I sometimes forget
That I was created for Joy.
My mind is too busy.
My Heart is too heavy
For me to remember
That I have been called to dance
The Sacred dance of life.
I was created to smile
To be lifted up
And to lift others up.
O’ Sacred One
Untangle my feet
From all that ensnares.
Free my soul.
That we might
And that our dancing
Might be contagious.
Allow Hafiz’ beautiful words to wash over you. And then ask yourself whether your feet are more tangled than you would like in “all that ensnares,” and if you know what helps you embrace the knowledge that you were “created for Joy.”
The creator of Somatic Experiencing, Peter Levine, says in his book Healing Trauma:
Everybody has resources. It can also be said that every body has resources. What are resources and where do they come from? Resources can be anything or anyone that supports and nurtures a sense of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. [emphasis added] They can be external, internal, or both.
Resources are the experiences, people and things that make us feel connected and cared for. It is in using these supports when life feels bleak that resiliency blossoms. We develop an inner knowing that the challenging circumstances of our lives, past or present, do not define who we are. Resources help us do the work of strengthening neural networks for positive experiences (Korn and Leeds, 2002), while weakening neural networks creating pain. This is not about looking on the bright side of things or glossing over very real physical or emotional pain. Rather, we look to the practices that allow us to exhale and expand just as we look to the nourishment of food to sustain us through each day.
Take it from Dr. David Clarke, president of the Psychophysiological Disorders Association, who says, “…work on finding activities with no purpose but your own joy. This is an essential human skill that many ME/CFS patients do not have.” He specifically mentions CFS, but chronic pain of any sort can be a thief of joy. Healing from TMS, or Mind Body Syndrome, can feel like serious work, and understandably so. Let yourself revel in the knowledge that joy is an essential piece of healing!
This may seem like a foreign concept. It may feel odd or nearly impossible to consider that you deserve to be comfortable, to feel safe and at ease in your own body. If this is the case, you are not alone. Start waking this muscle by gently attuning to how you could make yourself more comfortable in this moment. Is the temperature ok, or do you need a blanket? Does the position you’re in feel satisfying? Is there tension in your body that you could let go of, just a little? Reflect on what one person, thing or experience from your past or present elicits a glimmer of connection and hope, and be assured that with loving attention that glimmer can grow.
Maybe you had loving resources as a child, but you laid them aside as you went about the serious business of becoming an adult, rejecting the notion of self-care as indulgent and frivolous. Our culture endorses the belief that to be a capable adult means sucking it up and powering through the hard stuff. We pride ourselves on appearing unflappable and being able to handle any situation, to the point that we fool ourselves into believing it’s true. But this is a recipe for a sensitized nervous system to eventually cry, “Enough!”
Resources are as endless and varied as the individuals engaging in them, but here are some examples: time with a trusted friend, family member, therapist or coach; nature; exercise; cooking; music; a hot bath; a warm and fuzzy blanket; peaceful or empowering memories; a place in the body that feels pain-free; a funny show; a journal; meditation or other spiritual practice; creating art; the breath. What feels like a balm to one person might not to the next. Only you can know what belongs on your list!
When we’re going through a challenging situation or dealing with chronic symptoms, seeking those activities or people that restore our spirits is critical. Getting in touch with our emotions, changing long-held behaviors, and strengthening new neural pathways takes a lot of energy! Spending time in compassionate self-care becomes essential. We regain a sense of connection to the goodness of life by taking in what is pleasurable.
Showing the brain that this body can relax, this mind can be present to the exquisite colors of a sunset, even for a moment and even in the middle of uncomfortable sensations, sends the message of safety the nervous system so craves.
I recently took on added coaching responsibilities, and I could feel the activation in my nervous system. I was triggered, my thoughts going a mile a minute, with old fears telling me I wasn’t up to the task. I’m pretty aware of my resources, but it took a little time before I remembered to turn to them. Such is the nature of a nervous system that wants to flee or freeze, as was the case for me in this situation. I was able to find my way through the cloud of unease, back to my prefrontal cortex, where I could remind myself: I was having thoughts I didn’t have to believe, my nervous system was revving up from years of habit, and I was pressuring myself to be perfect. Whew! I thought about my resources, and realized I needed some time with my journal to get out all my sticky thoughts and emotions. My body was also asking for more sleep than usual, and to get out for a walk in nature.
It’s amazing that such powerful medicine is available to us in every single moment. We always have the ability to say a few kind words to ourselves, to gaze out at the blue sky or the trees in their glorious colors and various stages of undress this time of year, and to come back to our breath.
So I’ll ask again: what is it that helps you embrace the knowledge that you were “created for Joy”? What pleasures delight and inspire you? Some, you might use every day, like being fully present to the sensations of a warm shower in the morning, savoring a cup of coffee, or giving a loved one a lingering hug (you can also give yourself a hug—it releases the same feel-good hormones). Others, you might need to consciously create: a space in your home with a few favorite things, a chair or blanket that feels especially cozy, a candle that makes things feel special, or smells that trigger warm memories.
Bring gentle awareness to the idea that you matter enough to know and experience what feels good to you. You deserve to know joy and connection, comfort and peace. Being aware of what nourishes you…body, mind, heart and soul…guides you closer to your true nature and brings you back home to yourself.