Creating a Heart Centered Life — Our Post PTSD identity

By Ellen Besso, M.A.

Most of us spend a lot of time running from ourselves and the things that bother us. We find clever ways to escape or to reframe what we’re doing, but still, when you come right down to it, that’s what we do. I was never formally diagnosed with PTSD, but I surely suffered from it, after being sexual abused as a toddler. That, other life experiences and my particular upbringing caused me to go through life pushing, always pushing to achieve, rather than calmly going about my business.

“You give too much, save some for yourself”, I was told by Emerito, a healer, when I was a Trager bodyworker. “I always stop when I could do one more session”, Kathy, a Jin-shin-do practitioner advised me. But I really didn’t know how to stop the internal pushing, to slow it down. Slowly, slowly, beginning around age 30, I began to find my way out, through reading, some professional help, meditation, spending time in nature, Buddhist teachings, and my process is still going on today.

When we send too much of our energy outward, effort too much, it’s almost impossible to be deeply in touch with our heart center. We all need to be cognizant of this, especially those of us healing from PTSD symptoms. It’s necessary to put aside more time and energy for ourselves than we can even imagine. Taking care of us, getting in touch with our center, our essence, is not optional, it’s mandatory in order to feel peaceful, yet vital, to tap into our creative juices.

In our society we tend to live mostly in what Martha Beck calls the “shallows”; the world of form, of physical objects, and the thoughts that cluster around them. We often skim the surface of life with our busyness and our sound bites. But survivors can’t afford to do that.

To heal we need to go down into our depth. Because we have been wounded and lost touch with parts of ourselves, we must gain our own trust back, so to speak, in order to become whole. When we commit to slowing down and dedicating time each day to ourselves, our body-mind-spirit will eventually show us what it needs. It’s a simple method, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. There will be pain, but so much more too, a richness, a knowing of ourselves and a subtle sense of connectiveness with everything. It’s not something to be done alone, but with the help of trusted others – counsellors, coaches, perhaps friends, family, groups. Then we add high level self-care into the mix and it enhances and builds on the therapeutic work.

Here are some specific ways we can connect with our heart center on a regular basis:

¨ We can access our inner selves by listening to our body. The body never lies – I can’t overemphasize this.

¨ Sitting quietly, (or walking if that suits better), simply pay attention to your breath,  noting what parts of the body feel relaxed, which ones are uncomfortable or emotional,  noticing, then brushing away the myriad thoughts that spring up, (imagine a tiny broom in your head to brush with). Doing this with no further agenda holds us in good stead.

Note: Placing one hand over the heart can help us get in touch.

¨ Ground yourself and your energy if you’re feeling floaty by walking on grass, stomping your feet, digging in the dirt, walking in the water at the edge of the ocean or lake or lying on the ground under a tree, (kids know this is good; it’s also part of Ayurvedic medicine).

¨ Notice your posture when sitting or standing. I’m paying more and more attention to this, fine-tuning if you will. I’ve found that when I’m trying to get something done or get  somewhere, I tend to tilt my body forward; I also sag and hunch my shoulders slightly, folding in on myself, closing my heart area rather than opening it.

¨ Check-ins: Every 30 to 60 minutes, ask yourself how you’re doing and what you need. It may be a simple physical requirment, like a glass of water or a snack, a stretch, a few moments of fresh air during your break, a brief support call to a friend or counsellor, 10 minutes flat on the floor, (this completely recycles your energy system). You’ll know what you need if you practice this regularly and pay attention to the answers.

¨ Whatever feeds us will heal us and make us happy. Perhaps it’s playing with a small child, thus allowing ourselves to be a kid too in a small way; it could be mindfully walking in nature, where each sense is activated when we focus on the sights, sounds, smells, even tastes; they all have a richness to them and this keeps us in the present moment.

We might choose to meditate, spending time with a dear friend or work with animals.

Over time we begin to hear the silence. In that silence we remember that we indeed have a center, a heart, and that this is the essence of who we are. Bringing our attention to our heart center calms and soothes us, it slows down our heartbeat and in turn stops the myriad thoughts scrambling around inside our brains. It’s simple, it works, it’s scientifically based. It’s called HeartMath.

If we do nothing else, even three minutes a day of tuning in to our bodies and our breath will make an enormous difference in the quality of our lives. It will ground us in the present moment as opposed to re-living our past trauma or anticipating future troubles. Our nervous systems will begin to calm themselves.

What is often called “recovery” is actually a lifelong process, lifelong learning. It is life itself – living fully in a mindful, peaceful way, in touch with us…our own spirit and the larger one. 

(c) Ellen Besso, 2012

Ellen Besso is a Certified Life Coach, Professional Counsellor and author. She is also a wife, mother of an adult daughter and was a caregiver for her mother who had Alzheimer’s and her friend who both passed on last year.

Ellen’s book Surviving Eldercare: Where Their Needs End & Yours Begin can be purchased through Amazon.com or her website. Her new book, a memoir about volunteering and travelling inIndia, will be released this year.

You can reach Ellen at: http://ellenbesso.com, or 800-961-1364

 

 
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