The Road to Resilience

Trauma is the invisible force that shapes our lives. It shapes the way we live, the way we love and the way we make sense of the world. It is the root of our deepest wounds. Trauma cannot always be conquered, fixed, or resolved, but it can be heard, held and loved.

Gabor Maté, The Wisdom of Trauma

The road less traveled…

My road to resilience has been a long one, and still going. At times the smell of burnt rubber from my spinning wheels made me wonder if I had ever gained any ground, or if I dared hope I would one day arrive at wholeness. In those times it helped me to remember that the universe moves in circular motion – that our very hearts beat to the rhythm of daily, monthly, and yearly seasons and cycles. A deepening spiral into the depths of ourselves more accurately reflects life on earth than the idea of a direct route to any sort of destination or end point, and the process of awakening inside 3-D reality has convinced me that growing into the fullness of our humanity may in fact take several lifetimes – both collectively and individually.

Looking back at my movement towards resilience, I would have to say that (in this lifetime, at least) my journey began at age 13 – the year I started thinking seriously about ending my life. This suicidal ideation would continue throughout my teens, and even into my mid-twenties, although the relationship I established with the god of the Bible prevented me from carrying out the deed.

So What is Resilience?

re·sil·ience/rəˈzilyəns/noun

  1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
  2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

It used to astound me how two people could have virtually the same experience and come away with completely different reactions. My family of origin illustrates this well, actually. Four children raised by the same parents, all assigning their own personal meanings to their childhood. This phenomena makes sense when you understand that the nature of an event itself neither supports nor negates the definition of trauma; rather the subjective experience of the one affected by the event defines that event as traumatic or not.

Perception really is everything.

In college, one particular friendship made all the difference in my perception of the world and my place in it. A late-night conversation in her car stands out in my mind to this day, and while it may not have meant all that much to her, I believe that it literally saved me at the time. My friend’s willingness to not only see through my meticulously crafted walls, but also dare to find a way inside them introduced me to a new resource: vulnerability. To this day I do not do vulnerability particularly well, but she showed me that as painful as it can be to face and reveal the darkness inside, vulnerability also has the power to strengthen, liberate, and connect us together.

To me, resilience means having access to an abundance of resources (inside and out) that can aid in navigating the difficult storms of life, but despite the lesson(s) my college friend taught me, I managed to recreate the pain of my childhood in my marriage. When you are at the mercy whim of a person with narcissistic tendencies, vulnerability seemed like an UNuseful tool, so out the window that went.

I remember in my thirties coming to the stunning realization that amidst the vast number of emotional tools available, I had truly developed only one: anger. For most of my life, anger was my go-to problem solver. Anger helped me survive. At first I kept it in the dark. My childhood taught me in thousands of ways that to reveal a negative feeling about anything led to vilification through guilt and shame. Happy was the order of the day. Every. Single. Damn. Day. Whether I felt happy or not. I learned to build thick walls, and at the same time, stuff my anger deeper and deeper down, making the eventual explosions that much more painful for me and those around me. Much later I learned that anger turned inward often manifests as depression. Despite my moody broody Pisces nature, I never did depression any better than I had vulnerability.

Instead, my body manifested an autoimmune disease.

The Body Keeps the Score

Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.

In 2004, during a routine physical, my doctor discovered nodules in the right side of my thyroid. An ultrasound and eventual lab work dismissed cancer but revealed extremely high numbers of antibodies. My anger-turned-inward had literally caused my body to begin attacking itself. Considering how much difficulty I had in expressing my feelings (remember, crap at vulnerability), it is no wonder that my immune disorder of ‘choice’ targeted my throat, my voice, my self-expression. When the body begins to manifest disease, it’s time to face the hard truths about the source(s) of chronic illness.

Owning up to trauma and its devastating effects does not necessitate blame. Trauma is my response to an event, so facing it makes me response-able, as Gabor Maté puts it.

