A New Kind of Resilience

“Resilience” is defined as… 

  1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
  2. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

Hi friends – 

I write this while breathing in smoky air from yet another devastating string of wildfires and thinking about how this year, perhaps more than any other, has had our resiliency tested in such intense, profound ways. 

With the above, traditional understanding of resiliency, at best I am left in the shape I started in, but tougher.

But this understanding falls short for me and I’ve been wondering about what resiliency looks like without simply hardening in order to survive something.  While I am all for elasticity and strengthening my ability to recover from challenges, I also want to invite into my resiliency a sense of softness and tenderness that can better allow a new shape to emerge.

By now, it’s nearly cliche, but no less true, that the idea of “going back to normal” is a fantasy. Not because all is lost – but because hard things change us.  At our best, challenges shape us into a version of ourselves sensitized to loss and therefore able to show up with more humility, compassion and creativity. 

Nothing is likely to make this time in our history easy — reckoning with imbalances never is — but there are tools to build a deeper type of resilience – one that allows life to happen WITH you, rather than TO you.  

Firstly, PRESENCE. Simply placing yourself in the moment that is at hand is the fastest way I know to slow down a spinning mind. Our minds were designed to scan our environments for potential danger. When we don’t pause and allow our actual physical senses to do so, our thoughts take over and begin weaving an infinite number of tales around what might go wrong.  

When you notice this happening, stop, slow down your breath – counting in for three and out for five –  and then begin naming everything you see, hear, smell, taste and feel right in the moment. Count your pulse out loud until you get to 25 and then, again breathe in for three counts and out for five counts a few times.  

When there is a real and imminent threat in your immediate surroundings, your fight or flight instinct will take over and act. When there is not (and if you are actually even considering trying this exercise, then likely, there is not) then simply getting present should help the body to calm. 

Secondly, CONNECTION.

When we isolate ourselves, our bodies struggle physically, emotionally and spiritually. Resiliency thrives in the context of relationships. These days, connection requires more creativity. Some attempts at connection leave us drained or triggered. Others leave us feeling more energized, compassionate and open to new perspectives. Get curious about the former and more committed to the latter.

Finally, AUTHENTIC EXPRESSION.  Trying to hold it all together, when parts of us are falling apart, can leave us anxious, numb or exhausted. Often the most relieving and rejuvenating thing to do is to just feel your feels. 

Take time to pause and give yourself permission to cry, pound a pillow, shake your body, scream or just laugh at how ridiculous it all is. Simply acknowledging the thing you thought you weren’t allowed to feel, is often the permission your body needs to release it and move forward. 

Emotions are meant to be in motion.

Presence, connection and authentic expression are three ingredients to a kind of resilience that allows you to not just get through something – but to let that something get through to you. 

In this with you all,  

Vanessa

Discomfort… Growth’s Essential Worker

Hi friends,

Whatever your 2020 vision might have been on January 1st, this year has been a doozy no one could have predicted.

The full range of emotions have been pounding through our collective and individual bodies like waves, bringing the debris from the depths of the waters onto shore to be reckoned with. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been doing a whole lot of reckoning…

Regardless of how much confidence and clarity I previously had about my soul’s mission on this planet – since quarantining, without the flow and structures I’ve built my life around, I’ve often questioned my identity, purpose and floundered about many days unfocused and unsure how to give my gifts meaningfully.

Despite how much I’ve dedicated my life to healing injustices or bringing dignity to all people – or to how “woke” I may have fancied myself to be, over the last couple of months, it’s been painfully clear just how much more I have to learn, how much I’ve benefited from and how complicit I continue to be in the systems of oppression our white bodied supremacy society was built to perpetuate.

And although uncertainty and injustice are hardly new or unique to these times – both are taking center stage in ways that makes it increasingly challenging to stay comfortably numb and disengaged.

