| spiritual mapping: self-compassion |
This newsletter is dedicated to all women who have experienced sexual violence in their past.
"We think our hearts are separate and our own. But really, the heart is like a walkie-talkie, if we know how to use it. And when we have the courage to get still enough to go inward, it's like we're pressing down on that little red plastic bit on the side and speaking directly into a receiver." - Mary Magdalene Revealed by Meggan Watterson
I take a bath in my lovely tub at Gentlewood each night. What's your self-compassion go-to?
I’ve been reciting the same prayer before bed for months: God grant me inner peace.
The interior anxiety I wrote about in the last newsletter was seeking a way out. Autumn is a natural time to discuss the COMPASSION ordinal on my spiritual compass. I knew it was best to begin this journey with you from the vantage point of self-compassion. The masters told me the key to finding peace was to let go. Then, in meditation, they led me down a dark hallway in my past…
What, in you, most needs to be healed?
Tears begin to immediately well in my eyes. I wasn’t able to speak.
Tell me about your Uncle Jules.
My mind travels back to my childhood home on the southside of Chicago in Evergreen Park. It’s a holiday and my grandmother Dee-Dee and my Uncle Jules step into the front hall of our home. Mary and I watch the scene unfold from the sunken living room just a few yards away. My mom and sister are in the kitchen making Thanksgiving dinner and my brothers are out of the house.
I’m excited. I look to be about 4 years old. I have a pixie haircut and I’m wearing dress-up clothes. I’m waiting for my dad as he helps my grandmother take off her fur coat. It’s snowing outside and it’s Chicago cold. Man, I don’t miss that bitter cold air! The Johnny Mathis Christmas album is playing on the stereo. Look at how long that stereo is! It takes up a third of the wall! Mary has a smile on her face because she can hear my self-talk.
My uncle had a sickly, pastie skin complexion. He was tall, thin and always nervous. He’s wearing a handsome tweet suit jacket and turtleneck. He looks neat and pressed.
Jules only came around at holidays with Grandma from Marina Towers, downtown. He was a source of contention in our household. He was gay in a time when that was completely taboo and he was schizophrenic, although to me he was just Uncle Jules. I felt sorry for him. I liked him. I didn’t understand why my mom hated him so much. He talked about his car a lot. The focus was on grandma, mostly.
What would happen?
At some point, we would go up to my bedroom and the door would be closed. To this day, I wonder what my father was thinking; us being up there for so long.
At this point, we are all in my bedroom but the scene in front of us loses focus. The resolution is off as if pixelated. I don’t have to see to understand what is going on. Jules sits on my sister’s bed and takes down his pants past his knees. I stand in front of him and he shows me how he would like me to stroke him.
I remember being frightened. And confused. My body would brace. What I was doing was making him act strangely and he would make noises and he would grab me so tightly on the shoulders.
He wouldn’t let me move. I remember holding my breath sometimes. Then I remember flying.
Yes, your mind would escape to the large apple tree branch outside. There was a faery there waiting for you, wasn’t there?
Yes. She was tiny and beautiful. Her wings were as big as her body and she talked to me in a high pitched voice.
This is when you gained the ability to hear the spirit world, Sally. We were here to protect you and guide you.
When Mary and I look forward again we are back in the front hall by the front door. I am older. I’m eight. It’s Christmas and Dee-Dee and Jules are again coming in from the cold. I am excited and Jules is taking off his long, camel wool coat. My father is next to me and I eagerly ask Jules if we are going to go to my bedroom together. A look of terror crosses his eyes.
Do you understand what you are seeing, Sally?
Yes. Jules is frightened that I am going to talk about what we would do upstairs. That was last time I saw him for over 20 years.
My childhood home evaporates, and Mary and I stand on the beach at Gentlewood, looking out at the Sound.
I thought I was making him happy. I didn’t understand why I didn’t see him again. I thought I’d done something wrong. I was disappointed that he didn’t return.
You blamed yourself that your Uncle and your grandmother quit coming for the holidays. The holidays became even more difficult for your family. Sally, here’s what is important for you to understand: what happened in your bedroom altered your ability to navigate relationships and develop trust at a very young age. You did nothing wrong.
This is why healing begins at home. Begins with self-compassion. Coming to terms with the earliest hurts, the earliest abandonments. The path back to yourself begins with trusting that you are a divine child of God.
I listen to Mary and watch the waves. My anxiety wasn’t looking for a way out. It was seeking a way through. Mary allowed me to witness events in a manner which revealed the layers and complexity of a complicated situation. With her I was able to see through the eyes of compassion that I so deserved as a very young girl so I could, in turn, see my uncle in a compassionate light, also.
What is self-compassion?
Self-compassion is befriending yourself. It’s letting go of the need to control. Clinging to expectations that are beyond our control doesn’t serve anyone. In The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion Christopher Germer warns us to be wary of the “hedonic treadmill” – the psychological need to relentlessly pursue pleasure and avoid pain at all costs. Our nervous systems are designed to adapt under all circumstances and the treadmill only leads to exhaustion and burnout, for both body and mind. What we resist, persists and it’s only when we explore our discomfort that we can begin to develop a sense of what needs attention in our lives. In other words, bypassers beware. Eventually, the body will begin to breakdown with signs of distress or disease.
“Most of us are too caught up in the details of our daily lives even to be aware of when we are suffering…It’s about giving up the tension we unconsciously impose on ourselves to control or manipulate our experience.”  The irony is that in letting go we need look towards our discomfort. The rising internal anxiety I’ve felt for years was my body’s way of saying enough: it’s time to face your past.
How do I befriend myself? For starters, I’ve been resting more. Letting my body decompress, looking outside and taking a few deep breaths. Letting go of the need to always analyze why I am feeling what I am feeling was a basic breakthrough. Feeling is a felt experience after all; it doesn’t always need to come with a mental exercise. Slowing down and practicing gentleness has yielded some real benefits. One-on-one therapy continues with a professional counselor.
An ongoing practice of letting go allows self-awareness to naturally unfold. Letting go of the need to control allows you to respond to life on its own terms instead of being reactive all the time. Circumstances can be perceived as bridges to growth, not blocks. If you approach life through a lens of limitation, you are not in touch with your true self. Pivoting toward possibility and positivity will reveal a path back to your inner lighthouse. When I moved from Seattle to the islands, I made the decision to be fully authentic as a medium and channeler. I developed the Self Awareness compass [download the worksheet] as a sort of prism I could hold up for a check-in or feedback loop. My guides were the ones who prompted me to develop stronger boundaries to instill greater self-respect and esteem.
What is it that you need most? In the quiet moments, what do you long for?
Let go a little and you will experience a little peace.
Let go a lot and you will experience a lot of peace.
Let go completely and you will experience complete peace.
Complete freedom from suffering. Your struggle with the world will be at an end.
-Ajahn Chah, Thai Buddhist monk in the Thai Forest tradition.
Take a deep breath and close your eyes. Ask yourself, “What can I let go of right now?”
Maybe it’s a thought, a story you are telling yourself, an errand or an appointment you can reschedule.
Take another breath. Smile.
How do you need healing?
Consider a time that you’ve recently felt uncomfortable. Can you look upon the event as an objective observer? Can you befriend yourself and offer yourself some kindness about the context or the circumstances?
What can you let go of right now?