Four Choices We Have Right Now

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“Happiness lies not in finding what is missing, but in finding what is present.” ~ Tara Brach

As we all deal with a global pandemic in our own individual ways, one fundamental seems to bother us the most — a loss of freedom. We are constricted in our work, our play, even within our families and friends there is restriction. Compounding feeling restricted and tight and broken and crazy we are told to wear masks if we have to go out. The masks are also restricting and sometimes tight and add to the claustrophobia burgeoning in our minds. But we wear them – because not wearing them is irresponsible to humanity on a profound level.

So, hopefully, we choose to wear masks. We choose to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. We choose to recognize the tireless work being done by our essential workers and we don’t want this virus to make their lives more difficult, take the lives of those we love, or linger one second longer than it has to.

However, behind this feeling of loss of freedom, the human spirit amazes me in its resilience. Many people are responding to being bound by finding new ways to express, to work, to play, to go beyond, reaching out to help others, even as we feel our hands are tied!

Why do we do this? What causes us to rise? I believe it’s similar to the law of “survival of the fittest,” but in this case, it’s the human spirit that evolves and adapts to crises. The human spirit that sees the chaos we are living in and instead of giving up, rolling into a ball and having a pity party says, how can I help my neighbor? We are inspired by those who have overcome trials before us, and we are inspired by those we see around us choosing to live and be present and helpful to others.

Behind the mask of loss of freedom, we are realizing the choices we DO have.

“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” – Carl Jung

Yes, we do have choices within the midst of this pandemic. These are individual, intrinsic choices and are not buffered by outside circumstances. Each morning, as we face another day of sheltering in place, let’s try to realize the choices we do have.

We can choose to be in the present moment. This is a perfect opportunity to learn and practice mindfulness. Yes, we have a lot of time on our hands to dwell on the past, but we know that never makes us feel better. And for maybe the first time in our lives, we are unable to make plans or see too far into the future. So let each day be enough. Let each moment be enough.

“Mindfulness is a pause — the space between stimulus and response: that is where choice lies.” – Tara Brach

As Tara Brach says in this quote, that is where choice lies. Will we react, or will we take the pause, fully realizing what we can and cannot control, and then responding with better awareness? Choosing the present moment relieves the stress of asking questions for which we currently have no answers. Be present with yourself. Be present with someone you care about. Be present with your work. Breathe space into your day.

We can choose self-compassion. We may be feeling less productive right now, overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, angry and hopeless. This is all completely valid and, I dare say, normal under these unique circumstances. We must realize that we are living through unprecedented times in terms of the pandemic, the #blacklivesmatter movement, and the political landscape. The psychic toll on our spiritual, physical, emotional and mental well-being cannot be overstated. People are fighting for their lives, fighting for their livelihoods, and we are all frightened. The universal energy of that is felt on some level by us all.

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life,” ~ Christopher K. Germer

We must learn to practice self-compassion. Give yourself a break. If you spend a day in bed, so be it. Giving yourself breathers is not only good for your mental health, it is a necessary part of surviving this time. Let go of judgment. Let go of your inner critic. Tune in every day to your body and mind and ask it, “What do you need from me today? How can we best serve each other?” Listen and honor what comes up. Choose to nurture yourself.

We can choose to rise. Choosing to rise sounds difficult, and it can be. However, if you’ve ever overcome trauma in your life, you have already done this. You’ve taken the trauma and decided that it will not define you and it will not hold you down. You rose above the grief, the loss, the PTSD, the abuse, the despair, to become better and stronger. Or perhaps you are on that path now and even though it feels daunting, something keeps pulling you up that mountain.

“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” ~ Wayne Dyer

Each day, let us have the courage to choose to rise. We have the ability within us to rise above our outer circumstances, to find the coping mechanisms we need to get through this, and we have the resilience to not only get through this, but grow through this. Believe in your ability to rise. Look to the people throughout history who have done so, and join that choir. Rise. Rise above.

“Just like moons and like suns with the certainty of tides, just like hopes springing high, still I’ll rise.” ~ Maya Angelou

We can choose to be of service. Nothing will get you out of your own head bust you out of self-pity like helping others. You don’t have to risk getting sick by leaving your house; reach out to people you know. Drop a card, give a phone call, or a text or email. Check-in with people, especially those who are alone. Sew masks if you can, deliver a meal to some essential workers, get groceries for your neighbor. There is something we all can do, and it beautifully adds to the energy of community and lessens the energy of divisiveness.