Taking responsibility requires self-awareness and a willingness to either walk away from toxic relationships or develop the self-care tools necessary to diligently acknowledge, own, and heal our own trigger points. Today my toolbox holds way more than anger inside, although I came to learn that anger properly expressed proves quite useful at times. When we allow our emotions to teach and inform us, true healing and incredible growth can occur, but –

You must feel it to heal it.

Michelle D’Avella

So many events in my life contributed to the building of my resilience toolbox that it would take a memoir or three to adequately talk about them all. Some that stand out in my memory:

I daresay that every experience in life potentially adds to our resiliency toolbox, depending on our perception and level of awareness. The big ones stand out, but the little ones carry weight too. And my teachers – WOW!! Dr. Joe Dispenza, Abraham Hicks, Alan Watts, Bruce Lipton, Michelle D’Avella, Niraj Naik, Marshall Rosenberg, Daniel Quinn, Patrick McKeown, Gabor Maté, Peter Levine, and so many more have expanded my toolbox in ways that I find hard to express. These days Byron Katie’s idea of approaching thoughts with curiosity has become a helpful point of focus for me.

What about you?

  • What life experiences have helped build your resiliency toolbox?
  • What teachers/ideas influence and inform your growth towards resiliency?
  • What does your practice of self-care look like and what place does it have in your toolbox?

For me, resilience must offer more than the ability to recover from trauma – it also must give me the strength to walk in love day-to-day through a world that at times feels like a mass of painful meaningless chaos.

May you develop within yourself a resilience powerful enough to shine the light of joy into every moment, every trauma, every sorrow, every fear, and become a beacon of gratitude strong enough to anchor you into an inner knowing that the source of this universe truly is pure positive energy love.

Thanks so much for reading!

Namaste,

~Cindy

Link Share #3

Blessed Sagittarius season, everyone! I plan to begin writing again once my move is complete, so stay tuned for some holiday explorations and an upcoming Yule Tarot reading! In the meantime, I found a wonderful article I wanted to share. Enjoy!

One Native’s perspective on Thanksgiving. Beautiful read. ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

See you soon!

Namaste,

~C

Letting Go Accountability

Today I had the chance to share my journey into forgiveness with someone on Facebook. I thought I might post it here in case it might be helpful for any of my readers. There really is healing ahead – assuming you want it badly enough.

Question:

How do I stop holding an ex accountable for their behavior? How do I let go and forgive?

My response:

I have been going through this for the past 3 years, so for what it’s worth, here’s how it went for me.

1. I started a vision board for my trip to Ireland, and in the process, ran into a little meme that reads: “Forget shit and move on.” It didn’t have much to do with Ireland, but I put it on my board anyway. It became a very useful tool when I needed to stop the stream of hateful thoughts that came up often in those days. In terms of painful experiences, a short memory is the fastest road to salvation (read: freeeddoooommm). (See Joe Dispenza for more on this.)

2. I spent a reasonable amount of time sending the white light of love to him in meditation. Not something I could do when I was NOT connected to my inner being (who loves him, despite my feelings about it).

3. I started noticing that I kept meeting men who were JUST LIKE HIM. Seriously, ALL of them. Hm, I knew enough about the LOA to know that it was my focus on his faults that was pulling these people into my experience. I was doing it – ME, not him (reminder: I attracted him into my experience in the first place, after all). When I finally had enough, I began with the new people who were rubbing me the wrong way (I couldn’t begin with him). I reminded myself of an old adage, “hurting people hurt people” and started finding positive aspects in those folks. Then I thought about and talked about those positive aspects to anyone who would listen (especially others who were annoyed by those same people). Soon the weird relationships I had been encountering either disappeared (I started meeting really wonderful people), or the relationships began resolving themselves. One in particular continues to amaze me in terms of how much the person changed in my view of them over a very short period of time! Perspective really is everything. Now I just don’t think ill of the ex anymore either – maybe I’ll call it ‘the bleed effect’. I’ve seen too much positive change in my world to want to go back there again.

