I've said it before: healing isn't about trauma.
Yes. It involves a lot of trauma work.
But healing isn't about trauma. Or what we do with the trauma.
We just get lost there if we're not careful. Intentional.
In healing we clear the trauma. That's a step. Not the purpose.
Healing is about what we do with the space we clear.
Healing is about what we fill that space with.
Today, we start unpacking what that looks like and how to get there.
"If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crouched into other peoples' fantasies of me and eaten alive” - Audre Lord
When you clear your trauma you begin to unlock your freedom.
A free adult isn’t caged by anyone’s story. Not even her own.
A free adult sees life as a story she get to write, edit, and rewrite however she wants to.
A free adult has influence. Power.
It's inherent in her being.
She's aware that now, as an adult, she always has a choice.
And she knows she can use them.
The landscape might be set. The society, the earth, other peoples' choices are all outside of her control. Still, she sees it all and she writes her own story.
Yes, there are sticky plot points. This is true of all good & interesting stories.
But we don’t become those plot points.
In a free person's story, we realize we don't have to get stuck in them. Character development is real. The plot continues to move. The show goes on til the end where we get our happily ever after.
Healing isn't about trauma.
It's not about what they did to you. Your whole life has, incidentally, been about what they did to you.
Healing isn't about their truth.
It's about finding your truth. Writing your script.
It's about coming home to your Self.
To the truth of who you are.
Of what you desire.
What you're capable of.
Healing is about finally taking ownership of your most precious inheritance:
The Beginning: Imagination
I’m one of those people who talks to themselves. A weird neighbor. Shameless, too.
This morning my mind wrote a simple dialogue between an imaginary stranger & me to process some angst.
Me: I hate capitalism.
Stranger: What do you want then? Communism? Socialism?
Me: I want us to quit arguing between old systems that have already failed as if we don't have 8 billion imaginations on this planet capable of dreaming up something that finally works.
Stacy Abrams put it in simpler terms: "we tend to edit our desires until they fit our construction of who we're supposed to become."
Supposed to = what society said.
Nothing of our own creation happens when "supposed to" & "should" are writing the story. Those are traps. Cages.
Imagination is our mind's ability to create a different picture, story, or concept than the one we're used to living.
Imagination is our first ticket to freedom. We have to be able to imagine a new story.
Trauma’s #1 job is to steal that gift from us.
It shrinks us down into the story we just lived. It squeezes us dry & seals us up, right there, in that tiny little moment of time when our nervous system overloaded & fractured within us.
It's the kind of mess that doesn't leave space for new stories to enter.
No air left to breathe life to new ideas and solutions and paths for ourselves. We repeat the story we just lived for the rest of our lives in various ways. Usually without knowing it, until we do.
Today, we're not here to talk about breaking the old stories. The old patterns.
Today, we're here to talk about writing new ones.
What would you dream into fruition if you could write a new story?
The Path to Liberation.
The Other Side of Healing.
To be liberated is to be free from oppression.
Oppression can be systemic. Familial. Relational. Personal.
In this context, liberation is to be free from the imprint oppression has on our bodies. The impact that is trauma.
Trauma is the feelings, beliefs, and stories that get stuck in our bodies and minds when shitty things happen to us.
We embody those feelings.
The terror. The dread. The despair.
And, we internalize and embody the stories we that came with them. The beliefs that came with them.
Stories and beliefs about who we are, how the world is, and our place in that world.
When we heal, we break up with our old stories. Old beliefs. We grieve them, even. Often.
Then we get new stories. New beliefs.
And if we want different, happier stories, we need different, happier feelings. The ones that were stolen from us. The ones that were stifled.
We need gratitude. We need to feel a sense of empowerment. We need to feel respected. Playfyl. Courageous. Intrigue. Loving.
We need to feel fulfilled. Inspired. Joyous.
We need to feel embodied.
Life gets a hell of a lot better when we can access these. It gets a lot more free.
We already know stories about danger. Stories about bad trouble and dirty pain. Stories where we felt trapped, inadequate and ashamed. Stories about death and despair. Stories where our consent was stolen from us.