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” ~ Howard Zinn

We know we are living through a time of profound change on the planet because we are living through a collective trauma. Nothing brings about radical change like trauma. No country or people have been untouched by this pandemic. It is causing trauma on a personal, societal, and global level. But have hope. Look at your own life. Didn’t trauma bring about the highest understandings and the deepest shifts? But not without choice. Not without choosing to take the trauma and transmute it into something useful, something better.

We are all alchemists right now. Let’s see what we can do, what choices we can make, to help humanity rise and survive.

“We are whole: our deepest happiness is intrinsic to the nature of our minds, and it is not damaged through uncertainty and change.” ~ Sharon Salzberg

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

July 6, 2020

Covid-19 and Collective Trauma

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The paradox of trauma is that it has both the power to destroy and the power to transform and resurrect.” – Peter A. Levine

Lately, I’ve been conscious of trauma as it applies to society. Due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the world is currently in a state of collective trauma. Collective trauma refers to the psychological reactions to a traumatic event that can affect an entire society. For most of us, our daily way of life has drastically changed in the last few weeks. Freedoms and income have been reduced, and we are in a constant low-grade state of fear.

When a society experiences a collective trauma, such as 9/11, mass shootings, natural disasters, etc., our routines and relationships, those things that anchor us to our society are disrupted in such a way that it can leave us struggling to reclaim the purpose of our lives. In some ways, this can lead to a positive re-prioritizing of what is truly important. In other ways, it can leave us grasping for meaning and feeling hopeless.

For those of us already dealing with PTSD, this collective trauma can trigger other traumas to rise to the surface. We may find we are having trouble sleeping, nightmares, generalized anxiety, or hyper-vigilance may be rearing their heads again. Others may find they are having a surprisingly calm reaction to all this, as being in a trauma state is not strange to us, and we feel able to function in this state better than others.

Traumatic events can trigger past traumas, and who among us has not experienced some level of trauma? So we as a society have this huge collective trauma and our own historical traumas slamming us all at once. It’s a lot to deal with and process! And we’re confined either with partners, family, friends, or alone. Being alone can be most challenging as there is no distraction from your own thoughts.

If you’ve been feeling some of this, the dis-ease that has been engendered by this disease, there are practices you can undertake to ease the trauma response. We must regularly engage in self-care, find comfort in spiritual practice, stay connected to our tribe, and begin to reframe our relationship to historical trauma.

“Radical self-care is what we’ve been longing for, desperate for, our entire lives – friendship with our own hearts.” ~ Anne Lamott

Self-care is the best thing you can do for yourself right now. Stay centered and grounded as much as you can in whatever way works for you. Exercise, yoga, meditation, bubble baths, reading, and creative expression will connect you to your center. We cannot face this event coming from a place of scattered emotions and thoughts. Limit your news to a single check-in every day to keep from going down the black hole of information saturation. Go outside and find a place to connect to nature. None of these things cost money and can help you find some balance amidst the chaos.

If you have a spiritual practice, there is no better time to enhance and build upon it. Read, study, pray, and fill your soul with comfort, fill your mind with faith. Read the inspired words of those who have overcome darkness. Viktor Frankl, Elie Wiesel, and Mother Teresa, for example, are inspiring in their ability to hold onto faith in the midst of great suffering. Turn to your spiritual practice at this time to help you hold onto your faith, and to get a glimpse of the big picture. The world has survived many traumas and will survive this one as well.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl

In these times, we must find a way to stay connected to our tribe. Facetime, Zoom, Marco Polo, social media and good old fashioned phone calls are our life-lines now. Resist the urge to isolate, to avoid the changes we’re all adjusting to, and reach out. Write letters, send cards, connect with people you’ve been meaning to re-connect with. You have time, and everyone needs to hear from the people they treasure.

Lastly, start to reframe your relationship to historical trauma. If we are here, we have survived trauma, personal, ancestral, historical, and collective. This means we are resilient and we have developed coping skills that not everyone has. We know how to self-calm, self-care, rise above, forgive, and even help others. Build on the resilience you’ve developed thus far! We are strong, flexible, wise souls and our energies are needed in this crisis.

