Radical Acceptance

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                       “Radical acceptance is the willingness to experience ourselves                                 and our lives as it is.” ~ Tara Brach

In searching for images and quotes for this blog, I recently came across this photo – barbed wire with a tree growing around it. I resonated with it immediately. Because the sufferings of life become part of us, don’t they? Our pain, our trauma, our PTSD, our grief – healing doesn’t mean it goes away, it means we learn how to grow with it and in spite of it.

Like the tree, we are impelled to grow. The tree continues to grow in spite of everything that happens to it, short of being cut down. So do we, hopefully, continue to grow in spite of what happens to us. We have a choice, of course. We can stop where the barbed wire entered our life, we can remain stuck there, allowing it to twist our trunk and ignore or delay healing. Or we can accept that barbed wire, feel the full effects of it, and figure out how the very act of acceptance helps us grow stronger.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ~ Haruki Murakami

Trees, especially old trees, are just so solid, so fierce and stately. If I think of myself as a tree, I see all the elements of growth that I also need.

Deep roots: I need the deep roots of grounding myself daily. Connecting myself to the earth, to the solid ground under me, so my mind doesn’t take off running to scary places. When I place myself in a grounded state, I am tree-like. I can bend with the wind without losing my footing. I stand firmly within myself. I feel the solid support of God and Mother Earth holding me up and anchoring me down. Fierce. Stately.

Water: I need nourishment to those roots so I can grow. Nourishment comes in the form of self-care, love, friends, and daily connection to the Divine through prayer and meditation. When I “water” myself, I grow, I heal. It seeps up through every cell and connects me to myself, to others, and to God. I am nourished. I am fed.

Air: Did you know there’s a photosynthesis of the soul? We breathe in faith, (you sometimes can’t see it, but breathe it in anyway), and breathe out doubt and fear. God is the oxygen we need to heal and to grow. Breathe in Divine air, breathe out the toxins we keep inside. And like carbon dioxide, God will take those toxins and transform them into more oxygen, more healing. We must keep breathing and breathe deeply!

Light: The tree needs the sun as we need God’s light. But rather than shining down on us, we find it by looking within. When we ignite that light within, it warms us and puts a balm on our wounds. When we ignite that light within, it speeds us on our healing path. Miraculously, when we ignite that light within, it shines out and warms those around us.

New Growth: Each time I reach a new place of healing, a new level of forgiveness, I feel a new branch grow. I feel leaves sprouting forth. As I encompass, envelop and send love to the barbed wire, I swell toward the sky, branches reaching up, drinking in the sun, arms open to receive God’s gifts. When we invite God on our healing path, new growth is inevitable, and we expand in our own individual way because of the wound, because of the barbed wire. Fierce. Stately.

“When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope.” ~ Henri Nouwen

So let’s be this tree today. Let’s use and honor these elements of deep roots, water, air, light and new growth. Wounded with barbed wire, but accepting that it’s part of us.

It’s a thorny pain, and sometimes it still hurts, but it’s part of our path and the choices we have and will make. I own this barbed wire. I am who I am because of it, and for that I am grateful. It has made me turn to God over and over, grow in faith and forgiveness, and it has made me fierce and stately.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

04/28/2018

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Ground Your Self

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“Ground yourself. Strip yourself down, to blind loving silence.” ~ Rumi

Last week I was fortunate enough to be at a retreat where a yoga teacher reminded us all about the importance of grounding! I have to admit, I had let this area of healing work slip and it was truly an “A-ha” moment and a wake up call.

I thanked the teacher afterward and shared that I truly realized how my healing is usually focused above me, around me, and within me. I seek God above me, in the people and teachings around me, and I look within. I haven’t been remembering to include that which is below me! Spiritually and literally, that is where we find support, by connecting with the earth and allowing it to heal us with energy and balance.

Grounding can be challenging for survivors of trauma. We are very drawn to be in our heads, where we can logically make sense of things, think about our feelings (rather than feel them), and kind of float above the world that has hurt us. So we need to be extremely aware of the need for grounding. Grounding in connection with meditation and nature, has become a valuable tool in the healing of trauma.

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Grounding is a way of connecting our bodies to the earth. There are many ways to achieve it: meditation, mindfulness, prayer, walking, sitting, being outside, being inside. The action of grounding is really simply a shift in awareness. We shift our thoughts and presence from our heads to our body, to the ground. We feel the solid earth beneath us. We are aware of the strength of the chair or mat that supports us. We draw up the limitless energy from the earth and let it infuse our body and soul with its gentle power.

