Digging Deep: Releasing the Emotional Roots of Physical Pain

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I have grieved a lot in my life.

I have grieved over the past and the future, for my pain and for other people’s pain. Grief has left me on my knees with no breath in my lungs and no thoughts in my head but “Why? Why? Why?”. In these moments, sadness and loneliness seem endless, dark abysses seem welcome and the tears go on and on and on, unless they don’t. Unless the apathy takes over. The numb staring at the ceiling as I laid in bed on my back, not caring that it is 2:00 in the afternoon and there are places I am supposed to be. Not caring that friends were knocking on the door and slipping love notes through the door frame.  

I used to believe that when people leave, or die, or just stop caring out of self-defense, that a part of me died with them. I believed that I started off as an infant, whole and intact, but with every crushing moment of abandonment, a new part of me was stripped away. Death was inevitable, inconsequential, either I died doing something stupid, or some random accident happened, or I lived until there was no more of me to strip away and then grief would take me into nothingness. Either way, it would be over, and that was okay with me. I never really believed I would live past 30. Maybe that’s why my 30th birthday this year felt so…consequential, so big.

Today, I live a different life.

A life where each part of “me” that is stripped away brings me closer to experiencing the whole of ME. Grief seems to exist only to point out, through contrast, the awe inspiring brilliance of life and to be a part of what it means to fully heal. Every once in a while, grief pours out of unexpected places, hidden underneath the layers of resentment and rage that I never allowed myself to feel before. Hidden under layers of archetypal stories, linking lifetimes of mistakes and the growth pains of being human.

(*For more on anger click HERE)

Society defines the significant events in life as the weddings and the funerals, the acceptance letters and the graduations, the building of homes and the birth of children. However, whenever I sit down to write about the moments that really changed my, the list is filled with tiny BIG moments that no one else viewing the movie of my life would have even noticed.

The times I crawled in bed next to my mother to say goodbye before catching the bus to school in the morning. The warm smell of comfort, and being able to pretend to be a child for a while, before reality locked its cuff around my wrists.

The first time I so coolly and casually said “I love you” to someone, but meant it with all my heart, and the way it felt to keep from crying until he closed the door behind him for the last time. The feeling as my knees gave out and slammed against the wood floor as all the breath in my lungs was taken away and the feeling of not wanting it back.

The time I planted a poem under a Sourwood tree for a friend that I wasn’t sure if I loved or not, but knowing that now, I would never get to find out.

The first time I really had the courage to say “NO!” and the moment that I decided inside my heart to forgive what I once believed was unforgivable.

The day I found out how deeply I had abandoned the person I loved most in the whole world and the guilt that settled deep into my body, but had to play if off as no big deal.

Love flows through us, Joy flows through us, Elation flows through us leaving happy memories and a sense of expansion. But grief, anger, resentment, self-loathing, guilt, shame, they tend stick to the deepest layers of the body because they are the emotions we were taught to never fully feel. We were taught to be afraid of discomfort not to allow it to flow with gratitude through our body and into Mother Earth. So the grief, or fear or anger or resentment, hides inside our very bones, causing chronic pain, so easily rationalized and explained away as something superficial, something that makes sense.

Recently I was meditating and intentionally releasing some chronic pain that I had in my lower back for about a year, when my attention was forcefully relocated to my right hip instead. I have had on and off hip pain for over 10 years ago, “it was from a rock climbing accident” I told myself, “I worked it too hard at the farm today” I would explain.

However, when I started to breathe into that space, a tiny door that appeared in my mind. I opened it, shone and imaginary light into my hip and called a timid “Hello?” into the dark, I was in for a big surprise.  

I was confronted by a past life version of me. A woman screaming in rage and grief “How could they do this to me?” over and over again. She looked like me, but not like me at the same time. They had taken her toddler away, stripped the child from her arms and took him away. The pain of that separation ripped through my body and the woman turned into my teenage self, then my adult self and I instantly knew all the ways this past life experience related and explained my tendencies, behaviors and chronic emotional grief, guilt and pain in this lifetime. The details of which, I will not go into here for it is a long story in and of itself.