Discomfort, when welcomed in, is an essential worker in the transformational process. It is here to show us where we have contorted, contracted and/or disconnected. When we lean into places of discomfort, we feel the edges of our current capacity and have a roadmap for growth. With practice, our nervous system and sense of self can be with more and more before freezing, collapsing or defending. Eventually this process of growth makes it possible for us to be present and connected to a wider range of emotions, circumstances and people who have a different experience or lens of life than we do.

If you, like me, find yourself in a place of privilege (with access to opportunities and a presumption of relative safety and belonging in mainstream society based on your race, gender, class, etc.) then this discomfort may be taking the shape of more guilt, shame, indignation, outrage and/or confusion than usual. These are all appropriate emotions for the realities of our world and demand a new level of responsibility.

Taking responsibility doesn’t mean swooping in saving those who are “less fortunate,” or thinking we can solve the injustices of the world or letting guilt paralyze us. But I believe it does mean doing what’s necessary to hone our response – abilities.  If we keep our own nervous systems as  resourced as possible then we can listen, learn, transform and respond in more congruent and just ways. And when we don’t, we can ask own our shortcomings, readjust and keep going.

We can resource ourselves with breath, movement, rest, compassion, honesty, vulnerability, curiosity, humility, education and listening to voices that are different than our own so that we might respond with our gifts more effectively and sustainably.

Self-care is a revolutionary act. And this, like all truths, holds an important paradox to acknowledge. The culture that needs transforming, is the same culture that allows someone like me, a white, middle class, cisgendered woman, the access and social permission to more easily honor and care for my body and soul, than many of my fellow humans can not easily do.

It seems like we are at a tipping point in our world and the energy for envisioning a new reality is ripe.  This is not the time to go back to sleep.. nor is it sustainable to work all night long. This is not the time to have all the answers… or the time to give up in hopelessness.

To re-envision a future we desire, we must be able to sit with what we could not sit with before and let it change us, inspire us and fuel us to keep moving forward.

With fierce love and welcome discomfort,

Vanessa

listening.

listeningHi friends,

Sending you each so much love as we navigate this particularly important – and hopefully – tipping point in history. I do not sense this is the moment to share my particular framing of reality, as a white person. So I’m using the platform I have here this month to pass on some specific resources that have been passed on to me… to listen, learn, be challenged, show up, hold safe space for and love in more meaningful ways.

If you want to have a conversation about this, and/or if you have witnessed blindspots in me, I’m here and open to hear and grow.

In solidarity, humility, grief and hope,

Vanessa

 CONTINUALLY UPDATED RESOURCE LISTS:

*Anti-Racist Resource Guide

*Black Lives Matter Library, Teaching,
Activism and Community Resource List 

SOME ORGANIZATIONS THAT SUPPORT
BLACK THRIVING T0 CONTRIBUTE MONEY/TIME TO:

The Cross Cultural Solidarity History Education Project

Campaign Zero: Working To End Police Violence

BEAM: Nonprofit supporting Black
emotional and mental health

CLASSES TO TAKE TO SUPPORT
DISMANTLING RACISM/RACIAL TRUMA HEALING:

Resmaa Menakem Courses on Racialized Trauma
(also his book “My Grandmother’s Hands)

Spiritual Activism 101 (And 102) by Rachel Ricketts

ETC.

*My yoga teacher colleague, Saeeda Hafiz (many of you on this list that have taken classes with her over the years) released this book. Buy your copy here.

“In this memoir of upward mobility through the unexpected route of yoga, a young African American woman signs up for lessons in yoga and clean eating as a sign that she has now entered the middle class. The Healing is Saeeda Hafiz’s personal, painfully honest account of facing the inner demons fed by the domestic violence, addiction, and poverty she witnessed as a child.”

