Over the last few weeks, my mind has become obsessed with all of the "out there" problems that I cannot change, ruminating on everything that needs fixing, healing and growth here.
So much to do, so little time on Earth.
As a born helper it's easy for me to feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped to deal with these current times.
That's when, thankfully, I started listening to the incredible audiobook My Grandmother's Hands, written by Resmaa Menakem who is a body-based trauma specialist.
His work, based on years of clinical practice with people of all cultures and backgrounds in addition to solid research, affirms what I've felt so deeply about worldly healing: that lasting change starts within each of us, particularly through our bodies.
You see, in our cells, we each carry the instinctual memories, behaviors, patterns and wounds of our ancestors' lived experiences as humans. These wordless patterns that live in black-bodies and white-bodies of both thought and behavior are downloaded into our DNA prior even to birth. And so we literally carry behaviors of the great great great grandparents many of us have never even heard about.
When I was pregnant, I was CERTAIN that neither of my girls would live beyond the womb. It was the most ridiculous thought-pattern: every scan was healthy, every doctor visit normal.
But this was a VISCERAL feeling in my body.
During that time, I was studying yoga therapy and learning about this very concept when I realized that I was carrying my Grandmother's unhealed trauma from her horrifying stillbirth experience -- in my cells.
My body REMEMBERED that wordless story, just as she remembers many others: stories about how to survive: what is safe. what is not safe. what to do to get food, shelter, love and attention. And what NOT to do so as to avoid the unbearable loss of those things.
Most of these body-based behaviors and beliefs are unconscious: automatic, you could say.
That's probably why I've been in the pantry WAAAAY more than usual lately during this intense time: grabbing a chocolate here, there and everywhere. As much as my MIND might disagree with it, this coping strategy of self-soothing wth food LIVES in me as cellular, ancestral memory.
And when I look out to all of the things that upset me about "those people out there" (domination, violence, betrayal and "othering,") I can see that -- although it's extremely hard to do so -- many of those behaviors that created this world in which we live, LIVE in me, too.
I know you think that's crazy.
I'm a yogi. A do-gooder. A mindful mama.
I study spirituality and compassion for a living.
But I still think violent thoughts about my beloved body when I look at her in the mirror.
On a bad day, I dominate and shame my children for their innocent behaviors.
And yes, sadly, I have betrayed the people I love the most just to save my own ass.
Menakem confirms this: that the patterns that got us here, in this version of the America in which we live are INNER behaviors that are expressing themselves externally, creating the world that we are seeing "out there."
That's why these external events keep happening over and over and over again. NOT because we don't WANT change. Not because we don't KNOW better. But because our body-based nervous system reactions simply are stuck in old, unconscious patterns.
That's why Jesus begs us to STOP judging one another.
To forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.
I used to be embarrassed and ashamed of believing that my yoga practice was one of the most potent ways to be of service to the planet. Like thinking that way was some sort of new-age, woo-woo bullshit.
But now I see and understand how and why starting from within, before we take any form of external action, is the only way out of this mess.
Yes, of course we need top-down change, but MORE importantly I think we need bottom up change.
I believe DEEPLY in the change that starts from turning our violent, fearful, animalistic patterns into ones that are empathetic and compassionate towards ourselves and those around us. For I can ONLY give out to the world whatever I've cultivated within myself.
What if, together, we continued to tame the wild demons that keep us separate, scared and segregated?
What if we believed so viscerally that WE MATTER that together we agree to unwind the many ways we each unconsciously cause both others and ourselves harm?
Menakem assures that real healing and transformation starts in the BODY and in safe spaces where we feel held, heard and accepted just the way we are.
That's the power of what we do together, friends.
Using these profound tools, we transform the body, calm and quiet the negative mind and become compassionate bodies that begin to pour a new energy out into this hurting world (which is our karma yoga practice).
Yoga Therapist, Teacher, Speaker, Writer, Mother