These past few weeks have been full of feeling, preparations for leaving, and goodbyes. Even though this big change is something I am choosing, that does not mean it is easy or stress-free. That is not how change (or life) works. I’ve been practicing mindfulness, seeking to stay present with all of it. I’ve also been thinking lately about all the kinds of transitions we go through, chosen and not. I am thinking about change and process versus completion and reaching the goal and how all of this applies to trauma treatment.
I’ve found this quote by Pema Chodron to really resonate lately:
We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
I read this and am struck by how much this describes trauma therapy, or intensive therapy of any type. Maybe the goal isn’t to have it all together. Maybe the goal is to be with and learn from how we come apart. Life breaks us, in big and small ways, and in that brokenness comes new growth and possibilities. We can grow stronger in the broken places.
Brokenness is one concept and theme that keeps coming up for me lately. My most recent experience convinced me to finally sit down and write about it. Yoga has been very important in my life over the last few years and tremendously helpful as I walk through this time of change. At my last class my teacher presented me with a small statue of Ganesh, the Hindu deity who removes obstacles. She apologized for the fact that he was a bit chipped, broken. We quickly realized that this actually was fitting, given how he is often depicted holding his own broken tusk.
This reminded me of a blog post I read recently (by JulieJCPeters) about another, lesser known Hindu deity: Akhilandeshvari or The Goddess of never not broken. This Goddess seems to embody exactly what Pema Chodron describes: coming together and falling apart over and over again. And therein lies her strength. Imagine that! What a shift of perspective, strength in brokenness rather than wholeness.
Can you see how this might apply to trauma survivors? Those experiencing multiplicity? Or any of us coping with transition and loss? Can we envision a different way to be with our selves or that broken is not always the end of the story? Read more about how JulieJCPeters interprets what being broken can mean:
But this isn’t the kind of broken that indicates weakness and terror.
It’s the kind of broken that tears apart all the stuff that gets us stuck in toxic routines, repeating the same relationships and habits over and over, rather than diving into the scary process of trying something new and unfathomable.
Akhilanda derives her power from being broken: in flux, pulling herself apart, living in different, constant selves at the same time, from never becoming a whole that has limitations.
None of this is meant to glorify pain or trauma or the experience of feeling broken. It is meant to offer hope and a new way of considering what we value and why. What if we accepted that there will be times of coming apart without judgment? What if we embraced change rather than fearing and avoiding it? More from JulieJCPeters, about the significance of Akhilandeshvari riding a crocodile:
By riding on this spinning, predatory, fearsome creature, Akhilanda refuses to reject her fear, nor does she let it control her. She rides on it. She gets on this animal that lives inside the river, inside the flow. She takes her fear down to the river and uses its power to navigate the waves, and spins in the never not broken water.
What if we went with our fear, instead of resisting it? What could we gain by risking that wild ride?
If everything remained the same, if we walked along the same path down to the river every day until there was a groove there (as we do; in Sanskrit this is called Samskara, habits or even “some scars”), this routine would become so limited, so toxic to us that, well, the crocs would catch on, and we’d get plucked from the banks, spun and eaten.
So now is the time, this time of confusion and brokenness and fear and sadness, to get up on that fear, ride it down to the river, dip into the waves, and let yourself break. Become a prism.
All the places where you’ve shattered can now reflect light and colour where there was none. Now is the time to become something new, to choose a new whole.
But remember Akhilanda’s lesson: even that new whole, that new, colourful, amazing groove that we create, is an illusion. It means nothing unless we can keep on breaking apart and putting ourselves together again as many times as we need to. We are already “never not broken.” We were never a consistent, limited whole. In our brokenness, we are unlimited. And that means we are amazing.
“In our brokenness, we are unlimited. And that means we are amazing.”
Yes. What a profound message for all of us. I share this in the hope that it will touch some of my readers as it has me.
I am planning to ride my crocodile, holding my broken Ganesh close, into this next chapter of Treating Trauma. I do not know what exactly it will be, but I know it will be amazing.