Satya–Do I Really Need to Be More Honest?


My yoga teacher says that whatever issues you have will show up on the mat when you do postures.  It is partly for this reason that I frequently want to kill her.  (Of course, I want to kill EVERYONE because I am reactive, unenlightened, have an aversive personality–according to the Buddhists–and am basically a dramatic artist who enjoys swooning over every emotion I feel.)  (I long to swoon in yoga teacher training, but then I might fail and yoga teacher training is EXPENSIVE.)

Here’s what shows up on my mat:  AVERSION!  INNER CONFLICT!  And F*&(ING TMS SYNDROME!

Yoga is so peaceful, truly.

(When I do it at home it’s peaceful because I lie on a bolster in several different positions not moving and usually falling asleep.  I have become a yoga slacker.  This is the result of yoga teacher training, for some reason.)

Anyhow, if I’m talking about satya, or honesty, the second of the yoga yamas (the first is ahimsa, non-violence, and I’ve already written about that, ad infinitum) then I really have an excuse to say that TMS Syndrome is kicking my butt on the mat.  (TMS Syndrome’s other name is mindbody syndrome, a term coined by John Sarno.  Basically, TMS people like me have no severe anatomical abnormalities, but still experience chronic pain, usually in their backs.  I have it in my back, but sometimes also knees, and occasionally shoulders.  (You know, I don’t do things in half measures.  Probably I have pain in the guy down the street.) Anyhow, the pain, Sarno says, comes from an unconscious process that denies some amount of oxygen to areas of the body to cause physical pain as a distraction from emotional pain like, for example, homicidal rage.  (It’s because of Sarno I talk about how homicidal I am all the time.)  (Look at me!  I’m blaming someone I’ve never even met!)

Anyway, as I practice self-study (also a part of yoga, but really just an excuse to be fascinated with myself), I can’t help but notice how it goes on the mat in yoga teacher training.  Here’s how:

It’s Saturday.  Usually we do 3-4 hours of yoga in the Saturday practice.  So, 2 hours in I start to want it to be over.  By 2.5 hours in I REALLY want it to be over.  I mean, I start to feel like I’m being tortured.  I’m getting angry.  But I’ve always been athletic, and as you know if you’ve read my other blogs, I had a football player father who taught me to never be a quitter.  Plus, I want to prove I can do anything anyone else can do.  (Both of these things are insane, so it’s a good thing I’ve never claimed to be, you know, sane.)  At the same time, I want to practice ahimsa, not only because that’s what yoga is REALLY about, but because it’s the kind thing to do for myself, and though I am insane, I hate being unkind to myself.  So basically, during yoga teacher training, the inside of my head is like World War 3.  Right around the 2.5 hour mark, as we approach inversions (which I love because going upside down is really fun), and I realize I’m too blasted tired and whacked to do inversions, the inner conflict reaches its zenith and WHAM!  BACK PAIN!

It’s only because you’re not allowed to talk during yoga practice that I’m arguing with myself and noticing all this stuff.  And it has become glaringly obvious that when I want to be kind to myself and there’s pressure to do something else (perceived or real pressure, mind you), all this tension builds inside of me and then it goes into my back.

And get this:  when I figured all this out and really took breaks and gave up being Ms. Middle Aged Cool Yoga Girl, I didn’t have any back pain AT ALL.

I guess John Sarno is right.

So in my fascination with myself, I’m now on the hunt for my moments of intense inner conflict and tension, trying to notice them, trying to just stop, breathe, sense into my body.  Yoga teacher training is prime fodder for this practice.  As is any time I’m trying to act like a mature adult and not jump on my partner’s lap (a struggle I always lose, but here’s hoping).

Anyhow, crazy or not, my need for gentleness and kindness, from myself, first and above all, would be legend if anyone knew about it.

Oh, I guess you now do.

Send flowers.

Though money would be better.

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Yoga, Yoga, Yoga and the Truth about Yoga


Well, first of all, yoga is a way of life.  It’s part of the Hindu religion, and the Sutras spell out a path to nirvana and peace (since the Sutras were written about 500 years after the Buddha lived, some scholars claim they would not have been possible without Buddhism and are heavily influenced by Buddhist philosophy as well as the atheistic Hindu system of dualism).