We already had our fill of those stories. The feelings that come with them have been running our lives. Helping us survive while the story plays on repeat.
We release those stories and feelings, and replace them with new feelings that fuel different kinds of stories.
Stories about safety and relaxation. Stories about good trouble and clean pain. Stories about laughter. Stories about feeling proud of ourselves. Stories about overcoming. Stories about enjoying ourselves. Stories about love and connection, with ourselves - and with others.
If old feelings are the root of our triggers - if feelings cause us to do things like people please, shrink, manipulate, gaslight, dismiss our loved ones with our hyper-independent cover story, etc.
Then feelings are also the hands that pen new stories of love, connection, safety, softness, purpose, engagement, flow, play, and more.
The trick is to remember this:
We don't simply happen upon these feelings when we heal.
We have to learn to tap into them on purpose. We have to get intentional.
We have to practice.
We have to choose our story and the role we play in it.
We have to put the dark narrative down for a moment and give ourselves a few moments in the light. On purpose. Until it becomes automatic.
This guide is going to give you some pointers so you can intentionally start to seek out, find, and allow these feelings in.
To Feel Thankful
I know a lot of people build a lot of hype about gratitude and 99% of it falls flat. If you're anything like I was a few years ago, you might feel like you have better shit to worry about.
Bigger, more urgent, more important, more defeating shit to worry about.
I'm not here to pull you away from that. What I will say, though, is that that's half the point.
A lot of us were conditioned from a young age to worry. To despair. To stress.
It's in our bodies.
If you want to have a life you're grateful for, a part of the work is balancing out the original conditioning.
I'd never suggest you condition yourself to ignore the ails of the world.
But what I am suggesting is that you condition yourself to see both sides. There's beauty here too. There's beauty in life, too.
Don't ignore the bad for the good. But don't act like you're doing yourself or anyone else any favors by ignoring the good for the bad either.
Life has both.
Gratitude allows us to live both, well.
Don’t Take My Word for It.
A 2016 research study published in Psychotherapy Research recruited 300 adults - all of whom reported struggling with mental health - to see if gratitude made a difference.
The study concluded that gratitude a major player in mental health while practicing. And, it concluded that even if you only practice for as little as 12 weeks, it has effects that last long after a practice ends.
Did I mention they did the study specifically on people struggling with mental health problems?
Trauma empties our gratitude bucket of what truly belongs there: a felt sense of thankfulness and appreciation for the beautiful parts of life.
We lose gratitude for ourselves. For our loved ones. For our lives.
What do you think goes in that void once our gratitude is spilled? Could it be feelings of remorse, bitterness, shame, grief, worthlessness, judgment, despair, and fear?
What goes in yours?
A basic practice of gratitude helps to get the ball rolling & changes the game for a lot of people.
Gratitude has saved my life. More than once. I'm grateful for gratitude.
The practice is simple:
- write a short gratitude list of things you're grateful for every morning or night & and give yourself a moment to feel it.
- Or you could write more long-form gratitude letters to one person at a time. It works whether you share the letter or not.
Try it before you judge it.
To Feel Curious
Imagination and curiosity go hand-in-hand. When trauma takes one, both crumble.
Think about it: with the fixed story trauma leaves us stuck in, we know the other shoe must drop. Deep down we know this truth - even when we try to escape it.
When the space is filled with certain doom, there's no room to wonder.
This is true regardless of whether the conscious fixed story is leaning toward a positive or negative outcome. Glass half full and glass half empty are two sides of the same coin.
The argument involves two opposing fixed stories - but they’re still both fixed.
Some of the saddest signs of trauma can be found in people whose minds are so sure their story is sunny side only you can see them ignoring the pain underneath, oblivious of themselves. Oblivious of their loved ones.
Oblivious of truth: that life is both empty and full depending on the ebs & flows of the seasons.
The fixed story of sunny side up crashes harder when the Universe slaps them with this truth. When the veil lifts, they have no capacity to deal with the pain. Which, ironically, is what their spiritual bypassing behavior was telling us all along.
Healing creates flexibility. We can move between positive and negative appropriately for the truth of life.
While everyone else is arguing over glass half full or half empty - fighting for the right to stay stuck in their story, the healed person asks: “where’s the faucet?”