*Joel St. Julien, just released his latest album “Moral Monsters” today and all the proceeds from album sales today will go to BEAM, a nonprofit serving mental and emotional needs of Black people. Buy it here – today if you can!  I’ve been listening to it all morning, and it’s lovely. Joel produced my 2011 album and is a genius of experimental sound. Here’s the quote which his album was named for:

“I’m terrified at the moral apathy, the death of the heart, which is happening in my country. These people have deluded themselves for so long that they really don’t think I’m human. I base this on their conduct, not on what they say. And this means that they have become, in themselves, moral monsters.” – James Baldwin

SOME NOTES

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I am just passing on a few highlights of things that have been passed on to me and I’ve found helpful and/or compelled to donate to or purchase in support of dismantling white supremacy and amplifying black voices. If you want to talk more specifically any of the books, courses, organizations listed here, and/or send along other resources that aren’t, feel free.

An additional note if you are reading this and also white:

It’s okay to be uncomfortable, not know what to do or say, or feel inadequate. Listen and learn.

It’s okay to honor your need for rest and integration and not to engage with everything on this or any list at one time. Rest, digest and show up resourced.

Spiritual bypassing and performative allyship are direct roadblocks to true healing.

Take a breath, move… feel the feels… acknowledge our privilege – including what we see and all the privilege that remains, by it’s nature, unseen… own our shadows and blindspots… resource ourselves… welcome the knowing we have more to learn regardless of how much work we’ve done… get curious about defenses… keep showing up and learn how to do better, fail better and love better.

Same Storm, Different Boats

different boats

 

Hi friends,

In my last “Healing In Place” newsletter, in late March, I shared how it’s never been more obvious that we are ultimately all one, not “the only one” struggling or isolated in our pain. This new pandemically human experience has touched just about every aspect of life on earth.  But it is also personal and we are each moving with specific challenges and circumstances. As I’ve heard it said a few times now through this…

“Same storm, different boats.”

My list of all that I am grateful for in my current boat is long. But my days aren’t without seasickness. I still have many moments of fear, exhaustion, grief.  I sometimes feel so deeply lonely, even with a loving partner and network of friends. I miss life before the storm and worry about life after. I feel the weight of loss of a world where physical human connection felt generally safe and easy.

But at times of massive change, our body is designed to experience such emotions. They are the responses of our wise systems, doing it’s best to adapt to new realities. So, my conscious mind is continuing the practice of making space for the emotions, acknowledging them as they come, and letting my body move and emote as it needs to in order to create more peace and less sticky thoughts.

But some thoughts do stick.

Sometimes they are in the form of  “seriously, people?” kind of judgements about how others are navigating these current realities. In these moments it feels a little like being in a group project in work or school and feeling like others are dropping the ball or have a vision that feels incompatible with mine.  When I catch myself here, I try to take a deep breath (as deep as I can with a mask on anyway) and do my best to move from my head to my heart and remember… different boats.

Other times the sticky thoughts are in the form of projected dystopian realities that are void of the in person touch and social gatherings that my life has always been so fueled by. When this dark cloud comes, I try to pause and be with the fear and grief underneath… making space for my powerful imagination to start conjuring up futures that I want to be a part of co-creating.

From here I remember that life is happening with us… even for us… not to us.  And, with our trusty old friend impermanence, we know that “this too shall pass,”

The current construction of our boats –  like our thoughts… roles… identities…this current storm…and even our bodies… won’t be here forever. So we carry on, and do our best to be present here, right now, with whatever gifts are available for us.

Sending love to each of you, with at least six to eight feet of physical distance, but fully connected in our hearts, regardless of which boat we are navigating life from right now.

Vanessa

Crisis… Chrysalis

Hello Friends,

When a caterpillar is born, it contains all the necessary innate wisdom to one day, when the conditions are right, transform itself into a butterfly. Up until then, it just does it’s caterpillar thing, crawling and eating… crawling and eating… crawling and eating….with, I like to imagine, an occasional glance up; curiosity piqued by a mysterious winged creature flying above her.

And then one day, based on a subtle prompting of nature, the caterpillar begins to self-destruct, literally turning it’s body inside out, digesting and regurgitating its own innards creating a protective container that holds it’s now liquified self.
During this period, called chrysalis, the caterpillar soup slowly begins to take a new shape. It’s a time of uncertainty, shapelessness and potentiality, all fragilely contained within a self-created shell.

