Something I really enjoy about sunsets is not watching them.
No, wait, this makes sense, let me explain.
Around 4:30pm sunlight is starts to dance on the ceiling of my apartment, reflecting off of the pool downstairs. Through the large french doors on my western wall, dappled golden light starts to pour in through the leaves of the mango tree dancing outside. If it's a good day, at this point I will recognize that it is time to go outside to commune with nature and move my body up to a spot on the hill in the cow pasture where I can see the horizon.
Funny enough, leaving the house has gotten a lot more enjoyable since my new hiking boots got broken in and actually started feeling comfortable. What's weird is that no one ever told me I didn't have to have uncomfortable feet when I was growing up. I just thought that level of pain was normal so I didn't complain and no one noticed that cheap shoes aren't built for my feet. That should tell you something about my early experiences with embodiment.
Actually, I didn't really get excited about these boots until I put hot pink shoe laces in them. I've always projected this really serious vibe, like I needed the whole world to believe I had it together (I didn't and it did!), but it wasn't until I started digging around in my core wounding that I discovered a rainbow child inside of me who really likes to play and be silly. So, when I let myself buy those laces, it was a big step. But let's come back to this, I'm trying to make a point about not watching the sunset and you're probably starting to wonder what all this has to do with embodied reparenting.
The time before the sun sets is a strange waiting game for me as I let my mind settle and tune into a simple sense of just being. No phone, so it's just me Mother Nature, and the Sun. Sometimes I feel the urge to be doing something or going somewhere lingering after a day of action, and so I have to reclaim my sovereignty from this busy-ness, which I do by turning my focus towards my breath. As I bring my focus back to my breath, I am immediately tuning into my body, which tunes me into the present moment. Since this is where my true power lies which is an aspect of my true self, I call this staying sovereign. And then, even though I am there to watch the sky, I DON'T.
Yep. My favorite part about watching the sunset is not watching it, because every time I turn my eyes away from the sky, I know that when I look back again it will be more beautiful as the colors and clouds keep changing. Although I make a concerted effort to be present for the setting of the sun, it is the space between my moments of actually observing this phenomenon that make it enjoyable. It is the momentary excitement of turning my gaze away from the trees or grass and back on the dropping orb and pinkening sky which make this evening ritual worthwhile for me.
Yesterday, I did this and found myself looking at my own shadow, contemplating how the farther we move from the light, the smaller the shadow gets and how the closer we are to the source of light the larger our shadows get. This universal truth says to me that we are to maintain a healthy focus on both shadow and light, to not focus on one to the exclusion of the other, but that witnessing both is what makes life full of wonder and joy. If you go too far into one, it eliminates the other and it will have the capacity to pop up and surprise you.
I've been practicing mindfulness for 13 years now, which is to say that the practice of observing my breath has been central to my life this whole time. Sure, my commitment has wavered, and sure, I am a human, so I have forgotten about it for many periods of time, both lengthy, and momentary. But, knowing the way this forgetting gives me the same kind of exciting opportunity, a fresh chance to observe the changing landscape, has made it possible for me to sustain my mindfulness practice. This is so much easier when we have someone to encourage and remind us, which is the role that Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh has played for me, mainly through his books and recordings, but also on retreat, too. And so, this is why I offer my service as a mindfulness mentor to those who seek it.
Now, about Embodied Reparenting. Remember the shoelaces I mentioned? Self-expression used to feel dangerous and scary because when I was a little girl, it was a guarantee that this kind of vulnerability would bring criticism. When I was a kid, that kind of circumstance was actually threatening, I really needed my parents to love and support me, so their rejection was a true danger. The real problem is that this patterning lasted until adulthood and made it so that I was subconsciously afraid to express myself. Those pink shoelaces are so sweet and joyful because they are a sign of my victory over the past, a reminder of my sovereignty and freedom to express my truth without needing anyone's permission or approval. I have created a sense of safety for myself through a process of embodiment and reparenting that I am now ready to share with you.