The story doesn’t need to be so fixed when we can be open to different endings being just as good - or better.
Our job is to experience our truth whiles it ebs and flows.
Our job is to experience life as it is.
To continue directing the story of our lives while the story of the world around us writes itself, out of our control.
To do this well, our job is to remain curious. Remain intrigued. See what's coming.
Not to be anxious and helpless. But to be honest, capable, and prepared.
To be nimble and ready to take a different direction when we need to without falling apart.
Not out of a need for survival or control. But for the simple sake of living well.
The realist knows there is balance.
The realist also understands that we don’t get to change the ending to our fixed stories by thinking them.
It’s the living of these stories that really lets our bodies know things are different now.
So the realist leave everyone to argue safely in their fixed stories, while they get up and find water to continue to fill the glass.
Now there's nothing to argue about. The realist is curious enough to find a way for the glass to be full.
To Feel Inspired
When we look at things from a different perspective we find inspiration.
Inspiration can lead us to a new style, a new demeanor, a new career, a new way of thinking, a new feeling, a new creative pursuit, a new way of life.
Look for differences.
One indicator of inspiration is awe.” - Rick Rubin
It’s well documented that when we heal, we transform. That's what everyone's looking for with this, right?
Some type of transformation.
So naturally, a lot of us will think of this part of the journey as “reinvention”, but I don’t think so.
Reinvention is different than coming home. Reinvention can come from any source. It can come from a source of what other people think of us. This is dangerous.
Reinvention is what trauma did to us in the first place to take us away from ourselves.
It filled us with shame.
"Shame is society's opinion. What's your opinion?" is one of the best things my therapist ever said to me.
I recommend allowing inspiration to lead you to what you think of yourself.
Allow it to bring you home to yourself in courageous and refreshing ways.
Take it one step at a time.
- Look for yourself in something new each day.
- Get to know that part of you.
- Decide how you would like to love this part of you well, in ways you haven’t before.
Continue from that point.
To Feel Courageous
Through the transformation we come to a lot of crossroads.
Life has been hard, and will remain hard. We can do hard. The point of healing is to discover how to do play, connection, and joy.
This requires courage.
Whether it be the courage to have difficult conversations, to cut people off, to change your career path, to say “no” to the things you’ve been wanting to say no to, or even better…
This is required.
We heal inwardly and that starts to reflect outward. We say no to the traumatizing environments we're in now, so we can create space to say yes to healing ones.
Courage is a necessary muscle to build along the journey.
You are naturally courageous. It was courageous to begin this process. You have it in you.
It’s one thing to be courageous enough to do something that’s trending right now, which fortunately healing is.
But it’s something different to come to the points where that courage takes you outside of the norm, outside of the trends, and to an island all your own.
Keep your courage. Grow your courage. Practice courage.
Develop the courage to stand alone.
When you feel what’s true and healthy and right and the world says “I don’t know…” and "Don't do that".
When the world throws its fear and concerns at you...
Take the feedback. Honor what feels true about that. Wha feels good and compassionate and healthy about that.
But adjust it to your true knowing. Don't adjust yourself to fit someone else's knowing. Their knowing is theirs. It's for their journey. It doesn't belong to you.
The thing you know you need to do belongs to you.
Does it fit your values?
Is it within your integrity?
Does it "do no harm"?
Do you have the capacity to handle the potential outcome? Even if that outcome is hard? Scary? Painful?
Then do it.
Regardless of what they think. This is your calling. It doesn't belong to them. Your calling belongs to you.
Tell them & their insecurities to, respectfully, fuck off and let you live your truth.
To Feel Vulnerable
“Vulnerability is the emotion we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”
This can happen in moments of professing love. And, it can feel just as vulnerable to reject someone asking to be closer to you.
To practice courage, we must get comfortable with the idea of vulnerability.
We have to lean into the uncertainty of not knowing whether this “at home” version of ourselves will be received.
We have to lean into the emotional exposure that comes with learning to feel. Then learning to speak on our feelings.
Vulnerability is the practice of experiencing our lives instead of simply surviving them.
This can be deafening at times.
