I've spoken to some folks who glance at the 7-step process of healing the Mother Wound and say, "I already know all this", or "I've done these steps already", yet they still have all the painful symptoms of the Mother Wound. What's clear is that they may know the concepts on a cognitive level, but the process hasn't actually reached the visceral level of the body.
Transformation isn't fully real until it takes root in the body.
Cognitive understanding is very important, but it isn't enough to transform us and create lasting, meaningful change. Over the years, I've met folks who have spent decades on a spiritual journey, but the process was taken almost entirely in their minds. They may still struggle with basic living skills although they've worked with several gurus, read tons of books or even teach their own workshops! This is not surprising as we live in a culture that tells us that we can gobble up concepts and that we should have a transformation.
Concepts are like seeds of transformation, that when dropped into the body can take root and begin to transform us on the deepest levels.
I know this well because I spent years avoiding the deeper work because it was too threatening to my ego who wanted to be done and healed yesterday. I eventually realized that the need to reach the final destination was really a defense against the un-processed grief within me. Wanting to skip over or avoid the murky parts was actually a projection of the child within me who wanted someone to rescue me from pain the way my parents never could. I would project my power outward onto a new teacher or method, asking them to be the mother I never had. This insight allowed me to see that attachment to the idea of a final destination was really just a postponement of facing the pain within me. I realized that if I was to work through it, I needed to face it head on.
In our patriarchal culture, there is the illusion that there's safety in living life "from the neck-up." We are encouraged in covert and overt ways to push aside our deeper, complex experiences. It's what I call a belief that relief is in "away." It's the belief that we can push uncomfortable things aside and out of sight in order to be free of them. Whether it's through throwing trash "away" or making the pain go "away" with a pill or a drink. It's the deeper belief that freedom and comfort are possible in denial.
There was a time when there was indeed safety in denial, pushing aside, dis-owning, clenching or contracting. And that time is when we were children and had no choice but to suppress and deny our true feelings in order to survive. We've all had to do this to some degree.
Reality is much different as adults. We come to realize that there really is no such thing as "away." We must SEE things and become conscious of them first before we can ever become truly free of them. The sooner we accept this, the smoother our journey can become. Whatever we refuse to see simply lies in waiting until we are ready to see and digest it. If we continue to resist, we'll only experience increasing limitation and hardship.
The paradox is that when we truly see the thing we wish to be free of, we cease seeing it as something to "get rid of" but actually for the gift that it is in helping us to be more conscious and thus more free.
For example, if we have a goal and experience resistance to that goal, we become free of that resistance not by resisting it further or shaming ourselves, but by becoming curious and inquiring into the resistance. This openness and curiosity allows us to receive insights into the deeper cause of the resistance, at which point, we usually experience an emotional or bodily shift. This shift in the body/mind causes the resistance to lose its power to stop us and we can then move forward again toward the goal. We can trust that whatever is coming up is the next level of what needs to be processed in order to be released. Resistance always holds a gift.
A key indicator for me is noticing how my breathing changes in relation to my thoughts. I notice that when I think a contracting thought, my breathing becomes shallow and quicker. And when I think an empowering, loving thought my belly expands and my breath automatically deepens down into my gut. There's a physical sense of relief and opening. It's as though my body is showing me what is true.
Relief from the pain comes from opening to the pain
For many of us, our bodies have served as a place we have stashed our biggest hurts. Opening to our bodies can be scary because we know that the hurt is in there. To the child within, there may be a fear that opening to the old pain will only bring more pain. But the truth is that in the opening to pain is ultimately where the relief lies. Staying present to our own pain is part of mothering ourselves and gives us the experience that we are bigger and more powerful than any intense emotion.
The Key in the Lock: Take inquiry into the Body
We must measure our transformations, not by the number of years we've been on the path, the number of books we've read, or the teachers we've studied with, but by the depths we have gone to in our own process. This is only something only we can know about ourselves. It's a private kind of integrity. It's a combination of commitment and surrender. The question really is 'How can I live in each moment in alignment with what I know to be true?' and 'How can my words and actions line up with my deepest truth?' Sometimes we can feel the hunger for this kind of alignment in our very cells.
