This is Personal: Humanitarian Pilgrimage to the Border

I’m heading to the border. Please read if you’d like to know the details, and how you can help.

These are not ordinary times. 

Many of you already know me.  I am an adventurous spirit with an itch to travel, a license to practice as a counselor and consultant with quite a bit of experience working with people who are struggling from one kind of trauma or another. 

I am currently on a mission of the heart.  Though I am from the Midwest USA I live in Guadalajara among kindhearted and welcoming Mexicans.  Every time I tune in to the news and world events I am compelled to do something out of the ordinary.  So, in October I’m taking a bus from Hermosillo MX to Tucson, where I will do some talks on trauma and embodiment. Along the way, I hope to learn more about the people and the overall situation at the border, and the folks who are providing care to refugees.  

In my experience, those who serve others are often less dedicated to making sure their own needs are well met.  And since the bulk of the work I do now is with people in helping professions (clinicians, administrators, healers of various sorts), I plan to team up with an organization or two at the border where I can do some volunteer work with clinicians and/or people in service on the front lines who could be experiencing secondary trauma and/or in need of some personal support.  So far I am looking at Kino Border Initiative and No More Deaths.

For me, these past few years have been about getting myself positioned to contribute more to issues I am passionate about.  This trip to AZ is just now taking shape.  I am in communication with Kino Border Initiative with the intention of seeing how it would feel to team up with them as a longer-term partner.  Partnering with an organization like this would require me to travel, but I can also follow up via video conferencing if I start with a client who could benefit from subsequent sessions.

With the help of Kino Border Initiative, I hope to offer my services free of charge to people who have been experiencing symptoms of PTSD, shock or burnout.  I have the tools, and I am equipped to just jump in and work.  Gratefully I find that with my tools, interacting with people who have experienced outrageous circumstances does not tend to impact me in ways that are overly stressful or overwhelming.

In this initial visit to Tucson, I will be taking as many opportunities as I can to speak to small groups about trauma. I believe that I can do these talks and offer my trauma therapy services on a volunteer basis if I can also sell some of my books, have a number of paid clients and paid gigs and possibly a series of hosts to count on and/or some orientation and/or rides from place to place to keep my expenses down.  So far, I have a few dear friends to see, some former clients and some professional contacts in the Tucson area who are helping me get the word out so that I can fund my trip. 

I am not averse to working hard, and I am not fussy about accommodations.  I know there is a lot of work to do, and I am ready to step up.  If I get the necessary support, I could see myself making the Tucson area a place I come on a regular basis.  As often as possible, while also taking care that I don’t over-commit or burn myself out.

Below I include the latest version of my itinerary.  It will change as the days go by and things firm up.

  • Oct 5 – Leave Guadalajara for Hermosillo
  • Oct 6-8 – Visit Friend/Publisher Mariana Ayon at Ban Pang Editorial
  • Oct 6 – Book Release Event at El Centro Zalzicán for Estar En Mi Cuerpo
  • Oct 8-9 – Leave Hermosillo via bus, possibly stopping in Nogales
  • Volunteering with Service Providers and possibly Refugees for one day, pending approval from KBI.
  • Oct 9/10 – Arrive in Tucson
  • Visit Friends
  • October 13, Sol Center Yoga Studio – Speaking on attachment and early relational trauma.
  • Facilitate Group Discussions & Workshops – Trauma Awareness/Self Care
  • Individual Sessions with Clients
  • Oct 17 – Leave for Temecula CA, where I will meet with Bengali family and talk some more about trauma.
  • Oct 19 – Return to Guadalajara

I can easily craft talks about trauma in very basic terms, and the importance of trauma-informed care.  I also can teach techniques for helping people who have just experienced a traumatic event to calm their nervous system down so they can think and attend to next steps. This can be learned by anybody for self use or helping others.

Summing it up, I am interested in providing appropriate, high-quality therapies, knowledge and techniques to people who might not otherwise get it.  For this initial trip, I hope to work for a day (volunteer with 7-8 individuals or families).  For future trips, longer (up to 3 days).  The kind of therapy I do is research-based, of the highest quality available for trauma.  A lot can be done in a session or two, and even more if follow-up sessions are arranged via video.  I will see English speaking service providers who are suffering physical symptoms that are likely due to secondary trauma and stress, or helpers who have diagnoses of PTSD/Trauma.  I would also be open to seeing non English speakers if I can have appropriate interpretive support.  Adequate support would necessarily be someone with a mental health background/pastoral experience.