A consistent practice of vulnerability means a consistent practice of experiencing rejection and pushback. This is laborious at best, but the price of the alternative is much steeper.
The alternative is to step outside of our truth. Stepping outside of our truth, our own integrity, is a rejection of self.
Who would you rather be rejected by? Them or you?
And if you got to choose, who would you rather be loved by? Them or you?
Vulnerability is a natural side-effect of choosing ourselves.
This is the truth of vulnerability people struggle to say out loud.
It’s not an option for a life well lived. We have to stand in our truth to heal. We have to get vulnerable.
But that connection with Self? And people who can genuinely appreciate your Self?
That shit is priceless. Well worth it. Hang in there. It's not a short-term investment. Stay the mile.
To Feel Respected
The trick to feeling respected by the people around you is, frankly, to lead by example.
You show people how to respect you by respecting yourself.
The level of respect others show us has a direct correlation to the level of respect we give ourselves.
If people around you don’t respect you, ask yourself how you’re modeling that behavior?
The biggest way we model the behavior is by letting anyone think they have a choice.
Take a good hard look and write down anything that comes up.
- If the people around you have a pattern of not respecting your feelings, how are you treating your feelings?
- If they’re not respecting your boundaries, how are you treating your boundaries?
- Are you giving people access to parts of you they haven’t earned the right to be in proximity to?
You don't beg people for respect. You don't earn respect by being respectful of them to the detriment of respecting yourself.
You earn the respect of others by giving yourself respect, first.
This means we have to do some hard things. Ask yourself if you’re respecting yourself enough to do the hard things.
The first hard thing is to surround yourself with people who value respect. Everyone has their exceptions from time to time. Choose yours wisely, and keep that pool small and well-boundaried.
The second hard thing is to practice what you preach. Respect yourself. And make sure you're respecting the people around you as well.
If you’re not sure people like this exist, I promise you they do. It may be hard for you to know the difference if you’ve never seen them up close.
But the signs become clearer as you become that person for yourself.
It was easier to notice who’d honor my boundaries when I stopped kicking it with people who didn’t. Those who were left and didn’t have a problem with it were clearly safe for me.
It was also hard and worth it to notice how I'd disrespected the boundaries of others when I didn't value my own boundaries. Values are consistent.
I wasn't practicing what I preached for myself or anyone else. I was just as quick to peer pressure. To say "oh you'll get over it".
When I realized how difficult it is to honor my own boundaries around people who behaved this way, and how heartbreaking it was for them to not hear me when I said it was hurting me, I got into shape pretty quick.
I treasure my boundaries. And, I treasure the boundaries of those around me.
I value the courage it takes for me to communicate a boundary.
And, I notice and value the courage it takes for others to set boundaries with me.
Because this shit is hard and scary. And respect means honoring that. Respect means making it easier for myself and those around me to do the hard, courageous, vulnerable, and scary things.
This is also what support looks like, and we all need that.
Discover what it looks like to grow some respect for yourself. Support for yourself.
Tap into curiosity and imagination for this.
To Feel Powerful
“Powerful” is a feeling we each have the capacity to feel.
You can find fit in the “happy” section of the feelings wheel.
Each of us has an interesting, nuanced, and important relationship with power.
Your relationship with power is worth getting curious about.
You understand your relationship with power by reflecting on the times you’ve felt powerful and powerless.
- When you feel powerful, who do you become?
- Where does that power come from?
- Ask the same questions about powerlessness. Who do you become? Where does your power go?
"Power Over" vs. Empowered ?
We label power as “good” or “evil” without thinking about it.
Power is neutral. Pure energy.
What matters is how we use it.
Are you exercising power over other people to validate its existence? To make up for the fact that you don't actually feel powerful within? Or are you getting your power from within? Do you just know it's there and walk in that without needing to prove anything?
You have inherent power just like you have inherent worth.
Your power naturally carries influence in your environment. Like it or not, people care about your behavior. About your actions. And, hopefully, about how you feel.
They care about how they interact with you and how you interact with them.
They care about these things because you impact them.
Neglecting this truth is a misuse of power.