Of course, here in the West, yoga’s rep for sweaty hot rooms and twisty bendy postures has caused us to forget that it’s part of Hinduism at all.

And face it, I love the twisty bendy everything.  I have recently fallen in love with the investigation of the philosophy (just as I fell in love with Buddhism last year), but the twisty bend everything still claims me, tests me, makes me face so many things.  And not the ones you would expect–not aging, stiffness, the limits of my body.  But who I truly am.

I go to the mat.  And wherever I go, there I am.

I’ve written that my worst case scenario was to have an eruption of back pain while doing yoga teacher training, and that, of course, the worst case scenario happened.  And here’s the thing–I get kind of sick of turning worst case scenarios into AFGO’s (another f&*#ing growth opportunity), but what else is a girl to do?  I’m not allowed to lie down, wail and writhe in yoga teacher training.  So, AFGO.

I might add that the AFGO keeps honking its horn because I’ve had flare ups in three separate weekends.  I went back to the lovely Dr. Martinez to re-charge my John Sarno-I-am-insanely-homicidal-and-don’t-want-to-know-it approach to back pain.  I went to Thai massage and shiatsu, even though what I’m really supposed to do is examine my unconscious rage (and other feelings).

And I’ve returned to the mat.  If I wasn’t in teacher training, I might not have.  Weight lifting significantly changes the pain equation (when paired with examination of homicidal tendencies) in a way yoga does not.

Anyway, so I’m on the mat this Saturday, sweating my brains out after 2+ hours of incredibly strenuous yoga.  And satya (truth, a yoga yama): I’m getting angry.  I’m starting to have intense inner conflict, because even though I can continue to do the asanas (postures), I know from the other weekends that when I do, I reach over-exertion, my mind fogs out, I get triggered and unhappy and overwhelmed and I really just want to cry.  I mean, past two hours it’s just not fun at all.

At the same time, I have my lovely conditioning from my Irish father, a stellar athlete who was offered football scholarships to a million colleges and played halfback for Notre Dame.  We played sports all the time growing up, and he admired only fight, only never giving up, only trying no matter how much it hurt.  So I’m on the friggin’ yoga mat, knowing that yoga is a way of life and starts with ahimsa (non-violence, with self as well as everyone else), with this never-say-die tape running in my head, and the really great teacher, who I genuinely like, giving us instructions and assists, and it’s like a pressure cooker, because I’m totally overwhelmed and I really, really, really want to just stop.

On top of that, Saturday was an introduction to inversions, so I was excited to do headstand, handstand and stand on the forearms because they are really fun.

I didn’t stop.  And by the time we got to the inversions, I was in a black mood, and unable to concentrate, knowing if I did go upside down I’d likely have back pain because the point in every training where the back pain descends is just then–the overwhelmed, over-exerted point.  The point of intense inner conflict.

Though I didn’t do much with the inversions–I went up in handstand once, knew it was enough, and stopped.  But then I got triggered and tried again…and the back pain descended with FEROCITY.

I lay in savasana (corpse pose) crying a little, because I was so frustrated and disappointed.  I mean, I am often a 5 year old and not getting to go upside down was a big let down.  I decided, while lying there, that when everyone else went to lunch, I’d just hang upside down on the rope wall in 3 or 4 different ways to make myself feel better.  Which I did.  And it kind of worked.  The black mood lightened a lot.

Then, AH-HAH!  The light bulb, the explosion, the-I-did-notice-but-was-too-embarrassed-to-admit-it moment.  The back pain descends when I’m overwhelmed.  When I have internal conflict.

Earlier Saturday morning, I’d been struggling with wanting to go to Pride.  I’d been talking about it with my partner all week–our 25th anniversary on Pride weekend, Obama coming out for gay marriage (I’m back in love with him, which he no doubt intended)–I mean, it was too much to miss.  But a make-up for a day of yoga training is like $200-$300.  And I’m not teaching.  So, INTERNAL CONFLICT.  I woke up with back pain, and then did my Sarno writing (and some meditation) and decided to do one Pride event–not the parade, which I’d have preferred–on Saturday.  And the pain went….whoosh!  Gone.

