Friday, November 13, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Sioux Holy Man
Many traditions tell of a coming age of peace, unity and healing. The Hopi, which means peaceful people, are the holders of prophecies that have been handed down for generations. Long ago the Great Spirit told the Hopi that after many hardships and hard times, a reawakening would come from the east in the form of the "true white brother". He would wear a red cloak or a red hat that was shaped like a long scarf. " The True White Brother, the Hopi Believe, would bring with him two great, intelligent and powerful helpers. The two helpers are spoken of as if they were large 'populations' of people. The helpers of the Great prophet can also be thought of as large groups of pure-hearted people who are spreading love, harmony and understanding between all races and all religions, humbly and without fanaticism." They "would show the people of the earth a great new life plan to help all lead better lives and transform the world".
Sacred Path Cards-The Discovery of Self Through Native Teachings
Yoga is so much more than Hatha yoga which comprises, only two of the eight limbs which make up the Raja yoga tree, asana (postures) and pranayama (breath). Raja yoga is only one of the four paths of yoga. Jnana, the yoga of wisdom, Bhakti, the yoga of devotion, and Karma, the yoga of selfless service, are the other three. Many, myself included, originally come to yoga for the exercise, but whether we know it or not, all yoga is sadhana, spiritual practice.
Breaking the cycle of sexual abuse through the liberating power of speech is ahimsa, non violence, in action. Speaking out breaks the taboo of secrecy and paves the way for others to do the same. To tell is to heal. We tell our stories so that we no longer hold, inside, terrible secrets for those who take advantage of the innocent and helpless. Telling, shifts a burden of shame from shoulders where it does not belong. Telling creates awareness, enabling everyone to better protect all children.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, "child sexual abuse is largely a hidden crime so is difficult to estimate the numbers". I don't think I am unique in the way that my body/psyche buried the trauma of sexual abuse. There may be millions or billions of walking wounded, sufferers of depression, anxiety, anger, phobia... with absolutely no inkling of the root cause. It is an epidemic, a pandemic, a secret plague, a crime against the hope of humankind, children. Ending the sexual abuse of children is an imperative step forward on the peace path. Victims are speaking out now in record numbers, a good sign and a necessary step. Perpetrators, it's time to own your actions, another step in healing this scourge.
My dharma, my path, duty and joy, is to share my knowledge and in so doing help others to heal from the deleterious effects of sexual trauma. Now finally, I feel like I'm living the life that was intended for me rather than the one that was forced upon me. Each moment becoming more aware of my voice, my power, my potential, and the joy that simply being alive contains.
I feel as though I am in possession of something huge, powerful and beautiful in its perfection. The knowledge that yoga heals.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Is there more? I really don't know. In case, I've been asking my body, the universe, angels, life... for grace and ease. I still have discomfort in my back between my shoulder blades, but it's nothing like it was. It can be tender but no longer feels so vulnerable. I have a slight scoliosis there, the reminder/remainder of an injury that occurred young and went deep.
Now more than ever, I am in awe of the beautiful perfection that is yoga. The longer we practice, the deeper it goes. Over time as we work our way inward, we work our way backward through old traumas and injuries. Returning, as close as we are able, to our pre-injured state. As I eked my way into the places in my body that harbored pain, yoga showed me what was inside. But only once I'd acquired the strength and healing necessary for the truth to be liberating.
I'd been scarred with the deeply implanted message that my life was worthless. How could it be otherwise. This wasn't a notion I was ever cognizant of until now, in retrospect. I was almost fifty before I fully realized that I do have a place, a purpose, and a right to be alive. Until then, my life had filtered through the unconscious assumption that I didn't.
My first and dearest yoga teacher, has a friend who reads palms. I kept hearing wonderful things about this woman. So, for fun and armed with a tape recorder, I decided to have my palms read. I arrived sceptical and tight-lipped, I didn't want to give her any clues, but I was taken aback by her accuracy. A few years later I went to see her again and at the end of the session she asked, in her thick Romanian accent, if I had any questions. So I asked, "what can you tell me about my childhood?"
She was quiet for several minutes while she studied my hands. "I see you have some disturbing happening when you were very little. There was some kind of accident... or you almost lost your life... you know? and it affected... Some people remember childhood like it was the best thing that happened in their life but I don't see that in your hand. You had actually quite difficult childhood... that's why you are such a doer... you are driven. You try very hard to succeed. You want to do things so you have that strength... from where it comes I don't know. But we all do remember childhood... that it was ideal... like it was always easier in the life. But something happened in your childhood that was not easy, that was pretty hard for you."
