Deep down I knew that when it came to healing, I still had some work to do. I decided to dust off my copy of Trauma and Recovery by Judith Lewis Herman. Herman explains that the first principle of recovery is empowerment. That others may offer advice, support and care, but not cure. For any intervention, no matter how well-intentioned, that takes away your power is not in fact a healing relationship. So I really wanted to learn a way to heal myself, but I wasn’t quite sure how and where to start. And then, on a beautiful summer’s day in the forest I met a wolf. As I looked into her kind and wise eyes, I immediately felt that she was the one to ask for help. The wolf told me a story about how other animals process trauma. A deer who survives an attack will find a hiding place and start to shiver. This helps to shake out the excess charge in her body. Trembling is a natural response to trauma that some of us have unlearned or forgotten. But by trusting our bodies, we can re-member it again.
Last year I had really made up my mind… no more retreats. And then something unexpected happened. I was asked to fill in as a last-minute substitute. No, was of course my answer. Not a chance! Of course, I promised I would sleep on it. As I lay in bed, I thought of Kant, as you do. Kant said: “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” So the following morning I said yes – and asked my love to teach it with me. But then the panic started. Am I good enough? What if it’s a total disaster? There was only one solution. I would have to watch Kung Fu Panda. Again. As Shifu was spluttering (“The panda? Master, that panda is not the Dragon Warrior. He wasn’t even meant to be here… it was an accident!”) I was reminded by the old and wise Oogway that there are no accidents. And also, that there is no secret ingredient. You just need to believe!
It is the midst of winter. And no matter how much I love the snow swirling down outside, covering the world with a blanket of quiet whiteness, I also long to feel the warmth of sunrays on my face. I vaguely remember what it was like when life was of an easier, lighter kind. And yet, I understand that this time, slowly gliding along in the darkness, has a purpose. That it allows me to let go of things that no longer serve me and to process all of the changes that have so rapidly succeeded each other. Even positive changes need time adjusting to. Time to familiarise myself with the new colours and shapes of my life, their edges and curves. To be frightened by them and long for the days of old, to retreat into the safety of the familiar, and then to take a step forward again, to welcome and embrace them. To understand that it was me who invited them in, even when it scares me and I question whether I was actually ready for them. To let go of these doubts and let myself be enveloped by them.
It’s a quiet summer evening. Raindrops are falling from the grey sky, there’s some light thunder in the background. A pigeon sits on a branch just outside my balcony, slightly hunched. In the distance I can see the lights of my neighbours garden. I’ve been given oceans of time just to sit, rest and dream. A few days ago I had an accident – a single unguarded moment and I fell down. The same way as I did exactly five years ago. When it happened, my first thought was: ‘not again!’ Last time my rehabilitation took almost six months. But so many things are different now. My life is so much richer, filled with the positive energy of beautiful people and animal friends. I’ve picked up new skills along the way, like the basics of first aid and where to get crutches. I’ve learned about healing trauma, how to follow the rhythm of my own body, the foods that nurture you, which herbs quicken the healing process, and about the magic power of touch. I’ve learned how to stop striving, always wanting to arrive in another place than where you are right now. Most importantly I’ve learned not to despair, but to trust in myself and the universe.
I’ve been reading a lot of inspiring books lately. The Creative License by Danny Gregory and Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert among others. But a true revelation was Jacob Needleman’s Time and The Soul. The book is about how we waste the time that is given to us. It describes how we keep getting caught up in the drama of our life: we end up in the same kind of situations, with the same kind of people – just circling the same point. When we could be on our way, discovering the path that lies before us. Reading these passages, it hit me hard. I could suddenly see all the themes that dominate my life: wanting to be loved, obeying my teachers, getting stressful jobs, ignoring my own needs in the process. You know, the usual stuff. I spend all my energy on cleaning up the same mess, over and over again. Every time I say yes to something that doesn’t fit my wants or needs, I give away my precious time. So, what’s the answer? Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, said Henry Thoreau. In my experience it is not that easy. But I do believe it’s the only way. For else, we shall have wasted our lives.