Overheard on a train, today:
“I’m just not able to relax! I feel like I’m going crazy if I’m not doing something. Like if I just sit there, if I don’t move, I just freak out, I think I’m gonna die…”
Aww. I feel so much compassion for people who feel this way! I know that restlessness so well. The fear of the body. The cry of unhealed trauma. The fear of stillness. Of silence. Of being alone.
The feeling of ‘crawling out of one’s skin’.
In the stillness, we must face… ourselves! All the thoughts we don’t want to think. All the feelings we have been spending our lives trying not to feel. All the ‘wild and dangerous and dark’ urges and impulses, the terrors and the rage, the grief and the boredom. All the life we have run away from. All the creativity we have suppressed.
This is the voice of unhealed trauma: “Just keep going. Keep moving. Keep talking. Keep doing.
Just don’t stop. Don’t sit still. Don’t rest. If you rest long enough, you will die…
If you relax, if you stop, and breathe, old trauma will resurface, suppressed and unconscious feelings will begin to break through into conscious awareness.
Keep busy. Distract. As if your life depended on it. Feelings are bad. Feelings are not safe…”
Of course it’s not true at all. Feelings are the safest place to be. The body is the safest place of all. Intensity and discomfort do not necessarily equal pathology and danger and death.
But we have to learn to slowly, mindfully, gently, BE WITH the uncomfortable feelings. Lean in to the boredom, the loneliness, the fear, the despair. Prove to ourselves that these feelings are tolerable, survivable, even loveable, even pleasurable, life-giving, joyful, relieving, healing. When we feel them. When we let them move through us to completion.
“I’m just not able to relax….”
Friend, instead of “trying to relax”, can you just become curious about your lack of relaxation, and drench your restlessness with loving awareness, and breathe into the place in you that feels bored, and infuse the scared inner child with compassion and fascination and warmth? You may discover, the present moment is not as “unbearable” as your mind tells you, and in fact it’s your “running away” from yourself that makes it all a million times worse.
Be gentle with yourself, my love. Settle gently into what’s here. Lean in to the pain. Soften into the inner storm.
You are safe in the stillness. You are held in the silence.
You can rest at the burning core of your restlessness.
You can sink, now, into sacred aloneness…
– Jeff Foster