Updated: May 20, 2022
This morning I'd intended to write about psychic boundaries but something surprising and unexpected happened this past week: we had a local fire. It began a few cities away, with sparks coming from electrical lines. Goaded by high wind, the Kincade fire burned through homes and vineyards here in Sonoma County, causing the evacuation of more than 100,000 people. In fact, this fire still burns so the crisis is not fully averted. Firefighters from in and out of state are working for containment even as I write, and have suggested that it may burn for another two weeks.
Watching this fire on the news, and listening to friends and community members go into emergency mode, I was reminded of a fire just two years ago that burned half of our city down and took lives. Although I was physically safe this time and last, I could feel emotion and history stirring in my muscle memory.
If you've never heard of it, muscle memory is this thing your muscles actually have...Yes your muscles all over your bodies hold the phantom memories of repetitive or emotionally charged actions. Life, as you experience it, is not just stored in your brain; Your entire bodies become a holographic canvas of all that has come before...
This is the mechanism Olympic gymnasts use to score that perfect 10. They hone their physical art to such perfection through repetition that they could do it in their sleep. This is the same body conditioning that makes it challenging to stop reaching for that second slice of cake, or to walk way from that physical abuser. I know those are dramatically different examples, but both can be emotional, psychologically and physically entrained experiences.
When crisis comes up, we often trigger, by automatic default, the muscle memory that has been stored from the last crisis that matches this vibrational resonance. That's why it's so important that when we face the stories, wounds, and experiences of our past, we have to allow ourselves to consciously release the past through our entire physical body--not just via our thoughts on a therapy couch. (I actually love therapy couches, but our healing has to be all-inclusive and go beyond the couch).
DEALING WITH OLD OR RE-TRIGGERED STRESS
This week's fire brought up a host of memories, which added anxiety to my stress from the fire. Thankfully I understood that I was dealing with two different timelines--my body fear from the past, and my body stress in the present. I found it helpful to do these things for myself, which have been my go-to in these types of circumstances, so I'm sharing them with you. This is not a prescription for hands-on Reiki, but rather the Reiki, or energy of your life and bringing energetic mindfulness to your circumstances:
1. Create a safe space. You need space to review your feelings and stop holding your breath, even if only for a few minutes. In the worst circumstances, I've excused myself to a public bathroom, and set an actual timer for 5 minutes on my phone in a locked stall. Setting the timer allows me to completely surrender, knowing that I'll be alerted when it's time to get back to the world. Once you're in that safe space, all of you have to do is breathe and give yourself a chance to slow down your thinking and processing.
2. Recognize projections & muscle memory. Many feelings and old patterns will move out of your body just by acknowledging them. Breathing and recognizing where you are angry, hurt, or how something happened to you in the past is often enough to help those feelings clear out. Even if they don't, you can now offer more compassion to yourself. It's not uncommon for old coping mechanisms--be it food, alcohol, drugs, escapism, or violence-- to pop up along with that body stress, so be gentle but conscious.
3. Be with your feelings. Often when you feel old things coming up, they're scary or uncomfortable so you want to push away, shove down, or act unconsciously. The best thing you can do to fully release that excess emotions is to actually lean into it. I'm not saying you should act on it, but you can allow yourself to feel anger, hurt, fear, etc as fully as possible, even as you tell yourself with your adult voice, "I am allowed to feel this, and I can still take one tiny step forward at a time." When we deny our emotions, we create shadows that can be very hard to manage and ultimately lead to self-sabotage and victimization. So feel ALL the feels.
4. Increase Stress-management. You may feel there's too much going on to take care of yourself but it's not true. Now more than ever you've got to give your body everything you can to help in reduce stress in the moment. This week, I did a combination of short and long tasks to help manage my own stress:
Quick Stress Support
Bach's Rescue Remedy Pastilles
Flower Essence Post Stress Stabilizer Spray
Magnesium drink (like "Calm" or "EmergenC")
Coconut Water for hydration
Fish Oil (Like Mary Poppins says, a spoon full of 'fish oil' helps the medicine go down...)
Count out 10 Deep breaths
EFT Tapping Points
10 minute nap or rest on a timer to integrate thoughts
Intentional Stress Support
Reiki Healing Hands-On
Adaptogenic and Aphrodisiac Herbs
Early Bedtime (even when not sleepy)
Phone Conversations with Loved ones
Human Touch and Hugs
Gathering in Community (don't isolate)
Meditation in 20 minute increments
Trauma Stress Release Exercises
Prayer, Appreciation, and Reflection
DEALING WITH OTHERS WHO ARE LOSING IT
I watched my ex (a co-parent) spin out emotionally, and I saw very quickly that he was conflating old traumas with this new one. Here's what I can say about helping others who are losing it... If you are close to them and there's already trust, it can help to:
* look them in the eyes
* help them to breathe by breathing with them for 30 breaths
* rubbing or massaging down their arms and back, like firmly petting a cat
* talking slowly and briefly, reminding them that this is not the past
Sometimes there's NO trust. Or, as in the case of my co-parent Ex, the trauma brings up feelings of paranoia and isolationism. In this case it's helpful to remember that you can only help someone who wants to be helped. If you can create a safe space for them to come down, speaking gently and non-confrontationally, it really helps. Think of a scared cat or dog... if you give them space to process and offer warm but diffuse intentional energy, they will come down in increments.
Most people make the mistake of trying to reason with someone who is in a shock mode. It doesn't work because they're not functioning from a place of reason. You also don't necessarily want to get aggressive and yell at them, pointing out how unreasonable they are, because they're only going to absorb that energy as further shock. The same stress supports that work for you, can work for them too, as long as you ask permission and go slowly.
I hope these are helpful things for you to think about. As the next week unfolds, I feel deeply moved by how so many local community members have banded together in support, facing the unknown. I'm reminded that we co-create with life. We can't control everything life sends us, but we can absolutely decide how we want to respond to it, and what dance moves we need to cue up in this sacred dance with life.