple. We could just fall forward into the path of our true truth.
There is plenty of room for everyone just as we are. It’s the nature of our world to diversify. That’s the health. Racism is literally a sin against nature, truth, God, reality, pick your word. The word sin means “to miss the mark”. And what is the mark? Let’s open up and feel it.
I wrote about the dementia diagnosis my mom received a few months ago and it has already changed. Reading what I wrote back then, I can feel where I was when I wrote it. I was standing just to the side trying to be connected and wanting to say something useful. I think this sort of diagnosis is for all of us, not only my mom. The past ways of thinking and trying do fade out and we're left with now. That's all we really ever wanted. I mean, our souls and our bodies have always been fully present. What are we remembering?
In the lowest moments, I was asked what I wanted to do with myself, because I truly was lost and depressed and supposed to be making my way in the world having recently completed a master's degree, recently bought a house... recently watched my dad die... Stopped. My partner asked me, from his wits end, what I wanted to do, or what I was striving for, something like that. I said, unexpected, "I'm a good friend". What?
It was all that felt absolutely true about me, as a highest potential or most honest answer to the questions. To be(come) a good friend... to myself. That's what the call was about. Still is. Watching your dad die when you're 30 reminds you to live. Stop turning against yourself. This life is for living it. Be YOU. That's the call.
Part of it since then has been studying anxiety. Why? When I take away the clinical definition and go with the actual feeling, it's just an indicator that I'm not being my friend right then. Subtle, obscure, practiced ways I turn against myself in moments that can snowball. But anxiety IS a friend. It tells me to notice what I'm doing. All anxiety is saying is "Pay attention, best friend! Notice. It can be easier."
I can inquire within a lot better now than back then at the beginning of the stop, blurting out that I'm a good friend, unable to back myself up to my partner who was beside himself, having not lost his own dad yet, having not lost his stories about life yet. He was a gift, frustrated as hell in the kitchen 17 years ago. Depression, a gift stopping me from pretending away my life very well anymore. Depression takes the energy and sucks it down somewhere mysterious, like a savings account you can't access until you're trustworthy. Anxiety, that crazy fluttering metallic tasting gift - it's an honest friend that says "Oh, you don't need to do that to yourself anymore. Notice what you're doing. This is what it tastes like to turn against yourself."
Always learning how to listen. I am a good friend. That's my best answer.
Big Red soda
pink on white t-shirt
White ranch truck
vinyl, cigarette ashtray, hay
cow patty, gasoline, beer can
man sweat, rust
Legal documents filed on blue dashboard
warm open window air
Evant, Texas, 1977ish
Salt lick blocks
yellowed and rounded
slow cow tongues
death and life and memory
intimate with once muddy ground
dry and cracked
long stalks of clump grass
playing dead over
holes and walls built by heavy hooves
when ground was last muddy
creak, sputter, thunk
I honor the lives of my ancestors by becoming free from the beliefs that kept them down, to recognize their efforts and become a wiser and more caring person with the freedom to change and grow as life goes on. Same as maturing and developing autonomy from my parents. They did the best they could, and my life gives me the freedom to find my own honest way, to experience connections that my parents could not see, which the modeled to me. I help their legacy by discovering my own living truth, by being a responsive human in the lineage I am part of.
When a person dies, beliefs and constrictions release. Anything that separates falls away. If an ancestor or a parent who has died could see us now, that personified love would include wanting us to be free from their ways of thinking. They'd want us to live life unconstricted by the constraints they experienced and taught us. The stuff we got trapped by. There's an inherent forgiveness about that, an ability to move on. It's a strong sense I've gotten since my dad died. I've spoken with other people who have lost a parent and had similar insights.
That was something I wrote on Facebook, which came up as a memory from this day in 2015. It fits just right into the work I'm doing now with Biodynamic Craniosacral, since this work helps the body tissues release conditioned patterns. We can actually release the stuff from the body rather than just managing ourselves for the rest of our lives, which actually speaks to the impermanence of conditioning. It may seem like we get permanently changed from life's hard knocks but the underlying health and vitality that knows about freedom is always here, ready to re-emerge and rejoin the joyous openness we truly are.
Before Leonard Skinner there was Rumi, saying "But how should the cage-bird know about the air?"
We never arrive at the final resting place while we're breathing and our hearts are beating. That truth is settled for me. ...Life is all about contradiction so I'll accept it and continue.
Given that we never arrive at the final resting place while we're living in bodies, what matters? I think orientation matters most. Where am I orienting from and in myself (ego or soul? maybe?) and what am I orienting to?
Yoga postures are helpful for practicing orientation. Each pose has particular anatomical focus so when we engage the pose and orient toward its focus, we can discover things about ourselves. Take pigeon pose and its primary focus - the deep hip muscle called piriformis. Since we live in chairs these days and since we tend to manipulate and manage ours emotions, we are people of the tightened piriformis. Over the 18 years or so since I began practicing yoga, I've been learning about myself. When I get into pigeon pose, I can either orient to my piriformis and allow layers of discomfort to be felt and sometimes released (usually intense and sometimes illuminating) or I can just hang out in the territory of normalcy.
A useful thing about yoga poses is that we can physically engage our orientation. To find the piriformis, I engage both legs to be turning my pelvis forward: front foot active as if I was standing on it, shin perpendicular to my back leg, hip rooted back and down, back leg is internally rotated, usually with my foot flexed to help that leg stay engaged. It's a workout to stay focused that way and no matter what I do with my upper body, my front leg piriformis is given most of my attention.
Orientation is more than physical activation, though. It's really an internal focus, which can seem bewildering. Luckily it is something we can practice and learn to recognize how to engage. Being friendly is a necessary quality to the internal orientation. Not pushing, punishing or fixing, just befriending and turning in the direction of the hidden stuff. In the direction of freedom.
In the pigeon, as I orient to my piriformis I can discover a letting go of my well-practiced demands on myself, aka tension. It doesn't matter if the pigeon looks great. How am I aware inside my hip? How am I orienting as I do anything at all? Yoga and life are not for showy presentation. I don't care if there are yoga competitions and lip injections... whatever.... True presentation happens, uncontrolled and unpredicted, from how we are orienting within ourselves. That's how love is. Love gets out of the chair and unlocks what's stuck. Love says "You can be free from that tight grip! You can be free. It might seem scary and it might hurt for a moment, but it's ok. I'll go through it with you, sweet hips!"
The only reason for
communicating is for
passing on what is