Life in the Trenches: Final Chapter
Katherine Willow’s monthly Natural Health Diary
Early this morning, Felix, my two year old grandson, was watching my yoga practice, contentedly drinking his milk on a soft blanket beside my mat. There was gentle music playing and I was particularly present coming into a backbend from the floor. At that moment, Felix climbed on my back and whispered in my ear: “I like your exercises!”
Now I sit at the kitchen table overlooking a sun-filled view with dragonflies playing in front of the window and the little cherry tree that Mike Nickerson just pruned finally full of blooms. It had grown too many shoots after being accidentally cut down several years ago and stopped producing.
I feel like the little tree, ready to bear fruit after a long time of carrying extra baggage that distracted my real expression. My body feels like that of a young child, supple and energized; my mind is calm and my emotions are fluid. All the efforts at healing are coming to fruition.
The final healing crisis for this “layer” happened after Easter, as blogged in the May newsletter, and several things have helped me not to relapse (at least for now). The major one was a conversation with the partner of Julie, our head gardener. Louis told me he had learned a breathing technique from Sri Aurobindo, a spiritual master in India, that involved breathing from the back. As he spoke, he put his hand on the curve of my back, where it became very warm. (Louis is a healer himself.) This was a little confusing to me, but next morning, as I lay in the final corpse pose of my “exercises”, I remembered to visualize the lungs from the back. Almost immediately, my breath opened.
To put this into context, my breath has almost always been tight, shallow and closed, as if cramped by a suit of armour in my chest. This in spite of over thirty years of yoga practice and much therapy to help with the underlying anxiety. When it opened it was like a floodgate finally unlocked, with the breath flowing effortlessly in great waves, moving my belly and my chest up and down — just as they tell you it should in yoga classes — except this was the first time I had experienced it. I just lay there taking in the movement, relaxation and extra oxygen, overwhelmed with amazement and thankfulness.
Since then, the full breath has remained accessible by just remembering to “back breathe”. As Julie (a yoga teacher herself) said, it instantly puts us into parasympathetic mode, the part of the nervous system that allows us to relax. Sleep has become more delicious, yoga practice blissful and everyday life is getting less and less filled with anxiety. I’m even comfortable with crowds and simple conversations that used to make me cringe inside.
When I look back at this and ask, why now, the overall answer is that it is an organic process that happens at midlife — if we let it and give it time and attention and support. The biggest factors that helped prepare for the opening were: getting a constitutional remedy from Dr Veronika Zhmurko, which deepened my awareness and started shifting my body; taking the relaxation class with Amber Young; attending Lise Lillian’s gentle monthly Heart Circle retreats; and most of all, doing therapy with Deb Boldt.
When Deb told me that this wouldn’t take long, I really didn’t believe her. Other therapists had said the same thing, with me ending up carrying the anxiety to the next therapist or workshop or book. Deb’s combination of working with the breath, her deep observation of when I dissociate and the remarkable safety she creates in her office — plus my readiness –were the ingredients needed to finally allow me to emerge from the state of chronic trauma that I have been in since a teen. All the staff and friends of the centre also helped create an environment where I could heal, where we all can heal.
As I continue to open, an ongoing process with anticipated relapses, I notice a deepening of my intuition. One morning, while packing for a drive to New York for a very important family celebration, I noticed that my passport had just expired. There was no panic, just a confident sense that I was going to figure this out and be at the event on time. To make the story brief, when I only got answering machines after calling the US embassy, I “made up” an extension and reached the person I needed to solve the issue with ease. It was only later that the significance of this came home, that I was functioning from a new part of myself. I like it!
There are many more pieces, all wonderful. I feel truly blessed and excited to share insights with my patients from a recent trip to Europe to see family in Germany and investigate a spiritual community in northern Italy called Damanhur. I realize now that this sabbatical was for my healing; the book I’ve struggled with will get written later, no problem.
My journey is on a new level, no longer in the trenches. A few weeks ago when I was picking Felix up from daycare, I felt so happy and alive, sitting on the floor helping him with his boots. Suddenly, all the little children around me started to hug and kiss me with brilliant, radiant smiles. It was as if we were all surrounded by light. I was enchanted; they were feeling my freed energies and celebrating with me!
Thank you for listening. Writing this has been an important part of my process, feeling your support and putting things into perspective for this blog. In a way you have helped me be my own patient in the same way that I “doctor” some of you.
My biggest wish is that this continuing story will support your own healing process and add faith when life is in a rut that never seems to end. My biggest encouragement is to reach out, that we need each other not only to heal, but to make the journey through the trenches bearable. . . .