The moral of this story is that it is okay to grieve, the feel rage and hurt and disbelief that life happened the way that it did, but we need to acknowledge that if unresolved, these frequencies, these energies cause chronic dis-ease in the physical body. They cause stress and tension and inflammation and so much more.

For most of my life, I didn’t make the connection. I didn’t know how to allow pain to flow through me, so it was stored by default. But now that I know better, it is my responsibility to stop rationalizing away my physical pain. It is fine to see a doctor and to treat the symptoms, but I also need to begin digging deeper into the emotional root and clear that with breath and intention.

In this case, I experienced about 10 minutes of extreme discomfort, but in exchanged I was granted lifetimes of knowing and patterns and connections that left me feeling lighter and able to love myself more than ever before. I intend to continue this physio-emotional exploration and look more closely under the sensations that I have rationalized aside as insignificant for far too long.

I wish you the best of luck with any explorations you attempt and encourage you to gather your support system closely around you, because you don’t have to do it alone this go ‘round.

 

Love you all!

 

Ana

If Knowledge is Power, Then Emotions are Superpowers!

This is something that I am super passionate about! I wanted to start by giving you a little background on my story and then the 5 concepts you need to know to turn your emotions into your superpower. If you would rather watch the video, scroll to the end!



Emotions were not always my superpower!

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In fact, they used to be more like my Kryptonite.

I spent many years of my life completely denying the emotional aspect of myself. From a young age, I grew up in a household where mental illness was prevalent and (no matter how loving and nurturing and awesome my upbringing was) I was acutely aware of how seriously debilitating depression, anxiety and PTSD can be. In my mind, I associated all intensely uncomfortable emotions with mental illness, and I was terrified by them. I was terrified of being emotionally overwhelmed and then diagnosed with a mental illness and I was terrified of being put on medication (even though I knew on a mental level that they could be truly helpful) and no longer in control. So instead of feeling my emotions, and accepting them, and learning from them, I stuffed them deep down and tried to throw away the key.

I immersed myself in my masculine energy and focused on developing and valuing my masculine traits. I put my head down and pushed my way through every obstacle. I tried to solve every problem by working harder and longer than anyone else. I avoided friendships with women and worked in male dominated industries (tree work, landscaping, etc).

The problem with pretending not to be emotional, and stuffing down all emotions, is that every once in a while (more like once or twice a month) I would have a full on emotional breakdown. A huge tidal wave of emotion would completely knock me flat and I would barely be able to do anything for days. I would sink into these deep depressions and this would simply reinforce the beliefs I held about emotions.

I believed that emotions were scary, that they were a weakness and an obstacle that needed to be overcome. I believed that if I gave my emotions any leeway, they would completely take control over me and every time I experienced this severe emotional overwhelm, I would “prove” these believes right. I was also terrified to seek help because I was afraid of that diagnosis, of medication and of my fear that something was really wrong with me, being proven true.

Then I found an outlet that allowed me to explore my femininity, aerial circus. I found a way to control my emotions to some extent by using my physical body to turn them into art. I was able to move my body in an emotional and feminine way and then I was able to perform and share that part of myself with other people. This did not “solve” my problems, by any means, but it did begin to relieve some of the pressure.

I started to slowly look at my emotions in a new light and today I have had a complete change of heart. Today, I view my emotions as my biggest superpower! My emotions are my most effective tool for uncovering my beliefs and knowing myself as the deepest levels.

This practice of using emotions as a tool for self growth and self-knowledge has improved my life in so many ways. It has allowed me…

  • to develop a self love practice that felt true and powerful for me

  • to feel like I can confidently solve problems and get to the bottom of what is causing my emotions as they occur

  • rescue my relationships by allowing me to be vulnerable and authentically communicate what is actually going inside of me in a way that others can understand.

  • to develop this amazing tribe of people who love and support ALL of who I am, emotions included!


