Peter Schroth, Trees, Tall Pine III
“…and your very flesh shall be a great poem…”
— Walt Whitman
Growing up just outside Washington, DC resulted in my childhood having it’s fair share of visits to historical sites, such as Civil War battlefields, like Gettysburg.
If you’ve ever been to a memorial site, especially one where great loss actually took place, you know that you can feel it. What you’re standing on at these places is sacred ground and each has a powerful energetic fingerprint. Perhaps you’ve felt it while visiting the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, Auschwitz in Poland, or The Killing Fields Museum in Cambodia.
Sadly the world is full of sites where atrocities took place and left an imprint, physical or energetic.
In my early twenties as I was emerging victorious from my own battle with anorexia the only way I could relate to my body was as this sacred ground. While not visible to the eye, my body felt like modern day Gettysburg battlefield.
This flesh—my flesh—was where a war had been fought and won.
And what this meant to me was that anything less than sacred awe was not good enough.
In the years since then I have encountered in my life and in the lives of those I work with serious trauma. Childhood abuse. Sexual assault. Mental illness. Loss of parents and children. Battles with cancer. Amputation.
And it doesn’t take catastrophic incidents like these to leave trauma. Life is traumatic.
Life is traumatic and our bodies bare the brunt of it. They are our sensory input tool and they are where we experience (or repress) emotion. Our bodies are the tools or fight or flight…or freeze. Our bodies are the recipient of heinous cultural norms. Our bodies, depending on where we live in the world, aren’t even always considered our own.
Life is also miraculous. The ways in which our body heals, allows for connection, creates new life, and enables our lives is marvelous.
All this is to say: feel the sacred ground you are living in.
Feel that you are sacred in every cell of your body.
Stand in awe of not just what has happened on your ‘land’ but on what you have survived and created.
Consider reverence as a new template for how you inhabit this flesh of yours.
Like Whitman says, your “flesh shall be a great poem”.
Imagine there’s a knock at your door right now.
You go and answer it.
It’s your mother.
How do you react? Not how should you react, but how would you really react?
Now imagine that happening all over except instead of your mother it’s your ex-lover.
How do you react? Feel it. What is your knee-jerk reaction?
Now imagine it again, instead of your ex-lover, it’s a policewoman.
How do you react? Really. What would your first reaction be?
Now do it again.
You walk over and it’s a singing telegram with balloons, flowers, and a box of chocolates.
How do you react?
The point of contact with anything is the most important moment.
Two objects collide and whether they shatter, ricochet, or merge all depends on the moment of contact and what happens there.
I’m utterly fascinated with the moments of contact with our hungers.
There is so much to learn about what happens when one of our hungers knocks on the door and we answer it. Or maybe we don’t. Maybe we peer through the keyhole and decide to remain silent and still. Hoping it thinks we’re not home and goes away.
Maybe we answer and with tears of joy pick up the hunger and spin it around in our arms as though Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes has just bestowed a windfall upon us.
Or we might open the door but as soon as our hunger speaks we plug our ears and say “Lalalalalalalala” in attempt not hear what it has to say.
It could be as simple as opening and shutting the door, with a quick ‘no thank you’ in between.
I offer you this meditative inquiry:
What is happening at the point of contact with your hunger or hungers?
If it played in slow motion, could you see and feel the moment of contact? Could you feel what happens next?
I offer you this thought: the air between you and your hungers has so much wisdom. almost as much as your hunger itself.
I used to teach a course called Ease Hunting: Six Weeks of Discovering Every Exhale.
This powerful journey included lessons, live calls, an ease scavenger hunt, expert interviews, and two guided audio meditations all aimed at supporting the huntresses in discovering an easeful way of being, no matter what life was throwing their way. It was truly beautiful. One participant described it as “A yoga class for your mind.”
Spring is here and while the flowers may be blooming and the warmer weather lifting our spirits, I know that life is still challenging for many of us.
I woke up today wanting to support you in finding ease in your life right now. The Ease Hunting course isn’t currently on offer, but today I’m giving away the two Ease Hunting meditations.
These recordings, one for morning and one for evening, are simple 10 minute opportunities to recenter and rest. They were among the Ease Hunters favorite parts of their experience. Here are a few of their words:
“I’ve been using the PM mediation every day, and I’m going to keep using it. I loved that I could download the meditations onto my phone. That made it easy to listen to them on the go and also as I was falling asleep. Doing 15 minutes every day has definitely impacted my ease levels.”
“I liked having the meditations as a go-to if I needed them…when I did need them, they were both helpful and I’m grateful to have them as a tool in my toolbox. There was one morning in particular where I was fretting, and I said “ah, we have a tool for this: AM meditation.” I did it, and the fretting subsided and made way for some ease.”
