Twenty-five years as a trauma therapist has not prepared me for what has happend in my neighborhood. I have been a Mom for 18 years and that role has not prepared me to answer the questions from my youngest child, 12-year-old Webb, regarding the lockdown at his school on Friday. My work as a college professor, educating young adults in the realm of psychology did not offer me direction when the hotline call came in from a grandma from Newtown, CT.
What did support me over the past few days? As the aftermath of the unthinkable began to spill outside of the inital shock…my practice. Sometimes, I feel like I need to say something more interesting about how I support myself, but really, this is it.
There are a few non-yoga specific practices I engage in, too. From my experience as a trauma therapist, I know to heavily moniter my sensory intake. I generally do a “media block”; I turn off TV, online news sources and sometimes radio. I want to decrease the intake of repetitive visual images and auditory stimulaton when trauma hits. Why? Well, the visual cortex processes more than 80% of the intake of data into our mind’s processing area. With all the real-time electronic communication opportunities this means that we take in an enormous amount of data and those images can be longer lasting than might be useful. In ayurvedic terms…the images can create a thinking overload or vata disruption.
As an Ayurvedic Practitioner, I predict I will need more rest and prayer to support my ojas; deep vitality. I know that holding myself steady during the storm of emotion, reactivity and media is exhausting. So, I set up a schedule to allow for a short yoga nap, yoga nidra, or deep relaxation practice such as 31 or 61 points. If I cannot arrange this in my day then I set an hourly alert tone on my phone and when it sounds I stop what I am doing and take three deep belly breaths followed by either some nasya oil with nerve support herbs and aromas. The idea of giving myself support so I can be more durable is the goal.
As a mom I know “it takes a village” so accessing community is another support that I offer myself. If there is a group of friends gathering for tea, I make the effort to meet them so I can have community with other like-minded folks. Otherwise, there is a tendency to isolate or stay “in my head” which can lead to increased reactivity and depression or anxiety. If there is not a natural gathering of friends or peers, then I create one. For example, December 17th, we had a chanting session at the local yoga center. I just felt I wanted to connect with my sangha and offer the MMM to the families of Newtown, CT. I wanted to be with others who were interested in illuminating this darkness. Today, a few local moms and I went for a walk and talked about our fear, dreams and grief.
As and educator, I try to resource useful information that can help me process the event and opportunities to be of use. I like to be able to share with students, friends and other caregivers information that will offer us support. Or, for those of us who deal with trauma by being actively involved in the process of healing, I like to be aware of what agencies, schools, and community programs might need extra hands. I find that sometimes, being a resource of information can be of great use and helps me to feel active in supporting those who have been hurt.
Finally, I steer clear of gossip or the opnionated “re-hash” from folks that use every incident as an opportunity to be more rajasic and dredge up every event remotely related as a means for expressing their attachment to the drama. I realize this sounds judgmental—it is not. There is a line, not so fine, between a healthy expression of emotion and some processing and unhealthy attachment to the role of victim. I can smell the rajas and tamas of the reactive-over-processor and I can feel my energy being sucked out from afar. That is when my shields go up and I nod and walk on by. This is not callous, rather the opposite. I have found over the years that walking by and not engaging is an act of kindness as if I sit and make myself available to listen… I support their rajasic drama. Icky!!
My message… be wise, be vunerable, be courageous and be love. It is a yogic and ayurvedic message…it is healthy and conscious and it is of use to both you and your community. President Obama quoted scripture, the same thoughts are found in all ancient traditions and ring very true to my ears, “What is seen is temporary, what is unseen is forever.”