So let’s get into the 5 “C’s” behind using emotions as superpowers!

  1. CONTROL:

 In order to gain control over our emotions, instead of letting them control us, we need to STOP denying our emotions and start embracing and accepting ourselves as emotional beings. Be open to the idea that emotions are actually here to help us, not harm us. We need to stop hiding our emotions away and shaming ourselves for having this natural, normal, amazing human quality.

Our emotions are our guidance system. Like the pain that comes from leaving our hand on a hot stove, uncomfortable emotions make us acutely and immediately aware when we are creating our reality using fear based beliefs. In the same way, extremely good feeling emotions let us know that we are on the right track and that our beliefs, in that moment, are in alignment with the higher truth of who we are. Our emotions are there to guide and teach us about our beliefs and give us that “warmer or colder” style feedback about the decisions we make (whether that be thoughts or behaviors).

When we decide to view our emotions as an asset and use them as a tool to get to know ourselves at the deepest level we step away from that victim mentality and take our power back.

2. COURAGE & CURIOSITY:

Emotions can be intense. It is easy to develop the fear that if we fully FEEL our emotions, that we will loose all control and sink so deeply into the hurt or sadness or rage or anxiety that we will never be happy again. That may read as a little melodramatic, but to some degree, if you are this far into this blog post, you know what I am talking about!

We are also afraid of taking responsibility for the beliefs that caused these uncomfortable emotions in the first place. We are afraid that something is actually really wrong with us because we have been trained to put so much emphasis on the power of beliefs, instead of the concept that beliefs are just thoughts we keep thinking and they can be changed.

It takes courage to face all this fear, to be willing to actually FEEL your emotions and sit in the discomfort, to acknowledge and accept the emotions as they come up, and to get curious and dig into your own depths to take responsibility for uncovering the beliefs that are causing those emotions. This process can take a little time, especially in the beginning and there is a lot of fessing up that needs to happen and a lot of responsibility that needs to be taken. But this is where your power lies, in your ability to take responsibility for your beliefs, but to believe in your own ability to change.

3. COMMUNICATION & COMMUNITY:

A large part of why we communicate is to collaborate on solving problems. However, it is impossible to communicate something effectively, or problem solve efficiently, if we do not fully understand what we are communicating about.

When we do not know WHY we are getting emotional we tend to just blame it on whatever triggered the emotion. We blame instead of taking responsibility. We blame our spouses, our friends, our work, our family member, the weather, the neighbor’s cat (you get the picture), and this means that we end up communicating about problems on a very superficial level and making the other party put up all their emotional defenses in the process. When we neglect to figure out the underlying cause of a problem or an emotional trigger, we are never able to come to permanent solutions because we are not addressing the underlying beliefs that caused the emotions in the first place.

As we develop our courage and curiosity and we become more efficient at uncovering the beliefs behind our emotions, we are able to communicate on a deeper, more vulnerable, more efficient and more authentic level. It is like two doctors discussing “who gave the illness to who”, instead of talking about what caused the illness in the first place and what to do about it!

4. COMPASSION:

The more we know ourselves, the more compassion we have for ourselves and others. As we build up evidence for the idea that we get to choose how we react to our emotions and we get to choose to identify (or not) with the beliefs behind those emotions, we begin to naturally veer towards being more compassionate with ourselves. We realize that it is okay that we feel uncomfortable emotions sometimes. In fact, it’s great, because it’s a new chance to learn about ourselves.

We also begin to have compassion for people who have not done this work and we can step back enough from them to have that compassion because we no longer blame them for our own emotional reactions. When others act out of ignorance and fear, we can empathize and we also know that there will be plenty of times STILL when we will fall back into those same patterns and that is okay. We are all on different parts of the same circular path.



5. CREATE CHANGE:

Training our emotional superpowers gives us a foundation for change. When we know WHO we are and What we believe, we can start to decide what we are going to do with that information!