This current coronavirus crisis is our own sort of collective chrysalis; a time of uncertainty, shapelessness and potentiality.

Like the caterpillar, most of the systems that were crawling along have stopped, plans that were being arranged have been put on hold and the overall shape of life for each of us individually and collectively has been turned inside out.

And now, life as we knew it, for the entire world, is on hold, with no clear path of what might be next. Many of us are actually, quite literally, cocooned inside our homes. Others are scrambling to find what’s necessary in order to safely cocoon. Still others are creating new makeshift cocoons every day to keep life intact for themselves and their loved ones.

We don’t know how long this time of pause will be. As much as our mind desperately wants details, the only real certainty we can give ourselves is what we know in this moment, contained in the sensations in our body and the movement of our breath… right… now.

Once we’ve taken a breath and gotten into our bodies – then our minds can more resourcefully stretch beyond the details floating through the newsfeed and start hooking into a bigger guiding story and vision of what could be.

The caterpillar that was our collective reality before this is no longer. Like all pinnacle moments in history, there’s no “going back” to normal. But, at some point there will be a going forward into something new.  An emergence from this current cocoon.

The possible futures ahead of us are infinite. The shapes and colors the wings that will emerge from this cocoon are yet to be defined. It takes massive change to make massive change; the available energy from all that is crumbling is undeniable, and it there for us to create something new.

What will breakthrough from this crisis/chrysalis has everything to do with which parts of ourselves, individually and collectively, we invite to take shape in our consciousness. It is a chance for realignment to begin in a significant way and the more we can envision what’s possible and start taking those shapes – from the view inside our cocoon – the more effortlessly that future can unfold.

But for now… don’t feel like you must make anything take shape. This liminal space gives us permission to release the effort of maintaining what was as well as the struggle of figuring out what will be. Right now, as much as you are able, practice simply being with each unformed moment… doing what you must to feel safe… feeling all your feelings… connecting to what and who brings you  hope and joy… and dreaming up the colors of your wings once you emerge.

Vanessa

Interconnected Immunity

Hi Friends,

Interconnectedness is my favorite law of nature; I typically feel deep comfort and energy in knowing that:

We are all one

&

Anything that happens to one of us, happens to all of us

&

Separation and isolation are illusions that leave us stuck in unnecessary suffering

But, sometimes it feels tempting – and even prudent – to isolate.

Sometimes viruses of potential pandemic proportions loom at every social gathering and  doorknob…

Sometimes the choices that our government makes can feel toxic and out of alignment with all that feels right and congruent…

Sometimes other people just feel so, well, “other”, that I’d rather sequester myself and a few choice allies into a nice little bubble and ignore the rest.

And there’s wisdom in all these… sometimes and temporarily. Making life smaller and more manageable when you are in breakdown, and the threats are large, can be a restorative short term strategy, personally and collectively. The problem comes when we stay there… operating from that place of protectionism.

In order to build our spirits, or immune systems, back up to a more robust place, we must stay in the fullness of life – in relationship with all those “other” parts we’d like to avoid.

True thriving comes not from how much “badness” we can avoid, but rather from how large a range we can be with and adapt to. When we are physically healthy, our immune systems can process, integrate and filter out a huge range of potential threats. It’s the same with our psyche.

Treating all parts of ourselves with compassion, humor and grace, we witness more parts of others, and we can be with them. It doesn’t mean we always agree and align, but we are able to be present with whatever arises. In this resourced place, we can see toxic patterns or injustice and disconnection and respond wisely – rather than running away or reacting with defense.

In the last few months my ideas about relationships have been stretched in new ways.

One of my oldest friends had health complications that nearly led to her death before a miraculously successful liver transplant happened…

My parents came to live in San Francisco for nearly two months, so we shared day to day life for the first time since I was a child…

And my husband and I have been doing deep therapeutic work, upgrading our understandings and ways of being in partnership, to support both of our fullest expressions.

