Posts Tagged ‘boundaries’

Regarding Elliot

Monday, May 26th, 2014

“Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.” – Margaret Atwood.

A word on friendship: Featuring Brenè Brown

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

There are moments in people’s lives, people who decide to move through the world ever growing and opening their hearts, where a pattern of truth can no longer be unseen.

Here’s the tricky part about compassion and connecting: We can’t just call anyone. It’s not that simple. I have a lot of good friends, but there are only a handful of people whom I can count on to practice compassion when I’m in the dark shame place.

If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm. We want solid connection in a situation like this — something akin to a tree firmly planted in the ground. We definitely want to avoid the following:

  1. The friend who hears the story and actually feels shame for you. She gasps and confirms how horrified you should be. Then there is awkward silence. Then you have to make her feel better.
  2. The friend who responds with sympathy (I feel sorry for you) rather than empathy (I get it, I feel with you, and I’ve been there). If you want to see a shame cyclone turn deadly, throw one of these at it: “Oh, you poor thing”.
  3. The friend who needs you to be the pillar of worthiness and authenticity. He can’t help you because he’s too disappointed in your imperfections. You’ve let him down.
  4. The friend who is so uncomfortable with vulnerability that she scolds you: “How could you let that happen? What were you thinking?” Or she looks for someone to blame “Who was that guy? We’ll kick his ass”
  5. The friend who is all about making it better and, out of his own discomfort, refuses to acknowledge that you can actually be crazy and make terrible choices. “You’re exaggerating. It wasn’t that bad. You rock. You’re perfect. Everyone loves you.”
  6. The friend who confuses “connection” with the opportunity to one-up you. “That’s nothing. Listen to what happened to me one time!”

Of course, we’re all capable of being “these friends” — especially if someone tells us a story that gets right up in our shame grill. We’re human, imperfect and vulnerable. It’s hard to practice compassion when we’re struggling with our authenticity or when our own worthiness is off balance.

When we’re looking for compassion, we need someone who is deeply rooted, able to bend, and, most of all, we need someone who embraces us for our strengths and struggles. We need to honor our struggle by only sharing it with someone who has earned the right to hear it. When we’re looking for compassion, its about connecting with the right person, at the right time, about the right issue.

-Brenè Brown “The gifts of imperfection”

And who had I chosen to be the main support and companionship in my life?

One man who had massive boundary issues around my sexuality and consistently expressed how they just couldn’t understand my emotional struggles, my abuse history or my shame (You’re perfect!). And another, who thought compassion meant pity (My poor girl) and forcing me to stand on a pedestal (Your angry response to your rape is unjustified) for him.

Ugh. What a horrendously damaging multi-year mistake that was.

So let’s be real now, then, shall we?

Even as my sense of self worth and compassion (the root of which means “To suffer with”) has developed, I am this friend to others all too often – the scolder, the blamer, the shame confirmer – because I let people who haven’t earned my vulnerability, have it anyway.

I have lived my life assuming the list above is relationship, that this is intimacy, that the scolder, the blamer, the shame confirmer, the pityer, the perfection seer, the worthiness piller needer, was sufficient to support me through the intense excavation, completion and transformation of the grief, the pain, and the horrible things I’ve done to survive in my childhood and continued to do much of the rest of my life.

I have lived my life assuming these things because that is what I learned in my family, and even after recognizing the error in that, I have been unable to confront my own shame around so often being such a bad friend to the people I care about.

I am currently unable to show up for others, embedded in scarcity and a place of emotional guarding and urgency, after all this effort and work to pull myself out of that, because of the frequency with which my need for connection and understanding isn’t being met in the relationships I have chosen to prioritize.

I am not still struggling so much with this because I’m so fucking broken and set in my patterns that I’m incapable of cultivating real connection and trust with people.

Though claiming over and over again that I’ve wanted it, I have literally never chosen to be in a romantic relationship with a person who was capable of empathy regarding my experiences in life, or who has shared in my values in terms of personal growth, openness, and what the journey of existing means to me.

I have let people who don’t empathize, don’t understand, don’t share their own vulnerability, and don’t show up for me when I need their support cause me to question the validity of my painful feelings, and turn my back on my basic human longing for connection and acceptance that has not been met in my relationships with them.

I have let them do this by allowing a small part of me to believe their insistence that my pain from those situations is entirely due to my triggers, my patterns, my personality failures; that I’m just not good enough at controlling my shit and bending myself around their righteous plans for me, yet. That I’m just seeing things.

I have let them do this by allowing a small part of me to believe that the compassion and holding I’ve been asking for was me expecting them to be my ‘therapist’, was asking too much, and that the intimacy I needed to be close with them with the depth and authenticity that I choose to live my life in, was wrong.