               “We can make ourselves miserable or we can make ourselves strong.                    The amount of effort is the same.” – Pema Chodron

We are in a state of collective trauma. So let us attempt to join in collective healing, first by taking good care of ourselves, then by contributing to healing the energy of the planet. We all need the energies of compassion, positivity, balance, and calm right now. Let’s practice this in our daily lives and see what healers we are.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

3/20/2020

Why We Sometimes Hold Onto Trauma

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“The sooner we heal our traumas, the sooner we liberate ourselves from the people who hurt us. By hating them, we hold onto them. We cannot heal.” – Vironika Tugaleva

As I have studied, learned and written about healing trauma, I find I’m guilty of assuming that if you have been through trauma, you must want to heal. I forget that some souls perhaps don’t want to look at it, deal with it, or get better; at least, not now. I forget it until I’m face to face with such a person and I realize they are still holding onto a trauma from long ago – sometimes decades ago.

I used to wonder “What are they getting out of it? What’s the payoff?” Which sounds cold when you’re talking about a trauma survivor. But this is the thought I jump to when I see someone not making progress years after trauma. In reality, it’s far more complicated than my question, and of course, the reasons are as individual as we are. So in digging a little deeper, I found the reasons for holding onto trauma fall into three large categories (with many sub-categories).

The thought processes are basically the following:

Moving past trauma lets the person who caused it off the hook.

Moving past trauma means I can no longer be let off the hook.

Moving past trauma means I will have figure out who I am if I’m not suffering.

These are not light issues, not light thoughts. They are huge and overwhelming and no wonder people are often reluctant to confront these feelings! Let’s dive deeper.

“Moving past trauma lets the person who caused it off the hook.” This thought is often accompanied by other, related thoughts. If I forgive, then they’ll think they didn’t really hurt me. If I move past this and become stronger and more resilient, they’ll think their actions had no effect on me. If I forgive them, I’m weak.

The reality check to this thinking is part logic, part spirit. Logically, we have no idea what another person thinks of us, even they treat us poorly it’s more about them than what they think about us. And when we second-guess others’ thoughts and motivations, we give them even more power over us, thereby remaining stuck in the past. Spiritually, forgiving and moving on is something we do for ourselves, not for them. The longer we hold onto anger and withhold forgiveness, the longer we are in a state of inertia that we perpetuate. We don’t let anyone off the hook by moving past trauma – we break the chains that are keeping us in a dark place, so we can begin to climb to the light.

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” ~ Marianne Williamson

“Moving past trauma means I can no longer be let off the hook.” This second reason people might hold onto trauma is pretty insidious. Sadly, some of us find that in sharing our trauma we are seen as a victim, and people around us can start to let us off the hook. If we have certain unmet needs inside us, this can feel pretty good. It also gives us valid reasons for not fully dealing with people and situations in our life. We can start to use it as a way to avoid life, people, and in the worst cases, work and responsibility. I think all of us who have gone through trauma have been through phases of this. With therapy and hard work, we usually get past it.

The reality check to this thinking is realizing that again, you’re giving the trauma and whoever you associate with it, the power to keep you from fully engaging in life. Every time we use it as a way to avoid life, we empower the trauma, not ourselves. I’m not talking about the times we need to practice PTSD self-care and carve out safe, quiet time. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know the difference between self-care and avoidance. And if we’ve really gone down a dark path and avoid work and responsibilities, it will undoubtedly cause people who care for us to have to pick up the slack or bail us out.  It’s so important to take an honest look at how our healing impacts others, usually our family. If we have avoided therapy, or are playing on being a victim, not a survivor, we are denying our full and beautiful light from coming forth. Our inner wells of strength and faith are deep, so turn this fear over to God so we can truly conquer trauma, and not live it again every day.

We can make ourselves miserable or we can make ourselves strong. The amount of effort is the same.” ~ Pema Chodron

Moving past trauma means I will have to figure out who I am if I’m not suffering.” This thought manifests as many different thoughts that allow the trauma to define you. I’m a person who was profoundly hurt. Trauma is my identity, therefore in my pain I feel safe. We naturally do identify with being a victim of trauma initially. This should fade and assume a back-burner position in a healthy identity as we heal.

