Wednesday, September 28, 2016

RITUAL HEALING

I've been away for a few days; took a respite from the responsibilities of home, from the non-stop political news with which I'm a bit obsessed, and went west -- all the way west -- to the shores of the Pacific Ocean where the bright sun shone down providing welcome autumn warmth, where the long expanse of deserted sandy beach recorded my footsteps, wandering in aimless wonder at the vast and powerful waves crashing into land, and where driftwood logs gave comfort to weary legs as I sat and contemplated the task I was undertaking.

I was not on vacation exactly.  I'd come to a "Mending Our Broken Hearts" retreat.

It's been just over a year since I left my once beloved church home.  I've written about this before:  http://myviewfromhere-donna.blogspot.com/2015/08/stepping-back.html

and especially http://myviewfromhere-donna.blogspot.com/2015/11/end-of-era.html

Every time I thought I was well and truly "over it", something would pop up that would re-ignite the hurt and rage I felt about the whole debacle, or as one friend has termed it, "The Great Unraveling".   More than anything, I longed for peace from the ongoing resentment, hurt, and confusion I felt about what happened and my reaction to it.  I needed so much to put it behind me and move on.

The retreat was a time to create sacred space for doing ritual.  I truly believe in the transformative power of this type of work.  I've done a ton of experiential personal growth work -- beating on pillows or screaming in rage to express a well of inner anger; acting out "scenes" to access deep feelings about incidents in life that still nag, talking to someone to whom things need to be said by imagining them in the chair across from you -- or choosing a volunteer to play the part of the listener or other "actor(s)" in a life drama; doing trust falls, being held in a group cradle, being sung to...

Yes, I know many of you may be laughing and finding it all so "woo-woo" silly.  My guess that most of the laughter and judgment comes from those who have never done it, never experienced the power of intentional healing through experiencing any number and types of rituals that you can feel in your body, healing the heart and the soul.  This is not "talk therapy" where intellectual "a-ha's" may come up..."Oh!  I never thought of that!"  Experiential personal growth work doesn't rely on puzzling your way to insight while sitting on a chair talking.  It shoves you off the cliff, challenged with love and skill, until your heart finds wing.  The relief is palpable, the healing cleansing, the tools gained invaluable.

This retreat wasn't as dramatic as all that, but it was a time for creating ritual and a time to find closure and renewal.   We gathered on Friday, got settled, walked on the beach, spent time in silence.  Then we made a plan for the weekend -- the group created the flow, decided on how the rituals would unfold, set an "agenda" of sorts.  After dinner we began a round of "checking in" by speaking about what we wanted to heal and to leave behind; what were the "stuck, hurt places" still causing us pain.  It was very moving to hear how deeply felt the hurts were.  There were tears, anger, exhaustion.

Saturday morning there was a time of exploring the Enneagram Types -- similar to the more popular Myers-Briggs personality test.  I love these things because they are so accurate in explaining the differences in how people respond to common or shared experiences in such different ways depending upon personality type.  I was able to see so clearly how my own Enneagram Type, my own personality traits, and childhood experiences led me to feel so deeply hurt by what had transpired, why I (and not others) could no longer remain in an environment from which I felt so alienated, and even how my own journey of "leaving" was for reasons often quite different from others who'd also left.  And, I saw that others were not "wrong" to remain, just acting from a different set of basic needs and personality constructs.  (NOTE: Whether great or small, these early emotional "wounds" of childhood never completely go away and continue to inform how we respond to life, ever the more so if we are unaware of or deny them.)

In the afternoon we all set to work creating our "letting go of the past" ritual.  We had brought along things that represented that which we wanted to let go of -- for me it was agendas, emails, reports, lists, rosters, organizational materials, testimonials...lots and lots of written materials.  I cut these into pieces to be burned in our ritual fire on the beach.   In a time of silence we also created a group collage of photos and words that represented that which we were leaving behind.  Attached to this were long pieces of woven yarn, one for each of us, that we would cut, to represent "cutting the cord" to the past.   We gathered up all these supplies and headed to the beach.  A fire was built in a hollowed out place near a large stand of driftwood.  We took turns adding our papers to the fire, sending the work I'd done with so much care and hope into the earth as ash, the flames burning hotter as the fire grew larger.  Some said words appropriate to what they were letting go as they added their own fuel to the fire.


