Last month, my husband and I took a vacation to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s an enchanted place both in physical beauty and in the land’s sacredness to Native Americans. But, unfortunately, it’s also the place of my childhood trauma. So me returning to a place that’s tarnished required me to be courageous and mindful.
What do I mean by mindful? I needed to be aware of how I reacted to a place my egoic mind wants to keep me away from so I don’t get hurt again. Remember, the ego wants to protect us from being re-injured, so keeping me away from New Mexico was what it’s done for over twenty-five years.
I had warned my husband that I might have an emotional reaction, but didn’t know what that could be. I journaled about it before we left as well as meditated on the matter. But as we approached the state line, I felt nothing abnormal. When I saw the sign saying how far Albuquerque was, I had angst.
It was a realization that I was where my abuse, abandonment, and trauma took place at my mother’s hands when I was eleven. Then there was a wash of peace. Yes, peace. Why? Because the subsequent comprehension I had was a deep knowing that I was completely healed. No lingering pain, fear, or negativity. Just the feeling of coming home to a place I was meant to be.
Look past your thoughts, so you may drink the pure nectar of This Moment. ~ Rumi
The Healing Journey Was Long
It’s been over forty years since my ordeal occurred. My healing process took time, and there were many levels to it.
- I had to be brave and ask for help.
- I had to accept what occurred and yet understand it wasn’t my fault.
- I needed to overcome victimhood to become a survivor.
- I took responsibility for my choices and therefore reclaimed my control over my life: no blaming, no excuses for missteps. Instead, I looked for the lesson I was to learn.
- I reframed the stories I told myself into ones that were empowering.
- I learned to set personal boundaries as an act of self-care and self-love.
- I discovered how to forgive my mother, so I could be free and release the past.
- I courageously removed the thorny blanket, which is the defense mechanism the ego uses to protect us, so I could allow myself to heal.
- I had to change the question I was asking myself from “why me” to “now what”.
- And finally, I rediscovered who I authentically am by following my heart.
Mindfulness is a Buddhist practice of being aware of yourself without judgment or attachments to outcomes. It’s going within to gain an understanding of who you authentically are. The only way to understand is to work through your pain. But when it happened in childhood, when we didn’t have language or understanding of what occurred, we may not see a way to a place of joy and inner peace.
Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. ~ Pema Chödrön
Questions Lead to Authenticity
The thoughts and beliefs we have about our lives cause our unhappiness. The egoic mind projects are past negative experiences into the present and the future, which cause us to fear. The way to overcome this is to question ourselves about each fear and belief we have and see what is true for us.
The Work by Byron Katie uses four unassuming questions to help us see a different perspective about our pain and suffering.
- Is the thought we have true?
- Can we absolutely know that the thought we have is true?
- If we are dealing with others, we can’t know if our thoughts are correct most of the time because we don’t know other people’s intentions.
- How do we react when we believe that thought?
- This question is the crux of our pain and suffering because we believe the thought, and it causes us agony.
- Who would we be without the thought?
- Finally, this question allows us to see a different perspective. If we didn’t think our thought was true, how would the situation change?
- What would the opposite of our belief be, and could this be more accurate, more in line with our authentic selves?
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. ~ Viktor Frankl
Healing Can Occur For You Too
Although I was in therapy when I returned from New Mexico until I graduated high school in 1986, treatment didn’t help me because there wasn’t much information on dealing with childhood trauma.
So much of my healing I did myself or with friends and loved ones. In my book, Raven Transcending Fear, I write about the people along my path. I believe everyone we meet has a reason for being present in our lives to either teach us or for us to teach them.
Since I could overcome, you can too. And you have someone I didn’t have, someone who has gone through the pit of despair and has come out the other side, healed and whole. You have me.
I want to help you build the bridge over the pit so you can cross over faster than I did. Yes, you are afraid. But the ego has been lying to you. And you haven’t challenged your thinking because you’re still looking for the answer to a question to which there is no answer.
That question is: why me? Why did this happen to me? Which leads to, what did I do to deserve this pain? Or what could I have done to prevent the trauma? Of course, the egoic mind wants us to keep looking for answers, but even if we got responses to these queries, they wouldn’t satisfy us.
Just as a snake sheds its skin, we must shed our past over and over again. ~ Buddha
Stop Asking The Wrong Question
I spent a long time asking why me concerning the sexual abuse. I wallowed in self-pity for almost ten years. Then, my ego modified the question to why me regarding the abandonment. So I stayed stuck here for another twenty years.
When my mother passed, she abandoned my sister and me for the third time. She told the healthcare workers she had no next of kin. It took the state of New Mexico two months to locate my sister to inform us about her death.
I had little reaction to hearing she passed. We hadn’t been communicating in over six years. I came to realize what I was mourning was the dream I still carried of reconciliation. Yes, I still had a lingering hope she would become sober, and we could reunite.
But that didn’t happen, and she would never answer the questions I had. Why did she let three men rape me? What caused her not to love me? Why did she abandon us repeatedly? Why wasn’t I worthy? These were the questions my egoic mind kept bringing up. But these were the wrong questions.
The only question that moves us out of the past and into the present is, now what? What am I doing now to release my past so it no longer hurts me? Why am I allowing myself to tell a story that’s disempowering? What lesson am I to learn? Now what am I going to do to live the life of my dreams?
If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. ~ William Blake
Refocusing Our Course
Once we know the egoic mind wants us to stay stuck in the past, we can refocus our examination of who we authentically are and where we want to go. Thus, the alternate question we ask isn’t about figuring out the past but about being consciously aware of our choices to move us forward.
This mindfulness helps give us clarity. It allows the peace that’s been buried deep within us to rise to the surface. We push past the drama. Joy also arises from our souls as we engage in self-care activities. We’re compassionate when we allow the egoic chatter to start but are quick to recognize it and are kinder with our self-talk.
With our newfound calmer selves, we learn to respond to situations instead of reacting to them from a place of fear. We see how reframing the stories we tell ourselves helps to empower us to move toward our dreams.
These tools to help refocus all point us to the adventure we all have to take, the journey back to Spirit. This spiritual expedition is how we uncover our authentic selves. Through asking the right questions, we discover who we are and why we’re here at Earth school.
When we get quiet and listen to the whispers of our souls, we see the truth for ourselves. Then, through meditation, journaling, and prayer, we reset ourselves from the egoic perspective to a heartfelt viewpoint. This pivot allows us to respond to life from a place of love.
To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still. ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
Moving Forward Healed
My vacation in New Mexico was magical. I felt welcomed by the people. I saw my reflection in many of them as I looked into other Native American faces, like mine. The beauty and silence of the land were enchanting. Yes, I want to move here.
But the most significant revelation on this trip was the awareness that I had no angst about this place. There wasn’t any negativity that sprang up. My egoic mind said nothing to me about the past trauma. I’ve made it to the other side of the pain and suffering. I am healed. I am free.
Now, I want you to have this feeling of freedom and healing for yourself. So stop asking the why me question, which has gotten you nowhere but despair. Instead, ask yourself, now what? What are you going to do instead of wallowing in self-pity, anger, and pain?
Why not ask yourself new questions and take the bridge I built to help you overcome much faster than I did? I’m here with you, and there isn’t anything you can tell me I didn’t think, or feel, or wanted to do to stop the pain. The healing journey isn’t as challenging as the egoic mind tells us. You’re stronger than you think because you are still here. I promise!
Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it. ~ Buddha
Do you need support to help you heal from the past? Do you want a strategy to help you overcome the ego’s limiting beliefs and live a successful life? If so, please reach out to me at TerriKozlowski.com, and we can put together an action plan for you to create the life you desire.