If you have read this far, thank you.  If you feel so moved, please send me some words of encouragement, pass the word to people you know in Tucson and others who are concerned about the humanitarian crisis at the border.  I trust I will find just the right setting in which to plug in, but your well wishes and support mean a lot to me.  The border is calling me, and there are important people there I need to meet.

I will be providing as much pro bono work as I can.  But there may also be people who would like to schedule paid sessions with me.  That income will help subsidize my volunteer work, so if you know of anyone who might be interested, please pass the word.  You don’t even have to be local.  I offer EMDR Therapy via Internet, and I can receive payments via PayPal!  Or if you feel like you would like to make a monetary contribution, it could help me expand my reach and the amount of trauma work I am able to do.  I promise I would spend it wisely, always with the intention of maximizing my positive impact in the region and making a difference.  My expenses will include the following:

  • Bus fare and Air fare.
  • Meals while I’m on the road.
  • Missed work while I am traveling.
  • Car Rental (I hear that Truro is an excellent and cost-effective option).
  • Incidentals – small gifts and compensation for hosts, etc.

Toni Rahman is a trauma-informed practitioner, certified in EMDR, and an EMDRIA Approved Consultant, who can provide consultation toward EMDR certification.  She is also trained in Advanced CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release and Hypnosis.

Affirmations to Address Blocks to Sweetness and Abundance

And the kicker, which is a combination of my conditioning and what my body instinctively knows: This really is a matter of life or death. I die either way. If I’m not attuned to or if I demand what I want/need. The ultimate double bind.

(As infants) “our most intimate sense of self is created in our minute-to-minute exchanges with our caregivers.”
“Early attachment patterns create the inner maps that chart our relationships throughout life, not only in terms of what we expect from others, but also in terms of how much comfort and pleasure we can experience in their presence.”

Bessel van der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score

I get to reach out for what I want.
I am more of who I came here to be when I reach for what I want.
I get connection that feels sweet to me.
I get to have friends who give of themselves, who have skills, who do their emotional work.
Doing without is not a virtue.
Doing without is a way of shutting down and blocking the flow of good.
Identifying with doing without is another form of anger, resentment and unfelt pain.
God and I are on the same team.
God tells me what I want and need by giving me emotional responses, which I can attune to, and learn from.
I can be involved in this process.
It isn’t some mysterious process that happens behind the scenes.
If I stay in denial about my emotions and needs, I am telling myself that I am not worthy of my own care and attention.
There is no reward for applying austerity measures in response to scarcity.
I am totally worthy of the sweet stuff.
Doing without is not what gets me what I should have had in the first place.
Doing without is not what gets me what is already available and free for the taking: the really sweet stuff of life.
The really sweet stuff of life is free.
I am the one who gets to say what I like and what is sweet to me, in each moment.
There is no should when it comes to my desires.
I am completely worthy of pursuing my heart’s desires.
Spirit is right behind me, encouraging me to reach for and satisfy exactly that.
My heart’s desires are gifts, and I can attune to them, clarify them, and explore them.
I am encouraged to act on my desires.
I can be deeply satisfied even when I am reaching for other things I don’t yet have.
Me being deeply satisfied hurts nobody!
I can get what I want and need.
I release the pain, frustration, anger, resentment, and terror of not being well-attuned to in infancy and childhood.
I can let that go now.

These affirmations sprung out of my head after working with a client who shares my blocks around moving from scarcity to abundance.

The fear and pain and resentment that is trapped in a human body from infancy and childhood can be expressed in words.  Once the words are stated, a part of oneself can feel seen, heard and validated.  Once the feelings are acknowledged, they can actually be released.

Here are the emotions (not truths) expressed in words:

• If I do without (the sweet stuff – these profoundly necessary things: connection, being attuned to well, expression of my desires) I will be rewarded.
• The real reward comes if I am self-disciplined and accept doing without (without complaining or being upset).
• I will be rewarded with what I “really” need (what God thinks I need).
• If I accept the lie and tell myself I’m not worthy – for some reason – of the sweet stuff in life, then I will subconsciously believe that doing without what I really want will get me what I should have; that I will be rewarded and that I will then be worthy.
• Sacrificing gets me the good stuff, that I may or may not like or understand, but God knows better than me, so I’ll trust and accept that.
• If I accept the other lie that what I really want is not a trustworthy or reliable gauge of what I should have, I’ll eventually get what I should have.
• I can’t trust my desires, for sure. That will bring me unhappiness.
• Acknowledging my desires and outwardly reaching for what I want is selfish and bad and will only result in unhappiness.
• I will be punished if I act on my desires.
• There will be serious negative consequences if my wants and needs are deeply satisfied. It will probably really hurt someone I love.
• It is impossible for my wants and needs to be satisfied, so it’s an infernal waste of time to pursue that or focus on them.
• This really is a matter of life or death. I die either way.
• If I’m not attuned to or if I ask directly for what I want/need.