All of these have been beautiful, and unsettling, opportunities for me to compost old structures and build new frameworks of relating and dancing with the people I love most.

Over the next two or three months in my newsletters, I’ll be writing a series of articles about my ideas of what it means to be in Soul Oriented relationships – expressed through the specific ways we relate to ourselves, people we love, people we find difficulty loving and to the greater patterns of our world.

I will explore ideas about our “needs” being met…. What to do when challenging relationships call for new and updated boundaries…. When, and why, to speak up and when you might stay quiet…. Tools for how to be with a seemingly impossible impasse.

Thank you for staying in relationship with my journey – and sharing yours with me. Our collective will get through these current crises, as we’ve gotten through infinite others. Along the way, I’m grateful for the ways we can support one another to feel more resourced.

Interconnectedly yours through whatever waves come,

Vanessa

*Want to receive regular Soul Oriented inspiration in postal box at home, as well as your inbox? If you subscribe to my Patreon page at $10 a month or higher, you will receive a hand drawn, personalized inspirational postcard in your mailbox at the beginning of each month… along with monthly free downloads of guided meditations or songs and lots of other perks to support a more expansive, resourceful view of life. Sign up and learn more here:
https://www.patreon.com/join/vanessaverlee?

Don’t be Self”ish”

IMG_5820

Hello friends,

I remember sitting in my family’s Aerostar minivan, circa 1987, passionately singing along with Whitney with all my 10 year gusto…

“Because the great-t-test, love of all, is happ-pppening to meeeeeee…. I found the great–t–test love all, inside of meeee..”

Sadly, even at this young age, I was well practiced at condemning my body, doubting my instincts, shaming my desires, suppressing my needs and being hyper focused on my perception of everyone else’s needs. The words of this song felt like an anthem of liberation – permission to throw off the shackles of self-hatred, stretch the confines of the theology of sin, and break free from the prison of relying on external validation I had learned from the culture around me. I could proudly declare that I had (we all had!) the key to the deepest, most satisfying love of all within ourselves.

And not only that, but Ms. Houston believed I (and all the other children) were the future who would usher in and lead this revolution of self love. Something in my awoke with that song, and hasn’t gone back to sleep.

The problem with self-love is that it’s usually only self-“ish” —  most of us define self-care as something done only out of desperation, once we are totally spent after taking care of every other possible person or duty. Or possibly we allow ourselves to be “spoiled” with a treat on special days or reward ourselves after so successfully successfully suppressing our needs.

This paradigm leaves everyone unsatisfied. When we fill our cups only after they’ve been fully emptied and then spend the rest of our time filling everyone else’s or demanding they fill ours, no one’s true thirst is quenched.

When we ignore our own needs for long enough we can become the kind of self-”ish” that gets such a bad rap.  At this point of burn out there’s literally no more energy to give to anyone else and we become isolated and unaware of others needs. Our hearts are too tired to be open.

But here’s the deal – at our cores we were created to serve, support and love one another. We are literally biologically rewarded for helping and connecting with others. So when we are connected to our natural flows, service is effortless… even energizing. Receiving and giving become one act.

When I hang out at the tap of what feels pleasurable and aligned and energizing for ME, I not only stay FILLED UP and TURNED ON, but I also feel TUNED IN… and my overflowing cup bathes everyone around me with more love, light and energy.

When we release the obligation or shoulds – it can feel amazing to offer something that someone else desires. When our cup is full, we don’t even have to try… it happens organically. Instead of becoming self-centered, we find ourselves centered in ourselves and able to in more authentic relationship.

So this month, as we approach Valentine’s day, I invite you to stop being self-”ish” – and commit to being self-“full”– to follow your nudges, indulge your desires and take every single responsibility you have and turn it into the ability to respond to in a way that feels good and aligned for you.

May we each shift burn out by turning up delights… and soften into the trust that tending to our own needs IS tending to the needs of those you love and ultimately the worlds.