Because we live in houses and work in buildings and drive cars, it’s more important than ever to take the time to get outside, take off our shoes, feel the ground, get some mud or sand between our toes, and connect to the earth. For people with PTSD, this has been found to be extremely healing, helping us feel safe in our bodies, safe on the earth, and more balanced within.

When we are ungrounded, we may feel scattered, unfocused, anxious and unsafe. We may even feel a bit disconnected from our bodies at times, like we’re moving forward, but a part of ourselves is always a second behind, trying to catch up. Finding some time and space to sit and connect with the earth will help center us, help us tame unnecessary thoughts and find the balance we so desperately need.

“Let your roots grow down into God, and let your lives be built of God. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” ~ Colossians 2:7

The Bible, along with other teachings, has many references to rooting ourselves in faith. Rooting ourselves to the ground, like a tree, gives us a place to grow from. Rooting ourselves gives us a strong base, so that the winds of change and hardship cannot blow us down so easily. Rooting ourselves helps us stay centered in the Divine, pulling up that energy and being a conduit for sharing it with others.

So I invite you to go outside, or go into your body, find a place to connect with the ground and really feel it. Grab a handful of dirt, thank the earth for its gifts, and feel the profound support of God solidly underneath you. Feel the healing love of God through the ground.

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”  ~ Kahlil Gibran

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

March 19, 2018

Honor Your Hard Healing Work

 

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“As long as you have certain desires about how it ought to be, you can’t see how it is.”                                                                                    ~ Ram Dass

“Hey, why aren’t you all the way healed yet? Aren’t you trying? What? You’re not done? Well, when will you be done? You don’t know? Why not? How long will this take? I need to get on with things, and this is really holding me back.”

Sound familiar? This inner critic, this part of our minds that keeps us from being happy needs to be smacked down sometimes. Well, not sometimes, pretty often actually. Okay daily, maybe hourly. Because it stands between us and happiness. It stands between us and peace of mind. It stands between us and God.

So today, I invite you to take a rest from your inner critic and honor the hard healing work you have done! Seriously, give yourself the gift of acknowledging how far you have come in healing from trauma. We hardly ever do this, do we? We work so hard, we pray, we heal, we take our baby steps, sometimes we have a huge breakthrough, and we just… keep going. Pause and look back at what you have done to get to this place in your healing.

Just as no one can walk this path for you, no one can acknowledge the work you’ve done either. Only you know the breathing, the reading, the therapy, the nights of constant praying, of turning it over to God again and again and again. Only you know – and God. I think the Divine is always looking for opportunities for us to heal more and to acknowledge us when we do. I can look back on my life and so clearly see times when the opportunities to heal would lessen so I could catch my breath and just live. Similarly, I clearly see the times when the opportunities intensified because I had to heal something deeper to move forward. God knows our needs, and I feel God celebrates our progress, not only for our own healing, but the healing of the world.

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” ~ Maya Angelou

It takes really hard work to become a butterfly, and what do we do when we see one? We often stop, reverently, to admire it. It’s one of the few absolute transformations in nature we have probably seen in person. So we know that dark period in the cocoon can be long, but that so much is happening inside that we can’t see! Miracles are happening. So we stop and witness to it.

Do that for yourself. You are nothing less than a butterfly, and even if you’re still in your cocoon, not ready to come out – witness and have reverence for how far you’ve come. No one will do it for you, and it’s so crucial we do this for ourselves!

“We acknowledge our pain, not to get more depressed or to drown in the suffering, but to see the truth of our experience.” ~ Sharon Salzberg

What is the truth of our experience? Take stock today of your progress. Have you slept through the night? Decreased flashbacks? Have you asked for help in a healthy way? Have you surrounded yourself with supportive friends? Can you close your eyes and meditate? Can you stay alone? Do you feel closer to God? These are all wins and we deserve to pat ourselves on the back.

Our mind, body and spirit is running a marathon of healing. It’s a long race, so we must pace ourselves and recognize our immense progress along the way! There will always be more to do, more to heal, but just for today, acknowledge your own dedication and progress in healing. Rest in God’s arms, and join Him in being proud of you. Can I get an amen?

