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

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 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 anymore. 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 are 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 feelings 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

Healing doesn’t have to be Heavy

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“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

Being In the Love

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“Be loving and kind. Call everyone to your table of kindness.”

~Ma Jaya

In a meditation not too long ago, I was trying to just stay open and not have an agenda, but secretly hoping I might feel some presence or connection with my father, who had recently passed on. As I became aware of that thought and sought to let it go, trying to return to a connection to God, this thought floated into my consciousness, “Be in the Love.”

Sometimes we get messages and guidance we don’t understand. This one was immediately crystal clear for me – Be in the Love, for that is where your father is. Be in the Love, for that is where your comfort lies. Be in the Love, for that is where you will find hope. Sit in the presence of Love.

Such a direct and beautiful reminder to constantly bring ourselves into Love in order to feel and reflect God’s Love.

And how soon we forget. I’m learning and trying and meditating and seeking like so many. And we are, after all, spiritual beings having a human experience! So we are tested in how we love and who we love. I have been struggling with this in the face of so much going on in the world regarding political and sexual misconduct. I’ve been harsh and judgmental and truly hateful toward these people. How do we look at these people and feel Love?

I don’t know the answer! I’m struggling with it! But I suspect it’s very similar to the reason we forgive others. Because we keep ourselves in chains if we don’t. Every time I withhold Love, I’m separating myself from God.

Ouch.

So I have to find ways to Love (or at the very least not hate) so I may draw closer to God. It sounds selfish, but the more we all expand and spread God’s Love, the better for all beings.

“Remember – we are not the light; we are simply the lightbulbs. Our job is to remain screwed in.”  ~ Desmond Tutu

How do we stay “screwed in” when we have so many distractions tempting us to withhold our Love and react in judgment? I think the answer lies in compassion. I often see horrible deeds done on the news, whether in war or everyday insanity, and I think, “My God, what must this person’s life be like for them to act like that or do those things?” And just that little sliver of compassion helps me to feel moved to pray for them. We pray for those that are hurt, but we know the one who committed the act needs prayer as well.

Scarlett Lewis, who lost her small son Jesse in the tragedy at Sandy Hook, said this about the shooter, “The reason I say Adam Lanza’s name is because I think it’s vitally important we remember that he was a human being too. And he was in a tremendous amount of pain.” She found her way to forgiveness through compassion. She’s choosing to Be in the Love. Her strength and wisdom are beyond inspiring.

“As you dissolve into Love, your ego fades. You’re not thinking about Loving; you’re being Love, radiating like the Sun.”  ~ Ram Dass

I want to Be in the Love. I want to radiate like the Sun! So I’m going to keep trying, every day, to screw in my lightbulb to the Source or light and Love, by turning toward compassion instead of judgment. Compassion, I truly believe, will guide us to Love. And Love will take us Home every time.

Be in the Love.

Be in the Love.

Be in the Love.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

January 15, 2018

Happy New Year???

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“Be here now.” ~ Ram Dass

There’s nothing like a new year to make us start “shoulding” on ourselves. We get caught up in the idea of resolutions and new beginnings, when really this man-made calendar has nothing to do with our inner path, or where our wisdom can take us if we are listening instead of planning.

I tried to have a happy new year. I really did. I was dealing with a ton of grief and I tried to shove it down and feel happy and hopeful about 2018. But I couldn’t do it. Of course, I hope 2018 is better than 2017, but my reserves of hope are depleted at this moment, so my cry of hope for the new year is more “meh” than “Yes!” When I got very honest with myself, I had to admit I was entering the new year feeling sad and empty.

And then I had to get okay with that.

Turning a calendar page cannot rush my process. Watching a ball drop cannot put balm on my wounds. Sad and empty is where I am in my processing of grief, and my job is to honor it and let it be my truth in this moment. Allowing is sometimes the most difficult part.

“You have to feel it to heal it.” ~ Unknown

We have all been raised and taught to compartmentalize our emotions. It’s actually a good life skill that helps us carry on sometimes when we must, in spite of what we are feeling. There are times when we absolutely love practicing this life skill, so we can avoid the emotions that seem so scary: fear, grief, guilt, rage, despair, disappointment. It’s daunting to unpack those sometimes. And yes, you don’t want to do it at the market, or at work, but they must be unpacked at some point.

If we don’t unpack them, life becomes a game of Whack-A-Mole, where no matter how many times we push the emotion down, it pops back up when we least expect it! So we must find a way to let the feelings out. This is different for everyone and every situation, and I urge you to identify what works for you and honor it. I tend to want to be alone and have privacy to process. When I don’t have the time or space to do this, I can start to feel like a pressure cooker. Others may want to let feelings out with someone there to witness and console. And for deep trauma and grief, there’s nothing quite like being able to unpack your feelings with a good therapist.