Ripple Effect in My Body

I feel like I have been following a trail of breadcrumbs to the diagnosis of TMD or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, which I received with a huge sense of relief in November.  I followed one un-ignorable breadcrumb to another: the inability to chew because of pain and sensitivity, months and even years after getting dental work on several molars; developing what seemed like tendonitis in my right arm; chronic, never abating pain in the neck; one chronically constricted muscle along the right margin of my spine; the inability to sit for very long before experiencing back pain; difficulty standing without slumping.  My massage therapist and others had mentioned mouth guards, and how well they worked for a lot of people.  My chiropractor noticed that the pattern of lock-up I experience seemed to originate somewhere around my right neck/shoulder.  My CranioSacral therapist said that there was an irritated nerve in my molar, but that the tooth was healthy enough.  An iridologist in Missouri said that there was something significant going on in my jaw/shoulder area.  I clearly had a problem.  Now the breadcrumbs had finally led me to a solution.

Since I’ve been seeing a specialist recommended by my dentist, and have been wearing a mouth guard, I have been slowly recognizing that for many years I had been unconsciously clenching – not just in my jaw, and jutting it forward, but other places in my body as well.  Little by little I bring consciousness to places in my body where I had been unknowingly tightening my muscles.  And I am learning, slowly, how to direct my attention toward those places with love and care.  And even more slowly, I am learning what it feels like when I am truly relaxed.  As I do, the pain is going away as if by magic. 

I have been instructed to wear my mouth guard night and day.  Wearing it during the night was helping, but not enough.  Dr. Citlali, my specialist, explained that my jaw is so habituated to being in a forward position, that I will need some time to train it to be where it is supposed to be.  After having the guard and using it night and day (when I’m not eating), when I take it out, I notice that my teeth come together differently.  Now it feels a little odd because it will take a while for me to get used to having it in the right place after having it forward all these years (maybe +50?).

This makes me think about how that misalignment must have been impacting my teeth.  When I was always chewing using my molars in a way that they were not designed to be used, with the jaw jutted forward, they just didn’t line up right, which caused undue wear and tear on them.  They served me as best they could under the circumstances, but with time, they wore down, chipped and cracked.  Now I understand why I have always needed so much dental work on my molars.  Before this treatment is said and done, I’m going to need to raise the height of the molars themselves because form follows function; my teeth have changed to accommodate my jaw movement patterns over time.  As a result of my jaw being relaxed and in the right place, many muscles (that I had no idea I was clenching) begin to relax.  This one little thing has had an impact throughout my entire body. 

The good news is that in response to the treatment (ongoing work with Dr. Citlali via the mouth guard) my body is relaxing and settling into its new normal.  I am noticing a ripple effect.  My arm (I couldn’t use that arm without pain) is back to normal.  My back feels somewhat improved, but it’s all the way back there and I still can’t really tell for sure.  The brittle feeling I was having in my feet and ankles is gone, and I sense my feet as newly supple and responsive to the demands I put on them.

With ongoing care scheduled (I have an appointment with the kinesiologist and two massages with my favorite massage therapist in the next couple weeks), I hope to bring even more awareness to those places so that my new normal will be relaxed, stronger and even more resilient than before. 

With this kind of care, education and support, I can learn to notice when I am clenching or drawing in, and anytime I tune in, I will more easily and automatically be able to return to a healthy, relaxed state. 

Through my healing process, I am bringing loving, conscious attention to obviously affected places, and my body in general, and am definitely feeling results.  Over the years, my legs did not really seem to be part of me, and it felt precarious to move through life in a fluid and grounded way.  By comparison, I can look back at times when it felt as though I was walking on tree stumps.  What I experience now is so much more fluid and integrated.  Like my right leg – my shins – my heels.  They are now parts of me.  I walk with more connectedness/awareness, more fully inhabiting my feet and lower legs. 