“Lovng ourselves through the process of owning our own story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” ~ Brene Brown

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

March 5, 2018

Making Friends with the Night

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“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me                                                           dwell in safety.”  ~ Psalm 4:8 .                         

This idea came to me a few weeks ago – making friends with the night. It’s something I still struggle with from time to time. I still have very vivid memories of fearing the night, the dark, and sleep; all of these fears when my trauma was fresh. How could I sleep again when sleep had left me vulnerable and the night had brought danger? It took a long time before I could truly sleep, and I spent almost a year feeling sleep-deprived and not able to function well during the day.

I saw a concert film last night, “Concert for George.” It was a tribute concert for George Harrison made in 2002. The lyrics to one of his songs struck me, as it described the feeling trauma survivors have about sleep:

“Watch out now, take care

Beware of the thoughts that linger

Winding up inside your head

The hopelessness around you

In the dead of the night.” ~ from “Beware of Darkness”

This verse so poetically describes the post-trauma brain trying to find sleep. One fearful thought quickly multiplies, spiraling into a cyclone of random thoughts and images, leading to that hopelessness that feeds our tendency to isolate. But we find our release (relief?) in the first line – “Watch out now, take care.” That is the key. The way out is to be ever-vigilant with our thoughts, and ask for help when we need it. We often also need to physically be certain of our safety, so our logical mind can help our emotional mind get through. This is a start to making friends with the night.

Initially, being in control of our thoughts is almost impossible. Once the shock begins to wear off, our brains go into hyper-drive trying to make sense of what happened. We usually have no frame of reference, so the fearful thoughts we try to plug into previous memories and logic are finding no home. They run amuck in our brain until we form new synapses, a new filing system, and ultimately new coping skills for what we have experienced. This is a time for good therapy to help you frame your experience in a way that will be helpful to you.

But alone, at night, it’s just you and your fearful brain. There are many tools to help us get control of our thoughts. Just as with any healing tool, we have to experiment to see what works for us. And no one thing will work every time! These are tools I have used: prayer, distraction (read, read, read), and detach and replace. Often, if I just start praying, especially if I’m praying for a long list of others, my fearful brain will turn off, and my mind enters a more contented space, more connected with the Divine than with this world. Sometimes I have to just distract myself with reading until my brain is too tired to make me crazy. And sometimes, I practice detach and replace. It’s kind of like catch and release in fishing. I observe the fearful thought as though it’s not part of me (detach), then replace it with a different thought. So it goes something like this:

Fear thought: I’ve been harmed. It could happen again. What was that noise?

Detaching thought: Hm. That’s interesting that you’re thinking about that.

Replacing thought: I’m a beloved child of God.

Basically, you are disarming a bully, it just happens to live in your brain and come out at night. If you are still deep in the healing process, I encourage you to also explore EFT (tapping) as a tool to help you get to sleep. 

It can be difficult to use affirmations and trust in God and tell yourself you are safe, when you have very vivid memories of not being safe. But the alternative is to live IN fear instead of IN SPITE of it. If we remain frozen and paralyzed by it, then the fear wins, the trauma wins, and our life is lessened by it.

“Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending – to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how the story ends.”                          ~ Brene Brown

We must keep trying to make friends with the night, so we are rested warriors and we can choose how our story ends. Try not to be afraid of the dark (and I will too), God is there as surely as God is in the light, encompassing our fear with the mighty power of Divine Love.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

2/26/2018

Taming Fear, Taming Thoughts

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“My thoughts are not going to disappear, but I can develop a different relationship with them.” ~ Sharon Salzberg

I was thinking about the nature of fear the other day, wondering why last year I was triggered at times about my own trauma when dealing with the grief of facing my father’s death. Aren’t grief, trauma and fear all different emotions? Or all they all fear? A Course in Miracles (and other spiritual teachings) contend that all that is not love, is fear. So whether we are angry, depressed, grieving, or anxious – it’s all fear. I find this to be true, that when I follow the more obvious emotion deeper, to its core, I eventually end up at fear. And when I sit with one fear, other fears come up. Which led me to this conclusion:

“One fear begets other fears because it reminds us of our vulnerability.”

In dealing with my father’s death, I felt vulnerable. I felt powerless. I felt unable to cope. I felt like it was all so unfair. These are mirror emotions to how I felt after sexual assault. No wonder I was triggered. And all of these emotions are fear-based. Before you know it, once you allow yourself to fall into the thoughts of fear, your mind will offer you a buffet of all the times in your life you have felt afraid, vulnerable, powerless, angry. What will you choose today?