If it doesn’t, as a therapist I once knew said, “It doesn’t feel good, but it feels familiar.” We know how to play that part, so we play it because it’s comfortable, it’s easier, and we’re tired. But the danger, the reality check in this thinking, is that you’re once again giving your power to the trauma, not the recovery. You’re living a role, an identity, that was forced on you, not one you’ve chosen for yourself. Your true spirit, your true nature is on that back-burner. Invite it to come forward, try to open yourself to what the Universe has for you next. When you put a foot on this path of letting that old identity go, new possibilities will unfold!

Healing trauma is rich, unrelenting, exhausting, and rewarding. There are so many modalities now to deal with PTSD – therapy, EMDR, tapping, and of course, I believe, taking God with you every step of the way can only enhance your experience and restore your faith more quickly. So who could you become as you move past trauma?

We can only know when we begin to climb out of the quicksand. Staying stuck can only pull us down into depression, health issues, addictions and more. Healing is the process of getting un-stuck, of creating movement, of creating energy to move, of letting go.

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

What Does God Think of You?

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“Be kinder than necessary. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~ Plato

This often-quoted statement from Plato is such a wonderful reminder to us to try to be kind, always. It’s so true – if you scratch the surface of anyone you meet, you will find wounds and hurts. Some of us have deep battle scars that make us lash out at others or not behave as our highest self.

So compassion is key. None of us truly know the history or inner workings of anyone else. Not even loved ones we have spent decades with. We might know them well, but we can’t know how their deepest scars might affect their daily life. Compassion is key. We may not understand why someone is behaving a certain way or made choices we find confusing or even hurtful. But if we can remember that they have inner wounds and battles that are causing them to make these choices, we can find compassion.

It is sometimes (often) challenging to find compassion for others, especially people we don’t truly know. Our own loved ones are easier to have empathy for, as we have a better understanding of their battles. So it’s curious that we often have trouble finding compassion for ourselves.

“The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself.” ~ Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou hit the nail on the head. If we can overcome how we think about ourselves, we can soar! Our own self-condemnation, judgment, and doubt often obscure our ability to love ourselves. If we can truly overcome how we think about ourselves, we can find a freedom and sense of security in the world.

I’ve done a lot of work in my life in the field of self-esteem. I’ve worked on it for myself and with countless students as a counselor. Low self-esteem is a core issue for many, many people, formed often in childhood, reinforced by life events, and carried around inside us like a little alien, ready to pop out and ruin our day at the slightest whim! And we know, deep down, that it IS an alien – it doesn’t belong. Because we are beings of Light, children of God, purveyors of Love! That is our truth, but our thoughts, our ego mind, block our true vision.

“I found that there is only one thing that heals every problem and that is: to know how to love yourself.” ~ Louise Hay

Learning to love yourself and be compassionate toward yourself, and your great lumbering, mistake-filled life, is an ongoing process. A life-long process! But something I have found helpful is to try to see myself as God sees me. I try to imagine what God must think of me.

This could be scary to contemplate but think of it this way. If God is the Beloved, the Divine Spark, the profound Love of the Universe, God cannot help but see me with compassion and understanding and forgiveness. God, in this sense, truly is a parental presence.

If you have children you know this well. No matter what your children do as they grow, even as adults, you see that they are still learning and most often doing the best they can. Even when they make mistakes we continue to love them and help them right their sail again. We have compassion for them so easily because our heart is full of so much love for them and it is constant.

So it is with God. God’s love is so all-encompassing that compassion, understanding, and forgiveness are the natural state of God’s relationship to us. And if God is IN us and we are, indeed, God, or OF God, then that profound love for ourselves is available at all times, if we but ask.

“If you saw you as God sees you, you would smile a lot.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

You have survived trauma in your life, you are healing, you are hurt, you make mistakes, you do things right, you seek help, you avoid help, you try to help others, you are sometimes selfish, you give too much love, you withhold love. You are human.

Now imagine this: God and all of your angels and guardians are amazed that you would choose to learn these lessons so profoundly and so deeply in this life. They are stunned by your courage. They wrap you in compassion nightly, hoping to heal you with enough light to carry you through the next day. God holds you constantly in the heart of Love, amazed at your determination to heal and give compassion to others. You are an astonishment!

So today, practice giving this compassion to yourself. Love yourself. Honor your growth. What does God think of you? God thinks you are a tender, growing soul, deserving of Good, fighting hard battles, and trying to grasp the extreme profundity of Love. Rest in that.