We can ask ourselves the big questions at anytime, questions like…Who do we want to be, Why are we here, How do we want to feel, What do we want to believe, How do we want to show up in the world? But without a solid foundational understanding of where we are starting, we cannot effectively answer these big questions.

The big questions are great. They give us a compass, a general direction in which to travel, but it is the small, everyday decisions that make up the road-map. Our emotions tell us which way to turn at every crossroads. They are as equally crucial in small scale decision making as they are in answering life’s big questions and we need both to have a successful life-long road-trip!

In other words, using emotions to understand ourselves, is a super important part of creating the reality that we truly want to live!


Thanks for sticking with me through this post. I am still working on articulating my thoughts in a clear and concise manor on video, so I like to write them down in addition to posting the FB lives. But if you want the video version, feel free to click the link below.

Don’t Forget! I want to start a conversation around these topics, so PLEASE leave your comments and questions below and I will be happy to reply!


Love you all,


Ana


Sitting With Shame:

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Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that called Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five Senses 

~William Blake

 

We all go through periods of intense transition in our lives, deep valleys spanning between our mountains of accomplishment. When we are in these shadowed places it is easy to feel everything is going wrong and more intimately, as if WE are somehow wrong.

Let me briefly set the scene for my life right now. I am turning 30 in a few months.  My husband and I just moved out of the small RV that we have been living in for the past year and a half, into a set of rented rooms in a friend’s house while we work on constructing our dream home. My summer job at a local farm is coming to an end. Hours and income are dwindling, and I am trying to get a new business off the ground. 

Essentially, lots of shadowy transitions are happening and I could feel myself begin to panic as I checked on my bank accounts.  When we decided to move out of the RV and into our friend’s house for the winter, I had offered to take on the responsibility for rent, leaving my husband free to save up money for closing costs and upcoming construction loan payments.

I could feel that sinking, heavy weight in my abdomen and the tightening of my throat, as I started comparing the money in my account to the looming rent, student loans and credit card bills. I wasn’t going to be able to make it work, and knowing this felt like failure.

The truth of the situation is that my husband has a great career as a high school teacher, and as a married unit, we have plenty of money. I have a beautiful, loving relationship with my husband, we are not going to be homeless, there will be plenty of food on the table, and there is no reason for me to panic!

Despite knowing all this on an intellectual level, I found myself constantly sinking into this mentality of lack and not enough, because my personal bank accounts are low and I might have to…( *insert gasp*)… Ask For Help! I don’t have to ask a stranger or a distant relative I barely know. I don’t even have to ask my parents. I just have to ask my husband, who loves me and is always happy to give me what I need, for a little money for rent this month, and I was panicking.

The other funny thing is, this was not even the first time my husband has covered the rent. It’s not like we have completely separate finances, but for some reason all of these emotions were coming up for me full force. Just goes to show that emotions and limiting beliefs can surface at any time and be triggered by almost anything.

Despite my tendencies to get VERY stressed out, one thing I love about myself is that I am a beautiful mix of opposites. I am trained in the sciences and can be super logical and rational, and I fully believe in the value of scientific methodology. At the same time, I am also intuitive, extremely emotional and full of faith in the benevolent, helpful and magical nature of our universe.

When I am in extreme emotional discomfort, I tend to take advantage of all my resources to look deeply at the issue and try to figure out why I am experiencing those uncomfortable emotions. I go about my process of personal development like a scientist! Essentially, I use the scientific method to isolate the root of my emotions; I ask a question, formulate my hypothesis, test my hypothesis, record my observations, analyze my observations and use them to find a new question to ask.

However, instead of basing my personal development purely on quantifiable data, all of my inquiries are based on the faith I have in these concepts:

  • It is my true nature to be happy, and full of trust and love.

  • I am a connected part of a greater energetic whole; a divine spark in a divine universe.

  • I control my thoughts, which then shape my reality.

  • All the resources I need are available to me right now; I just have to be open to receiving them.

