Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Contemplating the Dirty Cup

Wednesday's appointment with the EMDR therapist was honestly grueling. I left feeling mentally, emotionally, and physically drained. The lowering of intensity wasn't as profound, but then it was such an inter-connected, multi-year mess of stuff that to even reduce it minimally is progress. That I was unable to neatly separate out the events to work on individually, something I'll continue to work on with PB, underscored something my cognitive/mindfulness based therapist has been saying for some time. The trauma I experienced in my late teens served to reactivate earlier, unaddressed trauma from childhood. The events become intrinsically linked to my mind and body regardless of the differences of time, place and people.

The session also brought up muscle spasms, particularly in my legs. I vocalized something important in reacting to the pain and strangeness of them. When I have muscle spasms I do not feel like my body is my own. The statement came up a couple of times and in the second visit it hit me hard. We looked at it, the age I felt and it was in that 4/5 age range. It is painful to accept that I felt like I did not control my body at so young an age.

The last four weeks of intensive EMDR have revealed another uncomfortable truth. On a lot of levels I believe the abuse was my fault. That I possess some intrinsic flaw that makes me an easy target for abusers. To a part of my mind it seems like the most reasonable explanation as to why I experienced abuse from so many different people I trusted across so many years. "Clearly I am flawed.", says a part of me.

Last night I was having a hard time getting to sleep with anxiety creeping in. Bits of bad memories popping into that liminal time where I'm just starting to drift into sleep. I hoped to sleep in to make up for it but that energy is still around this morning and I awoke rather early. Something that has been kicking around for the past two days is the bit of Rumi I've been chewing on since early September.

Take sips of this pure wine being poured.
Don't mind that you've been given a dirty cup.

I've written about this bit a little already and have let it just be a part of my everyday life. It keeps unfolding for me the longer I keep it close. It brings up for me again and again how much time I spend wrapped up in the stains on the dirty cup and not able to fully engage with the pure wine of life.

All the thrashing around trying to cling to the notion of My Happy Childhood is just another way of obsessing about the stained cup. PB gently pointed out to me that recalling the brief hours here and there where I enjoyed my childhood does not make a happy one. All I'm doing is staring at that cup and trying to say, "Look here, this spot isn't dirty, it is clean and lovely. Yes, that's the cup I want!"

Many weeks ago GM asked me why I practice Zen. I feel unheard when my community treats veganism as anything less than the deep reflection of my vows and practice. Retreats leave me feeling like I was pulled by my heels through glass. Sitting down to do zazen has nearly continually woken up my Inner Critic for over a year now. At times, for no apparent reason beyond a mere nanosecond of silence, I find I am completely triggered emotionally and physically. Why do I do it?

At the time she asked I had no answer but I've kept practicing hoping one will be revealed to me. The sad answer is that those triggers and pain happen because the trauma was real. Feeling unheard about being vegan awakes the years my voice, my thoughts were not valued by my family. I've spent years trying to make these things not true, to persist with the idea that if I just don't acknowledge them or talk about them, they will go away. The truth is that no amount of cherishing the few hours of baking with my Gram or picking berries with my Mom makes up for the the rest of it.

Zen and yoga point us to the truth. What is the essential self? What is true? I practice because it reveals the truth. The truth points us to what is real. Some truths mean we live on the edges of what the whole of society considers "normal". Most importantly, as radical as acceptance sounds for some truths, not accepting the truth is suffering.

The truth is that my childhood was profoundly unhappy. It is the "dirty cup".

Equally true is that the sun is shining brightly into the lovely, generous home I share with my wonderful, future wife. Our cats are alternately basking in sun beams and playing. I have a very good cup of tea, the prospect of a delicious breakfast, and the hectic fun of preparing for a party ahead of me today. This is the pure wine of this present moment.

In this moment the wine is pure, precious, and briefly I am able to rest in knowing that the stained cup is irrelevant.

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