The largest obstacle in my mindfulness practice has been the intense emotions and urge to dissociate that comes up when I sit down. Y'all I am talking about Trauma. Those emotional flashbacks are a physical response to mental stimuli, so they can really mess us up and take us out of the present moment because one second we're just sitting there and then out of nowhere we are in a shame spiral. I struggled along with my desire to be present, learning to have compassion and loving kindness for myself, until I was able to finally see the fact that I wasn't really in my body. My awareness was everywhere but inside of me, because that's where the pain and yucky emotions lived. I hadn't known how to cope with those dark things as a child, so I'd just gone on repressing them and they evolved into a really toxic mess that became intolerable. (Oh, hello, grief, shame, guilt, and fear!) Once I became aware of this whole unexplored dimension of humanness, I began to practice directing my awareness towards my own physical inner spaces, and began to learn how to honor my body.
What does it mean to be in or honor your body? Well, did you ever think about how each of your cells has its own intelligence? And that large groups of them agreed and came together in organized structures to form all of your organs and other body parts? Being embodied means paying attention to what's inside of us and responding to that instead of reacting to what is outside of us. Honoring our bodies means listening to our needs and feelings first, prioritizing them beyond what our mind or others are telling us to do. THIS CAN BE SO HARD.
Society has a lot of values and norms which ask us to ignore our bodies and ultimately our own sense of truth. As I went through the process of working with my own trauma and sitting with my own shadow, I began to notice how often I wasn't showing up for myself because of all these deeply-ingrained beliefs about what I should be doing and how I should be living life. I became aware of the inner critic, a negative presence inside my head which seemed to value a lot of things I didn't, and also sounded a lot like my parents; this was shortly after I learned about Complex PTSD. So, I started to intuitively practice reparenting, a process of reprogramming my inner voice to reflect my own beliefs and values instead of the ones I was exposed to as a child.
The term Embodied Reparenting refers to a framework or skillset I have developed which can be used to create a sense of sovereignty in people who experience dissociation and negative thoughts to a disempowering degree.
Along my own journey, I have found it necessary to unlink my inner parents from my real-world parents. I've done this by creating an inner father and mother that are nurturing and protective of my inner child who has very real needs in the present which represent unmet needs from the past. On some level, the mind does not know the difference between past and present, or imagined and real experiences; this is why imagining your inner child being held by a loving mother can be such a radically healing experience. Further, when it is done from an embodied state, this visualization can send cues to the nervous system which help to regulate and reestablish sovereignty in a physical sense. We can use visualization like these to deescalate trauma responses to external triggers like someone yelling at us in a way our parent did, or to internal triggers like a subtle criticism from the inner voice.
Embodied Reparenting is a tool for addressing the root cause of our habits of hiding, contracting, numbing, tensing, tightening, and more. It is a safe framework for letting the inner child experience the care of a good-enough mother and father which s/he needed in the past, and therefore still need right now. The trinity of a mother, father, and child within which is the basis for this tool, helps us when triggers come up by creating an internal structure for experiencing safety.
The relationship between the inner mother and father represents our own power and ability to act and create in the world, so it is also a framework which supports empowerment, as much as it does healing. If you are feeling ready to give your gifts to the world and are being held back in some way, working with the inner masculine and feminine energies is a good way to assess balance and personal well-being, which are what enable us to be of service to others. Many times our original parents did not give us healthy patterns to help us align with our soul, which is a process of experiencing the polarities of universal energy in a coherent way. Allowing the inner father and mother to role play for these aspects of our consciousness can help us to understand ways that we are not fully owning our power, and create scenarios for full empowerment.
Healing our inner child frees us to express our innocence, purity, and playfulness which allow us to experience life with a sense of wonder and curiosity. This work helps us to open the heart after being hurt too many times and gives us agency to be our own healers. Working with our inner masculine and feminine energies, which we all have, also creates balance and empowerment which leads to a state of limitless freedom. This is a freedom which comes from internal resiliency, equanimity, and self-resourcing that goes well beyond the basic programming of our parents and society.
When we are present and embodied, we are in our power and this is where we find peace. All of the mindfulness mentorships I offer include this training in Embodied Reparenting. If you are ready to experience the power of your peace, please reach out via the contact page so that we can explore working together.