“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.” ~ Hafiz

You Are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

May 6, 2019

CONSTANTLY TURNING TOWARD GOD

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“Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

I love this quote from Gandhi, reminding us to open the day in prayer, and close it in prayer as well. This is something to take to heart, as it can guide the time in between rising and bedtime. But what happens in between? If you’re like me, I wander far from the path, I forget to pray and turn my mind, heart and thoughts to God. I enter the realm of business and worry. You too?

I was struck by this thought a couple of months ago. That I need to be constantly turning toward God. And yet daily, I catch myself trying to figure out a problem, worrying about a family member or friend’s health, making plans for the future, having regrets about the past, busying my mind with everything except the Divine. And I believe my ego mind wants it this way. The more it keeps me in a trance of fixing, judging and doing, the less likely I am to turn to God.

“God is the water, and you are the faucet.” ~ Marianne Williamson

When we naturally and instantaneously turn to God is when something literally “brings us to our knees.” A sudden death, illness or trauma shakes us to the core and we automatically ask God to come in, to comfort us, to bring healing to the situation. And we feel God then don’t we? We feel the comfort, the envelopment of God’s love that helps us raise our heads again and move forward. It is truly beautiful, even in the midst of a horrible moment.

For survivors of trauma, you would think turning toward God and calling on God every moment of every day would be like breathing. We must have it or we die. But we are MASTERS of distraction! I noticed this in my life so clearly. When a trauma occurs, I fall to my knees, I bring God in, I pray without ceasing. But as days go by it becomes clear I can’t drop out of life (like I want to).  I have to continue with jobs and groceries and living, so I developed the marvelous coping skill of distraction. I dare say that in most of us, this skill is over-developed!

And we need to forgive ourselves for bending toward distraction. How else can we sleep at night, when our mind, left unchecked, will play reruns of our trauma on a loop? How else can we check out at the grocery store when a magazine headline has triggered us and we suddenly want to cry? How else can we make small talk when such shallow actions make us want to scream? We distract ourselves with activities, thoughts, plans and MAKE our minds think of something else. It’s a survival skill, but at what cost?

“Meditation goes in. Prayer goes out. But they both aim for the same place of union between you and the Divine.” ~ Lisa Jones

Hopefully, eventually, we learn to distract our minds with God again. We learn that these thoughts are not just a distraction, but they are a point of focus that can heal us. We learn that we can place ourselves in the light by simply turning toward God. Like all good habits, it takes practice and vigilance. But beyond that, it takes a deep knowing that this IS what will save you. God’s light. God’s love. God’s grace. Meditate on it and feel it within. Pray to God and send it out. Then rest in the knowledge that within and without are the same place. And that place is God.

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” ~ Aristotle

We move forward in life, our little wounded selves rallying every day to see what can happen, what good we can do, what love we can share. We truly are so brave. Let us try every day to keep turning toward God. Constantly. For that is where we will find peace. That is where we will find light. Find a mantra, a verse, a quote, anything that will take you out of your busy monkey mind and bring you back to God. For a moment. And then another. And then another.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything.” ~ Philippians 4:6

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

January 18, 2019

We Who are Never Not Broken

 

   108c422f971b4a0bf73376756c83d9d2-rimg-w608-h720-gmir“Between each wrinkle is a warrior, wounded but willing to show up. Underneath scars are soldiers fighting struggle and stigma. Life’s battles mark us, yet build us.” ~Dan Phillips

Years ago, I was trying to offer counsel to a young man who had returned from the war in Afghanistan and was suffering from PTSD. His life was upside down, and treatment felt extremely slow to him. He desperately wanted me to give him a time frame for when he would feel better. He asked me how long it would take to feel normal again.

I didn’t have the words then to tell him he would never feel “normal” again, but that would be okay. His experience and his healing would integrate into a new normal if he kept up with treatment and focused on the process of healing, rather than the outcome. I did tell him healing was different for everyone and impossible to put a time frame on; so keep going to therapy, keep working at healing, and ask for God’s help. I often wonder how he is doing.

I thought of him recently when I learned about a Hindu goddess called Akhilandeshwari. Translated from Sanskrit, her name is commonly referred to as “she who is never not broken.” Akhilanda means never not broken. Eshvari refers to a supreme ruler. It is understood among her believers that the brokenness is exactly what makes Akhilandeshwari strong. She is depicted as riding a crocodile across a lake, a symbol of not only conquering fear, but using it to get to the next stage.