It can be so oddly comfortable there, swimming in fear, because we know these thoughts, we’ve been on this ride before. It doesn’t feel good, but it feels familiar. Past hurts, nightmarish images, ugly memories play on the screen of our mind. We know how to do this all too well. We often don’t know how to make it stop.

“Nothing brings suffering as does the untamed, uncontrolled, unattended and unrestrained mind. That mind brings great suffering.” ~ Buddha

As the Buddha says, this kind of thinking, fear-based and uncontrolled, brings great suffering. And God would not have us live there, in that state of suffering. God would have us move toward Love. The way out, then, is the opposite of what the Buddha describes. The way out is learning to control and tame our thoughts. The way out is to attend, with great care, the thoughts we allow to occupy our mind. The way out is to constantly return our thoughts to the Divine. How do we accomplish this? Through prayer, meditation, mindfulness and service.

“I cannot always control what goes on outside. But I can always control what goes on inside.” ~ Wayne Dyer

We truly have no control over what happens outside of us, around us, and the world at large. But we do, as Dr. Dyer says, have control over what goes on inside. So to control our thoughts, thereby reducing our fear, we must continually turn inward. Prayer, even for a moment, gives us a break from our spiraling thoughts. Start with a breath, an instant, and fill your mind with a brief prayer – God is love. All is God. God is love. All is God. Even this brief break in fear thoughts will start to calm you and distract your mind. Prayer opens the channel to God’s love. Spend as much time there as you can to quiet fear.

“Meditation isn’t really about getting rid of thoughts, it’s about changing the pattern of grasping onto things, which in our everyday experience is our thoughts,” ~ Pema Chodron

Meditation is a wonderful tool for taming our thoughts. Meditation has helped me by putting me in a state of openness to the thoughts of God, rather than my own thoughts. In meditation, my fear thoughts show up, but because I’m sitting in a state of Oneness, they don’t hold the same power and I let them go much more easily. Meditation also helps us see our thoughts as merely thoughts. The thoughts in our mind are all based on the past, so they have no real threat to us in the present. Let them stay in the past, floating through and out, while you sit in Love.

“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Mindfulness is a beautiful tool for getting control of fear thoughts. As the Buddha said, unattended thoughts bring suffering. Attending to your thoughts and actions with complete mindfulness brings peace in that moment. The beauty of mindfulness is you can practice it anywhere at any time. We are often drawn to being mindful when spending time with someone whose end of life is near. We savor the time together, take mental pictures with our mind, and stay fully present with them when we are together. When we are mindful, we savor and treasure the present moment, staying in the moment. Fear thoughts, since they are based on the past, find no home when we are being mindful. It is a luxurious break from daily stress. A spa visit for your mind.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Lastly, service is a beautiful tool for taking us out of spiraling fear thoughts. When we are present for others, we cannot get lost in our own thinking. Service has been described as deceptively selfish, because we enter in with the intent of being there for others, but we come away feeling healed ourselves. There is such Divine beauty in sitting witness for someone else’s struggle. You will find God there, and your own devastating thoughts will recede as you find it in yourself to help someone else.

Sometimes, we must treat our worldly mind like a toddler and simply distract it. When our thoughts feel like a broken record we can “move the needle” with these tools – prayer, meditation, mindfulness and service. We can tame the fears because we can tame our thoughts. What will you choose today?


“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.” ~ Caroline Myss

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

2/19/2018

SHARING THIS BEAUTIFUL BLOG FROM YOUWILLBEARWITNESS – A BLOG TO FOLLOW IF YOU SUFFER FROM COMPLEX PTSD

If I Find Forgiveness, I Find Peace — Fighting for a Future

Since reading South of Forgiveness and watching Thordis Alva and Tom Stranger’s Ted Talk I have reached a clarity regarding my own recovery I thought impossible. I know now I need to forgive myself in order to find peace. Unless I forgive myself for the atrocities committed against me I will never be at peace […]

via If I Find Forgiveness, I Find Peace — Fighting for a Future

Dipping Back In – Healing Trauma is Not a Straight Line

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“Wounds don’t heal the way you want them to, they heal the way they need to. It takes time for wounds to fade into scars. It takes time for the process of healing to take place. Give yourself that time. Give yourself that grace. Be gentle with your wounds. Be gentle with your heart. You deserve to heal.” ~ Dele Olanubi

This quote is profoundly comforting. It reminds me to be gentle with myself and my process. No one has a straight, flat, easy path in life. Every life journey is unique. For those of us who survive trauma along the path, who may struggle with PTSD, and for whom healing is part of this journey, we need to remember that the path is not linear. We will often take great strides in healing, only to be triggered and feel we have fallen back. I’ve come to realize that these are not steps back, but steps sideways, a time we need to witness how we are triggered, and dip back into healing.

