Stillness

Stillness. It sounds like heaven, especially when you’ve experienced trauma and find yourself revisiting it more than you would like. Cultivating stillness takes effort and time, but the most difficult part for me is you have to sit with yourself, your thoughts, your storylines, the turbulent emotions. Sitting calmly on your pillow, or in your chair, you feel the jerk as the thoughts begin and you say “thinking” or “stop” something to take you back to the meditation object whether it is a guru, your breath, a goddess, Buddha, or emptiness. A seductive whisper in your ear, and you are drawn away again, thinking of a topic you wanted to research on the web, or a project you should be doing instead of spending this time “selfishly.” (cleaning house would be one of the biggies for me, and a healthy dose of guilt always accompanies that thought)

Stillness can become the core of your being if you are able to meditate and reinforce the meditation with teachings from a spiritual tradition you are comfortable with. Pema Chodron, Tara Brach, Thich Nhat Hanh, are just some of the teachers who inspire me. All of them speak from the experience if going through times of hurt and confusion, pain and being lost. Sometimes it takes medication to help “boost” me out of the depression and darkness that fill up my mind, a type of depression that seems to run in my father’s family line. It is a central question for my life whether or not it is possible to eventually use the words and practices of wise practitioners and teachers (such as those listed above) to overcome the genetic endowment of worthlessness that my father passed on to me. Sadly, it still haunts him as he becomes more and more lost in a world where “someone or something is stealing my memories.” My father’s dementia is cruel. What remains often seems to be only that lack of self-worth that leads him to strike out at the people who love him most. He can no longer dress himself, cannot really carry on a conversation, and must have my mother near at all times. He’s pushed her a couple of times in anger, anger that is really at himself and what has happened to him. I suppose I should have known this would happen. His sense of worthlessness dominated my life growing up, as he projected it onto me. After describing a particularly painful childhood memory involving my father, my therapist said, “he saw you as an extension of himself, you can only be that cruel to someone when you see them as an extension of yourself.”   This statement, so simple and direct, made so much sense, that it has been a crucial piece of the puzzle of why my dad was so relentlessly unkind to those he loved, and so beloved by his patient’s who knew him as “Doc,” the hero he wanted to be.  My father is a principal figure in my trauma, he never learned stillness, never learned to wait and think before spewing out whatever negative thoughts came into his mind. He couldn’t allow others to be happy if he wasn’t happy. It is heart breaking to watch him now, and a strong reinforcement for me to continue my practice.  I hope to change whatever part of this that is from nature, as well as nurture (if you can call it that), by practicing until stillness is my state of being rather than worthlessness.

I hope that by writing, I can also mover further along the path of forgiveness.  Both for his and my sake, it will benefit both of us.  I wish all people who have experienced trauma a sense of peace, a place of stillness, and rest without fear.  May healing enter into each of our hearts like a soothing word or touch, and compassion take the place of any thoughts we have that cause self-harm.

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~ by janetlandis on September 28, 2009.

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