At the end of this burning, we suspended the collage over the fire.  So many images and words there
spoke so strongly to my experience of both the joys and sorrows, the gratitude and grief, I felt toward my church experience that tears flowed as I read the words I'd written, expressing my deep gratitude for my time in that community as well as my deep disillusionment with it.  I spoke of my desire to let go, to move on, and finally to wish the community well as they move into the future too.  Cutting that cord was a profound moment, and almost immediately I felt a sense of release and freedom from the emotions that had been pulling me under for over a year.  I felt my heart soar.

After the fire was put out we spent another hour on the beach, some walking, some sitting in silence, allowing this time in a wild and natural place to continue to heal.  That evening was also a time of individual contemplation, quiet conversation, a time for stargazing as the sky lit up with the Milky Way and familiar constellations, reminding us of the vastness with which we are surrounded.

Sunday morning we lazed about, taking our time over breakfast, reading, laughing, sharing a lightness of heart and spirit.  Then it was time to do the "moving into the future" part of the retreat.  Ironically, I had a led a day-long workshop at my church three years ago called "Creating a Personal Mission Statement" and had volunteered to lead this as part of the retreat.  I condensed it into a couple of hours and facilitated us through the various steps of finding our deepest desire for healing what might be an old wound or longing, writing a "statement of purpose" for our lives, and finally crafting a personal mission statement that one can use as a daily guide to determine if we are living  life with intention -- making the choices and doing the work that truly feeds our soul, keeps us in the flow, and heals the world by healing our own tattered hearts and living our best selves.

By late Sunday afternoon I felt a joyous exhaustion.  I felt happy and light, focused on the future, and relieved that every time I thought about the church and "The Great Unraveling", I felt neutral -- more grateful than angry about my time there; a degree of non-attached curiosity about what would be next for that community; wishing the best for those I still care about who remain there. I no longer felt the tethering pain, anger, humiliation, and shame that has been my emotional response for a year.  I felt rather like thinking about high school; I felt some amusement, cherished some happy memories, and acknowledged some sad ones, but all from a distance -- from a different time in my life.

Sunday night we went out to a casual seafood dinner and then gathered to laugh with abandon at the silly female-centered humor of a movie called "Sisters" with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.  It felt good to just be goofy.  I slept like a rock and got up Monday morning to pack and say goodbye to the beach, feeling deep gratitude for the experience and eager to drive back to my home and to reunite with  Hub who had sent me off with such gentle and hopeful wishes for a healing journey.  And it was.

At least, that's the view from here....©

PS...Having written this yesterday and just re-reading it, I feel I must add a note to those who I know read this blog and still attend this church.  The "leaving behind" does NOT include friends and those I love.  Those relationships are precious and remain so.  I'm leaving behind the emotions about the  institution, the organization, my time there as a congregant and leader.  In fact, I feel even more tenderness now, after the ritual, for all we shared together.



Sunday, September 18, 2016

POLITICS THIS YEAR: IT AIN'T PRETTY AND I'M MAD AS HELL

I've been told I am fairly articulate.  Generally I can express myself just fine; can access my emotions, identify the whys and wherefores of them and relate them intelligently in conversation.  I've been told I can write fairly well on a good day.

So, here it is, past mid-September, and I've not written a word in this blog about what's "up" for me almost every day, because for the life of me I cannot find words to express the roiling emotions I'm feeling over this political season.

I wrote that last sentence and sat here for 3-4 minutes full of sadness, anger, rage, despair, hope, more rage....words floated through my head in rapid succession, none of them making any rational sense.  I'm relating to my 18 month old granddaughter who tries valiantly to communicate with us, but some days just dissolves into tantrums of frustration.  That's me with this Presidential race.

I've said it before here; I love presidential election years.  I find the process stimulating, exciting, informative, and yes, even fun.  And I'm royally pissed that this year, when I should be over the moon excited about the prospect of perhaps electing our first woman president, who happens to be the most qualified candidate for president ever running for the office, instead I am inundated with the daily, drip, drip, drip water torture of enduring the outrageous antics of her opponent, a despicable human being who is the most unqualified person to ever run for the office and who according to some polls is running neck and neck with Hillary Clinton.  (See what I mean?  That's an example of terrible run-on sentence construction, but I can't even care enough to fix it because I'm so emotional right now.  Aaarrrgggg!)

I can't even enumerate the zillions of ways in which his vulgar, racist, sexist, misogynist, multi-phobic narcissistic lies have permeated the discussion and how somehow his outrageous statements and behaviors have not disqualified him from running.  I have lost any modicum of respect I may have had for a Republican Party to have nominated him; it's a national disgrace.   The news media is fixated on him because of the train wreck he is and train wrecks are good for ratings.  I have started to turn it all off.  I can't watch as any semblance of rationality goes up in flames as the false sense of equivalence between the two candidates continues to be bandied about as if it is in any way real.  It's not.