Yes, people have their own power like you have yours. But your words and actions affect people anyway because no one’s power is absolute. We also all have a sense of powerlessness.
We all lose track of our power sometimes. It slips out of our grip. You’ve felt powerless to others. And so have the people around you at times. Perhaps they've felt powerless to you.
We all have power but very few of us know how to use it responsibly.
We don’t all know it’s even there. Some people spend lifetimes in states of powerlessness.
It's tempting to avoid power because then we get to avoid responsibility. Or what we really run from: blame.
Some people spend lifetimes enabling instead of empowering the people around them. Empowering is simply reminding people they have their own power, often in action instead of just words.
Enabling is what happens when we use our power over someone else's decisions to make ourselves feel better in the moment - helping no one else. Especially not the people we're enabling.
I have the power to breathe air simply because I am alive.
I have the power to hurt someone’s feelings, harm someone, traumatize people, take someone's life, for the same reason. This power is a byproduct of my existence, whether I use it for those means or not.
I am here. Therefore, I have the power to do great and awful things.
Which means I also have the power to learn to love myself and others well, and practice that.
We use our power responsibly when we accept that its here. Feel it within you. Notice it. Get curious about it instead of ignoring it. Take it a step at a time.
We use it responsibly when we practice breathing deeply as a love for ourselves while breathing that love into others simultaneously.
When you can live your life this way, your sense of power within you is balanced.
In difficult moments, you don’t need to have power over others because your power within yourself will be enough. You can use your power skillfully now.
Someone who needs power over others is most likely using power unskillfully. They've forgotten the power in themselves. So they need to manipulate or take away someone else's power to supplement this.
Again, this happens in moments. I can use my power well and responsibly all day, then at the very end of the day get passive aggressive to bring someone's ego down a notch. I'm exhausted. I'm spent. And now I need you to back the fuck off.
Instead of communicating that with gentleness, walking away, or getting off the phone, I push you away, and down, so you don't try it again.
I've been this person plenty. We all have.
These are disempowered moments for us. Even if they function as intended. They're always a sign of weakness. Where our power is running out.
Like turning a lid on a jar. I get angry when I feel powerless to it. When I feel weak. When I feel powerful, I simply take the shit off and keep it moving. Even if I need to get creative with a knife or a spoon.
So these moments, among others, are signs of where our power can be tuned. Where it can grow.
Practice makes more moments of empowerment happen. Intentional action is what makes this the norm over feeling powerless.
When you get consistent, you’ll notice you won’t need to convince anyone else of your worth, power, beauty, intelligence or strength. Them knowing or not knowing won’t take any power from you because your power comes from within you.
And you will know your worth inherently. You’ll embody the truth of this.
Suddenly, this is enough.
And this is a compassionate act.
Everyone else is liberated to think what they want of us, because we are liberated to know what we know of us.
Empowerment sounds something like "Resent me for standing in my truth if you need to, love. That sounds painful, and we don’t choose pain. We feel powerless to it. I support you in having your process (over there with yourself). And I'm here if you ever want to repair this in a way that's truthful for the both of us."
When you stop looking at everyone else’s power over you, you get to focus on growing your own power within yourself. You get to practice using it in a way you personally see as true, liberating, loving, and sexy for you and the people around you.
That is your power. It has always been your power. It will always be your power.
Even if it’s been fractured and hidden by mountains of trauma, your inherent power is within you.
Everyone around you feels it even when you feel powerless. Especially when you feel powerless, because that's when you start grasping at their power. Resenting their power.
Baby. Keep an eye on yours.
When living in your trauma, everyone can see it but you.
Find it. Nurture it. Heal it. Love it. Use it well.
To Feel Loving
We can’t feel empowered without feeling loving towards ourselves and - as a byproduct of that - towards the people around us.
There’s long been a debate on whether love is an action or a feeling. This is just because we're still collectively working on our understanding that two things can be true at the same time.
Look around and it's obvious. Love holds space for both feeling and action.
Why wouldn't it? So does trauma. How can love be smaller than that? It isn't.
Self-love involves how honestly we see ourselves, how we feel when we see ourselves, and how we react to those feelings.
Love is also a spectrum. Not an on/off switch. It’s not “do I love myself or don’t I”.