I call it “Dipping Back In” to remind myself that I will always be healing, and that it isn’t possible to dive in and heal all at once. So I dip my big toe in, test the water, then wade in for while. This way, I know I won’t drown.

“Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing.” ~ Anonymous

Admittedly, the trauma I survived was a long time ago, so I don’t deal with PTSD every day any more. But I clearly remember the early days, months and years when I was working so hard to heal, and was regularly triggered. I would get so frustrated about triggers. “Aren’t I getting better?” “When will I be done dealing with this?” “When will I be healed?” Over time, the reaction to the triggers lessened. I can see now, in retrospect, how the path was unfolding. It’s harder to see in the midst of it. We get so tempted to beat ourselves up if we get triggered again, or if we go through a difficult time emotionally.

As many years (decades) as I have worked with healing trauma, I’m still having to “Dip Back In” occasionally. Just last year, I had to spend some nights alone for the first time in a long time. I was massively triggered, couldn’t sleep, and had nightmares again. Rather than lose hope that I’m not fully healed, I now know this is an invitation to “Dip Back In” and see where I have more work to do.

MORE work to do? Really? (My inner child has a small tantrum at this point.) But I know that a little more work is exactly what I need. And I couldn’t have done it sooner, because healing occurs in stages. Healing is circuitous. Healing is random. Healing is difficult and it is also not optional if we are to recover and live fully. For me, I need God on this path with me.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ~ Buddha

And so we must accept our healing for what it is. And to do this, we must get to a place of surrender. We must surrender our ideas of what our healing is supposed to look like. Surrender our linear ideas of how long it should take. Surrender the human tendency to compare our healing to that of others. Be gentle and loving with yourself.

Surrendering the form and time-frame of your healing leads to a deepening in the faith of your own path. Surrender to the healing God has planned for you. You are safe there. God will lead you to those feeling and situations that will help you heal when you are ready for it. Surrender and have faith.

So “Dip Back In” when you feel you need to. Have faith and surrender to the process. God’s plan for your healing is inevitable. It will be there for you when you are ready for it. It will be there for you when you embrace your journey as solely your own, and surrender to the chaotic beauty of your healing path.

“Your path is beautiful and crooked and just as it should be.” ~ Anonymous

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

February 12, 2018

Crawling Out of Trauma

“If all you can do is crawl, start crawling.”  ~ Rumi

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When I saw these ancient words of Rumi, they hit me right in the gut. What could be more true for someone who has suffered a traumatic experience? Who among us has not been there?

Even if you’ve not lived through a trauma, even if you don’t suffer with PTSD, you have probably been at the steps of profound grief, on the floor, or on your knees, and all you can do to move forward is – crawl. Often, it’s all we can do.

Rumi’s words are so comforting and inspiring at the same time, because they not only acknowledge that you’ve been knocked down, and you are weakened and overwhelmed by what lies before you; these words also acknowledge that the road forward – the road of healing – is inevitable. So start crawling.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  ~ Lao Tzu

In the early days and weeks of the aftermath of a traumatic event, you are crawling. Every movement, every question someone asks you, getting yourself out of bed in the morning – these things are monumental. They are heavy. They require every bit of focus you can muster because a good part of you is still in shock. You feel like you’re watching a movie of other people’s lives. The movie of your life has taken a shocking turn. This is not the story you wanted. This is not the part you wanted to play. And yet, here you are. This event is now part of your life, part of your past, part of your future. And this, you come to find, is where your power begins to come back to you. You decide what part it will play in your future.

And so….and so….we start to crawl out.

What IS that within us that drives us to start crawling? To eventually get on hands and knees? To stand? To walk? Survival instinct? The basic will to live? Anger and revenge? I’m sure the specific things that get us up off the cold, hard floor are as different as we are, but I do think that we all have an intrinsic, Divine spark that gets us up and pushes us forward, toward healing, toward overcoming, toward courage and toward the transformation the Holy Spirit has in store for us.