Of course it came back at the overwhelm point in the training.  But I’m starting to get that these intense moments of internal conflict can be addressed or avoided and then NO BACK PAIN.  It’s more than my lovely homicidality (give me a break, anyone who meditates gets to find out they resent everything).  It’s when I go to war with myself and my conditioning and the pressure builds and I don’t know how to resolve it that I get back pain.

Yesterday, (Sunday) more intense yoga.  I sat out for part of it.  I didn’t get overwhelmed.  Though I’d walked in to class with a ton of pain, I was down to minor twinges after an hour.  AND, I went up in both handstand and headstand (I’ve always been able to do shoulder stand with no problem).

The truth about yoga is wherever I go, there I am.  And meditation teaches me to focus on myself.  It doesn’t matter whether anyone else is overwhelmed.  What matters is that I am, and managing my internal world in a kind and skillful way brings me peace.  I get to decide how much physical yoga is too much–that is something I have the power to do.

On the mat, it’s not about back pain.  Back pain is the teacher.  It’s about admitting I get overwhelmed, that lots of instruction can be hard for me to process, that whether the over-exertion is physical or mental (holding concentration for so long), doesn’t matter.  I get to say die.  I get to just stop.  And be with what is.  Until being with what is becomes peace.

Once a woman I had trained on a job I used to have told me the first time she saw me, she immediately felt intense resentment.  She said I seemed so confident, and she thought, “Nothing bad has ever happened to that woman in her life.”

Then she became my poetry editor.  So she read about my family.  She actually apologized for completely misjudging me.

Satya is finding a way to honor the poetry.  The truth and the beauty, the dirge and the psalm.  And really, who wouldn’t want to do that?

Couples Therapy=Back Pain


I know I wrote a blog about comparing unlike things, but really, couples therapy as a pain in the anything….?  Not unlike.

I have decided that for my own physical well-being, the Sheepdog really will bite the dust.  And get this, my partner agrees!  I’m really out of it!

YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYYAY!

The Sheepdog doesn’t know this yet, and since I’m off to NYC for a few days, she won’t hear it until October 17.  I am composing speeches in my head.  They go something like this:

Please don’t start talking about dust motes.  Or the details of psychological theory I learned about 10 years ago.  Or all your own habits.  Or what we’ll learn about you as we stay on forever or until you finish a sentence which may take longer.  Because that doesn’t work for me.  None of this works for me.  I have other things to do on Monday nights.  So, good-bye.

I think John Sarno might say that keeping my not-so-unconscious rage to myself might have been a better idea.

But, right now, at this moment, I have no back pain.  Which is a big plus.

Mindbody Syndrome Is Making Me…


crazy?  Mad as hell?

So, confession.  I just wrote a 1500 word blog that I then took down.  Why?  Because it pissed me off.  I just can’t write about my mother and mindbody syndrome and tell less than the full truth without making the mindbody syndrome worse.  (I’ve now put the blog back up with a little more of the anger in.  My back’s telling me that this version is much better.)

I would say that mindbody syndrome is killing me, but then all this New Age crap about the power of words starts to freak me out.  And the truth is, according to Sarno, it can kill you.  And it can certainly drain the quality of your life right down through the very nicely polished hardwood floors.

I’ve been finding that if I stop doing the writing about unconscious feelings, in about four days the hip pain comes back.  Maybe I’m a slow learner.  Maybe my brain is resistant to reprogramming.  Maybe, according to Sarno, I need psychotherapy.  NOT!  I think Sarno doesn’t realize that in therapy you talk about your feelings, you don’t experience them.  Your feelings come from thoughts, therapists seem to think, since they are always reframing your experience for you as if you didn’t have a mind of your own.

But, as I write about the feelings, suppressed, repressed, unconscious or just not experienced fully, I keep having to ask, what am I supposed to do with all this?  Take up a life of crime?  Paint murals featuring the color red?

I seem to be uncovering grief.  My partner said to me, “I don’t think I see you so well.  I don’t think I let myself see you.”

Did I mention on her good days she is a lesbian purveyor of harmony?  And really loving?  I mean, I am enduring couples therapy for a reason.

Today I’m going to go through my rage list and see if there are things I need to do to change my life.  I’m going to check and see if there’s anything I can do about the things that piss me off.  But I know already that many of the things on the list are things I can’t change.  All I can do is write about them.  Have a voice.  Expose the hurt beneath the rage, show, that as I always say, I may be obnoxious, but I always have a REASON.

