For years now, I've been bringing the light of awareness to the dark places in my past in order to look at, better understand, and tend to the parts of me that were left on "pause."
"Pausing" is a healthy reaction to trauma. It happens when things in the moment simply feel too much to handle. Like during a car accident, while witnessing violence, or when under attack. There might be too much shouting, too much hurting, too much violence, or too much fear. If it feels too much to you in the moment, your nervous system will likely perceive it as an assault and react accordingly.
In these moments, the aware, resourceful, and resilient part of yourself might say, "Time to check out!" In psychology, this checking out or "pausing" is referred to as dissociation, a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that often carries a negative connotation. The way I see it, "pausing" is a brilliant human mechanism for survival. If the aware-me recognizes that "this is too much to handle," it simply shuts off the part of me that is experiencing the too-muchness. I'm still alive. I'm still more or less functioning. And, the part that feels the "too-muchness" gets to take a little break. Efficient, isn't it?!
While "pausing" is a real healthy reaction in the moment, it can become a real obstacle when big chunks of your life remain on "pause" and/or when "pausing" goes on automatic (i.e. it happens without you noticing).
Typical signs that some part of you went on "pause" are: not remembering what happened during a certain event or time in childhood or later years, feeling not like yourself and unsure as to where the real you has been lately, and feeling as though you stepped outside of yourself and maybe outside of time, too (body present, but the rest of you not so much).
This is by no means a clinical list or a comprehensive one either. These are examples from my own experience and signals that I have learned to watch for as markers of checking out or "pausing."
When "pausing" goes unnoticed and untreated, it can really inhibits one's movement in life. I mean that literally because it shows up as tension, aches, and pains in the body. But also metaphorically, as emotional blockages hinder your relationships and work, and you feel trapped in limited and limiting patterns of thought and behavior.
Now, if you're reading this and feeling "this is me!", please do not despair. While we cannot change what happened in the past, we can definitely heal the parts of ourselves that got put on "pause." We can bring these parts to resolution and integration in our whole being. This is true healing, and this past weekend, I got to do just that! (Finish reading HERE).
Do you remember when you were a child and were told by adults to "Play nice", "Share your toys", and "Say sorry"? Whether they used these exact expressions or similar ones, it's likely that the adults in your life were trying to teach you the basics of befriending others. The real question is, in addition to befriending others, how many of us were actually taught to befriend ourselves?
Ponder this: How do you live with yourself when you feel guilty? What do you say to yourself when you are sad? Where do you take yourself when you feel lonely? What's your relationship with yourself like when you're glad?
The implicit message that I believe most of us receive is that somehow we're supposed to naturally and automatically befriend ourselves. We're supposed to naturally and automatically know ourselves inside out. We're supposed to naturally and automatically tend to ourselves through thick and thin. We're supposed to naturally and automatically love ourselves unconditionally. Right?
In a way, I definitely agree with this implicit message. It is in our nature to know ourselves, tend to ourselves, and love ourselves fully. But more often than not, that nature of ours is veiled by cultural norms, family traditions, and healthy defense mechanisms that are meant to shield us from the hard edges of life. (Read the rest here)
This past weekend, I had the pleasure and honor to share my very first Yoga Nidra meditation retreat. I had titled it "Cultivating Presence at the Edge of Winter". The latter part about the "Edge of Winter" was all true. Perfectly situated in the "Spring Forward" weekend, we were blessed with mild weather and the very first blooms of the season (more photos of the retreat at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.741993615937573.1073741833.100003808232628&type=1&l=96c70de425).
The part I lied about was in regards to "Cultivating Presence." There's absolutely no way to cultivate presence. None! Despite what so many ads, articles, and cherished teachers tell us, we cannot be more or less present. Our presence cannot be enhanced or diminished because there is no quantity to presence. There is no limit to presence. There's no beginning or ending point. Presence just is.
Of course we're discussing language here. So it's important to point out that not every person that tells you to "be more present" is wrong. But the truth is that there’s nothing you need to do to be present. There’s no special meditation that gives you access to presence. There’s no formula of "x amount of yoga per week equals 100% presence". There’s absolutely no way to cultivate presence because you are always, already present. In fact, you are Presence itself.
So yes, I lied. I lied in calling this retreat "Cultivating Presence" and giving a false impression that you may improve, grow, or acquire presence somehow. Because you cannot. Presence is already whole and perfect and always here. So if I gave you the wrong impression, I am sorry.