Of course you love yourself in plenty of ways.
- Your choice to survive today is a dose of self love.
- Your choice to read this is a dose of self love.
- The way you strive to give yourself connection and belonging and family is self love.
- The desire to prove yourself is self love.
- Your anger is one of your most beautiful forms of self love.
- Your "treat myself" moments are self love.
- Self-accountability is self love.
- The fact that you’re here says you’re giving yourself hope. This is self love.
Sometimes we don’t realize how much we’ve loved ourselves all along. You’ve had your own back in some ugly and beautiful ways - out of love for yourself.
It’s already there. It might be a hurting love, but it is within you. It’s yours.
It hasn’t been trained to love you the way you need to be loved to feel full.
Like, do you love yourself enough expand your view of yourself past your trauma?
- To turn that hope for yourself into a belief in yourself?
- To have compassion for yourself?
- To protect yourself?
- To see your dignity?
- To simply be with yourself and enjoy yourself for existing because look at all that cute and wholesome shit you do?
Where are your other doses of love hiding? What do you need to find them?
Love can’t be defined because we fail so often to see that love holds space for everything.
Everything you are is human.
Learn to love the whole of you, the whole of ways.
Loving everyone else becomes easy from that space.
It just takes time. Stay with it.
Get curious about how you can love yourself every day. Then, practice.
To Feel Playful
When we’re feeling loving, respected, and empowered, our bodies feel safe.
Our guards come down in a sense that we feel well protected.
We feel well protected by our selves.
We’re finally free to engage in life the way we were meant to. We’re free to take that curiosity and inspiration and turn it towards play.
We can create, explore, and live life.
I started exploring waterfalls and hiking off trail. I laugh more. I dance more (though I still believe it's an act of compassion to try to refrain from doing this in public. I wasn't doing it at all).
I picked up clay. I'm excited to start playing with cooking.
My work has become more playful for me.
I play more. Period.
My life gets to be more than pain. More than productivity. More than responsibility. More than protection.
This is the difference between surviving and thriving.
- How would you play? How do you want to play?
- Practice. Even when it's uncomfortable. Fuck it.
To Feel Connected
The way you & bestie can communicate with a glance.
When we stop for a moment and see ourselves in our children. And them in us.
Feeling the collective energy at a protest. Or a football game.
Sitting in the woods alone, toes in the earth, taking a deep breath and thinking, “I am here. I am alive.”
Letting these realizations become you even if only for a moment.
When we feel connected we’re stopping long enough to notice that we’re a part of a larger whole.
Feeling connected requires us to shrink our egos just enough to let someone’s energy take up space in our hearts, our nervous systems, and our minds at the same time.
Feeling connected is a part of what gives us the sense of belonging we've been missing.
So often we make belonging and connection about extraneous facts. About perceived identities, culture, appearance, status. Who am I kicking it with? Are they like me? Do they get me?
We need all of these extra facts and constructs and ideas to feel connected because we’ve forgotten that being alive is something we already share.
We're all plugged into the same outlet.
A healed world is one that realizes that being alive is enough.
And everything and everyone is alive. The animals. The earth. The people.
The greatest, deepest feeling of connection is that that spirituality gives us. Not to be confused with religion.
Religion is where people get together to worship each others' views about how they're practicing religion.
Spirituality is when you focus on your own sense of connectedness with the greater existence. It has nothing to do with my opinion or anyone else's.
In my experience of connectedness, the deepest sense is when we recognize we are dust. We are never alone. We always belong - though that belonging isn’t always known. It helps to return to it intentionally. This is where personal ritual comes in.
I have the power to remember this truth even when everyone around me has forgotten.
I have the power to remember I belong in spaces where no one else has a clue.
Like most people, I prefer to be in spaces where others also share the belief that we both belong there.
But when I find myself in a different kind of space with a different kind of people, this power has saved my dignity. My life. My spirit.
This power is enough.
To Feel Joy
I would describe joy as falling into a specific, connected, gratitude-filled love with a moment in time. We do this with an experience that’s right in front of us, or around us.
We breathe it in and everything else falls away.