I asked "I'm curious if you can see at what age that might have happened." "Okay" she said, "I see about the age of seven you came close to losing your life and it's very interesting because it's like you came back from there. Like you came so close to dying... you know? that you almost... like you understood something... or that we usually... people they don't..." English was not her first language and on occasion she grasped for words, and me I'm a chronic interrupter and interjected "like a near death experience?" She said "Ya! Ya! something like that, and that's why you don't trust yourself. It stems from very early period of your life and you think that you are not good enough... or you don't have enough qualities. But also it gave you something... even with that negative thing that you had in childhood, you recognize something. You have some gift with that time... or something that you learned...you know? Something very important that you will be using later on in your life."
This isn't proof of anything, I can't imagine a palm reading being admissible as evidence in court. But I find it interesting and, maybe it is pathetic but, validating, in a situation where victims are rarely validated and usually called liars. I spent the winter of 2005 living and working at an ashram. One evening, I found myself at supper seated across from a man who read faces. He spontaneously read mine with terrifying accuracy and I bought his book. The reason I mention him and face reading, has to do with admissibility, and court. This man was a lawyer, had been for some time if I remember correctly. He decided to take a face reading course, thinking it might help him with jury selection and eventually left law and went into face reading. Another small validation.
Yoga definitely salvaged, and may possibly have saved, my life. I am grateful to all of my teachers for the tools they shared which have enabled me to work/play, with/for/on, myself. I'm proud of myself for using those tools, generating healing, with the gentle, peaceful, powerful, compassionate, joyful... way that is yoga.
First, yoga awakened those places in my body that were asleep and numb to the pain that existed there. Eventually but inevitably I was, and continue to be, released from that pain. First, yoga gave me the self awareness to notice my constant companions, fear and self-loathing, shame and guilt, all the while transforming those weaknesses into strengths. Through yoga, I became aware of my inability to trust, how my first reaction always, always was "no", how much and how often I allowed fear to hold me back. Through yoga, my growing self awareness showed me how anxious, undeserving, out of place I felt almost all the time, but wakened me inevitably to deserving, belonging.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
"Always we hope someone else has the answer. Some other place will be better, some other time it will turn out. This is it. No other place will be better, and it has already turned out."
One morning, a week or two after the remembering, I was in a particularly agitated state after a long and sleepless night. It was early and I'd been in my yoga studio tentatively practicing viparita karani, known to be one of the most restorative asanas, in an attempt to ease the state of intense anxiety I was in.
I love yoga, yet found myself afraid of doing it. Every time a pose took me to pain in my body, especially that sore place beneath my shoulder blades, my anxiety would intensify, making it had for me to breathe. I was afraid that yoga would trigger another shell shock like episode, and that was pissing me off, making me angry. Those two had robbed me of so much and at that moment it felt as though they'd even stolen yoga from me. I don't know how many times I got up off my mat, walked to the kitchen, picked up the phone, started to dial, only to hang up and head back to my mat.
Finally I just dialed, the phone rang and my father answered. I could tell I woke him up. I identified myself and said "I just want you to know that I know what you did. I know what you did to me when I was a baby. I know what you did to me when I was a kid. I know". He never said a word, no denial, no admission. After a moment I hung up.
Then I dialed the number of the other male relative. I got his answering machine and couldn't have been happier. I didn't care who heard the message. I said basically the same thing, "I know what you did to me when I was a little girl and I just want you to know that I know". He called me back to tell me that I was "sick". Thank God I was seeing a psychologist at the time. When I told her what he'd said she just nodded and told me that they all say that.
If I'd been experiencing fear before, now I was scared shitless. They knew that I knew. Although my logical mind told me that my fear was irrational, only cowards prey on children, I was terrified that they, but the male relative in particular, would try to kill me. My psychologist reassured me that my feelings, my fears, were compleyely normal and part of the reliving process, reliving the fear I'd experienced as a child. She assured me that it would pass in time and it did, it has.
My father is a pedophile. I don't know how he's got away with what he's done and is most likely still doing. I know, and know of a small army of his victims. I've decided, to keep the identity of my other abuser to myself, for now. I've asked the relatives who will talk to me about this. No one else in my family seems to have had any incident with this man.
I came across information at the Health Canada website stating that "A population survey done for the Badgley Committee on Sexual Offences Against Children, found that almost one third of suspected or know child sex offenders were under the age of twenty-one. That nationally, nearly one quarter of all sexual offences are perpetrated by adolescent males". If I was five at the time of the assault, he would have been seventeen or eighteen. Perhaps he never again attempted to rape anyone after me. He may have thought he killed me when I lost consciousness, maybe it scared him. It doesn't make it right. I would dearly love to shout his name from the rooftop. But I have no evidence and no one else with a similar experience and do not want the stress of that creep filing a law suit against me so for now, I hold my tongue.
