Sometimes the most affective approach is one we wouldn't expect
In our culture, we're often taught to rush, force, and contort ourselves. Harder, faster, stronger. When we hurt, we dig in deep to those muscles. No pain, no gain. We don't like how something is so we try to change it to make it fit, or maybe we deny it's existence entirely. (Toxic positivity, anyone?) Maybe we build up walls or brusk defenses. That'll keep those perpetrators out.
All of this is understandable. This is what we've absorbed by osmosis about how to approach life. It's also very human of us to puff up and protect, shut down, or put up walls when we don't feel safe. Sometimes that is exactly what we needed to survive a certain situation. We can be grateful that those survival mechanisms helped us at times when we really needed them.
Then, many times, we get to a point where we are safe, and those strategies become maladaptive. We can continue as is, or we can try for another way.
Sometimes the thing we need most is gentleness. Softness, ease and safety surrounding us, can help us let down our guard and receive the healing we've needed. One of my former business coaches and teachers Mark Silver used to say that gentleness is the antidote to anger. This was a startling ah ha for me. As I began practicing it, I realized that gentleness disarms the anger. There is no longer anything for the anger to fight against. Gentleness also reflects back how hard we've been trying to protect ourselves from getting hurt. As the anger no longer has to defend, our soft underbelly, the tender vulnerability hidden within gets revealed. But we aren't left out in the cold. That gentleness also holds and cradles that vulnerability, airs it out, and soothes the pain. I've seen this happen on all levels, physically with tight muscles that release with gentle touch, and mentally and emotionally as well.
Are there places in your life where you could benefit from offering yourself more gentleness?
Do you need a safe space where someone can offer that for you? Reach out or book a session online.
Where are the little glimmers of light and beauty?
March of 2020 I was signed up to take an ancestral healing training with shamanic practitioner Debra Morrill. Shortly before, the Covid outbreak hit, and, like so many other things, the class was postponed until it was safe to reconvene. While we waited, Debra and my teacher Ana Larramendi, her host, suggested that we go on a shamanic journey to connect with one of our ancestors that had survived a pandemic in their time. Since we all were here, no doubt at least one family member had made it through similar times. Now, about two years into the pandemic of our era, I've been reflecting on the wisdom that came from that journey.
I was led to a woman in France during the bubonic plague. She lived with one or two other people, and I could see that in time one of them would succumb to the Black Death while quarantined away in a separate room. My ancestor kept to herself as the sickness spread around her town.
When I asked what helped her move through those times, I saw her going out into her garden behind the house. Looking up at the sky, the sun radiated down on her face, the light and warmth melting away some of her preoccupation, burdens, and grief. In that moment, she was alive and she could feel. She bent down, plucked a vibrant strawberry, and delighted in its sweet juices. As the Black Death spread around her, these visits to the garden kept her connected with enough light and enjoyment to sustain her through those years.
I planted several strawberry plants in my garden the spring after I did that journey. It was too late to truly enjoy their fruit that year, but I grew other things in the meantime. By June of 2021, the strawberry plants had established themselves. I would step out each morning, my shadow cast over the leaves, crooning as I gently searched for tender, ripe berries. Inevitably, I would find a few. Then I would stand eyes closed, slowly savoring the sun-warmed crimson flesh as the morning sun glimmered through the trees on my face.
These moments, and moments like these... snuggled with my kitties feeling their steady purr and poofy fur, laughing at a silly comedy, feeling snowflakes land on my face, receiving a small act of kindness or shared humanity from a stranger or friend, these seemingly small things have helped sustain me, and tap into resiliency. While there has been so much constriction, challenge, and loss over these last two years, there are still little glimmers of beauty hiding under the leaves. We just need to take a moment to pause, look, and allow ourselves to receive it.
What has helped sustain you during these times? What has brought comfort, relief, or even joy? Share with us in the comments. If you haven't found much of these qualities in your life lately, how can you make space for it to enter, even amongst the struggle?
With lots of love and care,
Receive the blessings of your ancestors, and remember those we've lost this year.
This period, from the end of October into November, is known cross-culturally as a time when the veil between the physical world and the nonphysical is thin. For thousands of years, humans have used this time to connect with ancestors and the spirit realm. Perhaps you already celebrate Samhain or Día de los Muertos, and know the significance and balm of reconnecting with our loved ones lost. Given the year we have all had, where we have been tested on numerous levels, and so many have passed, the healing potential of these practices seem as poignant as ever.
My invitation to you, over the next couple weeks, set aside some time when you can be in intentional reverence or contemplation. Think of the ancestors you would like to recognize. These may be cherished ones you have known who have passed, others who were estranged, or family further back on your ancestral line. How would you like to acknowledge and honor these souls? Perhaps you pull out some photographs, and light a candle, make a family recipe, watch a movie you loved to share, or engage in an activity this person enjoyed. If you did not have closure with this person, you may be called to write a letter to them, expressing how you feel. Seal it up in an envelop, leave it out on an altar, and then bury or burn it after a short time. You'll know when. If you had a particularly challenging relationship with one of these individuals, honor your experience by allowing your feelings to flow. Are there any lessons you learned as a result of your relationship with them? If you haven't already, are you ready to forgive them? If not, what to you need to move closer to forgiveness, so you can heal? No matter who you choose to acknowledge, you may find expressing yourself with a poem, drawing, or song cathartic. Trust what feels appropriate, reverent, and healing for you.
Even if the details of the stories may have been lost to time, we all have had ancestors that survived pandemics as well as times of uncertainty, and unrest. Their strength, wisdom, love, and resilience still lives on in your bones, your DNA. You can call on these compassionate ancestors and ask them to guide you, be with you, and offer you strength to continue on during these times. As you invite these energies, focus on the blessings. If you notice any of their unresolved pain or struggles activating within you, witness it with compassion, and remember it is not yours, and therefore not your job to carry it on. Breathe these burdens down into the Earth with love, freeing yourself and your family line from these energies. As you connect with these ancestors, who knows what kind of insight and healing may emerge for you.
Finally, you may feel called to incorporate a ritual in remembrance of the many who lost their lives this year due to COVID-19, violence, or other causes. Create space for mourning within your personal world and communities. We have been through a lot, and though you have survived if you are reading this, many have not. Let us offer them peace on their soul's journey, and healing and comfort for their loved ones (which may include you). If you are in the thick of grief, remember to lean on the support of those around you. The Reiki and I are here for you too, if you need it.
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As you take this time to honor the departed, please share with us in the comments how you celebrated them, and what the experience was like for you.
Lastly, with the election just around the corner, I ask you all to join me in holding intentions for peace, fairness, integrity, safety, and compassion for all Americans as we exercise our right to vote, determine the results of the election, and await the next term.
Take good care,
Reiki Master Teacher and Owner of Embrace Your Essence