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This last week was what they call a doozy.
As usual, I started off the week with a curious intention to research, practice, and write about an aspect of tending. I was drawn to the specific topic “Listen & Learn” because I’d like to listen and learn more consciously. In my planning notes, I had written things like: practice active listening… ask questions and take notes… communicate more gracefully… learn so much, be so practical, handle this theme expertly and generate meaningful takeaways for my readers.
Of course, as she always does, the Universe had an unbeknownst-to-me plan for exactly what and how I would be listening and learning:
While I was doing my regular Monday morning commute I listened to a podcast I had downloaded a month or two before but had never actually played: Gabrielle Bernstein’s two part “When Life’s Circumstances Make You Want to Run for Cover.” I have yet to encounter a Gabby Bernstein podcast, book, vlog, or even Instagram story that I don’t like, so I thought: okay, sure, let’s go. I had no idea that I was about to get my mind blown.
I’ve shared a little bit about my past and my path on The Tending Year, and while there’s some personal stories that I’ll leave out of the blog (at least for now), you need to know two things about me in order to understand why Gabby’s podcast recording moved me so much.
- In addition to work, school, and The Tending Year, I’m committed to doing what I call “working my path.” To me, working my path means learning how to live a better, healthier, more meaningful life so that I can in turn reflect my energy, love, and knowledge onto the world. I’ve done a lot of work over the last 5 or so years to clear off my path–getting sober, practicing healthy coping mechanisms, learning about community and communication, and actively healing from trauma. After a lot of preparation, I finally, and intentionally, began working the part of my path that is tied to specific traumas that I’ve had up blinders to since, well… forever. I’m extremely proud of myself for making this choice, but I had no idea that the work would be so physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting and would effectively wipe me out last week.
- I have a recurring mantra that I turn to when I need to face a big challenge: dive deep. I picked up this mantra a couple of years ago from a friend who was born and raised on the west coast and hence spent a lot of time in the ocean. She told me that when a wave comes, you want to dive into and under it, because if you try to stand still, the wave is just going to knock you over. I adopted this concept–choosing to go through difficult/challenging experiences in order to work our paths of healing and recovery–as a mantra, and it has guided me through a rough breakup from a codependent relationship (and the resulting commitment to healing from codependency), quitting smoking cigarettes after being a smoker for almost half of my life, and other obstacles and milestones on my path.
I knew that I was going to start my intense work on my old trauma on Tuesday, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know it last Monday morning, but Gabby and the Universe were in cahoots to help me dive deep into this challenge.
The first episode offered me some brilliant tips, and I voice recorded them as notes in my phone while I was driving:
- Saying “yes” is a prayer. When we say “yes” we are saying “I am ready” or “I want to try,” and that is a prayer.
- What is the negative movie that I have been playing over and over again about myself?
- I am afraid of the feeling, not afraid of the actual thing.
I loved these concepts, and I felt thankful that I could bring them to my healing practice. I ended the first episode and started the second, and what happened next reaffirmed my faith in the Universe.
Gabby asked her listeners (there were real listeners at the original live workshop) to put their hand on the part of their body where they carried their pain or trauma. Mine is my tailbone/sacrum area. She asked her listeners to close their eyes (obviously I didn’t do this while driving!) and imagine themselves standing waist deep in the ocean.
At this point, my eyes started to well up. Could Gabby really be about to talk about diving deep?
She asked us to remember that if we resist something out of fear, it will knock us over. But if we dive into it then we can have faith we will come out the other side. When we picture the waves coming at us we will feel scared, but if we breathe we can make it through by DIVING UNDER the WAVES AND COMING OUT THE OTHER SIDE.
I cannot tell you how warm and tingling and full and whole I felt while listening to Gabby guide her listeners through a meditation on diving deep! Thankfully I was alone in the car, because I was deep in a combo of laughter + smiling + crying. In that moment, I was absolutely certain that the time had really come for me to dive deep into this scary trauma work.
As I mentioned above, this work isn’t easy. It kicked up my CPTSD, but it also kicked up my ego, my inner mean girl, and every part of me that has been avoiding this part of my healing for so long. By knowing that this work would require me to dive deep, I allowed myself to take more baths, to rest, to check social media more than 3 times a day when I needed to distract my unsettled mind, and I gave myself permission to let myself experience the actual diving under part where healing washes over, challenges, and teaches me. I didn’t hit 5 Todoist tasks every day. I didn’t go to the gym every day. Some days I had cereal for dinner. Some days I needed to cancel plans, to be silent, to be brave through random anxiety attacks at dinner or flashbacks during meetings, and to let simply getting through the day be what counted as “enough” for me that day. But now, after a week of intentionally diving deep and loving myself while I was less productive, I feel more on the horse again, and I’m back to an adjusted productivity output. I know the trauma work will require me to keep diving deep, and I also know that I’ll have to be softer with myself and adjust my expectations that I can be “on” and productive all the time.
My only takeaway this week is for you to think about diving deep in your own life. Is there a big, scary, challenging decision you’ve been putting off? Think or write about why you haven’t attempted that obstacle yet. Maybe it’s setting boundaries, or beginning to recover from an addiction, or changing careers, or going to therapy, or practicing more self compassion. You absolutely don’t have to make any changes now, but honor yourself for making the big first step of thinking about your challenge as a potential thing to dive deep into so you can get to the other beautiful side.
*Please note that the original version of this blog post was published here.