So, the journey continues.  I am super excited about this, and I am interested to see what happens next!

Life in the Fast Lane

The past several weeks, since I left Mexico in June, have been rather intense but 100% blessed and good.  Maybe I should just say that change is in the air, and I am going full steam in that direction.  I have been in Kalispell Montana, re-taking EMDR 1&2.  I stayed 6 days with a family who put me up in their pop-up camper, out back, took me in as family, shuttled me to and from class, and made sure I got a chance to visit Glacier National Forest and connect with their community in Kalispell.  Prior to completing this course, post re-training was a big blank, because I knew not what training would be like, or how these people would feel to me, or what the next steps would be.  I have a better idea of that now, and all lights seem to be green for me as I move forward.  As I have time to attend to it, I plan to complete my consultant status, which will involve building more of a professional relationship with the trainer, Roy Kiessling, and then communicating with him that I am interested in becoming a trainer (which I already have, but he’s a very busy guy and the time has to be right, and there are still things I need to do before I’m ready).  I absolutely love his approach, his style, and the content and organization of his training.  It is as different as night and day when compared to Francine Shapiro’s approach, and I heard so many stories from the other trainers about how it had also been difficult for them to feel supported and/or taken in by the larger, overarching EMDR organization given the relative rigidity and sterile feel of Shapiro’s style.

Sooooo, I will finish out my visit in Missouri, which will include my daughter’s and granddaughter’s birthday, watching my daughter and her partner as they turn their school bus into a tiny home that they will live in this winter, and as they move equipment and raw materials into some kind of a studio space in downtown Columbia; walk through my other daughter’s house since she has already left for Cyprus, and is gallivanting around in Portugal and will soon be in Morocco and Rome before finding a place to live in Cyprus!  I might squeeze some sessions in there, and some quality visits with family and people I consider friends.  And then back to Mexico, where I am committed to doing at least a month of intensive Spanish lessons.

Although the printing of my book seems to be delayed, I’m not at all worried about it.  There has just been so much movement in my life, all of which has been grace-filled and obviously in flow, that I know this timing is in divine order.

I envision my new life in which I am involved as a trainer in regular (maybe quarterly) trainings where I show up and teach and get paid by a well-run organization that takes care of the other myriad details.  I envision myself having consultees on a regular basis, and becoming a better and even more effective EMDR therapist.  I see myself feeling more and more comfortable in front of groups, knowing that I will have exactly the right words and experience, and that my clients and students will be enriched by this amazing modality, and grateful and empowered.

Whew.  I gotta be honest, I will not be bored if I just have a day to sleep in, to read, and not have a single appointment.  There are tons of details packed into this next three weeks, and I pledge to take it one day at a time.  Grateful for the richness of life.

I received some really great EMDR therapy during training, from a young man who was attending as a student in our 5-day training.  It was the most profound therapy I’ve ever had, and I’m still processing.

So at the moment I’m heading back to Columbia MO, where I will be for the next three weeks or so.  My sister Tami Brunk, who was bit in the ear by a brown recluse spider is okay, but it’s been a difficult journey.  She has had to postpone her travels to the Yucatan, where she is getting ready to launch a new phase of her life.  My other sister, Tracy Barnett, will be headed back to Mexico about the same time I am.  She’s babysitting my granddaughter while my daughter is packing all her stuff and getting out of her apartment before her lease is up in the next couple days.  My daughter and granddaughter will be spending 10 days in Portland with my other sister, Trina Brunk.

Tracy, my mom and I went to visit my brother, and we stayed at his home from Thursday through Sunday morning right before I left for Montana.  It was a priceless though intense several days, and we’re all glad, of course, to have had that opportunity to connect with him and his family.  He’s great, as he tells it.  His family is struggling.  And there is a lot of grace and love in that home as he navigates these last days/weeks/months/years? of his life, living it all to the fullest with a Stage 4 Cancer Diagnosis (as of 3 years ago).  We played some pinochle, we told some stories.  Mom asked him for his advice on some things she needs to handle on the farm that my dad would have helped her with if he were still around.  My step-nephew forged a blade out of a huge nail, and my brother was working on a vest of chain mail he was crafting with his step-son.  Our being there, obviously, kept their family from having their normal intimate moments, and taxed my sister-in-law, and a big part of this visit was her coming to us for support in telling the rest of the family that overnights were not going to be possible anymore.  Since we have such an enormous family, and lots of little ones, they have decided to protect their remaining days together “as if they were running a hospital,” as their pastor advised.  The rest of the family will have to observe visiting hours and restrict their visits to day trips, and/or find accommodations nearby.  The time they have left is truly precious, and should not be stressed by the work involved in hosting guests.  We are all so grateful for her willingness to approach this in her own way, and to give us this opportunity to see Scott as he faces this stage of his life.