So here I am.  Spending two hours on mindbody work to make up for slacking.  And yes, my back feels better.

Metta for all of us, with our powerful, uncontrolled and unconscious minds.  As we try to find peace in the storm.

PS-Yesterday I picked up Newsweek and read about the status of women all around the globe.  If you want to get really angry, read that article.  It will almost make you fall in love with Hillary Clinton.  (Except she’s just not that lovable.  I sometimes admire her, and I respect her commitment to empowering women and girls, but I just can’t fall in love with her.  I guess she’s not my type.)

Divided, Divided, Divided…the More Honest Version


Onto book 2 by John Sarno, The Divided Mind.

So, the most challenging part of Sarno’s work is his referencing of Freud.  Sarno objects to Freud being out of vogue, and champions Freud’s understanding of the unconscious.  He brings back the term hysterical and contrasts it with the term psychosomatic or mindbody.

I am a feminist.  Since I’ve been highly involved in multiculturalism and diversity, working to advocate for people of color and gays and lesbians for the past decade, my focus on feminist issues has fallen into the background.  Sure, SLAMBoston always has a play about women, usually older women (though I often end up arguing with the director, who often wants to cast young).  The fact is, the work of Freud is a feminist issue.  Why?  Not because he was wrong about the unconscious.  Not because women didn’t present with hysterical and psychosomatic issues.  Freud’s work was anti-feminist because he discovered fairly early on that the origin of the women’s pain was sexual abuse, that this abuse was very common; and, when he presented this idea, his prestige in Vienna and Europe looked to evaporate very quickly.  So, he recanted, announced that the women were imagining that they had been sexually abused, and then came up with the Electra and Oedipus complexes.

At the same time, Janet, in France, made the same findings.  He worked with women, believed the stories of abuse and guess what?  No one has ever heard of him.  Now we know that 1 in 3 women and and 1 in 6 men is sexually abused before the age of 18.  Freud was just wrong.

I studied psychology in college for a couple years before turning definitively to the arts, and I was as fascinated with Freud’s ideas as I was with Wilhelm Reich’s or Carl Rogers’.  But, I’ve pretty much hated Freud since learning about his betrayal of his almost exclusively female patients.  He set feminism and psychology back decades.

So, I have resistance to Sarno’s work when he gets into praising Freud.  It’s a challenge to accept that yes, Freud was a genius and some of his work was sound, even though he was a coward and cared deeply about recognition in favor of the truth.

I am ruthless about the truth, especially with myself.  (Hence the rewrite of this blog in which I admit I didn’t enjoy at all my mother’s unconscious rage.)

So, I find myself, over and over again, thinking about my German mother.  We used to joke that she couldn’t breathe without Dristan and couldn’t shit without Ex-Lax.  She had headaches.  She’d retreat to the bedroom, turn down the lights, and ask to have the washcloth on her head refreshed (run under a tap of cold water.)  I could feel the pain coming off her in waves when I entered the room, and her voice grew young, childlike.  “Please,” she’d say.  “Get me a chocolate soda.”  Or, “You don’t mind making dinner tonight, do you?”

If I’m honest, I have to say that I felt rage in the moment, at 10, at 12, at 16, at 22.  Finally, at 28, I said, “Here’s a cup of Lipton soup.  I hope you feel better.  I’m going out.”  (I came home to her vacuuming the house in a fury.  Which was probably the unconscious rage coming out.)

I also felt sick.  And scared.  When another person’s doing that kind of weird unconscious dance, you know it, especially if that person is your mother.

Sarno says that we judge psychosomatic illness as hypochondria, that we believe the motivation for the illness is the secondary gain of being taken care of, or not having to work or be responsible.  He refutes this strongly.  He says psychosomatic or mindbody illness has a primary gain, which is denial of unconscious feelings of pain and rage.

I think of my mother, married to a man she didn’t love, who, in fact, frightened her.  I think of my mother, with six children, money problems, nothing in her life secure.  I think of her rigid ideas of what life should be, her perfectionism, the pristine cleanliness of our house, how carefully she dressed us for church, for gatherings, how much she cared about how things looked.  I think of my grandmother, who I loved, drinking gin and laughing with complete abandon, then getting in her convertible and revving down the street.  I think of the look on my mother’s face as she watched my grandmother drive away.  “Call me when you get home,” she’d say.

