For many of us, home is our haven, providing safety from the harsh, cold world along with feelings of security and warmth.
For me, home is both a physical place and a feeling. Home conjures memories of snuggling beneath blankets at summer day's end; the glow of the fire on a bitter cold, snowy day; the smell of chicken soup cooking; and fresh bread baking in the oven. Home allows freedom for expression -- the foundation for being silly, singing uninhibitedly, laughing freely, crying uncontrollably, dreaming excitedly, and loving and being loved unconditionally.
Unfortunately, for many, these snapshots are unfamiliar images, ones reserved only to be viewed in movies or read about in literary fairy tales. The home was not a recognizable reality for those neglected and abused. For some, school replaces the home environment, the neighbor's house provides safety, the local YMCA is the refuge; while for others, the gang provides the belonging that has been missing. For too many, a prison cell provides the structure, discipline, and protection that the home could not.
Failure to attach or receive tension-free connection has far-reaching consequences for later development. We long for love, protection, and safety. Erik Erikson's theory on psychosocial development suggests that a positive bond or feeling of attachment is central to social development in infancy. The first four years are crucial for trusting, understanding, and interacting socially as well as emotionally. Establishing trust within our first year and a half sets the stage for the subsequent development of autonomy, initiative, industry, identity, intimacy, generativity, and integrity. Animal ethologist Konrad Lorenz (1966) proved that a positive emotional bond between child and a specific individual is the most important form of social development occurring during infancy in his earliest studies of attachment focusing on newborn goslings. Goslings whose eggs were raised in an incubator and who viewed Lorenz immediately after hatching would follow his every movement, as if he were their mother, a process labeled imprinting. The goslings attached to the first moving object that is observed, and in this case, it was Lorenz. Our understanding of attachment progressed when psychologist Harry Harlow demonstrated how infant monkeys, given the choice between cuddling a wire "monkey" providing milk or a soft, terry-cloth "monkey" that was warm but did not provide milk, chose the warm cloth "monkey" as it provided greater comfort to the infants than did milk (Blum, 2002; Harlow & Zimmerman, 1959; Whipple, Bernier, & Mageau, 2011).
How does one create that warm homey feeling if he never experienced it firsthand? Even for those who have, how do we find time for joyful connection when we're too busy fretting over our to-do lists? While reflection can reawaken pain; the din of an intrusive outer world keeps us preoccupied, emotionally disconnected from dealing with the self so we can continue forgetting so we may continue blaming. Disconnection may shield us from self awareness in the short run but it cannot veil our inner turmoil forever. Eventually our blaming and unhealthy coping keeps us feeling stuck; powerless, frozen. Believing we're unable to change, we officially become a victim.
We enter the world as perfectly created organisms -- blank canvases with unlimited possibilities, aligned, untainted and empowered with free will for creating any life we desire; that is, until the world takes hold. Choosing to buy into the world's drama by accepting its definition that only the strong survive, we are ashamed of emotional vulnerability. Consequently, we shelve expression, suppress emotion, and ignore our feelings. In a stoic attempt to fool the world, we put on our masks to play the game, fully supported by a willing ego who successfully convinces us that we've outsmarted our competitors. Our hearts, on the other hand, have the more difficult task of persuading us to call a time out, to take a breather, to rethink our game plan. Fooling the world may suffice for a bit, but eventually our bodies force us to the sidelines with injury. It's there on the sidelines that we are faced with acknowledging the truth: are we truly ready to return to the game or do we need time out to nurse our wounds? The body can help us find our way; serving as a GPS for maneuvering, but it needs cooperation from the mind for getting us back on track.
The exhilarating swinging rhythm can be freeing for one's soul. Swings are symbolic of childhood, bringing us back to a time when life felt easy and carefree. The swaying motion helps us temporarily block out the world, allowing us time out for forgetting, so our bodies have the chance to catch up and help us to feel. Doctors like Bruce Perry, MD proposed healing for trauma to Washington in a May 4 2014 program for the National Council for Behavioral Health. Cognitive behavioral therapy and talk therapy are ineffective for trauma treatment as they rely on the thinking brain and can re-traumatize the patient by having to relive the event. Whereas, experts are reporting revolutionary success with treatments using yoga, meditation, deep breathing, singing, dancing, drumming and more. Perry says we need “patterned, repetitive, rhythmic somatosensory activity,” literally, bodily sensing exercises." Repetitive, rhythmic regulations for trauma includes singing, dancing, drumming, and most musical activities. It also relies on meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong, along with theater groups, walking, running, swinging, trampoline work, massage, equine grooming and other animal-assisted therapy…. even skateboarding. http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/developmental-trauma-3/
I vividly recall my now grown son swinging blissfully for hours at the hand of his patient father's push yelling, “Higher!,” demanding . . . “More!” until the ride came to an end. Desperately pleading for more, my son begged to stay suspended in the delightful rhythmic lull of the swing where he felt alive.
Nothing in life is free. Everything comes at a cost. In this case, that cost is action. Action comes more naturally for those of us who feel confidently that our effort will be rewarded or are able to break free from the shackles fear has caused, thus preventing present-minded engagement with ourselves and with others. Lacking confidence makes hope impossible and is directly related to a basic lack in trust. Without trust, self doubt keeps us stuck in a life lacking exhilaration and joy; a life filled with constant fear precludes commitment and effort. In spite of ourselves, we exhaust our energies with blaming, arguing, and worrying. In hopeful await of a savior, we remain powerless. We waste precious time procrastinating, thereby veiling discovering our inherent powers.