In June 2005 I went to the police and filed statements against both men. It was hard but I reccommend going through the process. I was taken seriously and treated with respect, compassion and professionalism. It was a bit of a fiasco at first. I'd been talking with one of my brothers and his stories really fueled my rage. As brutal as our father had been with me, it had been far worse for the boys. My brothers body carries physical evidence of the abuse he suffered as a child, in the form of rectal scarring. I had him convinced that he and I should go to the police. It was tough for him, one of our siblings was dead set against it and putting pressure on us both.
I picked him up one evening after work and we headed to the nearest police station. We explained our situation and the constable informed us that the detachment would be closing in fifteen minutes and that wouldn't be enough time to take our statements. So we went to the twenty-four hour station where we found one lone constable on duty, and he didn't know what to do with us. He was kind and tried to be discreet, making phone calls from behind a thin partition, in his attempts to get some kind of direction. Meanwhile a long lineup was forming behind us. I felt for the officer, he really tried to do something better for us than advise that we come back in the morning, but in the end that was all he could do. My brother changed his mind. The whole exercise had been a waste of time.
A couple weeks later, after another sleepless night, I got up at five a.m. and drove to my local R.C.M.P. detachement. My brother lived in the city so we'd gone to the city police. I lived in the country so my protocol was to go to the R.C.M.P. I'd already written my statement and after a short interview it was decided that video and audio statements would be taken as well. It wasn't the easiest thing I've ever done, I was extremely emotional. But I was so much lighter when we finished, like a burden had been lifted. A burden had been lifted. The file was forwarded to the city, ironically, to the sex crimes unit. A detective contacted me and reiterated what I already knew, I had no evidence and the chances of laying charges were slim to none, but that would not stop them from investigating. He reported back to me that the male relative responded to questioning with righteous indignation and informed the detective that I was crazy and sick. My father said one thing only to the detective "talk to my lawyer".
Had the police required me to lay charges I would have done so without hesitation, but that wasn't my motivation. I wanted the police to have on record the names of my abusers so that if anyone else should come forward, their stories would be corroborated.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
You know the old story? You can go without food for a good long time, a fairly long time without water, but you can't go long without air. It takes no time at all for the body to react when deprived of air.
I was struggling for breath, fighting for my life. My arms and hands flailed uncontrollably, reaching grasping desperately. Although the witnessing presence within knew I was reliving the past, I was truly choking in the here and now. Some sticky mass obstructed my windpipe. I was choking and started retching, I felt like I was going to vomit. I became aware of a tremendous pain in my back, like that rib had been dislocated or damaged again.
Again the body memory was accompanied with a knowing. I knew I was around the age of eleven or twelve. I knew my treatment had been rough, that I'd been injured and terrified. I knew that my struggle had nothing to do my dignity and everything to do with my survival. I knew it was my father and I knew that he raped my mouth. That psychopath, and I'm sure he fits the profile, had suffocated me to satisfy his sadistic pleasure and ejaculated down my throat, leaving me choking, puking and injured.
I was shocked. He had, most likely still has, a well known violent, sadistic streak. And the truth is, he was a child of six, in Germany, when the second world war began. He was a member of the Hitler youth, then lived under French occupation when Germany lost the war. God only know what may have happened to him. Even so, I was shocked by the brutality that my child self had had to endure. I was also shocked that such vivid, horrific events could be held within me but secret from me, for so long.
The reliving experiences were violent precisely because the experiences themselves were. Reliving them was grueling, terrifying, draining and for a while completely unnerving. My confidence evaporated along with any sense of security or safety. I was in a constant state of agitation that ranged from anxiety to terror, for weeks afterward. I was afraid of my own shadow, couldn't walk down a dark hallway in my own home. I was petrified of what was around every corner, afraid to be alone, afraid to be outside. I became obsessed with making sure that all the windows and doors were locked.
I was enraged as well. My emotions swung like a pendulum between fear, rage and sorrow, but also at times I felt oddly elated. Much had been explained. I suddenly knew where my rage had its roots. It was an awakening. I felt liberated after forty-eight years of bondage.
Monday, October 19, 2009
My husband and I had been fighting. After patching things up, we had just started to make love. I mean just started, I may have still been wearing an article or two of my clothing. He had one finger inside of me and had begun to stroke gently. He told me later that he didn't think he'd done anything unusual, but for me it felt very different. In fact unlike anything I'd felt before or since. His touch very quickly made me weak from pleasure, weak and helpless to do anything but surrender to it, and it was so immediate.