So how can God help in this process? There is no situation where God would not be helpful, but in applying spiritual principles to allowing and honoring our feelings, I find that inviting God in and then turning everything over to the Divine is how we start.

As I work through allowing myself to be sad and empty and bereft, I say this prayer:

Dear God, my __(any emotion)_____ is so powerful today. I can’t bear it alone. Please be with me, feel this with me, and help me feel safe in allowing the feeling to be felt and honored as deeply as possible. I turn this feeling over to you, Holy Spirit, to be healed, and I give you my heart to be comforted. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Whatever you are dealing with, and we’re ALL dealing with something, let us feel it. Feeling it is where the growth lies. There is no growth in carrying on and shoving things down. It takes courage to face these feelings, but the alternative is numbness, and an inauthentic life. What is the reward for such courage?

Eckhart Tolle says this:

If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you as a human being, no humility, no compassion.”

So let’s honor our feelings and not the calendar. Let’s begin each day anew instead of just one day each year. Wherever we are on our path is where we need to be right now.

God is with us.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

January 9, 2018

THAT HORRIBLE “T” WORD – TRUST

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“If you’re invested in security and certainty, you are on the wrong planet,”                                                      ~Pema Chodron

Trust. It can be so hard to get to that place. If you’ve been a victim of a traumatic event, it’s even more difficult. The very ground you stood on and the world you had constructed as orderly and dependable, the world you felt safe in, flipped on its head. Nothing is reliable. Nothing can be trusted.

Over time, as we heal, we take baby steps toward trusting again. Isn’t that beautiful? The human heart, ripped open and hurting, will always bend toward love, toward trusting again. We slowly re-construct our world again. It’s as if we’re building a staircase, then gingerly trying out each step to make sure it will hold.

Of course, we are tested. People change or let us down, jobs change, people die, accidents happen. Trust is challenged. This is true for everyone, but for those with PTSD these life events can be extra challenging. They can trigger our need for protection.

I’ve been feeling vulnerable lately. My life feels like it’s on shaky ground as I am moving soon (a big move) and not certain where I’ll land exactly. I even had a couple of nightmares about being in an earthquake! I find when I feel vulnerable like this, it triggers my monkey brain back into hyper-vigilance. The need to control, to protect myself, and to know what’s happening next can become all-consuming. I lie awake at night, my mind spiraling out to all the possible outcomes I can imagine. Sound familiar?

My niece posted recently about toddlers needing a reliable routine. Is it really that necessary? I commented on her post that it’s because their world gets exponentially bigger every day, and it’s exciting, but they need the routine to feel safe and secure. This feels true of me in my healing as well. Throughout my life, since the trauma, when things get shaky in my life, even if it’s positive change, I start to panic and lose sleep, trying to control outcomes and even people. My routine is off, there’s nothing I can put my trust in.

This is true, there is nothing tangible I can put my trust in. There is only God. Once I remember to turn to God, to trust in God, the panic begins to calm. My protective shell begins to soften. I start to relax, to look for the lessons, the gifts inherent in the chaos.

No matter who you are or what you do, the ground is always shaky. And, the really good news is that shaky ground is fertile ground for spiritual awakening.”                                                  ~Pema Chodron

As Pema Chodron states, shaky ground is fertile ground for spiritual awakening! If our trust was never tested, if our routines were never interrupted, how would we grow in faith? It is in those moments when we choose God that our faith is strengthened, our trust is emboldened, and our capacity for Love expands.

So I invite you to join me as I daily remind myself to let go, be at peace with the chaos, and trust that the Divine walks with me every step of this way. We must remember each moment to turn and take the hand of God as we walk. This is how we build trust. By not relying on ourselves or things of this world, but on the Divine Love of God. Choose God. Trust God. Find Peace.

“Faith isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice to trust God even when the road ahead seems uncertain.”            ~ Dave Willis

You Are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

August 4, 2017

How Do We Dance with Dread?

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“The cure for pain is in the pain.” ~ Rumi

Everyone, whether touched by trauma or not, has to deal with dread at some point. Sometimes we dread simple things; a test at school, Mondays, meetings, running into someone we’d rather not see. Sometimes we dread complex things; a diagnosis, a treatment, a triggering situation, the loss of a loved one.

How do we do it? How do we dance with dread in this life?

As long ago as I experience trauma, I still feel dread sometimes when I have to sleep alone somewhere. I dread the night. I dread the fears. I dread returning to a state of mind where I feel so vulnerable. I have turned to various things to help me sleep and feel safe. I’ve found that it’s much easier to find things to help me sleep than to help me feel safe. And that is what I actually dread, the battle to feel safe.