“We tend to forget that baby steps still move us forward.”  ~ Unknown

Crawling is forward motion. Baby steps move us forward. The point is to honor that fire in our belly that tells us to move forward, keep moving, and start taking the steps to right yourself, for you have been knocked off balance in a profound way. Get help. Make that call. Talk to others. Pray. Take steps.

I thought about this during a yoga class this week. I’m trying to regain some flexibility in my body and then hang on to it! In yoga, as in life, you are sometimes asked to do impossible things. And you look at the teacher and say to yourself, “Oh no, I could never do that.” But the teacher gives you options and reminds you that there’s beauty in the trying, and to only do what your body can do, and that’s enough. That’s enough! What a wonderful metaphor for life and for healing! Each day, take some baby steps and that’s enough.

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”  ~ Nelson Mandela

Yes, you will fall down again. Yes, you will take a few steps back sometimes. Be kind and forgiving toward yourself when this happens. You are doing your best in an impossible situation. Much is being asked of you. Be gentle with yourself, with your progress. For you will always get back up and move forward again. And when you are down and it’s so hard to get back up, remember to not rely on your own strength. Turn to God, again and again. God wants nothing more than your healing, so when you are crawling, reach up for strength. God will lift you.

Also, on those days when we have been knocked back a step, we need to remember to look back – look back to where we were in our healing two weeks ago, or two months, or two years. You will see progress. Your fears lessen, your flashbacks lessen, your engagement in life slowly increases. Look back, then look ahead again and take a step.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

February 5, 2018

Be Still and Know

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“Stop all doing and be still. Let the fire of stillness burn everything and reveal that which is Openness.” ~ Adyashanti

Be still.

Sit in stillness.

Be still and know.

I’ve been seeing this message everywhere lately – even on a sign at a craft store. So cool that this idea is becoming more mainstream at a time when we need it most. The world is more full of distractions than ever in its history, so being still is critical, not only for ourselves, but the planet we live on.

When you’ve been through trauma and are working on healing, being still can be difficult. We are tempted to keep in motion, find distractions, essentially run away from our own mind where the shadows live.

We come to learn that is where we must go to defeat the shadows and find the light.

“When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

This quote from Eckhart Tolle is so true, isn’t it? And we know when we are lost in the world. It’s as if we are part of a discordant symphony. No matter how hard we try to play, the notes come out wrong. Sitting in stillness is like tuning your instrument. Until we quiet the whole orchestra, the song we are supposed to be playing cannot be heard.

It’s often difficult for people with PTSD to practice stillness and meditation at first. If our trauma is fresh, our mind can be a scary place to spend time. Left to our own devices, our mind will replay tapes of traumatic experiences. Trying to empty our mind and be still can lead to extreme discomfort and agitation. Sometimes closing our eyes is impossible, because the images are right there, ready to trouble our mind and spirit again.

I’ve been there. I’ve been afraid to close my eyes. Afraid to sit still. Afraid of the dark. Afraid of my own mind. I was lucky that I was never afraid of prayer, and that I believed in prayer on the go. I found I could pray at a stop light, in the grocery store, anywhere. Prayer was my way in to the stillness. Prayer and practice. Eventually, prayer and meditation became one.

“Stillness is the altar of the spirit.” ~ Paramahansa Yogananda

If sitting still is difficult for you, I invite you to practice. Start with only 1 minute a day. Simply sit and be still. If you have a prayer, say it. If you have a mantra, say it. Sometimes just repeating a simple phrase works, like “Be with me, God.”Just be still. If you don’t want to close your eyes, fix your gaze on something pleasant for that 1 minute, and try to quiet your mind. Stay with 1 minute for as many days or weeks as it takes to feel comfortable and at ease here. Then slowly add to it. Your mind, spirit and heart will begin to crave this minute and lead you to longer practice periods. Take your time, but take the time. The ability to sit with yourself, with God, will give you back your power, and speed your healing.

“Within yourself is a stillness, a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” ~ Herman Hesse 

Think of your post-trauma self as a murky bowl of water, cloudy with stuff. We are the ones who keep it murky by constant movement, avoidance, distraction, and mindless stirring of the stuff. So how does cloudy water become clear? Stillness. The sediment sinks to the bottom and the clear water rises to the top. That which is not useful will fall away when we stop stirring and allow clarity to ascend.