Challenges in life will often trigger latent emotions, bringing us back to a time when we were just children faced with a task that required will, effort, and self-reliance. It's like putting in the hard work of getting that lifeless swing going all by ourselves. Once we set aside our anger and push aside the blame, we're ready to work. We face off with the choice to do something. By mustering some will, we can command the mind to cooperate with the body to do what we want. With focused intention, we can coordinate our faculties to get going, and before long, we gain momentum and yes . . . Action! Once we're flying, with only minor adjustments, we can learn to control our speed, height, force, and time for flying in joyful rhythm. Eventually, we flow harmoniously, giving up the fight, while allowing natural forces to assist us and give us ease.
This tension-free swinging state is akin to the natural energy cycle operating in the universe. Positive flow requires less effort and brings more positive energy our way. Swinging helps us to bypass the mind so that we may access the heart; our portal for going home. The heart needs no intellectualizing, no debate, no argument; only acceptance and love. The body is the means for helping us to reconnect to our past so that we may face our demons and let them go. The body is an amazing self-healing mechanism. In its attempt to heal, it produces warning signs: symptoms, illnesses, and diseases as it cries out for proper attention and care. It's the mind that's causing our problems, making us feel stuck and sick. We give the mind power to help or to harm us; it's our choice. The body can be our instrument for healing trauma, releasing pain and anxiety stored in muscle memory. With the assistance of a cooperative, positive mind and mindful self-awareness, we can bravely learn to self-regulate so we may address the past as past in order to engage ourselves with the present moment and begin feeling, begin living.
Most of us can go back to remembering a time when we felt warmth, a sense of love, a feeling of connection. Maybe it was a first kiss, a beautiful sunset, sitting by the ocean, a warm hug, caring for an animal, or encouraging words. If not, try to recall what it must have been like living in our mother's womb. Bring that feeling into the body and allow it to rest at the heart center. Take this warm feeling down into the belly. Breathe and feel deeply, permit a sense a total relaxation and deep release.
Swings are an example of how life can flow with ease, rhythm, and joy if we make the effort and trust in our self and in the universe.
Inner retreat is our haven, eagerly awaiting us with the promise for healing and renewal. Finding time for stillness and reflection and choosing to unplug from the world is an effective way for reacquainting with our natural rhythm and allowing the beating of our hearts to lead us back home.
Feeling re-connected to the self can promote greater health and wellness starting with properly caring for and maintaining the body through a combination of organic whole foods, moderate exercise, hydration, healthy doses of sunlight, water, and oxygen along with mindful breathing and good hygiene.
Taking time to pause throughout each day, for just a few minutes, using our breath, brings control, calm focus, and awareness, so we're less reactive to the world's intrusions. Right there, behind our gently closed eyes, is the rhythmic warmth and familiar beat of a beautiful inner world that is sure to sweep us off our feet in no time, getting us right back into the swing.
Breathing Exercise #1:
Let's take a minute now:
Breathe in deeply, gently, slowly holding your breath at the top just for a few seconds, now release your breath through your mouth and blow out your tension, pausing gently at the bottom and holding for a count of four.
Once again, breathe in slowly and deeply through the nose, imagining cool air coming in. Then slowly release warm air through your nose, slowly releasing tension throughout your entire body – allow the tension to pass down your neck, shoulders; down your body and out your fingertips, Let it settle in at your belly.
ONCE AGAIN, with softly closed eyes . . . inhale a deep cool breath in drawing in and up from the belly, bringing in up your spine; past your throat; up the back of your head, allowing it to settle at the point between your eyebrows, stay there for a count of four; then slowly release warm air from the head back down the throat, down your spine, down through your shoulders and arms, out your fingertips while the remaining warmth settles at the base of your spine.
Feel the warmth there at the base of your spine. Feel grounded. Feel centered. Feel at home.
Continue focusing on your breath taking slow, deep, cool inhalations in on a count of four, holding for a comfortable count of six, then slowly releasing long, slow warm breaths out from your nose on a count of four, holding at the bottom for a count of six.
Keep breathing like this for a few minutes, focusing on your breath and your anxiety will pass.
Breathing exercise #2:
Breathe in deeply, slowly filling the chest, holding at the top for a few seconds, , now slowly release, gently out your nose – holding at the bottom for a few seconds.
Again, take a long, slow, deep cool inhalation (hold gently) followed by a long, slow, warm exhalation feeling warmth passing down throughout your body (hold gently at the bottom).
One more . . . take a big deep cool breath in and a long warm breath out. Hold that warmth down deeply in your belly.
With another breath in, THIS TIME imagine a place or time where you FEEL warmth, safe, loved, peaceful, happy.
Hold on to it. Breathe out. Relax, letting all your tension out.
Breathe in a cool, long, deep inhalation. This time, SEE a beautiful calm place where you feel warmth, love, peace, happiness, at ease. You see it? What do you see? Is it sunny? Calm waters? Blue skies? Sandy Beaches? A beautiful forrest? An inviting lake? . . . Breathe out, release, let go.
Breathe in. This time . . . While capturing your warm, loving place. What do you HEAR. Hear it. Birds chirping? Water falling? Ocean waves breaking? Breathe out. Relax, let warmth settle in your belly. Feel the warmth in your belly. Hold on to that feeling.
Breathe in. Capture your warm, loving place by taking in the SMELLS.. Can you smell the smells associated with that warm, loving feeling? How does is smell? Sweet and fragrant like spring flowers? Like mouth watering chocolate chip muffins baking? Apple pie? Salty like the cool ocean breeze? Allow this feeling to fill your body with warmth.
Anchor this feeling. Lock it at your core. Breath out. Stay with this beautiful feeling.
Now keep imagining this warm feeling in your body as you continue to breathing: Simply BE at HOME.
You can return to feeling "home" whenever you want. Just Breathe it in!