But, as you may have expected, I would never set out to mislead you. And, as it happens, "cultivate" has another meaning, and it's to "make friends with." Like watching the blossoming of a flower, cultivating presence is nothing more than the noticing of what is already happening.
So, you see, I never really lied. My intention was always to offer a retreat in which you can settle into your already, always presence and make friends with it. How? The same way you would with a person, by welcoming it as it is, by listening, and by learning to love it for exactly what it is--your most precious and dear friend.
Please join me in any of the upcoming events as I continue to share a space in which to truly and truthfully cultivate presence and become your own best friend.
May you always experience your presence as a loving friendship,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
We all hear or read these catchy phrases like, "feeling is healing" and "emotions are emotions." But, what do these sayings actually mean? Is there any truth to them? And, do they somehow hold the key to happiness?
The short answer is yes. Yes, feeling your feelings is the gateway to healing as well as true happiness. But if you're anything like me, this answer is not enough. You might want to know exactly why it's healing and how you can fully feel while still maintaining a sense of safety, wholeness, and sanity.
The trick lies in not only feeling but also noticing. Noticing what and how you're feeling is key. Typically, when an emotion shows up, we react. It's like we go on automatic. But when we notice an emotion showing up, and notice too our typical reaction to it, then we can choose our response. This choice is true freedom. Our birthright.
Take fear, for example. (By the way, this is the emotion associated with winter according to Chinese medicine). When fear shows up, many of us freeze in reaction. We can't think straight. We can't make a decision. We can't go on with our regular routine. Even our body, or some part of it, might feel tight and un-moveable (i.e. frozen).
But as we become aware of fear and the pattern of freezing, we get to decide: react or respond. Reacting means continuing to automatically freeze like we always do. On the other hand, responding means noticing the fear, potentially its roots, and listening deeply to what other action is possible here. What is really wanted or needed here? Is it speaking out? Doing something? Seeking professional help? The response depends strictly on the situation and what's right for each and every one of us. This is freedom.
I'm afraid (pun intended) that this topic deserves more discussion. So please consider commenting below and sharing your thoughts, joining me for the upcoming workshop "Feeling is Healing" and Other Truths about Emotions on Saturday, Jan 30, 2016, or via web/phone/in-person for a private session. There's so much more to this....
May you always exercise your freedom,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
It's early Wednesday morning, and I am sitting in front of the window with a steaming cup of tea watching the fog and rain clouds blanket the sky in white. I'm reminded of nature's natural rhythms and the intricate play of darkness and light that usually graces our region in December.
Indeed, it is grace. It is nature's grace, nature's beauty, that points us to the treasures of late fall/early winter. It's a time for turning inwards, filling our homes with light and warmth, and preparing for deep and nourishing rest.
Paradoxically, this is a traditionally busy time of year. So much so that we may lament the shorter days, colder weather, and overwhelming tiredness. This is exactly what makes this month an especially potent opportunity for honoring darkness and light, honoring cold and warmth, honoring activity and tiredness.
Why? Because both darkness and light or cold and warmth are a part of nature. They are parts of our true nature. Within us, some parts lie in darkness, or perhaps are dark. Other parts are full of light. And, it's all good. It's all ok. These are all parts of a whole.
Who we truly are is not only whole but wholeness itself. This great play of darkness and light is unraveling in the vast and open wholeness that we are. Each of us. All of us. Each and all of us.
How do I know? Look outside right now. Observe the play of darkness and light. Watch how nature allows it, accepts it. Notice how nature is wide and open and vast and how this play of darkness and light is happening within it. Does it not? And we are the same. We are nature.
With wishes for blessings of light and nourishing darkness,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
It's not always easy to inquire into darkness or even light, really. I find that it works a whole lot better when someone is there to support me. Please know that I'd be honored to support you in your inquiry via phone, web, private session or any local events. Also, you may wish to check out the recording titled "Reconnecting with Your Light." Enjoy!
What do you think?
Please share your thoughts, comments, questions, and insight below.
Shira Oz-Sinai is a spiritual teacher trained in iRest® Yoga Nidra meditation and Soul Lightening Acupressure®, two modalities that share the common principle of noticing what arises in awareness as the foundation to living life with ease and in deep and loving friendship with yourself. These are her musings.