It’s Loving Kindness Wednesday!
Patience with ourselves is a key ingredient to progressive and lasting recovery. Unfortunately, building patience seems out-of-reach for many of us stuck in post-traumatic reactionary mode. The last thing we feel capable of is slowing down long enough to observe and then respond. Instead, we’re stuck in a mindset that makes us believe our only option is to instantly react. Instantly reacting becomes our unhealthy default, which is counter productive and often destructive to our healing journey.
To heal without causing additional harm to ourselves, we must build patience, which leads to trusting our inner voice again, which leads to making better decisions for ourselves, which leads to healthier relationships with others.
Building patience is a total win-win!
Despite the obvious benefits of nurturing our patience, few of us were ever explicitly taught how to be more patient. Additionally, there’s the insulting irony associated with the process of growing our patience and trusting ourselves:
It takes patience to grow patience.
So where does one begin?
In the early months of my recovery, my mind refused to cooperate with me. I had zero control over my thoughts, triggers, sleep patterns, fears, worries, anxieties, and all the emotions associated with being out of control.
When the ruminating took hold, patience with myself was elusive. I had no patience with myself, my thoughts, or anyone else. I hated myself for being weak in spirit. I felt helpless to stop my mind from re-living, over and over, abusive events and conversations from my past. I hated myself for being short, terse, and, well, impatient!
I felt betrayed by my own mind, which led to anger and sadness, which led to more anger and sadness, which led to overwhelming feelings of inadequacy for not being able to fix myself fast enough, which led to being stuck in a quagmire of self-defeating thoughts and negative behavior affecting every corner of my life: relationships, health, career, motherhood, etc.
Months of this insanity persisted.
Then one day while balancing on one leg in the middle of my yoga mat, it hit me:
“Paula, if you can find the patience and determination to stand on one leg without falling over despite your body and gravity working against you, you have the patience to defeat your mind, too.”
A-ha!! And the only explanation for my mind finally being quiet enough to come to this conclusion is that I was unknowingly working on building my patience — body, mind, and spirit — each time I stepped onto the mat.
Today, after continued study and personal experience with mindfulness modalities, I’m a firm believer in whole body treatment for trauma and abuse. Our body is our mind; our mind is our body. The two can’t be divided. Once we make this discovery, we open the door to profound and progressive transformation.
Healing is holistic and can’t be compartmentalized. Before my “awakening”, I compartmentalized every negative thought, every ache, every set back, and every occasion I lost my cool. I focused on my symptoms, slapping band-aids on parts of me but never getting to the root of my issues.
I got a headache – I took a pill.
I couldn’t sleep – I took a pill.
I couldn’t eat without indigestion – I took a pill.
I couldn’t focus on my day-to-day routine – I took a pill.
And I kept taking these pills because society and the professionals working with me convinced me I was broken beyond repair and only the pills could help me function.
It was insanity.
Taking pills and feeling helpless without the pills kept me in a place of codependency and helplessness, which inevitably led me down the rabbit hole of self-blame, self-shame, self-loathing, and more suffering over and over again. I was trapped. More reasons to remain in a pill-induced mindset!!
I had a choice. You have a choice.
Our bodies are amazing and magical vessels. Our bodies perpetually move in the direction of balance and homeostasis. Our bodies want to heal as much as we want our bodies to heal. And our bodies will heal themselves if we trust the messages our bodies are sending and stop feeding our bodies the very things our bodies keep rejecting and spitting out because those things work against our natural ability to heal ourselves.
If we continue using pills from a place of impatience and in the fear-based belief that being in pain is a sign of weakness, our bodies will never get the chance to heal from the inside out. We will always remain dependent on the pills, the band-aids, to do all the work for us. We will never, ever get to the core of the real issues.
Why not take the pills knowing your dependency on them is temporary while simultaneously building your body’s capacity to heal itself through mindfulness practices?
Recent studies prove that yoga, meditation, and breath work have the power to transform the neuropathways responsible for everything from manufacturing hormones that help us sleep to rebalancing our central nervous system so we can quickly discern between real threats and perceived threats, thus putting an end to needless triggers interfering with our peace of mind.
After my personal realization on my mat that day, I convinced myself that I would beat the demons simply by harnessing the patience I used to nurture my body and apply it to heal my mind. From that point forward, I chose not to beat myself up in the moments I found myself thinking dark thoughts. Instead, I recognized I was thinking them and made the choice to let them go…to not try figuring out the why’s and the what if’s. Soon, I could see the self-destructive power of ruminating for what it was and chose to immediately shift my attention away from the darkness and focus on the light.
So invest in yourself today and signup for a beginner yoga class in your community. Listen to a 10-minute guided meditation. Practice the breath work I share in my emails and other posts. Above all, go easy on yourself and don’t judge yourself.
In addition, my FREE “Journey to the Heart” webinar series dives deeper into the science behind the benefits of mindfulness practices, and each session ends with a 15-minute meditation. If you participate live, take advantage of the opportunity to share your thoughts and ask questions.
You can view the first webinar in the “Journey to the Heart” series on Youtube.