Written by Ari Bouse

 

Reflecting back on my own experiences with trauma, or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), it has become abundantly clear to me that my built in anger, etc. has been repeatedly triggered by experiences with connections to resistance to what is unfolding in the present moment. It has taken me a long time to realize that my past anger management problems and temper tantrums were really manifestations of anxiety and panic attacks, swaddled in a Brilliant Disguise. But it has also become self-evident to me that my behavior served a purpose to wake people up.

Back in my first year in Preschool, I remember feeling lonely, rejected and abandoned when the nuns would put me in an old storage closet after repetitive and challenging behavioral infractions. These punitive consequential experiences were regular occurrences back then, felt suffocating and I hated them. But at least they didn’t put me in a mechanical restraint, straight jacket or give me a lobotomy.

As I got a little older and continued to process the repercussions of those experiences, my mom said that the school staff told her that they liked me but didn’t know how to handle me. For as long as I can remember, I felt like an outsider or Resident Alien, and it was all too easy to hide behind the guilt, shame and embarrassment through the coat of armor of bravado, bodyguard of anger and playing the role of a clown. These coping strategies made for good survival skills, but also paved the way for seemingly below the radar work avoidance techniques that became barriers to personal growth later in life. We all have our blind spots and obstacles to overcome.

Compounding the early school trauma, growing up with my mom’s crippling depression, alcoholism and ultimate death by suicide was suffocating on me, and amplified the aforementioned sentiment. Talk about a feeling. It’s taken many moons to shine a light on those shadows, and keep on tunneling through the Dark Night of the Soul.

Furthermore, it has taken me a long time to really get in touch with those unpleasant feelings, and the impact they have had on my own Road Less Traveled. After many years of therapy and meditation (and more than a handful of moments of self-sabotage), it has taken a lot of work (and pretending) to not get seduced into negative self-talk stories or have an attitude, chip on my shoulder or spiritual bypassing during the journey in healing.

Today, I can pull from these feelings as a way to empathize and co-regulate with others when they are struggling. And I choose to look upon the non-preferred Preschool seclusion experiences as an early meditation training program. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend or encourage the old abusive approach utilized on me in the school of Hard Knox. It had its place, but it’s time to let go of the old baggage and replace them with new ways.

Thankfully, my second stint in Preschool was at a therapeutic center that utilized restorative practices and focused on social-emotional development with a garden variety of children with a myriad of visible and invisible developmental delays. I still remember the social worker there, who was a positive presence, as were the teachers.

Additionally, this writer’s meditation practice has revealed an internalized paradoxical spiritual truth worth echoing. Questions can be powerful interventions. However, during a push hands practice with an old T’ai Chi instructor, I remember when he pointed out to me that questions can also uproot us.

What he meant by that is that questioning for the sake of questioning can become a form of skillful avoidance, like creating more work to avoid work. Moreover this kind of questioning can become distractions from the truth rather than cleansed perceptual doorways that anchor us into the ground. It’s a form of scar tissue. Like when you anesthetize yourself with a substance as a strategy to cope with your pain. Next thing you know, you have another problem covering up a problem that you haven’t dealt with yet.

For example, I know a workaholic who I overheard complaining about taking on a second part-time job doing the same job that he currently does as a full time job- when he’s already feeling burned out from the first full time job. Sad thing is, he’s not alone in his plight on the planet today. It’s a universal behavioral trap with humanity at large, in the sense that we are addicted to doing. But we are Human Beings, not doings.

What is more, questioning for the sake of personal growth is different because the intention behind asking a provocative Socratic question is an opportunity for self-reflection and examination. This is at the heart-mind of the therapeutic nature of meditation.

More mindfully, meditation invites us to ponder that if we can have an open, passive attitude and sit with a question, we just might experience spiritual awakenings in the form of what we call “ah ha” moments. This practice can lead us out of victim consciousness into a deeper and higher vibration of inner peace, which is a dimensional shift.

Moreover, for anyone else out there that was born with a strong, oppositional streak like me, the meditation 101 principle of having an open, passive attitude appears to be a countercultural mantra. This truth hasn’t always rested peacefully on the inner edge of my humanity, if you’ll pardon the pun. Ah, the voice of the ego likes to assert, “nobody tells me what to do, not even me.”

Finally, as we gradually soften our edges and expand our borders, we have a home base to return to that lives in the breath of the living moment. May we pay purposeful attention and gently allow the mindset of our growth to seep in organically, like herbs taking root into the ground, one step, one breath and one moment at a time. You dig?

 

Text © Ari Bouse

 

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