Loving you, by loving me,

Vanessa

Roaring 2020s: Listening In & Speaking Up

IMG_8234

Welcome to this new decade friends!

As I’ve been calling up my 2020 vision over this past week, the themes of speaking out, discovering what brings me pleasure and following what I desire, have all shown up. As I’ve done for many years as part of my new years envisioning, I drew one tarot card to offer a possible focus/insight for my coming year. 

Imagine my disappointment when the “hermit” card show up. 

Dismayed, feeling like this monastic, seemingly isolating archetype was hardly supportive of the awake, vocal, turned on woman I feel myself becoming, I almost stuck it back in the deck and started over. After all, I use the cards as a tool of illuminating what I already know, not rigidly or predictively. 

But after the initial reaction passed, it struck me that this card was an invitation to turn down the external speakers and hear my own voice clearer than ever. How can I speak out if I haven’t listened in? 

Right on cue, I woke up this morning, the first full day of this new decade of speaking out, with full on laryngitis. The divine has a sense of humor. 

Instead of carrying on with the plans I had with friends and family, like I may have done back in the 2010s, I took this as an internal message to stop, drop my plans and listen. This is the pattern interruption I’ve been calling in, where I act upon my own rhythms, even if they might disappoint others.

Like most of us, I was taught to distrust my natural rhythms, cravings and desires. I learned that much of what I wanted to do, eat, experience, etc was rooted in my sinful/weak nature and came from my greed, selfishness, gluttony and lust – all characteristics I’d be best to train myself out of. 

But in my understanding of reality, every being at their core is innately loving, open and desires meaningful connection. Despite how off track much of our conditioning has taken us, all of desires bubble up to support life, love and our true nature of interconnectedness.

Anything repressed will eventually get expressed, usually toxically. When, instead, we say yes to these initial impulses of any desire, we can respond to their innate wisdom, rather than react out of compliance or rebellion. 

If we bring these unsavory parts into the light we may see that… 

Our “greed” is here to reconnect us with the abundant nature of the universe… 

Our “selfishness” is here to keep us connected and in full relationship with the unique aspect of nature that we were created to express… 

Our “gluttony” is here to ensure we are amply fueled and nourished… 

Our “lust” is here to remind us that our senses were designed for pleasure and to keep the flow of creation (including, but not limited to, procreation) going.

When I woke up to my voiceless body today, I chose to lean in, follow my body’s cue and choose a full day of intentional silence (Enter hermit, stage left).

Saying yes to my desires and natural rhythms like this consistently leaves me in a more energized, expansive and aligned space, able to give my soul’s gifts to others so much more effortlessly and abundantly. (Exit all of my conditioning to the contrary stage right) 

Instead of deciding what to deny yourself this year, perhaps these first few days of this new decade can be a moment to listen in and hear what desires are speaking up within you. Would love to hear what arises!

Selfishly, greedily, gluttonously, lustfully and soulfully,

Vanessa

 

I Create, Therefore I am

IMG_7268.jpgHello friends,

This month I’ve been feeling so tapped into my creative impulse. Through a fair amount of risk taking, stepping out of my comfort zone, deep physical and emotional clearing and a commitment to speaking up and prioritizing what felt pleasurable and enlivening to me… I feel more connected to the joy of being a creator than I have in years.

Although it’s true that I have written songs, drawn pictures, poured thousands of words onto the page this last month, creativity is not actually about any skill set I have, craft I’ve learned or even the innate talent I possess. Creativity is who I am… who you are… who we all are.

Creativity is the process by which life expresses itself. It is experienced most clearly when we follow what turns us on and brings us alive.  Our very existence came because of the desire and turn on that led into a process of creation. When we are plugged into our soul’s outlet – we feel alive. When we feel alive, it feels good to do what life does… create.

If you are inspired by what you are interacting with, you’ll likely notice an impulse to create something yourself. If you can catch that impulse before your judging mind comes in and tells you why you’re not an artist, chef, writer, etc, you may surprise yourself with what comes out. My sense is this is how our soul gives our gifts to the world… by receiving another’s gifts, feeling inspired, and returning a gift with our unique take.