As soon as I read about this goddess, it resonated with me. Yes, I am never not broken. A part of me will always feel broken as trauma’s wounds are deep, cutting to the core of our being. However, that wound is exactly what makes me a warrior, a writer, a healer, and a messenger. The brokenness gives me my power. The wound sent me deeper to God.

“God uses our wounds in beautiful ways, to heal our souls of deeper maladies.”

~ Jennifer Clarke

I invite you to take a moment to try to shift your thoughts about this trauma, this wound you carry. First, acknowledge that it will always be with you, it is always part of you. You may not think of it very often, or you may still be newly healing and it is ever-present. I invite you to accept it as part of you, rather than wishing it away. Accept that it is as much a part of you as your heart or lungs. It just is.

Now take a deep breath as you allow this wound to be part of you. Feel a softening around the trauma, and your thoughts about it. Honor the healing you’ve already done and feel the tremendous power around that. The power and wisdom you’re gaining could not have come about any other way. Only through the healing of the wound.

Take another deep breath and as you exhale feel the marriage of these thoughts. 

I am never not broken.  

This means I am always healing.  

This means I am building strength and faith and power

   beyond who I was before.

                   

This simple exercise can help us acknowledge our wound, and start to see the gifts in it. Just as mending an object often makes it stronger than before, so mending our wounds makes us stronger than before.

“A really strong woman accepts the war she went through and is ennobled by her scars.”     ~ Carly Simon

Part of healing trauma and PTSD is, of course, effective therapy. If your trauma is fresh (or if it is old and you never really looked at it), you need therapy to truly deal with it. I can’t stress this enough. My purpose is simply to give you spiritual tools with different ways of looking at your trauma, to invite God in to your healing process. 

Let us march forward as “we who are never not broken” knowing that is what empowers us, for the best healers are those who have been healed. We are an army of faith and love.

                                “Don’t moan that you’re broken, be happy that you can break                                so that you can continuously remake yourself.”  ~ Shivali Bhammer

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

September 9, 2018

Being At Peace with the Past

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“If you don’t make peace with your past, it will keep showing up in your present.”                     ~ Wayne Dyer

Making peace with the past, with our memories, is such a crucial factor in healing. Being able to look back somewhat objectively at traumatic events in our past is something we strive for. We don’t always get there, but we keep trying. To be able to say without upset, “Yes, that happened. But now I am here,” is empowering and affirming.

Recently, I moved back to the state where I lived during my 20s. I am within driving distance from where I lived when I was sexually assaulted. Recently, I had occasion to be in that neighborhood, near that apartment. I had not been by it in 35 years. When I moved out, I never went back, needing to stay away from it. I wondered how it would impact me to see it again after all this time. So I drove by.

Why did I feel compelled to do this? I wasn’t looking for drama or to be triggered. It has been a very long time. I think I was simply curious. How would it compare to my memory? How would I feel seeing it?

I knew the name of the street but didn’t remember the address, only the general area. I drove straight to it like no time had passed. I found the building, looking much the same as it did 3 decades ago, and drove down the little alley that ran alongside the bottom floor apartments. I found my old apartment and drove by slowly, seeing the interior in my mind as I did so. The porch was filled with belongings of the current resident, bicycles and boogie boards. But it looked much the same.

And I felt…nothing. I think I had been expecting some kind of emotional reaction, but I truly just felt a little curious and very objective. As I made my long drive home, I wondered why I was so unaffected by seeing the apartment. It has been a long time, and I’ve done SO much work to heal what happened there. But the greater truth I came upon is realizing that the trauma isn’t part of the building. It’s only part of me.

The gift God gave me that day was truly seeing how we make associations and assign feelings to places and time periods that are not actually part of that place or time. The associations and feelings don’t exist apart from us. We truly carry it all with us; the good and the bad. 

                      “When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories,                             we get to write the ending.” ~ Brene Brown

The building is just a building. It holds whatever memory or feeling I assign to it. I don’t need the building to be triggered, or feel sad or scared. I can conjure that up on my own with a single thought, wherever I am in time and space. The boogieman doesn’t live there, he lives in my mind and memory. Much like a childhood home can hold triggers and memories both good and bad, those feelings aren’t part of the house – we carry them with us throughout our life.