I know Hillary has her haters; she has a 40 year history of very visible public service and has made some questionable decisions at times.  She's been pragmatic when falling on an idealist's sword may have been the more popular choice.  Sometimes I have disagreed with her; sometimes I have agreed; sometimes I have seen the compromises she has made to move forward an inch, if not a mile, knowing there is a roadblock at mile-marker .75.  Gain a little or lose it all; these are not the kinds of compromises many on the Left like to see.

I also know she is judged for being a woman -- the sexism and discrimination are both overt and subtle.  She has had to be tough to make it in a "man's world", then gets criticized for being "cold", "aloof".  When she reveals her softer side, she is accused of being inauthentic and calculating.  Doesn't smile enough; smiles too much; bad hair day; stupid pantsuits; errant husband -- all her fault.  She's labeled as dishonest and untrustworthy because not everything she's touched has turned out golden.  Not one investigation has turned up wrongdoing or illegality on her part, but the framing of her as "crooked" has become real even though there is no proof for the moniker.  Almost no one is talking about her lifetime of working for the common good (for women and children, for working families) both in the limelight and behind the scenes, quietly doing the dull and tedious policy work it takes to make a difference in people's lives.

It INFURIATES me and awakens the sleeping Angry Feminist within me to see us fighting the same old shitty battles for equality right on the cusp of making a major breakthrough.   And even if she wins, that won't be the end of it -- not by a long-shot. If the right wing has had to stonewall and question the validity of our first African-American president, I'm sure they will just continue on with disparaging the first woman president.

For the first time in my life I've lost faith in the "greater angels" of what is right and good to win the day in politics and policy.  I've lived long enough to ride out some terrible presidents and terrible policy decisions, but always believed that if someone truly dangerous rose to the top, that person would be stopped; that even those with whom I disagree politically had the ultimate best interests of American at heart, even if I thought their tactics to get there were flawed.  I no longer believe that.  If this year's Republican candidate is elected, it will reveal a horrific and terrifying turn away from everything I believe this country stands for.  His campaign has already revealed an ugliness that has  given voice and power to millions of bigoted Americans and has exposed them for what they truly are.  It has hit me over the head with the fact that progressive, liberal, open-hearted values of equality and fairness are far from the national reality right now.

How anyone can support him, even if they believe the lies about Hillary or just disagree with some of her policy proposals, is beyond my ability to comprehend.  How anyone can look at the despicable things he has said and done throughout his life, and say, "Yes, this is the man I want for President; the man I want to represent me on the world stage; the man I want to hold the safety and security of my family in his hands." is appalling to me.

It's disturbing to recognize how this man's hate-filled, selfish rhetoric has brought out MY shadow side as well.  At times I feel equal hatred for him and what he stands for as his supporters must feel toward me.  I completely have lost respect for his supporters.  Even if they cherry-pick the one or two issues he has touted that they agree with, there is no leaving behind the totality of what he is and that is what they would be voting into office.  I cannot understand, or respect, the thinking of someone who could do that.  Maybe in some way his disrespectful rhetoric has made me so angry that I've stopped trying to be so compassionate and understanding of another's views and just call it out:  I believe political leanings represent a person's world view and value system.  If he's your man, I don't think you and I have a value system in common.

I know this is a bummer blog post.  It's not funny and I may have offended some people; I don't know.  But here's what I do know.  This year's election is no laughing matter.  The Republican candidate by definition is deplorable and dangerous.  I won't be silent.  I won't pretend there is parity between the two candidates.  I won't watch the degradation of our political system without speaking up, without mourning, without at least trying to give voice to my inarticulate emotions.

November 8th will come and we shall see.  I have to believe there are not enough people who think and behave like him to elect the Republican.  I sincerely hope not.  So, when Hillary wins, I will celebrate for many reasons -- relief that this horrible campaign is over,  a candidate with whom I agree on most issues has won the presidency, the most qualified candidate in history has won the presidency, a woman has won the presidency -- and a lunatic has been put in place back in his vulgar tower of wealth and self-aggrandizement.  But I know it won't be smooth-sailing.  We've seen the near collapse of the two-party system.  Both the right and the left are mad as hell and ain't gonna take it anymore.  Change is coming.  I just hope it's change we can all survive.

At least, that's the view from here...©