This month I really struggled to write this blog. I started over what seemed like an infinite amount of times, wandering from angle to angle, none of them really capturing the heart of the message I longed to share. While Mental Health now has a month for awareness, we all know its need for awareness spans daily, our suffering and need for support is real. And oddly, the need for realness, honesty, is one of the salves that I’ve found can heal most deeply.
As a bodyworker, it is assumed that I work primarily in bodies. But years ago I came to realize, the more wrapped up someone was in their mind, the more wrapped up they stayed in their body, limiting what effects we could manifest on the table. As many of you know, I have a colorful history and there was a time in my life and practice that I did everything I could to hide parts of me out of deep shame. I mean, wouldn’t I be a hypocrite to practice in the wellness field but not be whole and well?
It wasn’t until I was given intimate time with my Pap before he passed, that I could finally air this fear and really begin to pick up my whole life with due honor. I can still remember the wrinkle of skin between his eyes when he heard me utter these words – his eyes softened with love and he reached out and cradled my hand. He took a deep breath ( I think to stymie his tears) and he said, “You know Gab, I am less concerned about what you did and more concerned about what you learned.”
As his words hit my ears, the same wrinkle in his brow wrinkled on mine. There was a period of silence as I let this newer concept infiltrate my mind. And then my body, as I felt one tear fall down my cheek. I didn’t have the word for it at the time but this was compassion in action. He was inviting me to put down the weapons I was using to punish myself and instead, to love myself through understanding. And more unimaginable, asking to bear witness to my process.
Could I let him love me too?
I can still hear the clank as my own hands released my imaginary weapons, striking the ground. It startled me, both the sound and this newfound vulnerability. If not to punish myself, what would I do? We locked eyes – he must have sensed my confusion, “I don’t know” written all over my panicked face. He smiled – his smile always calmed me and said, “So, what happened?”
This, ladies and gentlemen was one of my first, “Welcome home.”
What do I mean by that?
Beginning on page 100 of Karla MacLaren’s ‘Language of Emotions’ she speaks about the 3 stages of initiation, used by tribes young and old, as a means to better understand trauma pain and healing.
Citing Michael Meade, the 3 stages are:
- Being isolated or separated from the known world.
- Having an ordeal or brush with death.
- Being recognized and welcomed back as an initiated person.
The first time I read this chapter I was immediately transported back to this moment with my Pap. Prior to his invitation, I was wandering around from number 2, desperately seeking this invitation home – to make sense of the insanity, the pain, the odd gifts that followed. And here it was, right in front of me, if I could just walk inside the offer.
So, time and time again, we went treasure hunting, visiting my wounds that I thought I might carry forever and withdrew their gifts, the associated pain sensation lessening with each visit. And with every lesson I shared I learned, his love for me actually grew more deep. As did my own. This old belief system, only trying to protect me – that no one could ever love all of me, slowly disintegrated with each visit. And better these experiences became information, became knowledge and eventually became my own internal wisdom. Not only did he gift me a compassionate space, he also trusted that I would find my answers within. We suffered many periods of silence, my speedy mind and equal pain writhing for relief. And he stood firm. Feeling my own pain, sharing some of its weight while also getting to celebrate the joy of when my light bulbs lit up the room.
“See?”, he’d say.
Pap, among others in my village, welcomed me home and in doing so, invited me to use my life as the gift it was really intended to be – a bridge of understanding, compassion and healing – and a way to connect to and love others more deeply. The more I opened up to myself, the more safe others felt to open up to me and in turn, themselves.
As a bodyworker, there really is no greater gift to witness than to watch someone fall in true love with themselves. Come home, feel welcome and revel in the power of their own inner wisdom.
And as a human, there is no greater gift than being offered that same space be held for me. As I began to really honor my life details and be more forthcoming with their lessons – person by person, client by client – each moment was another welcome home. For every blessing of gratitude, every note of appreciation, every tear shed in love, I too was healing.
And still am. Maybe one of the most cliche lines is healing is like peeling back an onion. But it feels truer today than ever. And as stinky as one too, ripe with tears (and some laughter).
So, be gentle my friends, with yourselves and others. Most of our wounds aren’t so easy to spot but I assure you they are there.
Just as the plant is always growing towards the light, so too are we always striving to come home and feel the warm welcome that awaits.
In so much love <3
Licensed Massage and Trauma Touch Therapist