This holiday season I long for a more loving & livable world where we can all listen deeply and patiently with each other. When we are able to listen to each other from a patient and loving place inside of us, we can feel less separate and broken.  We can stop “othering” each other and find our connectedness, our similarities — mostly that we are all humans living together here on this Earth.

The world has changed drastically this year.  It will never be the same.  Too  much has been opened up and we cannot shut it down now— our own pain and grief, the grief of so much hate that has been shed upon each other,  the hate that has been opened up.  In trauma trainings this is what we call “our bottom drawers”.  When we open up our own “bottom drawers”  it  gives permission for others to do the same, and suddenly we find ourselves enveloped in each other’s traumas.  This trauma or unprocessed emotional material that hangs out in our “bottom drawers”  impacts our bodies in very deep ways and cannot be easily released.

We have been living in a larger environment of hate, greed and fear  for the past four years and this intensity has ignited more pain and anger to be acted out in attacks on anyone who is non-white, weaker than us, less fortunate.  However, the good news is that it has ignited so much emotional pain collectively that it has opened up a wave of activism and energy to right these wrongs and to find ways to heal this collective pain that has been finally named.  Just by naming the problem as we are starting to do is very important in getting into the roots of the causes and moving towards healing.

This, of course, requires that we do our own “trauma work”—learn what is in our “bottom drawers” and how to move it through and out of our bodies where it can be processed and released.  This is most easily done with trauma therapy: EMDR,  Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), Somatic Experiencing (SE), or Brain Spotting.  Trauma Therapy is mind/body/spirit work.  It is very healing and is not that difficult to get through if you are ready to do the work.  Having done this myself, over many years, and helping many other people to do this very important grief and rebirthing work, I can tell you it has changed my life and my ability to have more compassion and resiliency to continue serving.  Most therapists are now trained in trauma tools like these.  You must ask for “trauma therapy” and make a commitment to your personal path of healing.

The reason I teach mindfulness and self-compassion is because these tools are the way we start the healing process for  ourselves.   By learning mindful breath practices, you learn how to witness your own “bottom drawer” as well as your gifts and strengths.  You start seeing and feeling your wholeness –all of it.   We use mindful self compassion to help us hold ourselves gently and with self-forgiveness, as we witness our own pain.  In both cases, it’s very helpful to have  a teacher or guide to help you do learn how to do this.  Mindfulness Retreats and Classes, Sanghas and Circles, or guided meditation practices online where you can practice together and get support and feedback are great places to start.  Your own personal trauma therapist is the second step when you are able to self-witness and create calming comfort for yourself.

This is my life’s work now, to help teach others to find their own personal healing however it comes, because one person at a time we can change our world.   In order to heal our world, we must all learn to open our hearts to our own pain, to witness and be compassionate for our own pain, so that we can be compassionate witnesses to others.  As we do this, we can work together to solve our problems and heal our Earth.

If you are wanted to begin this process, or if you are already on your way, here are some practices that can help you right now.

The Pause:
(Do this often during your day) 

Stop. Take a moment to check in with yourself.  What was it like for you to read these words above about trauma and your “bottom drawer”?   What do you feel in your body now?  What feelings do you notice?   What thoughts do you notice?  Where in your body are you feeling these emotions, sensing these thoughts?  What other reactions are you noticing?

(taken from Rhonda MaGee, The Inner Work of Racial Justice) & Jon Kabat-Zinn)

Self-Compassion Break:  
(Do this when you are feeling stressed, upset, challenged)

Step 1:  Notice that you are stressed.  Stop and pay attention to yourself.    This is mindful presence with yourself.

Step 2:  Feel beyond yourself into the world:  You are not alone feeling this way.  It is a human trait to feel emotional or painful things.  This is part of being human and noticing you are expressing your humanity right now.

Step 3:  Coming back to yourself –  Can you bring in kindness to yourself by placing your hands on your heart or another calming place that helps your body settle and relax and release?  Now allow yourself to bring in kindness to yourself, if possible, beyond just the healing touch of your hands to your body.  That can be a kind thought, a gesture, a kind message to yourself. Notice how this changes your breathing and your emotional state.  Notice if this is difficult and keep trying it gently with patience allowing self-compassion to slowly grow within you.

(Taken from MSC Course, Kristin Neff and Chris Germer, and the Center for Mindfulness in San Diego)

Three Minute Embodied Breath:  (Do this when you are in pain or angry)

First Step:  Close your eyes and begin to pay attention to the rise and fall of your breathing, following the breath as it begins at the diaphragm and moves up your body expanding your ribs and your chest, expanding into your heart and throat and then rolling over into a release or exhale.  Follow the exhale all the way as it goes down your body collapsing the expansion and just letting it slowly drift off until you can’t release anymore and you begin to inhale in again. After several cycles, allow yourself to notice yourself dropping deeper into your body and feeling safer hanging out there.

Second Step:  Notice your body in space and the wholeness of you.  Notice if the sun is out, is there lightness and brightness around you.  Find where this lightness is outside of you.   This is your sense of wholeness and health and strength.  Take a moment to take in the energy of this expanded you sitting here holding all of you and creating a safe container for you to be here — all of you. Bring in your lightness and brightness more deeply.

Third Step:  Allow yourself to take in any sensations that are coming up inside of you and savor them with curiosity and patience.  Drop deeper into the sensations if you can or just allow them to be there however they are without judgement or reaction.  Sit quietly and let your body work with whatever is there allowing it to flow and change however it needs to.  Notice any thoughts coming up and allow them to float away just like clouds as you hold the huge container for everything that is there.

(taken from the Three Minute Breathing Space – MBSR Jon Kabat-Zinn)