I have been afraid of isolating and closing down, of repeating that pattern which leads to suicidal ideology, to the point that I have been damaging myself with the opposite.

And, I have felt emotionally obligated to be open with these people because of the money they have chosen to spend on/with me, and their consistently expressed desire to be validated by my trust in them.

These are not the friends I need for the big shit, the people I should be trusting to hold and protect me when I’m threadbare and broken, no matter how much they think they should be or that I allowed them to be in my heavy hitters club for as long as I did.

These are not the people I need to be spending the majority of my time with, entrusting my body with, having sex with, being vulnerable with, talking about therapy with, or relying on for emotional support in my struggle.

These are my art patrons, colleagues, and my fans. They are my supporters in that they are admirers of the results of my hard work, not people who had earned their privileged place as part of that intense and ongoing personal process.

At a time when I was at my most vulnerable and fragile, my most brave and broken open, tackling the deepest darkest shit of my life, precarious in every aspect of my psychological journey as well as in my situational circumstance which is wrought in uncertainty and transition, I have turned to people in search of consideration and awareness who have proven time and again that they are not really there for me.

Not because I’m stupid, or a masochist, or because they are bad people; but because I honestly, even after all this time, haven’t known or believed that better, for me, was possible. Or that I really, really, need it to continue to practice openness and reaching out for authentic connection.

No wonder I ended up such a mess.

I may fall down, and I may hit hard. I may forget to use the tools I have for a while. I may sometimes be too taxed, beaten, tired and weary to be courageous. I may regress and become triggered and show my mean biting ugly. I may brood and stew and go through vile, aggressive phases of pure unadulterated hate, blame, and verbal violence. And I may not always like what I see of myself. I may be forever resigned to dig down deep and introspect and not like what I find and want to change it.

But the thing that’s different about me, though it doesn’t always look like it, and I’m not always elegant at communicating it; I’m on my side, now.

This intention, my drive to keep practicing what I’m learning, to keep growing and providing myself the environment to do so, to keep trying, keep learning how to put my heart out there, to keep opening back up again and again to love, to keep trying to understand what closeness and and belonging look like for me, to keep practicing courage and empathy whenever I can, is more important than maintaining any imbalanced interpersonal relationship. With anyone. Ever.

I’m on my side, no matter what.

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Yesterday, I believed I never would have done, what I did today.

Namaste, suckers: My Qi Revolution experience

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012: Packing for a 4-day, 36 hour Qigong seminar at the Tacoma Convention center. I am not bringing a laptop.

Recently, along with about 425 other people, I trekked down to Tacoma to attend “Qi Revolution“, presented by Jeff Primack. The course is $99 and the CEU (continuing education credits, which are required to maintain a massage license in WA state) hours are a whopping 32 hours for 4 days, so you can imagine why most people were there.

I went to the workshop with very few expectations. My hope, however, was to have an enriching and calming experience in the midst of increased stress in my life lately. I’ve never done qigong and understood it to be similar to taichi, which I have seen footage of, so I figured we’d be moving through forms like that.

The first thing I was struck by when I walked in was that the production quality was excellent. I liked the sound setup, the stage setup, the visuals they were using (This Aeon visualizer, was one of them.), and I liked the instructor Jeff Primack. His sense of humor was accessible and fun and he is a good public speaker and very personable. I also liked the Tacoma Convention Center, enough that I snapped a photo of it on my phone, which was mostly off for the first day, and the staff from both the center and the Qi organization were all smiles and assistance.

While registering on the first day, I had already begun thinking about the parts of my personality which had emerged, or perhaps more accurately had been muted, in this particular environment. I rarely spoke, to anyone, and did not strike up conversations with the attendees. Being at this workshop was a window into some of the personality changes in myself that I’ve noticed over some time (like discovering that I am in fact an introvert) and a great opportunity to consider them, especially since, with the exception of a few surface conversations in which my hair or hat was complimented, I didn’t want to spend any of my time talking with anyone. I spent a lot of time quietly observing, and waiting for energy and intuitions.

After we had learned and attempted our first form, I found myself suspecting in the first few hours that I did not, apparently, like qigong. It is extremely slow and hard to relax into, and I just wasn’t feeling the love after standing in one place and following instructions regarding how we should be moving our hands slowly through the air for 40 minutes

By now, Jeff Pirmack had used the G word one too many times for my taste, and had begun incorporating his personal spiritual beliefs into the lectures, which I hadn’t reacted negatively to, but was aware of due to the direction they showed to me that the workshop was in danger of going. He was also quoting religious scriptures, which I consider tall tale fables, and interpreting them rather literally, which.. you gotta wonder. But he had done so with the preface that he would do it occasionally and hoped it wouldn’t offend anyone, and I appreciated that, so I wasn’t really offended.