We were in counseling at the time, both seeing the same psychologist, sometimes together and sometimes separately. Twenty-two years of marriage. Sex was our main issue. One source of contention was the disparity between the amount of time it usually took for each of us to climax. I thought he came too fast and he thought I took too long. Plus, I had never had a vaginal orgasm, but there I was hurtling like a runaway train toward towards one, within moments of his finger entering me. I remember having the fleeting thought that our psychologist, also a medical doctor, must have taught my husband some technique to help him with his performance because this was incredible. I was on the verge of orgasm and opened my mouth to laugh, only to be choked by my own screams.
All the air left my lungs as I screamed and I was unable to take any back in. I couldn't breathe and was instantly catapulted into panic. Frantically, I pushed my husband away. My arms flailed desperately as I struggled for breath. A terrifying eternity seemed to pass before air was able to enter my lungs at which point I collapsed into convulsive sobbing. Then, like being bowled over by an ocean wave, screams would again force the air out of my lungs and again I'd be drowning in panic. As I fought for breath, my arms flailed wildly as though I were submerged under water and they desperately grasped for the surface. My fingers and toes clenched and unclenched rapidly, reflexively while I endured... something. I'd catch my breath long enough to sob only to be engulfed in panic as breath was forced from my lungs, suffocating me again and again, tossed helpless on some weird tide, back and forth between suffocation, terror and short periods of time when I could breathe, but only in convulsive sobs.
Then I became aware of a child's voice, repeating over and over in my head, "I'm so afraid... I'm so afraid... I'm so afraid". As soon as I had the composure to speak, I told my husband. As soon as I said the words "I'm so afraid" out loud, I had the impression of being very young, four or five.
Waves of grief and sobbing followed waves of terror and suffocation. I'm unsure of the time. Perhaps ten minutes passed, maybe longer, before I was able to speak. First I wanted to reassure my husband that he hadn't hurt me. This was something inside of me. But as soon as I tried to talk about what had happened, put it into words, fear and panic once again overwhelmed me. Again, breath was forced out of my body, only this time it felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I was even making those barking seal noises as I struggled to take breath in.
I had the presence of mind to know that my body was re-living an excruciating, terrifying, life threatening, experience. Obviously I had survived the living of it, I would survive the re-living. Even so it took every iota of self-control to calm myself enough to enable breathing.
As soon as I could speak, the first words out of my mouth were "I know what happened... I know what happened". And I did. Someone was tickling me, making me weak with laughter. The tickling moved to inside my vagina and all of a sudden I was slammed to the ground, the wind knocked out of me. I was held, face down, chest pinned, unable to breathe. I knew from the frantic flailing of my arms, from the spastic, reflexive, rapid, clenching and unclenching of my hands and feet, that my suffocating body was facing death. I believe I lost consciousness. My guess is that when I came to, it was without the slightest idea of what had happened or why I was in pain.
In the here and now though, I was aware of pain, everywhere. The injuries felt deep, structural. My spine, beneath the shoulder blades, hurt, so did my sternum. A back rib behind my heart was so painful, I wondered if it has been cracked or dislocated. My right sacroiliac, right knee and left wrist were also injured in the attack.
Waves of pain, sorrow and panic tossed me in an ebb and flow of intensity. Eventually the experience loosened its grip enough for my husband and me to leave the bedroom and go to the kitchen to make tea. While standing in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil, I became aware of an insistent voice in my head, repeating the name of a male relative, over and over until it was drumming like a throbbing headache. As soon as I told my husband, as soon as I spoke that painful, pounding, name out loud, it stopped. Instantly my head was clear, calm, quiet, and I knew who it was. I know the cruel, selfish, monster who had almost killed me in his attempt to rape me. This was the same disgusting man who'd shoved his tongue down my throat, at a family party, on new years eve, when I was thirteen.
We had our tea and discussed what had just happened. I was grateful for my husband, grateful for his calm, witnessing presence. I was badly shaken, shocked and stunned. How could something so vivid have been held within me, yet withheld from me, and for so long. I was forty-seven years old, three weeks away from my forty-eighth birthday.
Unbelievably, to me anyway, there was more to come.
Friday, October 16, 2009
"Truth and unconditional love support each other. To love yourself unconditionally, you must tell yourself the truth. You cannot hear your own truth if you are lying to others. Begin to tell the truth in the smallest things. This brings you wholeness. Tell the truth often and you will be filled with beauty. You will have health. You will walk the beauty way of health/wholeness/holiness/. Your truth will bless all you encounter. You will be blessed. Do not be afraid to reveal your own uniqueness, for that is part of your blessing"
The night terrors continued, but a subtle shift was taking place. I still had random episodes of screaming in the night but now, sometimes, I was being roused by it. Also, sometimes, instead of screams, there were words. I'd started shouting in the night, "what are you doing? what are you doing"?