Dread is an interesting and complex emotion. On the surface, we can see that it’s a feeling of anticipating something with great anxiety and fear. Sometimes it’s based on nothing. We imagine an outcome that is built on the experience of others – things we have heard, read or seen. Other times it’s based on our own experiences, something we have been through, and fear may happen again. This kind of dread is tough because we have proof, real evidence, that this thing we fear could happen, because it did.

Dread is also a paralyzing emotion. It keeps us stuck in fear as long as we honor it. When we become focused on dread, we literally can think of nothing else. And sometimes that’s okay. There are situations where dread is a normal step in dealing with what is before you. It could be a medical diagnosis or the death of someone close to you. It’s entirely appropriate and necessary to feel that dread, walk through it and come out on the other side.

But it’s important not to get stuck there.

“Ive developed a new philosophy. I only dread one day at a time.” ~ Charlie Brown

So how does the Divine ask us to deal with dread? The Divine always answers the complex with the simple. What can heal our fears? Turning to God. What can help me feel safe? Reaffirming that God will not forsake me. What can assuage this dread? Finding our faith in the Divine Love of the Universe.

“Each moment contains a hundred messages from God. To every cry of “Oh God!,”             He answers a hundred times, “I am here.”   ~ Rumi

I am facing things I dread right now. A night alone, a difficult move, the inevitable loss of one I hold dear. I can obsess about these things, I can focus on the feeling of dread they bring. I have experience with these things, I know they are hard, and therefore I dread them.

But I have faith. I have met these things in the past and survived them. These experiences gave me lessons and growth I could not have achieved without them. So who am I to ask that I not have difficulty? I am human. Sometimes life is difficult. My life has been more difficult than some, but not nearly as difficult as many others. Once again, I give this dread over to the Holy Spirit to be alchemized into something new. This is my action. This is how I end the paralysis of dread. And when I do, I feel lighter and at peace.

“Does God promise absence of struggle? Not in this life…But He does pledge to reweave your pain for a higher purpose.”  ~ Max Lucado

This is such a beautiful quote from Max Lucado and helps us know that no matter how much we dread struggle, we are probably going to experience it. But God will take those struggles and use it to enrich our tapestry with deeper meaning and understanding.

So, as with all emotions that are not Love, we must turn over our dread – sometimes constantly – so that God can heal it. We can’t do it on our own, nor are we meant to. When we dance with dread, we must remember that we are not dancing alone, we have a Partner. Let God lead.

“You are but asked to let the future go, and place it in God’s Hands. And you will see by your experience that you have laid the past and present in His Hands as well, because the past will punish you no more, and future dread will now be meaningless.”                                       A Course in Miracles, Lesson 194

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

July 9, 2017

PRACTICE MAKES PROGRESS

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“Spiritual practice is not just sitting and meditation. Practice is looking, thinking, touching, drinking, eating and talking. Every act, every breath, and every step can be practice and can help us to become more ourselves.” Thich Nhat Hanh

The other day at the beach, I watched a group of girls playing by the water’s edge. They looked around eleven years old and were using the hard packed sand to practice gymnastics. The tallest girl had the no-hands forward flip mastered, throwing her legs in the air and hurling herself around head first, landing on her feet every time. The other two girls were trying to master it, usually falling a bit short, but getting up and trying again. One of them finally did it and came up with such joy on her face! She had it! You could see as she continued to complete more flips that she had felt the difference and now had it mastered.

Remember how it feels when you’re young and trying so hard to master something that seems impossible or mysterious? How do those big kids whistle? How did my brother blow a bubble? Will I be able to ride a bike without training wheels? And you work and try and practice and one day – the whistle comes out! And you feel the mysterious symmetry between breath and lips that makes the sound. From that moment on, you can whistle.

I realized that it’s the same with us when it comes to healing from trauma. Whether it’s traumatic grief, physical or psychological trauma, there comes a day when we recognize we have reached our new normal. We are once again functioning, even enjoying life, and we are moving forward. We feel the mysterious symmetry between healing the spirit, mind, and body, and in that moment we recognize the feeling of being okay again.

How does it happen? How do we get there? As with all healing we take the baby steps, we start taking bigger steps, we work our healing steps over and over. And we take a few steps back now and then. But as long as we keep trying, keep working those spiritual muscles, we will get there.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite the darkness.” Desmond Tutu

I am a long ways out from the trauma I experienced. But I remember so clearly the early moments that began to take me to healing. Brushing my teeth when I got home from the Emergency Room. It was so simple, but I remember finding it oddly comforting. It was something daily, something I could count on. I thought maybe, just maybe the world will go on. I remember the first time after being assaulted that I had a big laugh. It was probably a month later, and it was so life affirming. I could feel my body, mind and spirit remembering what this was. This laughter, it was joy and happiness and enjoyment. The world will go on. I will go on.