Then, we did the “Breath Empowerment” exercise, in which we all laid down while Jeff lead us through a breathing exercise in which we hyperventilated ourselves for a number of minutes. Many people had many profound experiences, felt vibrations, heat, cold, saw God, etc. I was physically effected by this, in the same ways I’ve been effected by having the wind knocked out of me or crying too hard, but the thing I found most impressive about the presentation was how well the sound guy had incorporated the breathing audio we were being lead by while still allowing Jeff to instruct us. The thing I found the least impressive was Jeffs assurance that we were not, in fact, hyperventilating.

Saturday, mid-day: So far, my favorite part about this qigong thing is the music they are playing. I’ve felt a vibration or two but nothing like the crazy religous experiences people are crying about here. Reminds me of landmark, with a physical bent and without the hard sell pyramid scheme (Though overhearing the wide eyed fast talking volunteer trying to talk some chick into buying a $125 book is grating on me.). I am learning some cool things and think the experience worthwhile, but the more I go to things like this the more I understand that some people just arrive ready to pop and believe, and some don’t.

By the time I’d written this update, it was becoming clear that many of the people in the room I was in were on a train I had not boarded. People were crying and gushing slowly and profoundly on camera about their experiences, and I felt that there was a strong possibility that they had been manipulated by the so-called “Breathing Empowerment” exercise. Overall, I was feeling positively for the experiences other people were feeling and know what it’s like to have a big breakthrough, even if you later discover that it wasn’t quite the miracle you though it was at the time, and that was fine by me. If it works it works.

That said, I was beginning to dislike how physical manipulations and over oxygenation were being touted as spiritual/energetic miracles, and it was pretty clear I wasn’t in this for the long haul.

Saturday, late-day: 99% certain I wont bother with this entire class. I like the instructor, the class is neutral and accessible, but standing around holding my arms out for 30+ minutes is just not my thing. Reminds me of my craniosacral elective – great stuff, love receiving it, and also not my bag. I could get into dance based on similar principal, but this energy harnessing shit is difficult and frustrating and I suck at it. It would be like another job to take this on and be any good at it. I am fine with my attunement with woo being somewhat divine and random.

After the first day, I had noticed very much the lack of personal instruction when attending a physical workshop of 425. I was working through a completely new experience with the aid of a couple video projectors and some great animations, but if I wanted a closer reference all I had to go on were the hesitant motions of a person near me who was also trying to fumble through with the same tools I had. I wondered if part of the reason I wasn’t liking this more was because no one was ever correcting me or interacting with me directly, but I also accepted that honestly, I most likely didn’t care enough about qigong to take a smaller class later.

One thing I very much enjoyed about this experience was the food and nutrition lecturing. Some of it was very similar to the nutrition class at Brian Utting which I loved, with different presentation and slightly differing naming conventions (Jeff Primack calls them ‘phytochemicals’ while Brian Utting called them ‘phytonutrients’, for instance).

In that vein, it was a fabulous review for me and by far my favorite part of the information that was presented. But I was very wary of the continual claims by Jeff and his associates and followers of miraculous healing and complete disease reversal based off his nutritional and food related teachings. I absolutely believe it’s possible and firmly consider food to be both the source and the solution to many, many medical ailments, but something about these claims and the consistency in which they were being presented didn’t sit well with me.

I had also noticed, by now, that the way Jeff Primack speaks shifts into a strange and subtle “Engrish”, and I found myself wondering if this person who is clearly a marketing and presentation genius didn’t do that to intentionally confuse and simultaneously play a race card. I don’t know his history or if English is a second language or what, but the fact that my guts were going in that direction about him spoke to my flags being up.

That said, many of the things he talked about resonated with me, and the experiences I have had with food, and my philosophy on eating well. I am still interested in his cookbook and may in fact buy it.

Sunday morning: Day 2 of day 4 (maybe) and I am borderline zombie. It was an act of sheer will to get out of bed, even with Tim Minchin playing and a large cat person pawing at me to get up. The nutrition portion of the workshop yesterday lit a fire under my ass that I’ve been needing for a few months, and today we get to try some smoothie recipies that I hope to add to my arsenal. I have also concluded that a vitamix is no longer a nice-to-have, but rather an element of my health that is important to me, and it’s now at the top of my “once I’ve saved up a few months” list. I want more living food and seeds and pits and stems that I won’t eat without a blender that can break them down.

