I have started and stopped this piece so many times because often I think who am I to be speaking of this? I am just as off-course. There are times I sigh with relief as I connect with the underlying truth and other times I am lost in the woods, trying to find my way back to what I’ve known before.
What have I known? That stillness is my superpower. It’s the strongest medicine I know for healing my body, my mind, and my heart. It holds the answers to all of my questions. It also holds my deepest pain. And because I was not given the tools when I was young and needed them most, my body has been wired to avoid this stillness. Just as trauma survivors are wired to avoid connection: the very medicine we need, becomes what we fear the most.
The stress cycle leads our bodies to the biological impulse of fight, flight, or freeze and although we’ve felt them all, there tends to be one especially that we go back to like a familiar blanket. For me, it’s always been flight. The power of survival is not just about escape, it can also be a type of aliveness that connects us to our biology. For me, it started as a child when running came naturally for me. I would fly across the pavement in hot pursuit of my tag partner and feel exuberant knowing it was only a matter of time before I gained on them. The pounding of my feet, the feel of the wind on my skin, and the rush that warmed my body felt like raw power; the power to propel myself faster and faster until I gained on any foe or left behind any unwanted guest.
As an adolescent, I slowly gave up running for sport as the weight of puberty took its place. However, running continued to show up in different forms in my life, it became my way of avoiding painful emotions and experiences. I’d move so quickly in my words and my thoughts that I’d dance across the surface of my imagination, never pausing to feel what was there underneath. It was my ticket out of discomfort and it served me well.
That is, until it didn’t. As a young adult, I looked around me and noticed that I was in constant movement. Not the intentional movement of choice, but a restless movement that sprung from an unspeakable anxiety. Slowing down felt dangerous, and fully facing myself and my choices would surely annihilate me. I kept ahead of the feeling by leaving one situation for another, one job for the other, one relationship to the next, and I filled myself on a diet of a steady stream of incoming information. I was either writing, reading, talking, listening to others talk, or listening to the sounds and voices coming from my ever-present earbuds. I ingested information like it was my salvation. But in reality, it kept me safely distracted from the real vista which needed exploring. The tangled insides of my own internal world.
Because I had kept a journal since I was a young girl, it felt like I was intimately aware of my internal world. However, there is a way to journal in which you dump surface level insecurities of the ego and never scratch the surface of real awareness and insight coming from the stillness beneath the ego. In order to truly come to know myself, I would have to stop my forward motion and feel the burning discomfort of standing still and the years of emotions that had been built up inside the sinews of my skin, waiting to be felt.
This practice of being still and being with takes more strength and commitment then I often have if I’m being honest. There are moments, seasons, where I am able to feel into this stillness and gain endless amounts of freedom, insight, and true healing. And even, then, even with touching into the truth of my superpower, I still find myself getting restless for movement once more. That is going back into the mindless race of avoidance and overthinking and restless doing.
I think it will be a lifetime struggle for me no matter how much I believe in its power. It remains one of my most important battles and one that I often find myself putting off ‘for later.’ Because it’s so easy for me to lose my footing, I often doubt whether I can be of service to others or offer any words of wisdom. But then I realize that being honest about how difficult it is and being open about my own struggle with it only illuminates the weight of what I ask my clients to do every day. There is no easy way out of creating a fulfilling life and we are all invited into this struggle together. Mental health and healing isn’t a passive activity. It requires our full being to lean into that which terrifies us. But what is the alternative? Running, fighting, or dissociating from every experience that has the ability to transform us? We are here to live, not to stand dying in human clothes.