My mother was angry.  I imagine looking from the inside of her mind outward, all the high standards, the need to be perfect, the need to feel safe, in control, and everything chaos around her–as it had been in her family growing up–I imagine her seeing no end to any of it, and the despair and rage of that, I imagine she knows she is more intelligent than her husband, but has no power to change any of his decisions, no power to have a life in the world that is as big as his.  And all she can do with the rage is demand things she can never get, because even children are uncontrollable.  So much of the pain of her life has to go underground–if she admits the pain of her situation, it will be too much.

And so my mother lies down, she turns the lights low, she sinks into headache, stomach ache, sinus problems, constipation.  She has fatigue, she can’t take it any more.  She must rest.

Of course, her children, including me, all inherited this way of coping.  We absorbed it through our skin.  “I don’t feel good,” we’d say, echoing both our mother’s words and tone.

No, Mom, you don’t.  Your life wouldn’t make anyone feel good.  You are not happy.

And, frankly, I’m pissed you didn’t do something to make it better, sooner.  That I had to talk you into leaving, changing, that I had to help you get your first two jobs.  I mean, really.  In the 70’s, women were grabbing life with both hands, going to college, coming out, deciding enough already.  Not everyone lay in bed asking for a damn soda.

I’m not supposed to say or feel this because I am spiritual, and a feminist, and I’m supposed to be over it.  But here’s the thing–when I pretend that I’m so spiritual and feminist and over it, I have to go lie down and ask for my partner to bring me things because my F&*^ing back starts to hurt.

New Age spirituality, along with the major religions, tells us to forgive, to let go, to have gratitude for our blessings.  My mother eventually left my father, she eventually fell in love, she found financial security and her children grew up, leaving her much less burdened.  But the illnesses continued–her brain had tracked to this one way, and if she had found John Sarno, I doubt very much she would have believed his findings.  In 1994, my mother was hospitalized for a heart attack that turned out to be indigestion.  By then she’d remarried.  By then she had all the security she could want.

The reality of our lives is held in our bodies and our emotions.  Without volition, we try not to feel or know the truth.  But perhaps if the back pain or sinus or whatever gets bad enough, we’ll be forced to pay attention.

So, here I am.  I have a bigger life than my mother had.  It has spanned four or five continents, the founding and running of businesses (however haphazardly I did this), activism, publication, performing, creating, creating, and more creating.  I have found a greater measure of financial security in the last ten years (I know what it is to REALLY be a starving artist).   And I have some of her frustration–no matter how much I have, I want more, I want bigger, I want impact.  I am, like her, a perfectionist.  I also need to change this legacy of focusing on physical pain so the unfaceable or unacceptable emotions don’t surface.  I can’t keep telling myself I’m more grateful or accepting or spiritual than I am.  Or, like her, I will end up in some hospital with an ailment no one can define or fix.

Anything can be used to avoid the truth of what we feel.  And the truth is difficult, there is no doubt.  Buddhism teaches that attachment and aversion are the root of suffering, but I can’t lie and say I’m unattached when the truth is I’m attached as hell.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Peace, peace, the real thing, without lies about a gratitude that is only icing on the rage cake.  Peace and metta for those of us who struggle to know the truth.  May we find peace with what is.  Even if, today, we have absolutely no idea how that will come to pass.

PS–I am still meditating every day.  I’m about to do that now.  After I work on the rage list.  I’ll need to meditate after that.

The Sheepdog Takes Round 3! BING! BING! BING!


So, I may have to stay in couples therapy.

After last week’s visit with the Poodle, the Sheepdog admittedly looked pretty good.  Then, we come into her office and she holds up a timer (all proud of herself) and says, “I’m setting this for 50 minutes so it gives us a 5 minute warning.”

Running on time.  BING!

Then she says, “I’ve found out about your insurance and you’ve overpaid me by quite a bit.  I can either write you a check or you can just have it on credit for the copayments of the next four and half sessions.”

BING!

Then she says, “Lyralen, I’m noticing your chair is almost out the door.  Would you like me to sit further away?”

BING!  BING!  BING!