With my tailbone healed, I was ready to get to work on what I hoped was the last place of chronic pain in my body. There was a tender area between and slightly beneath my shoulder blades. It had been sensitive and painful for as long as I could remember. It was one of the many places where I couldn't stand to be touched. When at its worst, locked and painful, I would have a hard time taking a full breath, and rage would come up and seethe just below my surface.
This was a tough area to touch with yoga. At first it was vulnerable and prone to injury. I had to be very careful. Spinal twists, supine the safest for me, Bow variations, Wheel, Tranquility pose, Shoulder stand, Plow, Fish, all took me to that tender place in my body and became a regular part of my practice. These poses didn't all come easily. I especially struggled with the inversions, but inevitably, over the course of time, with gentle, patient, persistence, there was improvement. Then, out of the blue, another memory surfaced.
These memories didn't come up in the usual way we think of as remembering. I didn't suddenly remember something I'd forgotten. These were body memories, entirely visceral.
In 2002 I took a yoga teacher training course at an ashram in the Bahamas. It is an odd place for an ashram, an austere spiritual community juxtaposed against some pretty hedonistic opulence. There are rules at the ashram, no coffee, tobacco, alchohol, drugs, meat, garlic, onions or sex. There were rules about dress, especially for women, no short shorts and shoulders covered, while next door and sharing the same beach was a Club Med where topless was the norm. Atlantis, a humongous Vegas style hotel/casino/resort is a fifteen minute walk along the beach. Nassau, a popular and busy tourist and cruise ship destination, is across the bay. The night life was twenty-four-seven. Party boats emblazoned with Booze Cruise floated noisily in and out of the bay, at all times of the day and night, music blaring, people hooting, hollering, drinking, dancing and partying as loud and hard as possible.
One night we were sitting for evening meditation in the open air temple. Normally I sat crosslegged on the floor, it was a requirement for those of us in the course, but my back was sore and I was feeling rebellious, so I sat in a chair next to a friend I'd made who was also taking the course. A Booze Cruise boat floated into the bay. The noise was so invasive that for me, meditation was out of the question. I even remember the song they were playing on the boat. It was that "Who let the dogs out" song, very popular, especially in the Bahamas, at the time.
I kept my eyes closed and tried to maintain an inward focus but when they started setting fireworks off from the boat, it was too much. I found the situation hilarious and was shaking from the effort of trying not to laugh out loud. My eyes flew open when my friend, an American, grabbed my hand. He was sobbing. Tears poured from his eyes, sweat trickled from his head, his tee-shirt was drenched. He was trembling and making strange noises, I think from the exertion of trying not to wail or scream.
Tall and solid, he was a large man but I held his hand and wrapped my free arm around his broad back as best I could. After a few minutes he was able to compose himself enough to beat a hasty retreat. I didn't see him for a couple of days. He may have been avoiding me. I got the feeling he was embarrassed. When I did see him, he didn't want to talk about what had happened except to say that "it was a little thing called Vietnam" when he was twenty-one years old. He did tell me though that "when this happens, I'm not remembering what it was like to be there, I am there". His body had been there, in Vietnam, re-living whatever it was that the fireworks had triggered. He'd had an episode of shell-shock.
I was meant to sit beside him in the temple that evening. I was meant to witness his shell-shock. Somehow the universe in its perfection put me there, in that exact place, at that exact time, under those exact circumstances, as a gift. That experience prepared me for something yet to come.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Muladhara Memory, Part Two
I was in a little wooded area at the back of our property, surrounded and secluded by trees on a warm sunny July afternoon, singing a Sanskrit chant. All of a sudden a hard painful lump of emotion formed in my throat, choking my voice, choking me. Simultaneously I had a vision, a brief, startling, flicker, like a snapshot of a moment in time. For lack of a better word I call it a vision, but it wasn't visual. It was a snapshot of what I felt and heard. I couldn't breathe, I was suffocating, at the same time I heard the choked muffled screams of a tiny infant. I felt panic and fear but was most keenly aware of rage. It was the most pure and primal rage I've ever felt, absolute outrage. And I knew. Somehow I knew that my father had raped my mouth when I was a tiny infant.
Probably twenty years ago there was an incident in my city that made the news. An infant boy had been left in the care of a male friend while his parents went out. The parents returned to find their child in severe distress, screaming in a way they had never heard before, and rushed the baby to the hospital. A police investigation found a washcloth on the change table in the baby's room with semen on it. The Babysitter was charged. I remember being shocked. That such a thing could happen had never occurred to me. The newscaster went on to interview a spokesperson from the rape crisis center who informed us that this type of infant rape is not uncommon. An infant is vulnerable, defenseless, unable to communicate, and its instinct is to suck.
We'd been married almost twenty years, and when I told my husband about my "vision", only then did he confide that he'd suspected for a long time that I'd been sexually abused, and he'd figured it was my father.