If you've ever said "I love this" about a moment you were witnessing or a part of - you've experienced joy.
If you’ve ever fallen into a “soul connection” kind of love with a person, joy embodies the same moment of realization, with two differences:
- Joy happens with moments in time, not people. The snapshot of the experience lights up our entire bodies.
- People we fall in love with tend to stay for a while, so the love gets to eb, flow, grow, shrink, and evolve over time. The moment we fall in love with, inevitably, ends quickly.
Enter foreboding joy: when we dread losing the joy we have. Waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop pulls us out of our love and back into our old story: trauma.
As we heal, we have more space live our joy. To be present with it. To simply love it without trying to control it or control our reaction to losing it.
For some of us healing means creating the space to experience joy at all, for the very first time.
The key to living our joy is to understand first that joy is a deep-appreciation kind of love. And secondly, to understand that love and attachment are two different things.
It doesn’t help us to be so attached to a moment that our fear of losing it oppresses us. This just makes us miss the moment, which backfires on us. The moment becomes the one that got away.
Sometimes we miss a moment so much we spend a lifetime trying to recreate it. We become middle-age men who can’t stop talking about the glory days they took for granted. Or middle-age women talking about how pretty they didn’t realize they were back then.
Fear takes love for granted by definition.
Fear is here to protect us. In the case of joy - it protects us from experiencing it fully so we don’t have to lose it (foreboding).
We all have this fear in us. This isn’t any of our faults.
Trauma tells us the loss of anything we love is dangerous. The pain is too big to bear. But it is a gift to ourselves to realize we can surrender this experience. This story. We can write a greater one.
One grounded in the reality that the sight and sound of every moment passes us by. But the feeling?
If we pay attention, if we’re present and allow ourselves to feel it fully, we get to keep that part.
Joyous feelings, stories, and belief imprint on us just like traumatic ones do.
They leave a lasting impression. We get to carry them with us in beautiful ways.
The antidote isn’t to control ourselves, our moments, and our people into being miserable and fearful together.
It’s by loving ourselves, our moments, and one another so much that everyone has plenty of love within them during the moments we have to let go.
This abundance of love sustains us. It’s a gift. And when things get dull or dark for a moment, the joy storied in our bodies can give us strength. Give us hope. It can carry us through.
We accomplish this by doing the counterintuitive.
By being fully present with joy when it comes for us. Taking it in. Feeling it in our bodies fully. Letting it fill us up. Letting our nervous systems find a home here.
Then, and only then, will our bodies and souls understand the moment did not get away from us. We lived it fully. We loved it fully. And we’re grateful for the experience, even if we had to grieve in the end.
The best part? Practice makes perfect.
The more we practice taking in joy, the more we experience it. The less the moments feel so sparse. The less we need to tap into it at all.
2 years ago for me it was facing big fears. Doing big (for me) things.
Today, I’m one of those weirdos that looks at the moon and thinks, “wow. That’s incredible.” I breathe it in. ”How do we miss out on this?”
Each moment might drift by in the end, but the feeling continues to build.
This is the math of mindfulness.
Our relationship with the moment is just like our relationships with each other and ourselves.
It helps us practice secure love.
Secure love is a present love. A love that can connect without taking things personally. A love that knows the difference between “self” and “other”.
Secure love knows how to let things go, even if it hurts. Because it knows it's not letting go of itself.
Unadulterated joy is what happens when we have a deep-appreciative love for a moment in time from a secure space in our bodies.
Note: to find more joy in life, practice mindfulness. Opportunities are all around us. Joy tends to make less noise than trauma so we have to pay attention to see it.
To Feel a Sense of Purpose
Before doing this work I was still a writer and a coach, but I was working in marketing & sales instead. I helped small business owners find smart & ethical ways to market their business.
For what I knew of love, I loved my work. I also knew, though, that I wasn’t in love with my work. I was good at it and it felt good to be good at it.
I was in my skillset.
But being in your skillset and being in your purpose are two different things.
As I started my own healing journey I got more familiar with how my trauma was holding me back. I felt compelled to share bits and pieces of this with the business owners I was working with. Where it felt relevant. Where it might support them.
They loved it.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that those were the contributions I loved the most.