If you’re needing a little more ease in your life or a supportive, simple way to start and end your day, here is my gift to you. To listen online, simply click the links. To download, hold down the option key and then click the links.
As you may know, I’m a student of Wayne Muller. His book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives was a total game-changer for me. In fact, I kept my own non-traditional sabbath for several years inspired by Muller’s words. This practice still influences how I live my daily life and my work in the world. You don’t need to be religious to benefit from this profound book–I’m not.
Muller has a fantastic new book out: A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough. Doesn’t the title just make you happy?! I wanted to share this excerpt from the book with you because it so wonderfully sums up why I coach and what I love about coaching.
“So in order to live well from the inside out, to listen for the right choices and the firmly and courageously act on them we simply cannot do this alone….
Because we are not taught or supported to live in this way, rarely educated or encouraged to listen and act from our own inner wisdom, never told how to follow the firm but invisible thread of the next right thing through the world, we will always need the support of good, honest friends.
We are called to be strong companions and clear mirrors with one another, to seek those who reflect with compassion and a keen eye how we are doing, whether we seem centered or off course, grounded or flailing.
As in all sacred, life giving practices that require a deep and confident faith in ourselves, we need the nourishing company of others to create the circle needed for growth, freedom, and healing.”
– Wayne Muller, A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough
When I run into people I haven’t seen in a while they often remark that while I am still myself, I’m so much more relaxed and at ease than they recall. That’s because for much of my life I lived with a base level of anxiety and for me that manifested as: vague constant dis-ease/worry, insomnia, sporadic panic attacks, being overly controlling of others (as a means to soothe myself), and an eating disorder (also to soothe myself). While I had all these symptoms, I was entirely functional – able to hold down a good job, earn my masters degree, and have close and healthy friendships. And while my anxiety was somewhat normal if you looked at TV or movies, it was also exhausting.
So how did I get to today where life feels pretty easy, I’m at home in my own skin – even when life is hard, and to a place where very little overwhelms me?
I sewed a patchwork quilt. One square at a time of information, experience, aides, and awareness. Each person’s path out of chronic anxiety (or depression) is unique and there ought not be any judgement about one’s choices on the journey. No one road works for all and what matters is that quilt square come together to forms something that works.
I released any shame I had about mental illness. (See Brene Brown’s work on shame).
I worked with some talented and wise psychotherapist that felt great to be in the room with.
I attended a 10-month Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills group. I seriously think the DBT skills should be a mandatory part of public education.
I practiced and pondered mindfulness. I found sitting groups. I read. I got quiet.
I practiced and pondered compassion and loving-kindness. Again, I found sitting groups. I read. I got quiet.
I connected. I stopped isolating myself with the idea that I couldn’t show others that I was struggling. I reached out. I was real with others. I stopped creating a life where I only let my flaws hang out when I was alone. I stopped pretending like I had it all together, because I didn’t and that kind of isolation will kill anyone.
I paid attention to what worked and what didn’t work for me. I learned I have a lot of HSP characteristics. I learned I do better working for myself. I learned that taking long afternoon naps and putting my needs first leads to happier days, happier friends, and happier clients.
I took a hard look at my family. I saw that the parent I shared so many traits with had depressive, anxious, and OCD tendencies themself – markers that I might have inherited some of what I was experiencing.
I started taking Zoloft (generic name Sertraline). I named this post ‘In praise of Zoloft’ because I think my decision to take medication to treat my anxiety is actually the most unique part of my story. While millions of people around the world are medicated for mood disorders, I was an unlikely candidate. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area where there’s an acupuncturist on every corner. I earned my Master’s degree in Holistic Health Education where I took courses in stress reduction and relaxation, Ayurveda, and nutrition. I meditated. I ate greens. I went to yoga class. I was primed to take an all natural and alternative approach to my anxiety.
But for me, several years ago, the floor finally dropped out of my life and Zoloft got me on solid ground. I’m lucky in that I’ve not experienced one side effect from taking it and I feel like myself, only more even keel. I’m still creative. I still feel all my emotions and cry now and then. I still have worries. I think as clearly as I always have, perhaps more so. It’s just that a tiny dose each day makes my life much better. Anxiety and depression are certainly aspects to spiritual awakening and I wish more people would look there first. That said, I had experienced symptoms my entire life and Zoloft has played a significant role in getting me where I wanted to go.
I believe that medication is not for everyone (though meditation probably is). I believe that Zoloft is not the medication for everyone (consult a professional please). I firmly believe, truly, to each their own. But I wanted to share some of my story so others could see that taking advantage of modern medicine isn’t a failure and it won’t turn you into a zombie. And sometimes, it might just give you back your life.