4. I reminded myself over and over that we ALL do the best we can with what we have. There are people in this world who simply do not have useful tools in the emotional box. Asking a crippled person to walk and then becoming angry when they don’t is worse than counterproductive. Shouting their disability to others who can see clearly that they have limitations is less than helpful. Usually just makes me look like an ass, not them.

5. I started believing Abraham Hicks – that I really don’t need to explain anything to anyone or justify my divorce by trashing the ex. None of it is necessary. Who I was then is not who I am now. If he chooses to change, great; if not, it’s his loss and still won’t affect me in the least. I began choosing to look into the future and stop wasting my energy in the past. A good quote: “Unforgiveness is equivalent to me drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.” You have to get tired of being sick. An even better quote: “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” Something that will never change no matter how much energy I give to it. The past really IS passed!

6. Finally, this person is the father of my children. If nothing else, I can find great satisfaction in the joy that these three beings continue to bring me.  Without him, there would be no them. I am learning from Abraham that the road to healing is paved with appreciation for the positive aspects of everyone in our experience. After all, each person I meet contains wanted and unwanted. What I focus on is MY choice, and only mine. I got tired of being miserable and started either focusing on his positive aspects or looking at something else entirely. It does help to bang a pickleball around 5 or 6 times a week. hehe

Perhaps I have not yet achieved total freedom, but today I am much happier on my journey than I have ever been. And I can even say that I am grateful beyond measure for the 28 years of pain that taught me how important happiness really is – AND the truth about where happiness comes from. Hint: Happiness cannot come from any source outside of myself, so why would I hold anyone accountable for not giving me something that they could never have given me anyway?

Many blessings on your journey into joy!

Namaste,

C

Goodness or Power

Occasionally I see something on a TV show that makes me think. That happened to me tonight about midway through an episode of Once Upon a Time.

That’s Snow White (Mary Catherine) and Prince Charming (David) up there arguing with Regina (Snow White’s evil stepmother). Mary Catherine is holding the dagger that can control Rumplestilskin (or kill him, giving the murderer his power). Cora, (Regina’s mother, not shown in the photo), supposedly wants nothing more than for her daughter to be queen. The truth is, Cora wants nothing less than ultimate power. She will do anything to get it.

Further along in the scene, Regina holds the heart of one of Mary Catherine’s childhood servants in her hand, threatening to kill her if Snow refuses to give up the knife. David tells her to give them the knife to save her servant (now friend), and that they will find another way to defeat Regina and Cora. Cora mocks Mary Catherine and her determination to choose the good (always choosing to do what is good) at any cost. In the midst of the argument Regina venomously spits at Snow White:

goodness doesn’t win, power does.

Snow White’s goodness won out and she gave up the dagger in order to save her servant/friend, only to watch Cora push her through the clock tower window to her death. In that one small encounter, power won out over goodness, and Mary Catherine knew it. That got Snow White to thinking… it got me to thinking too.

Struggling with what just happened, Mary Catherine tells David that being good has not been worth the cost. She wonders if expecting evil to change to good was naive and that maybe all along she has been the one who needed to change. She is ready for their happy ending to come, even if through evil means. She determines to suffer no more losses at the hands of those who embrace evil. Thus begins her plan to murder Cora.

I turned 49 yesterday and perhaps staring 50 hard in the face is making me do a bit of thinking about life and death. Some questions have been wandering through my brain as a result. Why does a serial killer escape while a friend’s 9-yr. old daughter is having surgery on a brain tumor? Why do gang leaders ensnare a hurting, lonely youth while a mother of 6 is killed in a highway collision? Why do the stars of Hollywood bask in their imagined fame while a sinkhole steals away a man’s brother as he climbs into bed at the end of a long day? Why does a mother lose 2 sons and a husband while a woman in her 20’s finds out she has breast cancer? Why does one evil leader get called to task while another nation performs ethnic cleansing unchallenged? The list goes on and on and on.

