Through my work every day with clients I see the global effects of what really happens when people heal the layers of pain, fear, and trauma that keep us separated from our bodies; preventing us from moving through the world intact and embodied. When we operate from a place of fear and discomfort we create ripples throughout our families, communities and society. Even if we aren’t doing harm to anyone but ourselves, the pain of life disconnected from our root has an echoing effect. Whether that pain is physical, emotional, spiritual, or (usually) a combination of all three, the truth is that the society we live in is a very difficult one for humans to thrive in. Whatever one’s experience of relative adversity or ease- our world doesn’t necessarily make space for humanity, empathy, and connection. We don’t always have the systems in place to release trauma and relate to our spiritual and emotional bodies.
I have a strongly intuitive sense that as we heal our pain and connect with our spiritual centers through healing practices we fill ourselves with the vitality of life, we fill our families with love and humanity, we fill our society with cultures of grace and healing. All of society’s ills such as sexual violence, white supremacy, police brutality, relational and family violence, cultural genocide, ecological destruction, etc. have roots in the fear and pain of generations of trauma, emotional and spiritual neglect, separation from our humanity and empathy, destruction of our communities, and displacement from our homes. Our world is in a state of severe and chronic trauma going back many hundreds of years. Unless this trauma is unpacked, examined, and truly healed it continues to move from one body to another, from one family to another, from one culture to another; creating a civilization of violence, destruction, and abuse.
I see the current focus on healing the roots of trauma within medicine, science, addiction studies, and the arts as a powerful and important realization in the path back to our common humanity. While we cannot remain focused only on ourselves we must begin by taking responsibility for own physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. As we begin to bring our spirits home to our bodies-creating a safe place for our deepest selves to inhabit, reclaim our physical and sexual selves from those that may have done us harm, learn to breathe and move from our centers, learn to acknowledge and discharge intense emotion without causing pain, and most importantly learn to truly love and protect what is sacred and beautiful in our lives and in our world: this is when we are able to truly cultivate a world that is sacred and safe.
Be full of yourself dear child. Completely embodied. Fleshy and contained. So that every centimeter of body contains blood and nerve and awareness and perception and life. So that the vacant stare is a thing of the past. We are powerful beyond measure if we are able to stay. If we're scared we stay. If it hurts we stay. If we are alone we stay. We train our minds to stay in the safety of flesh. We feel as much as we can before looking away. How much of our trauma response is taught? We watched our mothers leave their bodies and so we followed suit. Living like ghosts because it is difficult to be married to land and flesh and feeling. It is difficult to be seeds and earth and moisture embedded in moss and mud. It is difficult to be birth. Easier to be death. Easier to look to the spirit realm and scorn the flesh; favor the mind. In heaven and mind and intellect there is no pain-so we retreated there. We hid; we left our body when we thought we might die because it hurt and we were afraid but now we must return to flesh and feeling and the dark, wet, warm nature of life. We must stay.
Our humanity makes us messy, inefficient, and unpredictable. I worked with a client yesterday and the idea of shame around having a body that won't just do what you tell it to came up. There is a feeling in our society that there isn't room for us unless we are actively engaged in making shit happen, whether it's making money, doing something creative, climbing a mountain, something.....just do something! But what happens when we can't? When we experience so much pain, illness, depression, etc. that we have to just stop. What happens when the only intelligent way for us to proceed is through stillness, patience, and rest? When we cannot or will not allow ourselves to be a source of financial gain, entertainment, inspiration, or motivation for anyone else. This can be a profound opportunity to experience ourselves at our most elemental. An opportunity to feel into the very nature of our existence without the momentum associated with productivity.
A little over a year ago an event caused me to stop abruptly. I suffered a severe concussion doing something perfectly mundane and I had no choice but to lay in the dark day after day. I wasn't able to care for myself or my home or my business in the most basic ways. I couldn't entertain my friends who came to help me, or even myself, I couldn't make money, I couldn't, I couldn't, I couldn't. I had no choice but to surrender to it completely. For the first time I was absolutely unable to push myself through it. Unable to take the right supplement or herb, to go to the right healer, to change my perspective, to look on the bright side.... I could not talk myself out of the helplessness I felt. And with it came floods of emotion: depression, jumbled thoughts, a feeling that I was completely broken and wouldn't be who I was before. A feeling that everything I had built my identity on was suddenly gone. This was the first and only time since I was a small child that I was allowed to rest and let myself be cared for by others. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. The idea that I was not participating, not giving of myself, not pushing or trying or changing something made me feel incredibly weak and ashamed. I had built my worth as a person on my desire to make a positive impact in the world. To be kind, giving, motivated, active, and engaged. I discovered that I didn't actually believe that I had worth if I wasn't doing that work. I felt guilty for needing help and taking up space.
As the days and weeks passed, however, I was pushed by necessity to surrender to the support I was being offered. I experienced the kindness and generosity of the people in my life. I understood that by allowing myself to be indebted to my community we were building the threads of interconnectedness that I had always been moving too fast and pushing too hard to notice. I had to acknowledge that my value was more than the commodity of action. That is was ok to just sit and rest. Slowly the shame transformed and I began to heal. I learned to accept kindness and generosity and thoughtfulness in others and humility in myself. My life is better now than it was. Though some things are harder than they were and I am not completely healed from the injury and I would have loved to be able to learn these lessons in a less painful way, I can say that in some ways I am grateful for my injury for showing me the value of not doing the thing. I learned something important about space and stillness and emptiness as well as coming face to face with my deepest fear. The fear of not being worthy of this life.
Back to yesterday....as we worked and I sank my awareness into that shame I saw that it looked and felt like tributaries of water, flowing from person to person in our society. I realized that our shame doesn't belong to us and it's not our fault. It doesn't start with us nor will it end with us. And as we, as individuals, heal and process shame it continues on it's course, moving through all of us from an unknown source. The best we can do is perhaps to listen to what it has to say as we might listen to a suffering friend. To offer love and care for the tender parts of us that experience shame. And perhaps as we allow it to pass through us we can offer some healing both to ourselves as well as to all others who might experience it. Offering kindness and patience and then letting it go.
Roxanne has been a massage therapist and herbalist for more than 16 years. She practices profound and subtle healing work with the intention of welcoming people back into their bodies and making space for individuals to live in strength, alignment, and integrity.