Then she laughed at three of my jokes.  No bing, but still.

Then I made a joke about my partner’s abandonment issues.  The Sheepdog noticed my partner laughing with this glee she gets sometimes and asked about why my jokes make my partner happy.  My partner’s kind of a sap, so she started crying.

And then, get this, the Sheepdog even laughed when I said, “My partner says you remind her of Mr. Rogers.”

She said, “Wait until you see my sweaters in the winter.”

(I could decide that’s a little creepy, because who knows if I’ll be able to stay past October, but I’m letting it go because making a joke at her own expense is definitely another almost bing.  Hell, it’s a BING.)

Of course, I had to apologize to my partner afterward for blowing her cover and embarrassing her.  BUT, I explained that what I really wanted to say was all about how we’d nicknamed the Sheepdog the Sheepdog and did she really change shapes in between appointments.  It was one of those times when you say something kind of inappropriate to keep yourself from saying something REALLY inappropriate.

Plus, we actually talked about a relationship dynamic that’s kind of knotty, and got some insight and felt closer.  It’s probably a bandaid, I tell myself, but I can’t deny the BING!s.

So, I am doomed to couples therapy for at least a few more sessions.  If not longer.  But if I think about that…well, I don’t want to think about that.

Metta for me, in denial about couples therapy for as long as I can make the denial last.

PS–Today was appointment day.  In the overwhelming amount of maintenance I seem to require is a thing called low lights–in other words, hairdressing appointments.  The stylist asks what I’m up to and for some reason I was inspired to talk about mindbody syndrome and then two of the women are writing down the name of the book and the doctor I see.  Sometimes when I get inspired to say things it’s weird like that.  Synchronous.  Like I know.

PPS–I was not inspired to make the Mr. Rogers comment.  That was impulsive, clearly.  But funny.  Even my partner eventually laughed.

The Sad News Is…Grief.


Okay, so, the back pain started to return.

Now, I’ve been having major resistance to reading Sarno’s book, then writing about rage, and writing about rage and writing about rage.  I mean, it’s not exactly a happiness-inducing activity.  Sarno also suggests that when the pain twinges, you can yell at it and tell it you’re not fooled; you know it’s really emotion being covered up.  But that just made me feel like I was verbally abusing myself.

Frankly, I’ve been a bit grateful to my mind for protecting me from all this information.  I mean, it keeps coming.  Yesterday I realized that while there are solid intellectual reasons for not believing in God, my intense rage at the Catholic Church for its anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-body, original-sin-born-bad, shaming, guilt-inducing dogma probably had a role.

This is not rocket science.  But, since a nun saved my life, it does create internal conflict, and according to Sarno, that creates back pain.

But, but, but.  I don’t want the back pain to return!  And I do know that I always, always, always need to find my own way, even when a theory is fundamentally sound.

So, last night and this morning, I picked up When Children Grieve.  And immediately started to cry.  Both times.

I’ve written a lot about being reactive, but the most embarrassing fact is that therapy or no therapy (and there has been therapy, however unhelpful or mostly unhelpful), I have trouble moving on emotionally from the losses in my life.  Or maybe I just can’t keep up with them.  I’ve said that I’ve entered the unknown, and it was grief that always propelled me into that darkness.  But there are these sorrows, these losses, that, ten and twenty years later, still lance me when I talk about them, still make me cry.

I quoted When Children Grieve before, about the myths of healing from loss.  But this morning I read the chapters on grieving alone, being told not to feel bad, and having to be strong for others.  I read this:  “In all our years of working with grieving people, one of the most common and difficult-to-overcome problems is the child who was cast in or adopted the role of taking care of everyone else.”

I am the oldest of six children.  Case in point.

Oldest children are pains in the ass.  We think we’re right, we try to do everything ourselves, we are perfectionists, we take responsibility for things that we shouldn’t, we enable, we undermine, we try to control.  We want to be one-up, because our real needs have always been the least important, including to ourselves, and feeling more important in our opinions or in having control, will, we think, help compensate for the loneliness.  We have no idea how to grieve–not that many people do–how to stop, how to listen to our vulnerable, troubled hearts.