My conclusion in the face of these quandaries? A resounding, “I DON’T GET IT.” Yeah, that was my answer: no clue. It just doesn’t make any sense. Some of you may be thinking that this sounds like Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People? or some such question of why evil exists. But that’s not really it. I get that we live in a fallen world, I get that sin has touched everything from nature to our genetic code. I guess my problem is the lack of rhyme or reason to it all. It just doesn’t make any sense. Kind of like Snow White wanting her pursuit of goodness to produce the happy ending she expects; that evil continues to thrive and wantonly take the ‘good’ (not ‘good’ in the sense of moral uprightness, but ‘good’ in the sense of life, love, and justice) out of the world isn’t making any sense to her right now. Me either.

Power should not win over goodness.

Yet more often than not, it does. Having been steeped in 30+ years of Evangelical thought, it’s difficult for me to think about ‘good’ and ‘evil’, power and weakness without some reference to the Christian God. And I cannot think of God without thinking of the church. I begin to hear whispered memories of Christian friends of mine supporting America’s assertion of power around the globe, as if God sanctions war when America wages it (against the ‘lost’ or the Muslim or the evil dictator). I can hear preachers talking about God torturing the wicked in a never-ending fire … warnings (or encouragement) to parents that what they teach (or fail to teach) their children will come to fruition ‘one day’ … gloom and doom prophecies of a coming apocalypse through a world power called ‘Antichrist’ … a painting of Jesus riding a white horse through storm clouds while a flaming sword of death and judgment issues from his mouth.

But, is that how God wins over evil … through ultimate power? Does God win because His power trumps everything? Really? Apparently that is what one preacher I heard recently believes. To him it all boiled down to God’s holiness – defined as the perfection of God that destroys (or at least severely punishes) imperfection. He would tell you to fear God because He’s holy and His holiness makes Him more powerful than anything else, somehow giving Him the right to punish those of His children who fail Him in some way. In that paradigm, fear gives you the ability to obey, and thus avoid the otherwise inevitable consequences of your sins.

Huh. Really? I don’t know. I don’t think Regina and Cora are right. I don’t think that power wins. Something deep inside me and something fundamentally communicated through Jesus’ death have convinced me that it’s not about raw power. At least not power as we understand it. Not the power to conquer through fear and torment. Not the power to rule over others by the strong trumping the weak. Not the power resulting from one’s ability to take life. That is the power of the tormentor, the abuser, truly the power of evil itself.

In many ways isn’t this the image of God the Christian church has painted for us for millennia: a conquering King who is going to force everyone who has ever lived to bow the knee to Him through fear and torment? Oh, sure, He offers pardon through some sort of belief in His Son, but even that is coercion borne of fear. Sounds more like a ‘benevolent’ dictator to me than a Creator-God of love.

The same pastor who believed the only pertinent part of God’s character we need consider was His holiness (moral perfection) also stated, and I quote:

Love doesn’t win, God wins.

Wow. Sounds an awful lot like Regina telling Mary Catherine that good doesn’t win, power does. Hm. It’s a good thing I was listening to this man over the internet instead of in person. I would have been carried out by the church leaders when I stood up and shouted:

GOD IS LOVE!!

I fear the church has forgotten what real power, Biblical power looks like. So focused on recognition, visibility, numbers in attendance, financial prosperity, moral agendas, self-protection and even vengeance … I find it hard to tell the church from any run-of-the-mill modern-day corporation. Where are the characteristics of humility and meekness Jesus spoke about in Matthew 5? Who is issuing the corporate call to lay down our lives in love for those around us? Who is reminding anyone in the churches today that the Kingdom we are building is not of this world, and neither are the weapons we use?