So it has been truly intense, with the son of my youngest sister having a coming of age ceremony and my youngest daughter having a going-away camping Kaboodle at my mother’s farm, a niece adjusting to life with a newly adopted infant and navigating all those legal processes, etc, etc, etc.

I am still a bit dizzy from all that.  But absolutely grateful.  This is what having a close-knit big family looks like. ?  It can be exhausting at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am wishing you a fun and fulfilling rest of your summer.

Te amo mucho,

Toni

Breaking Free

I was at Unity Center in Portland on New Year’s Eve – The last day of 2017.  These two weeks I have been visiting my sister Trina and her family has been such a blessing, and stepping into the Unity Center here I immediately felt the warmth, beauty, inspiration, and safety that I’ve always felt at the Unity Center back in Columbia Missouri.  I jotted down some notes that the speaker was sharing, and I’ll record them here, for you to see if you’re interested…and for my own future reference.

Moving into this new year, I am being asked to expand.  Do I believe that real change is possible?  This year is about breaking free of the prison of my old programming, my beliefs, my limitations.  I am being supported in living as if the chains that have held me are breaking and falling away.
I am so much larger than my doubts and fears.
There is so much more for me to do.
I am at the very brink of finding a larger picture of myself and my world.
What would I like to feel in 2018?
Here I am.  Move through me, Spirit.

Since that service on Sunday, I have been writing short paragraphs in my journal that begin like this:  I am thinking about how it will feel when/to…..

And each paragraph gives a sweet, detailed snapshot into an aspect of my new life.  Spend some time doing this.  Take time to savor and review and revise your writings for the next week or so, noticing how it feels when you imagine your new, desired life.

Give it a try!  Take a chance; get clear on what you want more of and ask for it!

I am thinking about how it will feel when/to…..

 

Too Much On Your To-Do List?

You work your tail off to get things done.  You find ways to do things efficiently (you have actually gotten really good at this) and you still have to put the sweat, blood, tears and hours in, and often it takes longer than you planned.  You end up feeling lousy because it “takes you so long to do things,” thinking that your aunt or your sister-in-law could have done it in half the time – right?  If you’re not criticizing yourself for not doing enough, then you disparage yourself for taking on too much – though you can’t imagine what you could possibly leave undone.  Especially during certain times of the year, or even certain years, or in certain phases there is just so much to do it can feel truly overwhelming.  Holiday time and extra travel can certainly leave me feeling this way.  Here is a secret trick I have learned that ALWAYS helps:

  1. Remind yourself that this phase is temporary.  Though it’s hard to see the end of it, there are certain things you can do that will help in the short run.
  2. Make a list of AAAAALLLLLL the things that have to be done right now.
  3. Re-write the list so that it is actually 2 lists:

A.  The things I can and will do today (or tomorrow)

B.  The rest

  1. Ask your spiritual helpers, your higher self and the Universe to help you with everything on the B list while you are working as hard as you can on the A list (some call this God).  They can, will, and are already, but you have to take these items off the A list and ask your helpers for this to work really well.
  2. Focus your attention on what you have decided that you can do today.
  3. Each day, appreciate yourself for the items that you were able to get off the A list, reassess what you will commit to completing during the next day or two (or hour or two), and in the process notice how some of the things on the B list are taking care of themselves or progressing in some way that you did not have to be involved in.
  4. Thank yourself for remembering that getting things done is actually of secondary importance.  Being a decent person and staying connected to yourself and your loved ones is of primary importance – always.
  5. Notice and appreciate the help you are receiving from the Universe and from others and marvel at the magic you can do when you let go and focus only on what you can control.
  6. Go easy on yourself. It never helps to chastise yourself for not having the help you need.
  7. There are things on that list that only you can and should do. There are other things on the list that will take care of themselves on their own.  Over time you may see things that you’d love to ask others to help you with. But when you solicit the help of others remember that they may also be feeling the stress of their own responsibilities, regardless of how it appears.
  8. Ask your helpers to send you someone who would benefit from helping you (truly helping, truly capable, bringing positivity into your life).
  9. Putting items in your B list is trusting that you can be truly and abundantly supported, and letting go of rigid ideas about how things will turn out. If you can loosen your grip on them, you may be surprised at how they turn out even better than you expected!