I wonder if we go to therapy to learn how to grieve.  I’m reading this book, about how children are told “don’t feel bad” or “it will get better” or even “if you have to cry, go to your room.”  I’m reading about hiding when we are sad, because being sad has been seen as embarrassing.  I’m reading that we isolate when we’re upset because we’re terrified of being judged or criticized for our feelings, for how things get to us.

It sort of brings everything together.  We go to therapy because it’s supposed to be a place where people are allowed to be upset.  We want to be rid of our painful feelings so we can be happy again, but we also want someone, anyone, to take us in when we’re not strong, or happy, or responsible.  We want a place in which to be fully human.  Only of course, paying an individual for permission to be human isn’t the same as allowing yourself to be human, all the time, and having people love you for it.

In the Meisner acting technique I teach, actors are taught to respond spontaneously to each other.  They give up the control of their emotions and let the other actor affect them as deeply as possible.  They drop the socially acceptable; they drop the mask of “I’m okay.”  And the connective energy grows so intense–the kind of intensity you can’t look away from on stage or screen.  But for the actor–and I know since I trained in this technique before I started to teach it–it is an education in opening to everything you didn’t know you felt, or exposing what you knew you might feel but would never show.  And most people LOVE it.  The only way to make a mistake is to hide who you are or to pretend you feel something you don’t.  So suddenly, in an acting class, it’s okay to be who you are and to create from that.  I fell in love with Fred Kareman the first time I understood that this was what he was teaching me.

How we need a place of freedom.  Meisner actors say terrible things to each other, things that in life would be a reason to end a relationship, but since the words don’t matter, since only the co-creative sharing of energy, of relating physically, emotionally, spiritually is the focus, since everyone agrees ahead of time not to take things personally, it becomes…the most connected experience some of us ever have.  We stop pretending that we don’t get angry, that we don’t hurt, that we aren’t attracted to each other (even though we’re married to other people)…and we can be this honest because we agree not to act out our feelings, only to use them in the creation of art, and as a secondary consequence of commitment to story.

I have never been taught how to grieve.  I stumbled into it and found my way out, but since I can’t quite articulate what happened both the times I went to that place, I struggle to say why I let go.  Was it because I was loved?  Was it because I faced everything about the relationship?  Was it because I found people who could listen?  Was it because I didn’t stop the emotions as they came?  Because I stopped pretending?

My partner read one of last week’s blogs and said to me, “It’s so sad.  That you must have wanted therapy to work so badly, and it just didn’t.”

So, yes, when I was in my early twenties, confused about why I felt the way I felt about…my family, certainly, but also pretty much everything except travel and writing, I had a deep hope that there was an easy way to get clear.  And I still grieve for who I was, and how hard the road became as the therapists…well, you know.  Fell asleep, fired me for being too healthy, or told me I was so attractive.

I still grieve for moves my family made when I was in grade school, one school to the other, leaving behind the school where I’d been able to overcome being bullied to one where I might face those same issues again.

I grieve for Rick, who wanted one more summer, who wanted to be loved by a man who would see his gentleness and longing, his appreciation of beauty, and who died, as so many men in the 80’s and 90’s did, worn down to bones covered by skin and not much else.

I grieve for the funerals I was not allowed to attend, for the explanations I wasn’t given when my grandfather had a heart attack at our house, for the cousin I loved who disappeared.  And all the others.  I grieve.  I am not, at this moment, trying to be strong for anyone.

And so there is hope.

Because I know, absolutely, that each person I meet has his or her own list. That underneath whatever is being shown, is hurt, pain, hope, courage, truth.

I hope because as I write this the twinges of back pain start to disappear.

It’s not just rage that morphs into physical pain.  It is the emotional reality of my life.  And while just naming it, writing about it, helps but leaves me too raw, there are steps to grieving.  Learnable, requiring nothing but courage and honesty to attempt, these steps create the possibility of not just a pain free back, but of emotional resolution where it is most needed.

I must review what is unfinished.  I must look.  That is my first step.

I believe in healing.  I believe I must find my own way.  I believe I must not do it alone.

I believe this goes for all of us.

So.  Metta for all sentient beings, that we may be free from suffering, that we may find peace with what is, including all the losses we have known.

PS–Of course I’ll include quotes on the other steps to grief resolution once I review them all and decide I agree!  Once I try them and see if they all work as well as I think.  I’m just at the beginning!