Twenty years ago I was mugged at gunpoint.
It was my home town of St. Louis.
In the early hours of September 11, 2001.
I learned in that moment I wasn’t the tough girl I tried to be, but someone who froze in the face of danger.
Once the assailants ran away with my purse, my adrenaline kicked in. Me and my friend got in my car and tried chasing after them. It wasn’t reasonable. In fact it was ridiculous...I was chasing armed men for the books they stole. They could have my wallet, I just wanted my books.
The next morning was one of the most surreal of my life.
I hadn’t slept at all that night. Instead of taking the day off I went to work the next morning just like any other day. I played the Cocteau Twins album, Heaven or Las Vegas over and over...it was the only thing that seemed to settle me.
At 9am I met my work partner at our regular meeting place. She ran out of the cafe screaming that “tourists” had bombed NYC. I pictured crowds of tourists photo bombing New York. She was so excited she couldn’t get her words out....and in that moment I needed the comic relief.
I then came to realize what had happened.
I knew nothing of the nervous system back then. I had no understanding of how normal and human my response was. And no idea of just how life changing that moment would be.
I pretended I was okay. Told everyone I “knew” he’d never pull the trigger. I was a tough girl. Not a prissy, frilly, damsel in distress that needed help. The police department had their trauma support reach out to me for counseling, but I ignored it. I was “okay.” Nothing had actually happened. I didn’t need help. I belittled my experience because it paled in comparison to what had happened in NYC. I was safe, I had my family and my home.
I didn’t realize this would be the “straw that broke the camels back.”
I quit traveling. I was no longer the nomad who traveled the world. I started having anxiety and panic attacks...lost memories from childhood started to bubble up. Memories I tried to stuff back down because they were too scary to be real. I internalized it all and never shared just how isolated or unsafe I felt. It was during this period that I started to feel lost. I didn’t know where to go or what to do with my life. I had lost my vision of traveling the world and writing about it.
The one tool I had in 2001 was a budding yoga practice. I didn’t understand what it was doing cellularly, I just knew it made me feel good. It sparked a desire to learn and understand yoga (and myself) more. In March of 2004, after my first Yoga Teacher Training, I finally started talk therapy.
My training had stirred stuff up. My teacher recommended everyone work with a therapist. Any kind of healing work, anything that regulates our nervous system will stir up old emotions and stress patterns. We are ultimately learning how to allow the cycles of our Autonomic Nervous System (both Parasympathetic and Sympathetic) to process and move through the full cycles of any activation so they can complete themselves. *(Thank you Adriana Rizzolo for your work.)
Our fight/flight/fetal response turns on during moments of stress, challenge…anything that makes us feel “charged.” We get stuck in these stress loops or trauma patterns because we never had a chance to feel or move through the arc of stress and back to a place of regulation. Almost all of us reading this story were never taught how to regulate ourselves. In fact, we didn’t understand how to regulate the nervous system until recently.
We heal a little at a time. For me it has been a practice of trusting the process, trusting all the systems my body has in place to both protect me and heal me. It’s trusting the cycles of healing, the cycles of all life. There’s a reason why we have forgotten ourselves. With each cycle of remembering we learn to accept another part of ourself that was unconsciously repressed out of survival. There is a cycle for both forgetting and remembering. The light can not exist without the shadow. The shadow often reveals itself after we experience a cycle of light. The real practice has been learning to love myself through it all.
I may be someone who freezes in a life threatening situation, but I am also someone who fights *for* her loved ones. I am someone with great strength who also tries to learn from her weaknesses. I am someone learning to dance with the polarity ALL of my human experiences.
At this moment the earth spins in this place between shadow and light. The sun moves into place above the Equator, it creates a seasonal balance between day and night. As we move into this space between, the Autumnal Equinox, we enter the seat of the heart. The heart is where all polarities meet. It is where day meets night, earth meets heaven, and the cosmos itself celebrates a moment of pause. We are invited to align ourselves with the present moment where past and future meet.
This is a sacred time for asking ourselves what we did well.
What is working in your life? What nourishes your soul?
What matters most to you?
What crops did well, which didn’t? What might you repeat or rework come again next spring?
Who are we at our core level? And are we living our life in accordance to what we hold most true?
What resonates so strongly in our hearts that it brings tears to our eyes? What is worth living for? What do we want to work toward?
Repeatedly planting the wrong seeds is a good way to waste resources and no way to feel nourished by our surroundings. Death is part of the process, letting go allows for more light.
Here’s a simple, solo autumn equinox ritual from Erin Bruce. Just light a *candle* and journal on these seasonal questions + Scroll down for info on my WholeBeing Autumn Cleanse & Reset:
1. Reflect on the blessings you’ve received this year.
The Autumn Equinox is the time of the final harvest. When people lived more closely connected to the Earth, and grew all their food, this was the time of year they’d celebrate the summer’s abundance.
What abundance did you experience this summer? What blessings have you received? Take a moment and express real gratitude for these harvests.
2. Reflect on your personal harvests.
These are the things you’ve put energy and effort into over the last several months. And, the fruits of that beautiful effort.
What are the things in your life and within yourself that you’ve been tending and nurturing?
Think about things outside of yourself–your projects, and creations … What important projects have you brought to fruition? What are some accomplishments that you’re proud of?
But, also reflect on the things within yourself you’ve been working on. What changes have you been working on? And how have you grown since the beginning of the year?
3. Be frickin’ proud of yourself.
Take a look at the things you wrote about above. Sit with those for a moment. Really recognize the things you’ve accomplished and the hard work you’ve put in.
And, even if it feels cheesy, (because we’re not used to praising ourselves. Far easy to tear ourselves down, right? Which makes this next reflection so important) …
Write a note to yourself and express how proud you are of all the hard work you’ve done this year. Talk to yourself like you would a beloved friend, or your child, and let yourself know how proud you are of all your accomplishments.
4. Reflect on balance in your life.
The Autumn Equinox is 1 of only 2 days throughout the year when the Earth is in perfect balance. That makes it an ideal time to examine balance in our own lives.
In what areas of your life to you feel really well balanced? Where do you feel like you’re rockin’ it?
Where do you feel out of balance? Why do you think that is? Give yourself 1 action item to bring things back into alignment.
5. Prepare to let go.
In Autumn we are drawn, in particular, to the balance between life and death. Everything is dying all around us. And that death is necessary, in order for new life to grow in the spring.
That’s true for the trees and the flowers, and its true for your Self as well. In order to experience new Soul growth, we need to let go of our old leaves–old patterns and habits that no longer serve us.
What are you ready to let go of? What do you need to shed in order for new life to grow?
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