Very simple concepts have enormous richness and transformative power when they are felt and absorbed within the body.
I recall a moment on my journey when a major insight dropped into my body and thinking "Oh, THIS is what they were talking about in the book." I was amazed at how the direct experience of a very simple insight had so much more nuance and complexity than the mental concept had implied. Holding concepts lightly allows us to have direct experiences that transform us. If we hold the concepts too tightly, they become a barrier or a kind of prison. That's why our openness to the organic flow of the healing journey is so important if we are to truly transform.
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” ― Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
As Joseph Campbell says, meaning (or mental understanding) is not ultimately what we want. We want to feel our aliveness and our power right now, amidst the process and along the infinite spiral of growth. Letting go of the timeline and opening to the unknown is an incredibly alive, fertile, rich place that begins to feel more and more like home. Part of the rapture of being alive is a state of not-knowing and yet full presence in our moment-to-moment experience.
Our bodies are always in the present moment. Our bodies are always telling us the truth.
Healing trauma takes a long time and it's not easy. But it's infinitely worth it. It's not glamorous, tidy or pretty. In fact, it takes guts, determination and a big dose of grit. But what you get in return is an undeniable, bone-deep direct experience of yourself and who you REALLY are, which is beyond words and concepts. This direct experience takes deeper root with each tiny step you take, with each new layer, with each micro-insight. After a while, the timeline matters less and less because the richness of your own direct experience of yourself is more fulfilling than any concept could ever be. That's because you can feel it in your body and it's become a living, breathing reality.
There is a profound holiness that opens up when we embrace the process and un-know-abillity of the timeline. The willingness to trust and not know puts the ego aside in it's proper, secondary place so that the holy can be seated firmly within us. We have to be willing to make this choice again and again, the choice to drop into this moment and not flee it for the concept of a final destination.
Digestion cannot be rushed. It's done when it's done. We can imagine concepts as nutritious food that takes time to digest and become integrated into the body.
There is no "Away." There are no shortcuts. We each must do the work.
Transformation is a conscious choice you make. You have the power to commit to your transformation. How deep do you want to go?
For example, as a transformational coach, I can provide you with the roadmap on how to heal the Mother Wound and provide support along the way. But the results of your transformation rest solely with you, because only you can determine how deeply you digest the material and how actively use the roadmap you've been given. I set up the space, give you the tools and support, and the rest is up to you.
You are Nature. Your body has seasons of its own.
And yet no matter how much we commit to the process of our transformation, the body has limits and we must be careful not to push ourselves too hard. The cycles and seasons of our bodies help us to shift our identity to the formless, timeless being we are. Our needs for rest, for movement, all serve our transformation in some way. Trusting and surrendering help to let go of the need to control.
In order to give birth a woman consciously opens to a painful experience in her body in order to give birth to new life, to a new consciousness. We are being asked to consciously open to the pain of our emotional wounds so that they can be transformed into new life, new wisdom and new love. In that wide openness, we can see that pain consciously experienced has a liberating power to awaken us to the deeper truth of who we are.
Bethany Webster © 2015 - 2018
Art credits: "Goddess Flidais" by Amanda Clark
For any limiting belief that you become conscious of, ask yourself the following three questions:
How did this belief keep me safe as a child?
And how is it limiting me now as an adult?
What do I need to grieve or feel angry about? What energy needs to be felt or released through my body? (Drop into your body and take note of sensations you may be feeling. Just watch them with curiosity and take note of what you experience.)
What new belief or intention can I embody that affirms my authentic self and affirmatively declares my truth? Notice how your body shifts or changes as you write or verbalize the new belief.
Do you need to make a choice between two options? Are you feeling conflicted about something?
Picture the first choice in your mind as vividly as you can. Imagine the process and the outcome. See how your body feels and what sensations arise. Is there an opening or a contracting? Does your breathing relax or constrict? Do the same for the second scenario. The perfect choice for you will usually reveal itself as the most open, flowing and harmonious energy in your body.