Toni Rahman Embodied – Mid-MO Tour 2017

After being south of the border for 4 years, Toni will be coming to Mid-MO in October to share two things:

1) Being In My Body: What You Might Not Have Known About Trauma, Dissociation & The Brain

  • Coffee & Conversation at Heart Body & Soul, followed by Book Signing on October 7, 10:30 am
  • Daniel Boone Regional Library – Local Author Fair on October 28, 10:00 am-2:00 pm

2) Pop-Up Clinics – a new way of networking and connecting with yourself and the abundance around you.  Read an article about Pop-Up Clinics in Ajijic Mexico here.

You can hear an interview with Toni on the Trauma Therapist Podcast here.

Abundance Affirmations – Take Two

RECALIBRATING…RECALIBRATING…RECALIBRATING…RECALIBRATING
(Making adjustments based on what I desire moving forward)

I choose to address my compulsions directly, and I open to guidance about how this is gracefully done.
It is safe to have plenty of time. I can have plenty of time and not get derailed in anything even close to The Devil’s Workshop. (Unless, of course, the devil is a fine playmate.)
True abundance does not always mean a full calendar, or having several things lined up to do.
My compulsions have served to keep me disconnected from my feelings. I now choose to shift my relationship with my feelings so that my natural tendency is to notice and feel them directly.
I have plenty of money and plenty of time simultaneously.
I do not have to have access to endless abundance to have simplicity and peace, though it sure seems like it could help, sometimes.
I am well supported in managing abundance so that it does not detract from the quality of my life.
I can be trusted with free, unstructured time. I am allowed to play and relax. Playing and relaxing help me reach my goals, effortlessly.
I step up and do what is needed to make wise decisions that help me feel better about my future. I own my power. I am in charge of my life.
My values and integrity stay intact as I become a conduit of great financial flow.
I release any connection between busy-ness and righteousness. That is utter nonsense.
As a fully resourced person I make a bigger impact in the world.

I welcome the abundance that is already mine, and I am so grateful!
Thank you! And so it is!

Photo borrowed from Laughing Frog Gardens.  Check it out here.

Self-Imposed Monkhood

I have in the past year been thinking about money – fiscal flow.  It was last year about this time that the dust was beginning to settle, and I realized that the time had come to shift from spending more money than I was bringing in.  Thousands of dollars of credit card debt loomed – the hard-earned badge of taking chances, and the ball and chain that symbolized my vulnerability for stepping up and helping when I am not grounded myself (No regrets.  Just noticing).

My relationship with credit is one of gratitude and respect, having been the recipient of student loans and commercial credit that allowed me to get an education and the credentials needed to support myself in an honorable and dignified way, but my latest plunge into debt is the shadow side of a larger transition, and it brings into stark relief many of my previously unconscious beliefs and attitudes about abundance and money, no doubt passed down to me from my ancestors, and maybe the reverberating echoes of our shocked and traumatized poor and middle class brothers and sisters who move through life more like the living dead than their great, empowered selves.

Since I made that recent, important shift, I have been thinking about how what I’m going through might be similar to the withdrawal symptoms of a heroin addict, or an alcoholic.  But I try not to get too carried away.  What I have realized is that for me, pulling out of our revered middle-class rituals that have served as the “guarantor” of safety and stability, I have stepped into the unknown.  The result has been a self-imposed experience of low financial flow.  AND having a temporary period of self-imposed “monkhood” has helped me get more up close and personal with some of the baggage I have carried with me about money, wealth and abundance.  I’ll share with you here what I’m taking away as I move forward.  This is going to be an excellent year!

Self-imposed monkhood has served me in managing my compulsions:

  • To buying food in excess of what I need.
  • To buying to distract myself from feeling.
  • To buying things for others to get approval/acceptance.
  • To supporting the illusion that I’m responsible or invulnerable.
  • To keeping me rigidly stuck in my old roles of appearing “more capable.”
  • To taking care of the needs of others to my own detriment.

Not having money has forced me to slow down.  It has served me in helping to keep my life a bit simpler.

  • Fewer distractions.
  • More time with myself, my emotional life and my creative process.

Not having money has “served” me in helping me to feel more righteous.