I came back Sunday knowing I would almost inevitably not be returning Monday or Tuesday, yet open to and even hoping for a more profound qigong experience. As per usual, I loved the second part of the nutritional lecture. The level 2 qigong sequence did very little for me, but that was fine — I already felt like I’d gotten my $99 worth in other information from the course, and had committed to finishing Sunday out so I’d also gotten 16 CE credits, which was a damn good deal.

By now, I could tell that 4 days of this experience really wasn’t for me, but on the second day I found that it seemed it was for the kinds of alternative healers and massage therapists I intentionally set myself apart from when I explain my practice on my website. The ones who claim to be human and real but behave as if they float a foot above the ground by the power of their perceived connection with some greater universal vibration, especially when collected in a sizable group.

Now that people had met and bonded a little, every portion of off-topic conversation around me that floated into my consciousness was about some kind of extreme philosophy, spirituality, some other form of energy work, discussing the intensity of the chi in the room, or anecdotal health advice. I imagine that was in large part because the people like me who weren’t sold simply weren’t speaking, but the environment began to color my experience, and I found myself in a consistent state of low-level annoyance.

Jeff had also taken to expanding his God/Bliss/Love talk, which was really starting to piss me off.

Sunday mid-day: Excellent. This is the last day of the food/nutrition portion, and I have decided to continue to take Monday and Tuesday off, for myself.

By mid-day, it was sealed: I would not be returning, and my time today and tomorrow were going to be better spent processing what I’d already experienced. We did some more qigong that day, including some walking qigong, and I found that I gravitated not only toward the smaller movements like spirals and pulses, but I preferred doing them while focusing on isolating different parts of my body in motion. I consider that a cool little tidbit of qigong that I am happy to have taken with me, and want to play with on my own.

After my lunch, and many hours of nutrition and excessive health lecturing, I passed Jeff Primack in the hallways of the convention center as he was carrying a bag of takeout. Huh.

Jeff spent a potion of Sunday afternoon talking about Chinese element philosophy in terms of personality and relationships, which was fun and interesting, but then completely lost me by his ending presentation on spirituality which was basically his take on how the world and people were created (people first, as receivers of Gods love, then the world, after we requested that we be capable of sharing as well as receiving).

Human beings are exceptionally complex and intricate, and no one is perfect, even if they imply that in some ways, they are. For a person who claims humility in his spiritual beliefs, Jeff Pirmack sure spends a lot of time “proposing” them to his students.

Additionally, Jeff speaks often in his lectures to the virtue of humility in teachers, yet teaches gigantic impersonal workshops to hundreds of people at a time, standing on a stage in a special costume on camera and under lights, often relying on misinformation and manipulation to synthesize a spiritual group experience. Though, to be honest, I eventually found the anonymity comforting, and appreciated that I was never approached or spoken to by him or any of his staff.

Similarly to the Landmark Forum, which I have also done, there are many things of value that can be taken from this mans performances. My concern is that a lot of people in that workshop did not have their critical thinking activated, and will not realize that was what they were witnessing, and will identify this man with a power he has not earned.

Sunday late night: Preparing for a long soak in a salted bath after enjoying an excellent homecooked meal with great friends. Fookyeah.

I liked a lot of things about the portion of Qi Revolution that I took, but none of them were the things that I was expecting to get based off the information I’d received in the mail. I went to a qigong workshop and ended up getting a food refresher by learning about Jeff Pirmack’s take on nutrition.

That said, it is clear that a tremendous about of work, planning and thought has gone into the various presentations that Jeff chooses to teach, and they are presented well. It is my opinion that there can be something for everyone in the first two days of this very affordable CE course. If he’s a swindler, he’s a pretty cool one, and I can think of a lot of people doing a lot more damage out there than this guy.

One of the most valuable elements of this experience for me was the connection I had with myself and my limits. Looking at the event-lineup on the website (note: There is no syllabus or paperwork regarding the course offered at this workshop) I am even more pleased with my decision to take my leave when I did. It appears as though the last two days revolve mainly around the 9-Breath exercise, which was being described in the course as a direct descendant of the “Breathing Empowerment” exercise.

Here’s a video showing a bit of what Jeff talks about that I agree with, portions of which I have found to be true in my life experience and other elements of my health/healer education. Here’s another one. I have a lot of notes that I plan to keep from this portion of the workshop, which I didn’t even realize I would be getting.

Jeffs courses are affordable. His materials, books, DVD’s, are all top quality productions and also affordable. Though some of his methods don’t jive with me, I still like him, and I expect after this writeup I will remain quiet and neutral about what he’s out there doing in the world. I will be contemplating many of the things I learned and discovered myself through attending his workshop for a long time and I found the experience valuable.

But really, I can’t help but say, in closing; to all the people who are still in Tacoma at the Qi Revolution workshop: Namaste, suckers. :P