I remember the first time I woke up and I had actually slept through the night. Since I had been attacked by an intruder in my own bed as I peacefully slept, sleep eluded me for many, many months. I didn’t use sleep aids because, of course, I had to be vigilant at night. As weeks went by and lack of sleep began affecting my ability to function during the day, I knew something had to change. Eventually I moved into a house with several roommates so I was rarely home alone. But still, nights were the bane of my existence.

“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” Psalm 56:3

Ultimately, prayer helped. I would just pray until I fell asleep. If I woke up, I would check my surroundings, make sure I was safe, and pray again until I fell asleep. And then it happened. One night I fell asleep praying, and when I woke up, it was morning. The sun was up! I had slept through the night. Ah yes! That’s what it feels like! My body, mind and spirit had to feel that again, so I could remember it, so I could recreate it. From that night on, I could sleep. Of course, it’s been a long road. There are still times I battle those memories, times my mind is stuck on replay and I have to work hard to move the needle. There are still nights I have trouble getting to sleep, but I start to pray, and remind myself that I know how to do this.

Our healing is a matter of practice. We practice forgiveness, we practice trust, we practice getting up and facing the day. We practice healing. Those around us don’t know how hard we are working. Not only is it sometimes a miracle that we showed up, we are running a marathon! But that one day, when we sleep through the night, or go an entire day without thinking about IT, all the practice is worth it. We feel it. We remember what it feels like in this new normal. The world will go on. We will go on. And hopefully, we will thrive.

Have faith, have courage, acknowledge your persistent drive to heal, and give yourself rest.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

May 29, 2017

The Power of Forgiveness

“But remember that forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest.    ~Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

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This little gem in the pages of The Handmaid’s Tale is profound beyond words. As I sit with it, I scan my heart and soul for places I may be withholding forgiveness from someone.

As it relates to trauma and PTSD, I believe forgiveness is one of the most critical steps in our healing. It’s not a single act, either, but a process. Whether you are forgiving yourself or someone else, it rarely happens in one moment of mercy.

I began the process of forgiving the person who assaulted me soon after the attack. I’m not sure what led me to start working on forgiveness. I think it was a deep knowing that I would never heal completely if I didn’t get myself to forgiveness. I began to wonder what must have happened in this person’s life to lead them to a life of robbing and attacking others. I imagined the worst, and knew it was probably worse than I could imagine. It doesn’t excuse behavior, but it does explain it, and it got me started on forgiveness.

Since then, it’s been an ongoing process. I find that I can only forgive as much as I can in a given moment in my life. I have often felt “done” with forgiving. (There! Yay! All done!) Only to have something trigger my fear or anger again, which leads to bitter feelings, which leads back to another level of forgiveness to work on. I’m not consciously withholding forgiveness. I want to be complete in my forgiveness. But I can only forgive as much as I can in a given moment. And I’ve learned to trust the process and to trust that it will be complete some day. Perhaps even in another life. For there are, as in all our relationships, layers beyond our earthly understanding.

“Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”                                                                                        – Jonathan Lockwood Hule

What is the cost of not forgiving? Besides delaying the healing of our spirits, there are physical and emotional side effects of withholding forgiveness. Valid science now affirms what spiritual paths have always taught. The only path to peace of mind is forgiveness. According to Johns Hopkins, “Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.”

We can all recognize the symptoms of harboring resentment, anger and fear. The thought that forgiveness calms our stress levels makes it not only appealing, but critical to moving forward. Haven’t we suffered enough without adding to our anxiety by harboring that ball of bilious bitterness?

To return to Margaret Atwood’s quote above, to withhold or bestow forgiveness is a great power. We can assuage someone’s guilt by forgiving them, or let them suffer, waiting for our forgiveness, wondering when it will come, if it will come. Often, when we withhold forgiveness, the person we’re not forgiving doesn’t even know we are embittered against them! So who is it hurting? Only ourselves. We bring on ourselves all those mental and physical side effects of not forgiving. And as difficult as it can be sometimes, we need to let it go. Not for them, but for us.

“All forgiveness is a gift to yourself.”    ~A Course in Miracles, Lesson 62

 

There is great power in either bestowing or withholding forgiveness. But only one will bring us true peace.

So how do we do it? How do we forgive? We start by acknowledging that forgiveness needs to happen in order to heal. When I couldn’t think about forgiving, or felt too angry to start, I would pray for God to soften my heart. When I know I’m withholding forgiveness, I pray for God to guide my healing. Guiding my healing will inevitably lead me to forgiveness. And we must turn it over to the Divine, to the forgiveness expert! Daily, hourly if necessary. The Holy Spirit will take our hard spots and soften them, leading us to healing, gently guiding us to forgiveness – to peace. If we but ask.

“If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That’s the true practice of peace.”                   ~ Pema Chodron

You Are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

3/19/2017