A building can only hold what I give it. I see now that I had nothing left to put on that building. Nothing. And though I know I’m fully healed, this was even more evidence to me. If you’re struggling with healing from trauma, I hope this gives you hope. There will come a day when you are objective and curious and grateful and know that you are fully healed.

“Everything changes once we identify with being the witness to the story,                     instead of the actor in it.” ~ Ram Dass

I also don’t mean to take away from those of us who do need to revisit a place to make peace with it or find closure of some kind. Our healing processes are so unique to each of us individually, so I completely validate the need one may have to return to a location to move the healing along. Because looking at a past event can be like looking through a lens that is out of focus. A bit dim, blurry, with little detail. But in physically revisiting, we can pull the memory into focus, see it more clearly, and take another step in healing.

Where are your memories? Where do you need to make peace with the past? The gift we are given is the knowledge we can do that anywhere. We don’t have to go to the place or sit in a building, for it’s all within us; the past and the tools to heal it. When we ask the Divine for guidance we will be led to a place of healing and wholeness, and that place is within.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

7/24/18

Releasing Emotions in the Body

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“The body is the most reliable truth meter.”  ~ Adyashanti

Recently, I found myself in tears during a yoga class. It was near the end, and as I tried to keep my face down and roll up my mat, I felt the teacher come and stand near me, lending supportive energy as she chatted with another student. I knew she had noticed my upset and probably recognized it for what it was – a healthy release!

As the teacher had recently explained, certain poses, especially hip openers, can release emotions we’ve been holding onto. Fear, trauma, grief, anxiety, depression – all these murky feelings get stuffed down from our eyes when we do not cry, our throats when we do not scream, our hearts when they are broken, and settle in our hips.

That day, I was overwhelmed with grief about my father, who passed nine months ago. So although I understand the stages of grief will go on for a while, and the feelings of sadness were not daily anymore, my body released more grief in that class, and I felt better because of it.

Yoga teachers and massage therapists will tell you they see this all the time. Our bodies are silos, storing all of our past experiences and present worries. When we are able to find ways to release, in supportive environments, we let go of some of that stored “grain.” Combining physical attunement with a more neutral, relaxed mental state allows these emotions to be liberated.

“If we do not work on all three levels – body, feeling, mind – the symptoms of our distress will keep returning, as the body goes on repeating the story stored in its cells until it is finally listened to and understood.” ~ Alice Miller

In this quote, Alice Miller is expressing what science is coming to understand. Peter Levine, Ph.D. (In An Unspoken Voice), and Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. (The Body Keeps the Score) research, explore and write about the evidence that much of our trauma is held in our bodies, and with this knowledge lies hope for releasing it as well!   

Just think about how much we hold in. We are taught from a young age to hold. We hold onto uncomfortable emotions caused by abuses and traumas we suffer as children, showing the world a face that says everything is okay. We hold it together as we grow, facing cruelty at school, disappointments and broken hearts. We hold our breath, sometimes not daring to breathe deeply out of fear or sorrow, sometimes not breathing at all if the terror or grief is too great. We hold still, not wanting to call attention to what we see is our broken self. We hold back tears – so many tears that we are certain we would drown those around us if we let them go.

A law of physics would tell us that this holding has to release at some point. And we see it around us in all its unhealthy forms – illness (turning it inward) and violence (turning outward). The challenge then, for us, is to find healthy ways to release it from our physical being.

Yoga, massage, reiki, and other forms of healing are effective but can be costly. You can also find release in a soothing bath, an intense workout, vigorous dancing, tactile art, or a project that requires physical exertion. There are many ways to loosen what you are holding onto. Find what feels right for you, and know that different kinds of emotions may need different kinds of release.

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

When it comes to releasing what we are holding onto, we must also allow ourselves to be held where it is safe. If you have a supportive partner, let that person hold you while you cry and release. Being held by the right person for the right purpose is profoundly healing.

And most importantly, in your own private space allow yourself to be held in God’s love, wrapped up in Divine comfort, and sink down into that place where only Love exists, and let go. God will hold you, God will hold space with you for all those feelings and God will eventually help you up.

“Love falls to earth, rises from the ground, pools around the afflicted. Love pulls people back to their feet. Bodies and souls are fed. Bones and lives heal. New blades of grass grown from charred soil. The sun rises.” ~ Anne Lamott

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

June 29, 2018

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

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