 

My personal development experiments are pretty much ongoing, but certain questions can take weeks or months to answer. In this case, my first question was “What is blocking my abundance right now and causing these feelings of panic and anxiety?”  

My first hypothesis was, “FEAR. I must be afraid. This must be my fear of ‘not having enough’ bubbling up for me.” To test this hypothesis I needed to become clear on what I was afraid of when it came to my financial situation.  And let me just say, the lists of fears and limiting beliefs filled up page after page in my journal. After the writing purge, I sat with each fear, saying it out loud, and paying close attention to my body, observing how I physically responded to each verbalized fear.  

The way our bodies physically respond to our thoughts, especially if we say them out loud, is SO COOL and provides really amazing data. Everyone’s bodies can do this, it just takes knowing where to place our focus and what to look for.

When I say something that I believe to be true or that I have identified with, I experience a physical reaction. If I say or think something I believe to be false, I won’t really feel anything.

But just because we “believe” something doesn’t make it TRUE. So how do we tell the difference between the negative or limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves, and the beliefs that align with who we truly are?

The answer to that question gives us a chance to realize how integrally linked our physical bodies are to our thoughts and emotions. When I say something or think something that I believe to be true and it is NOT in alignment with my true nature (someone who is happy and powerful and full of trust and love), I will feel an uncomfortable dissonant sensation of constriction or tightening or weight in my body. My stomach will sink or my throat will tighten, like it does when I am trying not to cry, or I may get stabbing pains in my chest, reminiscent of a panic attack.

Conversely, when I say or think something that I believe to be true that IS in alignment with who I am, I feel light and open and free. My body will noticeably relax or hum with a pleasant, resonant energy. This is the feeling people refer to when they say that something deeply “resonates” with them.

Going through my list of fears gave me a lot of good data, and my fears certainly felt relevant to the situation, but none of them felt like the root of the problem. None of my fears fully explained the reason why I was blocking abundance or why I was panicking over my bank accounts.

More importantly I wasn’t sure how to continue in a scientific manner. I didn’t know what question to ask next.

Feeling totally stumped and a little frustrated, I reached into my faith. I started taking a few minutes every day to open up and ask the universe for some clarity and guidance. I would get to work a few minutes early and sit in the car with my eyes closed and just start talking to the universe, stating my intentions in my mind; “Universe, I am open to guidance and clarity. Please help me resolve these feeling of panic around my finances. Help me open to receiving abundance in my life!”

There is so much truth in the statement, “Ask and you shall receive,” and as silly as it sounds, talking to the universe works for me every time!

Days after I started setting my intentions to be more open to guidance, my sister invited me to a workshop she was running all about the ways we block abundance and how we can allow more abundance into our lives. One of her talking points was titled “Avoiding Vulnerability”, and as soon as she said those words, a thought came to my mind and demanded my attention:

“If I ask for help, then any accomplishment I make thereafter is null and void. I didn’t do it and I can’t feel proud of the accomplishment if I accept help along the way.”

This thought felt like the metaphorical tap on the shoulder and I knew I had to immediately write it down. When I voiced this in the workshop, my sister said something along the lines of “Does the first place marathon runner not get a medal at the end of the race because she didn’t make her own shoes, or grow the food that she ate that morning? We are all inseparably interdependent and asking for help NEVER diminishes our accomplishments. In fact, you should be congratulated for taking the initiative and making the best use of your resources to accomplish your goals!”

 This was so wonderfully helpful to me! Not because it gave me the “end all, be all” answer to my initial question, but because it allowed me to see the next important question.

 “Why am I afraid to ask for help and tap into my resources when it comes to money?”

The answer didn’t come immediately.  There was no light bulb “AHA” moment. So I just continued my ritual of asking the universe for help and guidance each morning and continued to set my intentions to be more open to receiving help.

This time, the answer came through a podcast I was listening to at work. The idea hit me hard and true; I was ashamed.

Shame is an emotion that I normally try to ignore or distract myself from as soon as possible, but the subject of this particular podcast was all about sitting with your emotions and allowing yourself to feel them fully in your body. At this point, the financial panic wasn’t going away and I was uncomfortable enough with it to try anything that might help.