I was shocked, stunned, horrified, appalled and disgusted, yet it explained a lot. Like the night terrors. Over the years I'd scared the wits out of my husband on uncountable occasions, when in the middle of the night I would start screaming, high pitched, terrified and I'm sure terrifying. I'd be screaming at the top of my lungs yet remain so deeply unconscious that my husband would have to shake me to rouse me enough to stop. Usually I would fall right back into deep sleep and remember nothing in the morning, except on occasion when I would have the vaguest recollection, along with a sore throat.
My children learned at an early age not to come to my side of the bed if they needed anything in the night. I remember my husband being so angry with me one time. Our youngest child, three or four at the time, had had a nightmare and came to her mom in the middle of the night for comfort. She probably just whispered "mom" into my ear, after making the brave trek, in the dark, from her room, but it took nothing to set me off. I'm sure the poor little thing was traumatised, she collapsed into a heap on the floor. My husband had to scoop her up and try to calm her while at the same time wake me up so I would stop screaming. I woke up to mayhem, which I had created, while completely unconscious. It had never occurred to me to question the cause of, or even that there may have been a cause for, the night terrors.
Maybe the power of denial is especially strong when honed at a young age but I hadn't seen this coming. I'd been working on my back to ease pain, working on my voice to overcome the fear of using it. After such a powerful catharsis, triggered during the Mothering Yourself weekend, I hadn't even considered that there could be more. I vacillated for a while between rage, sorrow and denial, but deep down I knew the truth. I know the truth.
When, during the work with Carol, we began to eke our way into the higher range of my voice, we encountered a block. There was a place where all sound stopped. I could sing up to a particular note but was mute past it. I could hear the note in my head, was relatively comfortable in my voice up to that point, but could not make a sound when I reached beyond. During one of our lessons, Carol asked me if I'd been abused as a child and told me she'd encountered a similar situation with another adult student. At the time I really didn't know. That first memory hadn't surfaced yet. I wonder now though, if it increases the likelihood of memory embedding in the vocal chords, when screaming is involved in the trauma, or stifled.
After the vision, my vocal chords opened up. The block dissolved so completely that it was hard to imagine it had been there at all. It would be six months however before I would be released from the pain in my tailbone. While studying at an ashram, early in 2002, I met a powerful tantric yogi, trained in Swedish massage. During a massage he simply said the word coccyx as he held his palm there, and the pain disappeared instantly and to this day has not returned. Again I believed/believe that I'd done the physical reparation with yoga. It was a rent in my energy body or chakra or something like that, that he'd mended.
I grasped the connection between the block in my vocal chords and the rape of my infant self but was mystified as to why such pain was recorded in my coccyx. Until I read in Wheels of Life by Anodea Judith, that the first chakra, seated at the base of the spine, the coccyx, is formed between the time of conception and approximately one year of age. I believe that my root chakra, the muladhara chakra, held the non-verbal record of this early trauma. Or, and obviously that's pretty rough handling for a newborn, perhaps my father injured my tailbone.
Either way, I sing now, in front of people, and it gives me a lot of pleasure.
It seemed that this completed the process I'd halted at the Mothering Yourself weekend. Now I had the whole picture. Or so I thought.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
As I observed and felt it, the lump dissolved. There was a quiet moment before all of a sudden grief swept over me. I became aware of deep, deep sorrow, and of course, everything I felt was being expressed. My entire being was wracked with fear, dread, sorrow, as waves of gut wrenching, teeth-chattering, jaw-locking grief, crashed through my body. Tears poured, mucus ran, as I sobbed uncontrollably.
Once again, as soon as I'd identified grief and sorrow, the fist of energy moved, from behind my sternum to my heart. My heart started to ache and although vague at first, became painful as I witnessed it.
I'm not sure how long we'd been out on that deck, maybe twenty minutes, when the course instructor appeared. She said "Oh! I see you've decided to take the accelerated route". Then she laughed, just a little chuckle. She stayed to observe for a couple minutes, then left to continue her rounds. Her words, her laugh, even the fact that she left, all served to reassure me, give this bizarre situation some degree of normalcy. This, whatever it was that was happening to me, had struck with an immediacy and intensity that shocked me. I didn't know what was going on. I did not understand what was happening to me.
My body, still wracked by violent spasms of convulsive trembling, sobbed unabated. I could barely breathe let alone speak. Still, although the greater part of me was in serious distress, there was a small witnessing presence, curious and fascinated, amazement and awareness heightened.
I felt the pain move from my heart to my throat, where it formed into a hard lump of choked emotion, but with an unfamiliar, painful intensity. Then it seemed to dissolve for a moment before I suddenly became acutely aware of shame. Shame so deep and disturbing that it frightened me more than anything I'd experienced so far.