You know, I hear the argument a lot that Jesus came the first time to save, He will come the second time to judge. Really? Last I checked God does not change. Throughout history God the Father has been dismantling man’s idea of power and success. He continually chose the marginalized, the outcast, the weak of the world to carry out His plan and purpose. His Son submitted to death at the hand of His very creation to live out His example to us of what true power looks like. If you think He’s going to suddenly change into that mean-spirited, angry, judgmental, punishing God you’ve heard about all your life, you are sadly mistaken.

I hope Snow White comes to her senses. I hope she listens to Prince Charming again and realizes that good always trumps evil. It’s hard to see it in the midst of the struggle, but that’s what the message of resurrection is all about. Just when we think it’s really the end, just when we think evil has won, just when we decide the body has started to decay … that’s when Love says, “arise!” Evil cannot win against a God who IS love. Not on your life. Not on HIS life.

I hope the church comes to her senses. I hope she starts listening to Jesus and realizes that God is good, God is love, and His love never fails. Unbeknownst to us, love is the greatest power in the universe. And I’m here to tell you (over and over again if I have to) …

Evil doesn’t win, Love does!

Returning the Favor

The other day I read this Facebook post:

May you truly know that you are loved and salvation is being saved from God by God Himself.

Really? The first word that came to mind when I read that was “schizophrenic.” The second was “split personality.” I don’t think the Scripture supports the idea that God has to save us from Himself. Somehow I don’t think that Scripture portrays God as conflicted toward His creation. I also don’t think I could interpret this kind of dichotomous behavior as anything close to love. How could I “know I was loved” by a God who has to save me from Himself? Who’s to say the angry side of God won’t trump the love side at my first slip-up?

If God never changes, and God is love … if the primary goal of God is the praise of the glory of His grace … how has anger and wrath become the focus of our belief system? Sounds more like the way men behave than God to me.

Baxter Kruger once quoted another teacher:

On the sixth day God created man in His own image … and we have been returning the favor ever since.

Have you driven on an interstate highway lately? Road rage is rampant. Have you read the news this week? More and more teens are running away from abusive homes. War is everywhere – people rising up and killing one another all over the world out of racial and religious hatred. People are angry. Our mental institutions are chock full of split personalities and our homes are rife with divorced parents raising confused children. This is us, not God.

How about this one:

I read a post on a friend’s wall about a dad in the middle east somewhere who killed his three daughters under sharia law and said he would do it again. It sickens me that he believes that is what his god requires.

It sickens me that my friend believes this is what Jesus requires. My friend doesn’t see the inconsistency. They believe that their heavenly Father will kill His children for failure to obey His laws – only God plans to do this for all of eternity. (In my friend’s mind the opposite of eternal life is eternal death.) To me, the Evangelical assertion that hell is eternal makes our God much worse than these Middle-Eastern fathers. At the very least, these men don’t know any better than what they have been taught by their misguided forefathers (and I realize this to be my friend’s plight as well), whereas God is all-wise and all knowing; and in their case, the pain they caused their daughters had an end, whereas God plans to punish His children without end.

It amazes me how people cannot see the illogical nature of vilifying people who kill their fellow men while glorifying a God who kills (punishes in tortuous fire) people for all of eternity after a mere 80 years of sin. They call this justice? If it’s wrong for an earthly father to kill his daughters for disobeying the Law, then it is infinitely more wrong for an infinite God to kill the children He created for disobeying His law … for all eternity – without even the hope of an end. In other words, it was horribly wrong for Hitler to torture and experiment on hundreds, maybe millions of Jews, but at least there was an end to their suffering – death. Has it ever occurred to you that most Christians believe God is punishing Hitler in hell alongside all those Jews Hitler tortured and murdered who didn’t believe in Jesus as their Messiah? Sure. Makes perfect sense to me… IN WHAT UNIVERSE COULD THIS POSSIBLY MAKE SENSE?