“Let it be still, and it will gradually become clear.” ~ Lao Tzu

In searching for thoughts on stillness for this blog today, I was struck by how universal this idea is among all religions. From the Psalms, “Be still and know that I am God,” to Buddhism, Islam, Hindu writings, and beyond, they all point us inward as our path to draw closer to God.

There may be shadows in your mind, in your stillness, but the light and Love that knows no limit is also there, waiting for the opportunity to heal and comfort you.

“In quietness are all things answered, and is every problem quietly resolved.”                      ~A Course in Miracles 

Be Still and Know you are Beloved.

Victoria McGee

January 29, 2018

Healing doesn’t have to be Heavy

Laughing-Yoga-Smith-Center-Healing-Arts

“I believe in the healing power of laughter. I believe laughter forces us to breathe.”

– Brene Brown

The title for this blog floated into my brain during a group meditation at a Reiki class. I almost laughed out loud because looking around the circle we were all so serious in our quest for deepening. And of course, connecting with God, expanding our ability to Love in God’s name, forgiving our enemies, these are serious things! But we have to remember to laugh.

Healing from ANYTHING is difficult, whether it’s physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. Sometimes it’s a full time job, getting well. Everything starts to revolve around getting well. We have physical therapy, psychotherapy, yoga, hiking, prayer groups, whatever – and it’s easy to forget to find time and places to laugh.

“Man when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.” – Ken Kesey

But as Ken Kesey so profoundly states, losing your laugh means losing your footing. I would even say losing your laugh means losing your hope. What is more hopeful than laughter? I have a distinct memory of my first big laugh after I was sexually assaulted. I don’t think I really laughed for at least a month, which is pretty normal. I was deeply traumatized, focused on healing, still dealing with an investigation, and trying to wrap my head around what had happened. Trying not to be angry at God. All of it.

I don’t even remember what made me laugh, I just remember laughing deeply at something and in that moment, long lost endorphins flooded my body and I felt (could it be?) hope! I knew I was going to be okay. Laughing helped me feel normal, and connected, and alive in a way I hadn’t felt for some time. It was a gift, and it continued to grow and help me heal in the months and years following.

“What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.” –Yiddish Proverb

Those of us who have struggled with PTSD know the numbness that comes with it. If you’re not in a state of freak-out you’re just kind of numb. No highs, no lows, just existing. Laughter can break through that numbness, as it did for me, and give you a taste of feeling truly alive again.

Scientifically this is being proven to be true! Research shows that laughter lowers the level of stress hormones (epinephrine, cortisol, etc) in the blood and raises endorphin levels. It is now being seen for the healing force it is, boosting immune systems, lowering blood pressure, and soothing the souls of soldiers with PTSD, healing victims of trauma. Of course, this is in conjunction with other healing modalities, but laughter definitely enhances whatever else we’re doing.

“Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.” – Charlie Chaplin

Sometimes we can seek laughter and find it. Other times it will sneak up on us and lighten our load. Interestingly, science shows us that real and fake laughter have the same effect on our physiology. This is why laughter therapies are springing up all around the world. It’s difficult when you’re feeling low, in grief, or focused on healing to think about doing something to make yourself laugh, but try! Try! Watch an old favorite show, go to a comedy club, gather with friends.

When friends gather, laughter is inevitable, and so is connection. Often with PTSD, we turn to isolation because it’s easier and we feel wounded and we don’t want others to see. But we need the connection, we need the laughter, and these things are blessed by God! The Divine doesn’t want you suffering in the depths of your soul. God wants us lifted up, laughing again, being Love.

Even the Dalai Lama is quoted as saying “I am a professional laugher!” He understands that laughter heals the soul and lifts the heart.

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle

In other aspects of my life, I do comedy improv. I once remarked to a friend that it felt like an odd dichotomy, to write about healing spiritually from PTSD, and then do comedy improv. My friend just smiled and said, “They’re both healing. I don’t see them as opposing each other at all.” That was such a gift to hear! So I go forward, healing myself and hopefully others with laughter.

Give yourself the gift of laughter today. Healing doesn’t have to be heavy. Healing includes laughing.

Seriously.

You are Still Beloved

Victoria McGee

January 22, 2018