I'd had all I could handle. It was too much. Something had been set in motion but I wanted it to stop. I did not want this energy thing moving any further. I did not want it to move up into my head. I did not want to feel or know any more. I wanted this experience to end. I wanted it to stop.
I opened my eyes and fell weeping into the arms of my friend. She broke rule number one and held and rocked me like a child. It took a while before I'd composed myself enough to beat a hasty retreat to my room. It was there I realized that the pain in my back was gone. That chronic stiffness, the discomfort which had initially drawn me in and insisted upon my attention, was gone, just like that.
My friend never did get her turn to Ride the Waves of Sensation. I cried steadily for the remainder of the weekend, and intermittently but with decreasing frequency for the next several weeks. I did regret a little, from time to time, having stopped the process. Had I missed the opportunity for a more complete understanding of what that catharsis was about? Did I need, or really want, to know? It appeared to have been the storage place for memory of something traumatic, but the pain was gone. It left without my knowing what it was that had been so terrifying, painful and shameful, and I was o k with that.
Trust in yoga and myself, deepened. I was convinced, still am, that my yoga practice had laid the groundwork and brought strength and healing to my spine. That place of stiffness and discomfort, in the middle of my back, to this day has not returned. Somehow my body had stored memory, in a specific sore spot in my body, and now it was gone. Yay yoga! End of story. That is what I thought at the time.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I had partnered with my girlfriend so felt free to complain whole heartedly. As we stepped out onto the deck I was barely aware of what a glorious afternoon it was. I was consumed by my indignation, my outrage. "This is such bullshit! What a waste of time and money! This isn't yoga! I want my money back!!!"
"Breathe" came my friends voice, "feel that". Well... she wanted to play and obviously wanted me to go first... so fine, I would go first. "I feel irritated, agitated, ripped off, and pissed off, and what has any of this got to do with yoga?" "How does that feel in your body?" she quietly asked.
It took me a while to get settled. I was fidgety and had a hard time getting comfortable. I tried sitting on a bench, sitting cross-legged on the deck, and finally chose to stand where a sunbeam could warm my back. "What's happening now?" my friend asked me.
The sun warmed and soothed, my friends' voice calmed and led, and my awareness homed in on a place of chronic discomfort in my back, a couple of inches above the waistline and centered along the spine. I'd been aware if it for a long time and back bends like the Camel always took me there. Secretly I had begun to wonder if yoga was making it worse. With hindsight I see that my yoga practice had, over time, been rooting something out, bringing it up, closer to the surface.
I stood there with my eyes closed, in the warm sunshine, bitching. This is so stupid... what I feel is stiffness in my back... duh! "Breathe" she said, "allow yourself to feel that". All of a sudden I was sobbing. One moment I was complaining and a split second later I was overwhelmed by a deep, convulsive, uncontrollable sobbing unlike anything I could remember experiencing. And, it was so sudden, unexpected, immediate. My body started quaking, my teeth chattering, my jaw locking. "What's happening now?" My friends' voice anchored me but I was unable to speak, mortified by my terrible wailing and convulsive sobbing, but helpless to do anything but sob and wail. "Feel what's happening in your body."
As I observed it, the discomfort seemed to expand from back to front, until it encompassed my entire solar plexus. The closest I can come to putting words to the feeling is, a tight fist or ball of energy inside me.
I felt my adrenal glands surge. Although emotion was vague at first, it clarified and I realized I was feeling extreme anxiety and fear. As soon as I made that realization, the tight fist of energy moved upward until it settled into the pit of my stomach. Almost immediately I felt that sinking feeling of impending doom, dread now mixing with almost paralyzing fear. All the while sobbing with a totally unfamiliar and uncontrollable intensity. That this was happening at all shook me up. Coming so violently out of the blue was alarming. Even so there was a part of me, a witnessing presence, watching, incredulous but curious. I heard a voice in my head say clearly, "holy shit! this is bizarre! what the fuck is going on here"? "Breathe... let yourself feel that" came my friends' voice.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Autumn 1986, my neighbor invited me to go with her to a yoga class. I'd heard of yoga but it wasn't the household word it's become today, at least not yet in that neck of the woods. By the end of that first class I knew I'd found what I didn't even know I'd been searching for. I had no idea at the time where yoga would lead me, or even the notion that it would, I only knew I wanted more.
Although yoga compelled me, I was the busy mother of three children, the youngest a tiny nursing babe. I'd signed up for a ten week yoga session but leaving my baby for a couple of hours, even in the capable hands of her father, proved too stressful for me so I dropped out of class. I practiced on my own at home from books, as much as I could. Once my daughter was weaned, I dove headlong into yoga. My appetite for it was voracious. I still pretty much eat, breathe, and sleep it.