RECALIBRATING…RECALIBRATING…RECALIBRATING…RECALIBRATING

(Making adjustments based on what I desire moving forward)

I choose to address my compulsions directly, and I open to guidance about how this is gracefully done.
It is safe to have plenty of money.  I can have plenty of money and stay connected to my needs, my personal limits, my essence, my values and my purpose.
I am learning that true abundance does not always mean lots of food in the refrigerator, or cooking in advance so I have plenty of leftovers.
My compulsions have served to keep me disconnected from my feelings.  I now choose to shift my relationship with my feelings and feel my emotions directly.
I can have simplicity in my life and abundant resources and income all at the same time.
I do not have to sacrifice financial abundance to have access to simplicity and peace.
I am well supported in managing abundance so that it does not detract from the quality of my life.
I can be trusted with material and financial abundance.
I will step up and do what is needed to make wise decisions that help me feel better about my financial future.
My values and integrity will stay intact as I become a conduit of great financial flow.
I release any connection between poverty and righteousness.  That is utter nonsense.
As a fully resourced person I can and will make a bigger impact in the world.
I welcome the abundance that is already mine, and I am so grateful!

Thank you!  And so it is!

People Are Not For Comparing

I am eating ice cream off a stick, tasting the sweetness and feeling the coldness with only half of my mouth.  I put my attention on tasting with the “awake” side with double focus.  The chocolate shell is melting quickly, but I have a plate to catch it when it falls, here at my table in a small ice cream shop in Santa Tere, Guadalajara, where I can watch people walking by on the sidewalk.  The air is hot and dry.  I recall how my mouth dried so quickly when I was sitting in the dentist’s chair, under her bright light, less than an hour ago.

I am thinking about so many things.  About comparing; the energy of comparing.  What happens when I am afraid?  I analyze and judge.  For me, it’s automatic: When I am afraid, I see people in terms of their threat to me.  What I’ve recently realized is that I’ve found “safety” in being “better” in some way.  Growing up, us children divided ourselves into two groups: “the good ones,” and “the bad ones.”  At least that’s how I made sense of the world in my childhood.  Mind you, it wasn’t that I was “good” but that I was in that group because nobody knew how bad I was.  Just me.  And often staying out of harm’s way meant maintaining or nurturing this divide.  Now that I think of it, I am definitely responsible for perpetuating this idea among my siblings.

Problem is, the “safety” I achieved from this strategy wasn’t safe at all.  It might have protected me from disapproval, physical blows and contempt that my sisters received when they expressed dissent, but in terms of relating with people, it put me at a very unfortunate and decades-long disadvantage.  My already stressed-out body responded to this constant inner chatter (analyzing and comparing myself to others) by bracing, warding off confrontation, and maintaining a steady flow of stress hormones.  Judging and dividing my siblings left me with a sense of uneasiness in groups, an inability to let my guard down with people who were different from me, to feel close or to take in the goodness that other human beings have to offer, through their very essence.

Prettier, thinner, more deserving, etc.  In my adult life it has remained mostly unconscious, but it has never left me, particularly in social situations where I do not feel I have enough control.  It has been very, very present: “I am safe if I am on the right side of this divide – you over there; me over here.”  That’s how my attention was oriented.

As I gain tools, and a general understanding that judging and comparing are actually things that signal that I’m experiencing vulnerable emotions (feelings I had learned to automatically disconnect from), I’m vigorously exploring healthier alternatives.

This habit of comparing has affected all my relationships.  I’ve found safety in partners who are “good enough” to make me look good but not quite as “right” as me.  I found comfort in relationships where my opinions were the ones that “counted” (in my mind, for one reason or another).  That required – you guessed it – me feeling somehow “one up.”  I wasn’t at all confident in my ability to advocate for myself or negotiate.  And I had no concept of what it might be like to coexist peaceably alongside someone with whom I disagreed (who must be wrong, of course).

Moving through life like this did nothing but perpetuate my anxiety and fear about my place in the world.  Judging and comparing others always does this funny boomerang thing; fear of being judged and coming up short is always the result.

I did not know that I was chronically afraid, that I felt threatened by the “betterness” of other people, much less how to turn that around.

My lifestyle now offers me a time warp through which, rather than living afraid, I now Iive more consciously and at peace.  And my body, as a result, is learning to relax as my senses come back online.  I follow what gives me pleasure, choose what I desire, filled with gratitude for all that I have.  Since I live with a nervous system that is no longer on high alert, I am more aware of what there is to appreciate in this sacred moment, and in the other beings around me.

