Last night, as I was sleeping
I dreamt – marvellous error! –
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.
– Antonio Machado, quoted in The Fourfold Way by Angele Arrien (Harper Collins, 2003)
This time last year I couldn’t bear going into work.I was told it was a kinda PTSD response. Entirely natural, it turns out, following life threatening illness or surgery.
Seems like it all just caught up with me.
I had a few chill pills, a lot of love from family, some workplace support, and a really helpful therapist. I’d chosen her to ‘do’ EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) on me. In fact, we just talked, and I learned the difference between ‘surviving’ and ‘thriving’. Day to day survival had been challenging enough. The very thought of going beyond that, into ‘thriving’ was – and still is – challenging.
I returned to work. I survived again. I’d planned to practise thriving this year. Looking at some volunteering work, finishing off some writing project and starting some new ones. Some courses to sign up for. Some of it’s been achieved. Then I had investigations around anaemia – colonoscopy and endoscopy, cameras should into orifices they had no business being – and the DVLA and my consultant have confirmed I’m not allowed to drive.
All of which is a shock, and things I’d have found very challenging to cope with this time last year. So there’s progress. I’ve achieved a counselling qualification, and some form of hypnotherapy qualification, and at least a working understanding of the power of the mind and trance work.
I haven’t yet fallen in love. Although my heart breaks easily and pretty much every day. Smiles, looks, smells and touches can all promise more than they give.
As part of my own recovery, I attended the first part of a training in ‘shamanic healing’, which I wrote a little about in an earlier blog the raven, the beaver and making happy tracks in ordinary reality. I’m not a Shaman, and I don’t claim any special insight or spirituality, but I wanted another way to help understand the impact of trauma and healing, and found it helpful and grounding. I do use much of the knowledge on myself, and in my work as a psychotherapist.
Recently, I finished reading The Four Fold Way by Angeles Arrien, which develops some of the shamanic/First Peoples understanding. The Paths of Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary are explained from the perspective of native spirituality – very ‘New Age’, I’m sure.
The Healer is encouraged to ask how they help heal the four chambers of the heart daily:
“Am I full hearted. open-hearted, clear hearted and strong hearted?”
Some simple questions I now practise. Am I full hearted? How many times have I approached situations or people in a half hearted manner?! To be half hearted is a ‘wrong placement’ – how much healthier, stronger, empowering to be ‘whole hearted’ or ‘full hearted’!
Am I open-hearted? Not naive – but opening and softening my heart, rather than closing it down through defensiveness or fear.
Am I clear-hearted? Do I have clarity of purpose, or am I doubtful, ambivalent or indifferent?
Am I strong hearted? Physically, I’ve been all too aware of the vulnerabilities of my heart over the last decade, but this is a question about courage. Can I be authentic and courageous today? The author, Angeles Arrien, locates the etymology of the word ‘courage’ to the French coeur, or ‘heart’ and “the ability to stand by one’s heart or to stand by one’s core.”
Instead of asking when someone became anxious, stressed or depressed, the shamanic healer might ask;
When did you stop dancing? When did I stop singing? When did I stop listening to and telling stories? When did I sop enjoying silence?
The ‘shadow’ of the Healer is the Wounded Child of the South, preoccupied tieh the Four Universal Addictions:
The addiction to intensity.
The addiction to perfection.
The addiction to the need to know.
The addiction to being fixated on what’s not working rather than what is working.
Shadows, addictions, hearts and minds. Warriors, Teachers, Healers and Visionaries. All parts of my world. sometimes helpful, sometimes unhelpful.
And as for love – that’s another adventure yet …