I’ve learned that the road to wholeness includes practicing being compassionate and loving toward myself. Working on maintaining these practices, are two of the biggest joys, responsibilities and challenges I continue to take on, day after day. With each action and thought, I send myself messages; some compassionate, some loving - some not. I am continually working on dispelling messages that don't serve me and growing the ones that do.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about what messages I send to myself when I am trying to comfort myself. And what I am saying to myself when I feel like I need comforting. I think it's easier to spot messages to ourselves that are definitively harmful. "That was stupid." "You look horrible right now." "You are a mean person." Messages that are trying to help can also be missing a compassionate and loving undertone; for me they can go more easily unnoticed because they carry the guise of trying to help.
Over three years ago, I woke up to a little girl who had been living inside me for a very long time; an abused little girl who had been put away, forgotten, mute. She had been me, once. She was a part of me, then. She is now. She had been hurt; I had been hurt. When I woke up to her, she was barely recognizable as me, as human even, she was so wrought with pain. The first few years of healing were all about comfort and love. Listening and embracing. I wasn’t sure exactly how to do this but once I saw her, literally saw her during a therapy session, deep in my being, I was so moved by the depth of despair, abandonment and detachment I saw that all I wanted to do was comfort her. And cry. To hold her, and love her. So I did. At times, with the wrong things. I coddled her and first just didn’t say no. I indulged and let go.
After a bit, I realized that self-love isn’t giving yourself everything you want or desire in the moment. Sometimes it’s being present with yourself as you feel; being your own listening ear and presence. Not "solution-finding" to expel the feelings. But recognizing them, accepting and validating them, and feeling them. It's easy with feelings like happiness and love. But doing this with sadness, loss and anger is often much more challenging. At first, she cried and cried and cried. She just wanted me to hear her again, after all these years of nothing. And that was hard. I had developed a habit of disappearing and ignoring and to see and feel such sadness, such loss, was hard. I've been practicing sitting with challenging emotion through meditation; through practicing compassionately listening to myself. By doing this, I've made some big strides. And, as I've come to realize this Fall, there is more specific work to be done. I did some of that work, today.
Meditation has been a tool I use to heal. One of the places I experience when I meditate is a place where I allow myself to deeply listen to my emotional landscape, as I call it. Which is also connected to my energetic health and well-being. I think of energy as something we are all affected by and respond to. It is not just limited to physics and science but I think, affects us in our relationships with ourselves and others. Today, I brought myself there after spending the last few weeks listening to and witnessing how I respond to my impulses to comfort myself during pain, sadness or anger.
This place, that I go. It’s not connected to the kind of logic most people in this society live by. It operates in a more dynamic way that is constantly evolving and responding. Being there requires a kind of letting go of knowing. At least knowing in a logic, fact-based, provable way. That’s just not important here. I focused on my breathing and asked to be shown where I might need to work; what was next up in relation to my personal curriculum on spiritual and emotional health; growth. I invited whatever needed to come up, whatever needed my attention at that moment, to surface.
And then, I saw a little girl. Me. In a lightly-wooded forest. Balancing on rocks emerging from a small creek. The sun streaming through like it was late afternoon. I watched as I slowly tried to make my way across the water, over the rocks. I knew this place. I'd been here, felt this, many times but never before had I seen it this way. Balancing on the rocks as the water touched my little girl feet, feeling the sun stream through the branches and hearing the sound of rushing water comforted me. I felt a sense of magic, and was full of beauty, felt safe. I knew, watching her, feeling this, that this was the place I go, when I go away. It is where I went, as a very young girl, when people were hurting me and I couldn't get away. It's how I first learned to cope with pain. It is a place in between whatever the reality of now is and whatever isn’t now. It is my little hiding spot. And, most importantly, it was surrounded by a chrysalis of protection that kept anyone else from finding it, knowing about it or reaching me while I was there.
I realized, as I was present, watching, holding witness, that this place, as soothing as it was, had a dark underside. Safe yes, but disconnected. There was a sense that this was a stagnant and static superficial experience. This dark underbelly was right under the glowing surface of this place, the light, the water, the warmth. The safety. I felt distant and alone. And for many years, I came here, sacrificing connection for safety. I felt grateful to be shown this place, and knew that the showing of it represented the next place to work; to integrate. I knew that by coming here, now, like this, it was to invite that part of me to heal.
Watching me, feeling, I welcomed the energy, the little girl - me, this place - into my being. Into my heart. I could, in this moment, bring this place, this little me, back. I was the only one that could. No one else was allowed here. And I needed to bring her back; I needed to stop using this place as a place of escape.
I bowed, in gratitude to the little girl, me, and thanked her for her strength, her wisdom and her beauty. Truly grateful for the times she led us here to feel light and safe. Then, I opened, inviting her to integrate into me, into the present. Knowing, that by doing so, the place would change, she would change and I would change.
Through this opening, I was breaking the chrysalis that surrounded this place of light, magic and safety. And, I wasn't actually turning my back on this place, but inviting it too to come. I was telling that little girl, me, that you don’t need to escape anymore. That we can find light, magic and safety while being connected to the present.
Without speaking I told her no one will hurt you anymore. That they can't. That even if they hit you, rape you, kill you - you will endure. The part of you that is connected to all life, the unity of all things, which is what she, what I, what you, are. That part, that is untouchable, un-killable, un-taintable.
By embracing unity, I gently cracked open this place of hiding. I cracked it open so I could reach her. Touch her. Embrace her. And I cried. I saw that by opening this sacred space of safety and light, I could integrate it into my life here, now. That I didn’t have to go away to feel safe, light and loved. That I could find those things in the present.
Intimacy and being intimate in a healthy way has been challenging for me. But today, after listening when I felt wounded and scared, I found a way to open myself up, to myself. I’m learning to trust in intimacy as a healthy experience, a safe experience. Something, that not too long ago, sounded and felt like an earth-shatteringly terrifying experience.
As I sit here, I feel, in the root of my being, a strengthening. And it fills me with joy. I smile, feeling the joy as it rises up through my spine, like a fountain of light, springing up through the crown of my head. I know this feeling. It’s how I feel when I feel connected to my essential self. It’s how I feel, when I feel whole.
Bit by bit, moving through time, I get here. I grow here. I am, here.
Bit by bit, we all can be. Bit by bit, we can heal.