So I sat with my shame, on my friend’s front stoop after I got home from work that day. I sat with my shame and allowed the physical feeling of shame to fill my body. It was so intense! Slimy and heavy, the shame filled my gut and closed my throat and filled my eyes with tears. But it didn’t kill me! I may have felt overwhelming emotional pain, but it did no harm to my physical body to sit there and witness what shame really feels like.

The longer I sat there, the more thoughts came into my mind about why I felt so much shame around money, where that shame came from in the first place, why it was not based in truth and why it no longer resonated with who I truly am right now. Before I knew it more journal pages were covered in my hasty scrawl, records to be looked over and analyzed later, when I wasn’t feeling so raw.

Brene Brown defines shame as, “…the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

So why was I so full of shame around money?

I was full of shame because I had made an agreement with myself as a little girl that stated “I will never rely on anyone else, especially my spouse, for money. I will always be financially independent so that no one will ever be able to trap me in an abusive situation.” This pact was the armor that protected me from re-living my mother’s experience, and prevented me from making my mother’s mistakes. 

From an outside, objective standpoint, asking my husband to transfer a little money to me to help with rent this month is not a huge deal. However, from an interior, subconscious, emotional viewpoint, I was essentially breaking a solemn promise that I made to myself. Breaking this longstanding pact required that I take off my armor and be vulnerable with myself and with my husband in a whole new way. I would have to trust that this financial link between me and my husband would not lead to feeling trapped in an abusive situation in the future.

I gave myself the time to sit… and feel… and integrate the fullness of these realizations. As the knowledge of my past agreements came to the forefront of my mind, I was able to experience them fully and by observing my body’s reactions, I was able to discern that this agreement was no longer in alignment with my true nature.

Right now, I am a woman who trusts the universe and who trusts and loves her husband. I am a woman who has learned that her value is inherent and not based on the numbers in her bank account. I am a woman who is no longer served by this old agreement, and though it may have served me in past relationships, the time has come to let it go.

This experience was a huge opportunity for self acceptance and compassion. I was able to feel my shame and say to myself, “Even though I feel this shame, I truly and deeply love and accept myself.”

 I was able to think of my mother, who taught me the importance of financial independence because of her love for me and her fear for my future. Despite the pain and blockages brought on by those lessons, I have full compassion and gratitude for her.

I was able to have compassion for the fact that it was her personal experiences that instilled that fear and shame in her. I was able to forgive her for passing that shame onto me and I was able to forgive myself for accepting that shame into my experience.

This was it; within minutes of sitting down on the front stoop and holding that space for my shame, the compassion and forgiveness I felt spread back in time, encompassing my mother and grandmother and great-grandmothers, healing and soothing generations of pain and dis-empowerment.

The end result of sitting with my shame was a feeling of elation, compassion and loving oneness. It was totally worth the weeks of asking and experimenting and the temporary pain of allowing my body to fully feel. 

This all goes to show that the objective facts about our reality often have less sway on the way that we perceive the world than do the deep seeded beliefs and agreements that we hold within ourselves.  These pacts are linked to the information we picked up and stored subconsciously as children and the cycles of fear, shame and negativity that get passed down through the generations.

Breaking these cycles is possible! This incredibly important work is something that not only enriches the relationship we have with ourselves, but also the relationships we foster throughout our lives.

 This is why it is so important to be self-aware enough to end the shame and fear cycles, and release the agreements that no longer serve us. We need to allow ourselves to sit with the shame or fear or guilt or loneliness or heartache in order to prevent the cycle from continuing to the next stage of our lives and into the next generation.  

When we finally break free, we start to walk out of the shadows of transition and up the mountainside to our next great accomplishment.

 


 Hello Friends!

I know this was a lengthy one, but if you have a few minutes to comment, I would love to hear about what this blog brought up for you and any questions you might have!

Sending love as always,

Ana