There’s a profound difference between seeing others through a lens of guardedness and anxiety and removing that lens and just allowing pure sensory information to enter, no longer needing to be “one up” somehow.  But this distinction is – more than you might imagine – a product of the nervous system.  What has happened to me in the past four years was a subtle but life-changing shift.  It has affirmed in me a deep knowing that I don’t need to pretend to be anything I’m not.  That I am safe, as perfectly imperfect as I am.  That all is well.  That regardless of what happens, I will be okay.  None of this was possible when I was constantly analyzing my safety based on how I measured up to those around me.  That kept my body tense and poised for battle.

In my new life, there is time to do my emotional work.  It is safe to feel what I feel and know what I know.  Though I am alone, I know that I am safe and have adequate support.  Alone, what I enjoy and what I want matters immensely.  I am curious about what amuses and entertains me, and it certainly varies from day to day.  And my interactions with others is based more on what I like and what leaves me feeling affirmed and inspired.

I’m thinking about the other evening that I spent with my sister, Tracy.  It was a very strange visit.  I’d had a long day.  I was returning from the lake, where I pack in a lot of socializing and play.  Back in Guadalajara with Tracy, I noticed my faculties failing me.  I literally felt “retarded,” kind of stunned, not at all able to express myself or even find simple words that I needed.  Her being four years older, there are a lot of things about Tracy that can trigger me.  But this time, while it is true that I was triggered and my body was not acting right, I did not go into an emotional flashback like I have during longer visits with her.

I had been looking forward to seeing her before she left on her trip to Texas.  Throughout our visit I was trying to understand what was happening, holding off on any self-judgment or despair about how stupid I was in comparison to her.  I was able to just notice the sluggishness of my mind.  I didn’t blame Tracy for directing her attention outward and interacting with others in her fluent Spanish from time to time as the evening wore on or for moving at a vibration that was too high/fast for me.  She was excited about her upcoming trip and her travels are always interesting to me.  Besides, it was a short enough visit, and Tracy is super kind, so I didn’t feel judged or even embarrassed, really.

As usual, my relationship with Tracy gives me so much to chew on.  Spending time with her always provides me with information that I can use to grow.  I “got through” the visit continuing to hope that I could rebound and be my fully-functioning before it was over, but I didn’t.  My brain didn’t come back online until after I left.  I did leave fully connected to my sense of humor, my curiosity, and a knowing that I would eventually recover, and that Tracy loved me unconditionally.

Among the triggers that tripped that night were:  Being the little sister.  In our family, Tracy has always been the one who reaches out for what she wants.  That hasn’t come so naturally for me.  Tracy is in full swing with her vibrant, exciting career, a career that she declared so many years ago when she went to school for journalism in her early twenties.  Tracy is many years ahead of me in terms of language acquisition (Español), so our visit threw me back to being two (when she was six) and she got real good at telling everyone what I meant, thought and wanted.  Or so I hear.  Tracy’s home here in Mexico has taken shape rapidly; a reflection of the amount of time she has lived in Mexico and the many harrowing and costly trips she has made across the border with trucks, cars and caravans.  She actually has furniture.

With my sense of humor intact, I could recognize, that evening, that there really was no competition involved here (and there never was), no one up or one down.  I could also recognize that I was not functioning at my best, and that it wasn’t her fault.  Some days I am likely to return, momentarily, to my habitual way of comparing and judging.  I apologize in advance.  But when I do, I more quickly remember that it is no more than a red flag to alert me to my own vulnerable feelings.

And as I do my emotional work, my body relaxes.  Intrinsic to this growth journey I’m on is taking responsibility for who I am, getting clearer about what’s important to me, and through staying connected with my entire system, returning again and again to conscious awareness of not just what is okay with me and what isn’t, but what I like, what I need and what I don’t.  The effect this has had on my nervous system is enormous, and that evening with Tracy gives me evidence of this.

When I am physically relaxed, novelty is the spice of life, and not a threat.  In this state of receptiveness I more readily greet the unknown with playfulness, laughter, and delight.  I don’t have to be perfect to be good enough.  Recovering from developmental trauma involves relaxing the body so that the world can be experienced as the rich and delicious place that it is.  Each of us brings our own gifts, our own essence to share in the world.  We are surrounded by inspiring, talented, brilliant and interesting people.  Not one of us more or less than the other.  Just different.  People are not for comparing.