But I wasn’t in the right environment. I didn’t want anything to do with marketing. I wanted to support people in coming home to themselves.
The rest, I believed, would work itself out.
Now I'm here. I'm writing for myself. Aligning with my purpose.
Before I had discipline, sacrifice, hard work, good skills. And it got me far.
Now I have all of that plus joy, connection, and play.
When we find joy, connection, and play, we find clues to what fulfills us.
Clues to purpose.
It’s not about passion. We’ve all given our passions to things, spaces and people that are ultimately bad for us. Passion is a sweet tooth. I love it. It has a place and I plan to keep it.
It's a support tool, spicing things up with my work just like it does in the bedrooms of our personal lives.
But it has no business as head of office for how I lead my life.
Passion is a temporary flame. It always burns out and takes a lot of work to reignite it when it does.
What we’re looking for with purpose is something sustainable.
Play. Joy. Connection.
These have endurance. They compound over time when nurtured.
We know work. We know sacrifice. We know pain.
Many of us know discipline (though we don’t give ourselves enough credit).
But we do these for surivival. Survival steals your fulfillment from you.
The labor of love is a luxury worth striving for. Doing it for the love of it is a beautiful thing.
Discovering a deeper sense of purpose requires us to discover a deeper connection with ourselves.
The connection doesn't happen in the thing. It happens in us. The depth is in you. Find your depth. Wade through it. Frolic through it. Know it well.
You'll start to find where it holds space for purpose.
Everything is a spectrum. The less we know ourselves and what fills us up, the lower our levels of purpose will be.
The more we know ourselves, the greater our levels of purpose will be.
I still have more work to do here. I’m still growing deeper into myself. It’s become a bit of a purpose in & of itself. And maybe it should be. Maybe that’s the trick.
But what I do know is this:
When we discover where we can find joy, connection, play, hard work and discipline all in the same place? With some weekly/monthly/quarterly doses of passion to spice it up?
That’s when we start to find purpose.
To BE Embodied
The moral of the story is this: trauma disembodies us.
It conditions our minds to distrust what’s happening in our bodies and hearts. And it conditions our bodies & hearts to fight our minds as a result of this.
This disembodiment shows up internally as inner conflict.
It shows up externally as a misaligned life.
We feel it in the careers and relationships we choose. We feel it when we lack a sense of purpose and - for many of us - a full sense of personhood.
It happens when we realize we don’t know who we are.
Fractured people need to find themselves and discover who they are. Whole people know who they are and have a strong sense of self.
Healing is the process of going from fractured to whole. Healing leads us to a sense of embodiment.
Embodiment = alignment.
Mind. Body. Spirit (or Heart).
Suddenly, our minds, bodies, and hearts all feel safe enough to collaborate.
Suddenly, our minds and bodies work to support our Spirit - the part of us that feels connected to a larger purpose and a deeper intuition about our surroundings and path.
When in an embodied state, we move with a calm sense of knowing .
This knowing is connected to our environment. There isn’t anything to second guess. We have a capacity to be with ourselves in the wilderness because we’re a part of the wilderness.
It’s honestly hard to explain, still. It’s still new to me, but it’s becoming more familiar.
I've been spiritual and embodiment still sounded a little far off to me at first.
But it's actually pretty logical.
Do your thoughts, feelings, gut & intuition all feel aligned here in the present moment? Yes? Then you're aligned. You're embodied. You likely feel very present, calm, and confident.
There’s a sense of knowing the move, the way, the purpose, what to do and say next, how to handle things. There’s a calmness. A release of anxiety and fear.
Living becomes muscle memory and wonder at the same time.
Embodiment is a sense of presence. We take in ourselves. The moment. The world.
Without losing our shit.
Very monk-like stuff, really.
When embodied, we are centered. If we can remain embodied during friction, we become the safe space in chaos. The eye of the storm.
Embodiment is one of my favorite parts of healing.
One might argue that to be embodied is to be healed. One might argue they’re one & the same.
And that when we don't feel aligned in a moment, our body is showing us where the next opportunity for healing could be.
Because like everything else in life, embodiment is a practice.
So, get to practice.
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