You are probably saying to yourself what I used to tell myself: “But God’s Law is different. God is holy, so He has to punish sin. Anyway, God is different. He’s God. He can do what He wants.” Really? You don’t believe that. Your God is too small. This is what God wants:

2 Corinthians 5: 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Romans 5: 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood [not our belief], we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son [not our belief], much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life [not our belief]. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation … 18 So then as through one transgression [Adam] there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness [Jesus] there resulted justification of life to all men. (Don’t tell anyone, but all means all.)

Colossians 1: 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.


Help  me here … which part of “all things” did He not reconcile to Himself?

Romans 11: 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

Philippians 2: 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Romans 10: 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

1 Timothy 4: 10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

Over and over again in a hundred different ways the New Testament writers talk about a great reversal – a reconciliation of all things back to God’s way, back to peace, wholeness, and righteousness. There cannot be complete reconciliation where anyone remains unreconciled. There is no end to sadness or any hope of fullness of joy as long as God is determined to vent His wrath rather than to heal. There is no glory in a God who must be appeased for the shortcomings of His creation. The maintaining of a ‘place’ or condition we call hell simply is not in the Bible, and beyond that, it does not portray justice.

Biblically, justice means making all things right.

People have redefined ‘justice’ to mean ‘retribution.’

I heard a great story recently about this. The speaker told about a girl who died as a teenager. Just before her death a friend invited her to church. After the service the friend asked her if she had accepted Jesus as her personal savior. The girl replied no, that she didn’t believe in God – she claimed to be an atheist. Her friend proceeded to share the Gospel with the girl, telling her that Jesus had died for her sins and she must accept this or God would punish her in hell forever. The girl continued to refuse God. The next day she was raped and murdered.

When the police caught the murderer, he was convicted and sentenced to death. During the trial the judge asked him if he was sorry for what he had done. Far from it. He reveled in his sin and bragged about the girl’s screams to her devastated parents. Throughout his life he railed against God and his fellow inmates. He was one of the most hated and feared men in the prison, and he spent most of his time in solitary confinement due to his violent behavior.

Three nights before his execution he received a visit from a pastor. He heard the truth about Jesus and the forgiveness God offers us for the very first time. Overcome by grief for what he had done, he fell to his knees and prayed to God for forgiveness. Two days later he was executed. Imagine his surprise when he woke up in God’s presence while the young teenage girl he tortured and murdered continued to suffer in hell because she didn’t pray the sinner’s prayer before she met her untimely death. How can anyone interpret this as justice? Where is justice for this girl whose life was literally taken from her? How can it be justice for a rapist to suffer a few years in prison and die a humane death by execution when she not only suffered a violent death in this life, but continues to suffer for all of eternity in fire? How can this even come close to what John promised:

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the [cosmos].

… puts to right all wrongs in all of creation. What else could this mean?

The creation, the ‘cosmos’ doesn’t sin. People sin. The cosmos – world – is inanimate – it can only be affected by peoples’ sin. Maybe if John had used the Greek word ‘Anthropos’ or ‘Ethnos’ I would suspect he was talking about taking away peoples’ sins (as in not counting their sins against them). But no, he makes the work of Christ much bigger than just forgiving the sins of individual people. John promises a great reversal to the world-wide effects of sin. When he talks about taking away the sin of the Cosmos, he promises that Jesus is going to turn the world upside down – make everything right.

But wait. Wasn’t this young teen’s sin (unbelief) part of the cosmos? Then why do we think Jesus didn’t take it away with the sins of the man who murdered her? Because the killer said a few words in prayer before the end of his life? Seriously?

I believe that it’s time we start taking God at His word and recognize when we have made God into our own image. Just because I may want to punish (murder) someone out of anger (and retribution), that doesn’t mean God is this way. Just because I respond to my environment with violence doesn’t mean that God does too. Jesus on the cross showed us the way of God – nonviolence. Jesus’ behavior was the very opposite of the people who murdered Him – Jesus was never schizophrenic, He consistently loved, even His killers. By His eternal Word, I believe He still prays,

“Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.”

… believing … teaching … saying.

Isn’t it time we stop returning the favor?