Yoga was challenging and confusing, it showed me where weakness and pain existed in my body, but it was fun. I liked the way it felt, the way it made me feel, and I loved the people I was meeting through it. Like true love, the longer we are with it the deeper it goes, and in the beginning I fell simply and hopelessly in love with yoga.
I got an inkling in May 1997 that there was something tucked away, hidden in my body. My friend and I, both busy mothers of three, decided to treat ourselves to a yoga retreat, in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, for the Mothers Day weekend, away from our children. The retreat was, after all, called Mothering Yourself.
I'd learned, as an adult, of the childhood sexual abuse that two of my five siblings had suffered at the hands of our father. One came out of the closet, so to speak, in the hospital after a suicide attempt, and I found out about the other shortly after. One got help. The other succeeded in committing suicide at the age of thirty-six. I don't know if this is normal but I remember an awful lot of trips to the emergency ward so that one child or another could have their stomach pumped after ingesting pills from the medicine chest, or fluid from under some sink. They were never called suicide attempts, and maybe they weren't, but whatever they were they were commonplace in my house.
The possibility that I had been sexually abused as a child existed, but I had no knowledge of it. In fact, I felt guilty, believing that I had somehow escaped a fate so obviously devastating to my siblings
I started writing this book about seven years ago, well before I knew the half of it. It is different from the way I first envisioned it, much different. I recently realized that, though they are inextricably entwined, what I've written is actually two books. One is complete, ready for publication, has been for a good year now.
I submitted book proposals to publishing companies. All but one responded and all of those with rejection, although several were personal and kind and left me feeling heartened. I think my writing is ok. The subject matter is sensitive and I did check a few yes boxes on an "Avoiding Trouble: a Checklist for Authors", checklist. Some of the statements I make could "harm the reputation of an individual thereby putting myself and a publishing company at legal risk". I understand. I don't want hassles either. I want peace and calm and quiet to permeate my days. But I must tell my story. In fact that is part of my point. We have to tell.
Four years ago I went to the police. There wasn't much they could do without evidence or corroboration. I knew that would be the case. For some reason I am the only one to come forward, even though I know of at least a dozen of my fathers victims, and it's common knowledge among family. I was taken seriously. The police have on record, statements of complaint against my father and another male relative from my father's side. I've corroborated their statements, should anyone else come forward.
I've decided to stop flogging and start blogging my "book". I've disguised my name, and the names of others. I cannot deny that in the beginning, vengence motivated me to write. I wanted to expose these men, my family, my protectors. Now I just want people to know that yoga heals, that when we practice hatha yoga, the limb of yoga with which I am most familiar, we enter through the door marked physical, but every aspect of our being, emotional, physical, mental, spiritual, has the potential of being lovingly touched by our practice. It's all in the approach. Create peace within the body within each pose. It's as simple as that and rage quiets as weakness turns to strength, pain to pleasure, grief to joy.
Yoga Heals is a story of healing and hope, harsh at times but worse situations are being endured as I write and as you read.
In an effort to ease it, I intuitively focused on yoga poses that took me to chronic pain that existed in my body. Over time this practice rooted out and brought to the surface, memory of sexual abuse. My adult body relived assaults that my child self had experienced. Each reliving left me with a knowing, and relieved my body of the pain where memory had seemingly been walled up in tissue and bone.
The Committee on Sexual Offences Against Children and Youth conducted a study in 1984 which found that among adult Canadians, 54% of women and 31% of men had experienced sexual abuse as children. And they only represent the population who remember, and are willing to talk. A stastic that shocked me, although it shouldn't have considering the most deadly and terrifying assault I endured somewhere around the age of five, is that "nationally, nearly one quarter of all sexual offences are perpetrated by adolescents" and that "almost one third of suspected or known child sex offenders were under the age of 21".
How widespread is the ability to bury traumatic memory? I don't believe that I am unique. Where I may differ is that I, in my own way remember. Now I know where my valuelessness, rage, fear,... originated and they don't have the same hold over me.
Healing the epidemic cycle of sexual abuse is an imperative step on our peace path. We begin with ourselves. Yoga is a way. Create peace within your body, within each pose, and peace spills over into all areas of life and ripples out into the world. I haven't decided yet whether to start or end with the chapter called Rainbow Warriors. Tomorrow will tell. In that chapter I tie prophecy and the phenomenal spread of yoga "like a prairie wildfire" to predictions of the dawning age of peace.
I love writing. I'm often at a loss for words in real time. The perfect words occur to me hours later, usually in the middle of the night. Finding these words and recording them has been empowering, cathartic and healing. I recommend the process.
For the good of all beings.
- ▼ 2009 (14)