“Sit with it. Sit with it. Sit with it. Sit with it. Even without.Healing happens by feeling.” ~Dr.Rebecca Ray
July 2022, I am in the middle of the red tent at the Shambhala Music Festival in British Columbia.
I sit elbow to elbow, knee to knee, heart to heart with a group of women meeting for the first time.
It’s hot and sweaty.
Teachers lead healing womb meditations and encourage us to identify the person who caused our pain so that we can release that person and the power they have over us.
I’m running out, thinking…
“Nobody caused me anything real pain. “
“I do not have anything real trauma. ”
“The pain I experienced was not bad sufficient”
So I directed my healing energy to two friends who I believed needed more healing than I did.
I knew immediately what I was doing. I used to define my friends by how much pain and trauma they perceive, and myself by what seemed pain and trauma free.
At that moment, I knew this was probably unfair to my friends and me, but this mindset has been familiar to me throughout my 32 years of life.
Time and again, I have felt guilty for thinking I had no “real” trauma.
I come from a stable family with parents who love and support me. Growing up, I got everything I needed. I have a brother who is one of the best men (best humans) I know. I grew up middle class in Maryland. I am white in America. You can see, hear, and move your body.
I always wondered how the challenges I experienced might stack up with those of my friends. Or that she had her physically and emotionally abusive alcoholic father. Or that she who is routinely profiled when returning to her apartment because of the color of her skin.
Or how my challenges might stack up with the students I mentored…like, say, a 10-year-old boy in Syria whose feet are adorned with shrapnel wounds. Or a 15-year-old boy from Eritrea who was a child soldier. Or a 16-year-old young woman caring for her sick mother and five younger brothers and sisters.
Fortunately for me, and for you, I have moved away from the story of my struggle with not having enough pain. I left.
First, we have learned, and will continue to learn, that we cannot compete for who has suffered the most. Trauma and pain is not a comparison game.
All experiences, feelings and emotions are valid. And we all get to practice empathizing and recognizing the experiences and heartaches of others and ourselves.
I also learned that a person is not defined by trauma.
And I’m so sorry to the people in my life that I’ve defined thus far.
The last thing I learned was that what I went through was valid and sufficient to justify my own empathy, healing, and love.
I had sex with my ex-partner over and over again. As a result, there was a time when I really hated sex. I told myself, it’s not a big deal, it’s just sex.
Pressure from friends to mess with her boyfriend while she watches. I said, “I don’t want to do that.” I just told myself I was rude. This should be fun. What am I doing wrong?
Grab and fumble on the street, in the club, in the bar. I told myself this was attached to the realm of being a woman.
Unwanted contact and advances from friends. I told myself to forget about this and move on.
The one-night stand’s shame, I knew whoever he was, felt something akin to glory, not shame. I was.I brought myself this shame
All these experiences, and more, have been buried in the depths of my mind for years and were largely unconscious until recently.
For me, the journey included meditation, prayer, journaling, body healing, and a red tent-like experience.
I embarked on this journey thinking I could clear some of my anxieties and move on with my life with relative ease.
However, what actually happened was that he discovered many hidden treasures within himself.
These treasures may take the form of past pain. Other times it takes the form of clumps of ideas that you buried long ago on a rainy day. Others have had the world tell them what they love and what they should do as they grow up forgetting what they loved as a child.
And now I can dig further to see what each of these treasures can tell me. I found myself diving deeper into this space.
This journey plunged me into the depths of my own darkness. And in that plunge, I was reminded of my own strength: my ability to sunbathe in the dark knowing I would be okay.
It also reminds me that I am enough. my pain is valid. I’m worth taking up space.
guess what. Same goes for you, love.