“You are joy. You’re our hope. You are gen-tle-ness.” Then I heard the Poor Clares sing, “You are safe-ty” and teared up. I noticed the impact the word “safety” had on my body and remembered a similar sensation I’d had the day before when I heard someone speak of love as safety.
A day or so later, I was on my laptop looking for a creation image to go with last week’s blog post. Nothing fit. I paused, and a thought came: Search with the words “Let there be light.” I did and found a picture of a flower, delicate with morning dew, facing the sunlight. It spoke to me of unselfconscious beauty and receptivity.
At another moment, the question, “Do you feel safe?” came to me. I opened to it as gently as the pink flower opened to the sun and saw myself on the ground with my legs drawn up trying to protect myself while being kicked. It lasted no more than a second. Another image came of a dried, curled up leaf on the ground being angrily crushed underfoot. My heart pounded and thoughts came. It’s not safe to be vulnerable. If you say what you think–that you’re loved– you’ll be ridiculed and crushed.
That evening, I watched a documentary on trauma and how trauma is buried in our bodies and forms beliefs in our subconscious. Therapies that integrate the body in healing, such as Focusing, yoga, and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or tapping), help the body release the pain around the traumatic memories and reveal unconscious beliefs. Expert after expert had strong words to say about suppressing or hiding our trauma. They all said we have to let it out.
So the next morning in prayer, I opened to the thoughts and images that had come to me and the hurts that had hardened into beliefs.
With the fingers of my left hand gently tapping on the outer edge of my right, I said softly, “Even though a part of me believes that if I open up and let people see who I am I will be kicked, I love and accept myself as I am.” I thought of the person I’ve been trying to forgive who caused my dismissal.
I continued tapping. “Even though a part of me fears that if I believe it when someone tells me that they love me, I will be ridiculed, I love and accept myself as I am.” I felt the beginning of tears as I pictured the beautiful, brave flower opening to Love.
“Even though a part of me feels like a leaf that will be crushed if I say I’m good or loved, I love and accept myelf as I am.”
I tapped specific points on my head, face, and chest while naming the images and thoughts that evoke fear in me: “This flower that is open and vulnerable, this leaf that can be crushed, this thought: who would ever love you?” All the while, I was tearful and calm but acutely attentive.
Then I tapped with some recent loving experiences: Deb’s enjoyment of my writing, Jeff’s smile on Zoom, Brent’s words in an email, a directee’s gratitude for a spiritual direction session, Fred’s hug, the affection of my sister, my kids, and grandkids. As I named and recalled in my mind’s eye each experience, I felt panic rise up in my chest and began to weep. I took deep breaths to enable myself to keep tapping and remain receptive to the messages of love.
The little girl inside me was panicking while the mother in me continued to soothe her. My breathing and gentle tapping reassured her. “It’s okay. You’re safe here. You can believe you are loved. No one’s going to hurt you.”
A half-hour later, I was on a Zoom call with my friend and Living from the Heart co-facilitator, Audrey. I wanted to tell her what happened, but we had a ton of work to do and limited time. However, one thing led to another, and I ended up telling her anyway.
We were both in tears. It was good, but I was nervous. I wasn’t able to read the look on Audrey’s face when she was listening to me. I took a brave step. “Can I ask you what was going on for you when I was sharing that? Were you wishing I would just hurry up and move on?”
Audrey looked me right in the eyes. “I wasn’t thinking that at all. You know what I was thinking? I was honoured that you would tell me. I was glad that I was able to listen to your stuff because you listen to mine! I was so glad to there for you.”
She was essentially telling me I was loved and safe. I expected my body to panic and my mind to rise up to protect me with thoughts like, “You know she’s just saying that to make you feel better.” But my body and mind were at ease. For the most part, I could meet Audrey’s eyes and receive her love. When I told her that, I saw tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Can you come alongside the scared little girl in you?” Audrey asked me.
“I can,” I replied with my hand over my heart. She’s safe here.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
–Matthew 11:28 (NKJV)
This year I will be attending Jan Richardson’s online Advent Retreat. Jan writes, “Beloved friends, it has been hard to wrap my head around what the season of Advent might look like this year. But I do know this: I will be offering a new online Advent retreat, and I would love to spend the season in your company! Registration is now open for the Illuminated 2020 Advent Retreat. In a chaotic time, this retreat will offer a space of elegant simplicity. Intertwining writing, art, music, and community, this online journey creates spaces of reflection and rest that you can enter into from anywhere you are, in the way that works best for you.”