If the strength of our own inner critic doesn’t divert our impulses, then often our fear of the outer critics will. These strategies are wisely designed to keep us safe. Once upon a time we were likely happily doing our natural creative thing when someone told us to –

Color in the lines…

Mouth the words in choir…

Stop wasting our time…

Pick up our mess…

Keep our voices down…

Whatever way our likely well meaning caregivers squashed us in an attempt to maintain order – we learn to comply. Through our compliance, we survived – both literal, physical survival (when you’re young, it’s vital to follow the rules and ethos of the people who feed and shelter you) but also socially (connection and belonging are basic human needs too.)

After downloading this programming as a child, we take over for the external haters by repeating the script ourselves through our lives – often with dramatic flair added (we can only come up with new ways to judge ourselves because we are creative, by the way… just saying).

Here’s the thing, just because someone else says it or we think it – doesn’t mean it’s true. What is actually “true”  is whatever brings us alive and turns us on. If something brings you joy, energy and juiciness in your body – then it’s resonant with your being and therefore is true. If something disconnects you from your body, creates rigidity and tension, edits or completely stifles your creative impulse  – it’s dissonant with your being, and therefore, for you, untrue.

What’s coming alive in you right now? What wants to be created or recreated through you? Start small… sing a song to yourself in the shower… tell someone a story – experienced or imagined – with as many juicy, descriptive details as you can conjure… make a meal where you are guided fully by what smells, tastes and looks beautiful and enticing to you in that moment.

The most important “end product” of your creation is not what you can put on display for the world – but rather what has come alive within you through the process.

Creatively yours,

Vanessa

 

From A Void To A Voice

soul storage illustrationHello friends,

I’ve always valued authentic and full expression and have done my best to communicate accordingly, at least most of the time. From the time I was young, I held the role in my family and friend groups as a “truth teller,” often enthusiastically taking the hand (or in this case the trunk) of whichever elephant remained unacknowledged in the room. With age and experience, I’ve developed more skill and discernment on how, what and when something is shared…. but still, I usually favor risking too much transparency over the possibility of anything being left in the closet.

Lately however, I’ve been discovering some closet contents I didn’t even know existed. It’s as though my soul is leading me down a hallway to dusty old psyche storage units. Inside I’m discovering a whole range of thoughts and emotions that I’d almost wholly disconnected from. Little waves of annoyance, anger, impatience, frustration, pettiness and coveting have emerged right alongside huge stores of repressed desire, unexpressed joy and liberating permission to be in my fullness.

Our psyche will do all in it’s power to keep our experience consistent with our ideas of ourselves and the world. Since having too many needs did not fit into my conditioned model of relationships, younger versions of myself simply packed up any desires, wants or needs that seemed like too much or in any way selfish into one of these far away storage containers. Since experiencing any thought or emotion considered “negative” was deemed as toxic and ungodly, most of those got packed away too.

Moments of not especially liking someone I loved? 

Waves of sadness without a “justifiable” reason?

Challenges that just felt challenging, without a clear gift or deeper meaning in them? 

Aliveness triggered when I felt attracted to someone other than my partner?

Disappointment that I wasn’t getting what I wanted, and judgment/jealousy toward those who seemed to be?

… All neatly and mostly unconsciously regulated to the shadowed corners of my being.

This social survival strategy has had it’s wisdom of course. It allowed me to fit into the expectations of my family and culture and the “self” I knew myself to be…. not to mention diverting any threat to all my more beloved parts that are hopeful, expansive and trusting. But the strategy, like so many we adopt early, is outdated and the reconnection with these forgotten parts, although a bit scary and unsettling to my sense of self, is also awakening a freedom and authenticity that is far more enlivening.  Not to mention how much better my shoulders, neck and upper body feel. Repression is bad for our backs.

The deeper I go on the path of a Soul Oriented Life, the more I recognize the freedom of simply being with whatever arises, as it is. The frustration, annoyance and anger show me where I need to speak up, rearrange or simply give myself permission to take more space… the unexpressed joy show me where more courage and commitment is being called on.

When I can welcome all the parts of me that didn’t appear to “fit”, my sense of self and container for what’s allowed, expands. Instead of feeling less myself, I become more of myself. Instead of being paralyzed with fear that life as I know it will crumble, I can allow the dismantling as the start of remodeling what is possible.

The thing about all these avoided parts is that they aren’t actually void. They are ruling us behind the scenes, often in toxic or distorted ways. When we welcome them a-void becomes a-voice. And that voice can be heard along with the chorus of all your parts for whatever wisdom it has.

I invite you play with the Soul Oriented Exercise listed below as a way to initiate and support  your own unpacking process… and in this next month, consider the possibility that every single part of you has a voice that can’t serve you nearly as well in a void.

With love,

Vanessa

SOUL ORIENTED EXERCISE

“From A Void To A Voice” 

Our conditioning around what is appropriate and safe runs deep in our system. All of us have inner guardians, doing their best to keep our thoughts, actions and life consistent with these ideas. But after awhile these paths of logic become pathological and keep us from expressing and experiencing the fullness of ourselves. Below is an exercise to start to explore the parts of yourself that have been avoided, in order to gain the wisdom of their voices. The purpose is not to “fix” this part, but to get the deeper wisdom behind it, in order to integrate an express yourself with more clarity and alignment with your truest intentions.

1. Make a list of qualities you see in others that are somehow “out of bounds” to you

They could be qualities that strongly repel or attract you, but namely that you don’t feel like you currently possess, for better or worse. Examples: selfish, arrogant, cruel, irreverent, loud, loose, bold, cunning, permissive, free, self-assured etc…. try to be general and concise… rather than describing the specific behavior, use the word that “sums” up the behavior in a qualitative way

2. Go back through and choose one quality that is most triggering or feels furthest from you in this moment. 

Any quality that carries an emotional charge will serve as fertile soil for this exercise.

3. On a blank piece of paper draw a picture that represents this quality.

It may be representative of how this part would look personified, or just any colors, images, markings that come out when you feel into this part of the human experience. There’s no need for it to be pretty or even obviously representative.

4. Pretend that for a moment that you have fully embodied this quality/persona and write a letter in their voice. 

The letter could include what this part believes… is desiring… feels like they are getting or not getting… deserves or doesn’t deserve…. etc. If you find yourself judging what’s coming out, rather than editing, try to amplify this quality that feels “wrong” – keep going with it until you’ve exhausted all that this part may be wanting to say.

5. Reread the letter and then pause and notice what’s coming up in your body and then place your hands on any place that feels uncomfortable, nauseous, unsettled or otherwise activated.

If nothing is feeling obvious now, place your hands somewhere you’ve noticed tension or discomfort lately. Now take a few breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth into this place and then say out loud
“Sometimes I am ____(fill in the blank with whatever quality you choose)___”
and continue to breathe into this part, notice what’s happening.

6. Explore this part of your body gently, and let this part of you “speak”

Gentle let your hands gently traction up, down, right and left, while you continue to breathe and make the sound of the place. You can’t get it wrong… any sound works… if nothing is coming, just make the sound of the frustration that nothing is coming.

7. Make an out loud acknowledgment to this part

It may be something like “I’m sorry I’ve ignored you” or “I’m listening now” and then take a few more gentle breaths, continuing with any sounds.

8. With your hands still on this part of your body, ask (out loud) “What do you need?” 

Then for at least a few breaths, just listen, noticing if anything arises (could be words, images, or just a sense of what this part of your is really needed to feel heard and integrated.

9. Acknowledge what you experienced, heard, etc. and thank yourself of exploring and playing in this way.

If you sensed an answer to the “what do you need?” write it down somewhere and practice looking for ways to give yourself more of this in the next month.

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