For the Little Ones Inside

 . . . Because connecting with my Little One and the Mommy Inside has made such a profound difference both in how I live inside of my self and how I continue the ongoing process of healing my life, I try to share the wonder of it with the people who come to work with me. Over the years I've experimented with ways to help others create magical space for meeting their own inner Little One(s) and kindling their own loving inner Mommy. It's impossible to come up with some general recipe that will be just right for everyone, that won't feel stilted and formulaic. It's such a personal process. So, I've learned to use some concrete details to communicate a sketch of the possibility. Then, each person uses her own intuition and sensibilities to refine the sketch and tailor a process that feels exactly right for her self. . .

The Little Ones Story

At 43, washed up on the far shore of a complicated and challenging seven-year relationship that reawakened every part of my still unhealed childhood wounding, I found my self lost from any connection to the deep knowing places within me. Much of that disconnectedness came from seven years of contradicting their messages and cutting my self off from their truths as I talked my self out of recognizing the damage I was doing to me in that relationship. (It was nevertheless damage that, from this distance of time and growing, turned out to have been a necessary part of the process of healing my life.) Before that relationship, I had never lost my self nor known the source of the depression and self-hatred that frequently surfaced in my sometimes self-accepting and self-valuing life.

During these periodic descents into the pit of despair, my vicious inner critic, the Hatchet Lady, slashed away and struck down anything about my self that I might treasure or value. Each time I would be sunk in depression, convinced that my hard-won good opinion of my self was based on lies and distorted vision. At 43, there was no periodic-ness about it. I lived full-time in the middle of the deepest, darkest pit. I was immersed, as well, in more grief than I could have imagined possible: grieving the end of what had been, for both my partner and me, a love that had become a symbiosis that was killing both of us.

For a year we struggled, separately and together, to extricate our selves from that enmeshment; to let go of the relationship that, born in the most significant loving either of us had ever known, had become a prison and torment to both of us. Except for those hours that I worked (as a therapist helping other women in their journeys of self-healing), I spent my time in anguish: crying, feeling devastated and finding no hand holds with which to begin the climb up out of the black hole in which I found my self.

The magic that had frequently woven through my life seemed to have disappeared beyond any hope of reconnecting with it. Yet, during that transition year, a glimmer of the old enchantment returned. It brought me to a creative arts therapist whose work gave me the permission to begin to love and cherish my self just as I was, just for being.

In her workspace we played for two hours every week. I dreamed to music, drew, painted and sculpted images from those dreams; I moved and sounded, spontaneously creating movements and sounds my being needed for healing. We made music together on all sorts of percussion instruments. That music gave me an outlet for the intense, inchoate grief, rage and yearning that word therapy couldn't then (or in all the years before) touch or release.

I began spending most of my time, even when not in her studio, drawing, painting and creating sounds with my voice and my growing collection of percussion instruments. The images and sounds were helping me feel my way through the bleak underworld in which I was living.

In the most empowering experience of my work with her, I traveled back in fantasy to the time before the child in me began to be traumatized and damaged by the world she inhabited. In the drawings from that session, an exuberant, radiant little creature leaped and bounded through great fields and forests of green, growing things. She danced through skies, clouds, oceans and through fields of pure energy. I felt her aliveness with every cell of my being. My heart was filled to bursting with love for and connection to this joyful creature.

The Little One's emergence was a turning point in my healing. I began devoting my self to her as completely as I had typically devoted my self only to the hidden little ones in others. I listened for and to her through every moment of my days. She had so much to tell me, with and without words. She knew immediately where it was okay and not okay for us to be. She knew, as well, which people, situations and interactions were damaging or dangerous to our well-being. She had always been there, wailing from her prison beyond layers of soundproofing. Yet, I had never listened like this before. I'd never acted single mindedly to advocate for and protect her vulnerability. She'd won my heart completely, instantly. There was no way I would allow anything or anyone (even the Hatchet Lady) to bring harm to her.

I couldn't imagine not adoring and protecting her. I did nothing that wasn't safe and nourishing for her. My dedication to making the world safe for her and to loving her (even when she was being whiny, mean or angry) began to heal my life. I never expected of her things that were beyond her capacity, never demanded that she get over her fears, never demanded that she "stop crying before I give you something to cry about," never demanded that she "stop complaining," never forced her to stop having a tantrum or to be nice when she wasn't feeling nice.

As we went along, it became apparent that if I could make a safe space (away from my own past and anyone else's current judgments, away from situations in which she might hurt herself or someone else), she could be fully in the middle of her feelings. Being allowed to feel and vent her feelings, she would at some point come through to the other side of them, even the most rageful or most sorrowful or most terrified ones. It had to be okay for her to feel however she felt. We made an alliance that strengthened daily. She let me know what she needed; I listened and provided that as best I could. And, a fiercely protective, kind, gentle, unconditionally loving Mommy was developing inside of me, a Mommy that was committed to caring for the Little One, no matter what.

Over the years that followed, we have together visited and experienced long locked-away rages, terrors, grief, hates and feelings of helplessness. The more of these previously un-allowed feelings we could live through safely, the more fully the joyful, playful, creative, full-of-our-self self emerged. And, the new Mommy could make it safe for that full-of-selfness, too. At first, the process involved just the two of us. As I became a better and stronger protector and Mommy, we were gradually and in small steps able to include being around other people.

During the years of healing – even in the times we were just the two of us and not around people – we have never been alone. From the moment the Little One emerged, there has been a constant stream of whisperings in my heart, a powerful sense of being watched over and surrounded with the boundless love of a circle of ancient foremothers. These ancient feminine energies feel like Spirit Grandmothers whose whisperings bring rememberings from the time before woman and her woman-wisdom were denigrated and deposed from her central, enlivening place in all our lives.  These outrageous, zany and loving presences have guided and supported my journey home to my birthright of loving my self unconditionally in all my imperfectness. They have brought me gifts of words, messages, lullaby song-chants, magical amulets and images for courage along the way of this journey.

The Grandmothers' words and messages, the kindness to self that they continually urge, the acceptance of all feelings and all body knowing that they hold so crucial to all wisdom – these rememberings and celebrations of my woman-self have gradually transformed me. They've become, through practice, a part of my daily emotional vocabulary for talking with my self. They've transformed my relationship with my self, with my life and with the whole sacred circle of life. No longer whispers in the heart, these messages have become a bone and cell deep thrumming that keeps me alive, expanding and vitally aware of the never ending rivers of magic and wonder in every ordinary moment of my life: in my aging, temporarily able body and in all the richness of my feelings, joyous or painful.

 No matter what blunders or un-evolved feelings, no matter what upsetting images, body memories or painful feelings emerge, I am always surrendering into the middle of whatever it is that is coming up – even as I'm sometimes feeling furious that it's happening again.

To nourish my soul, the Grandmothers guided me then and still into the wild spaces near where I lived in the orange groves of Ojai's East End. In these canyons I found places where it was safe to go naked in the woods, to climb up boulders in the rivers and streams, to sit in the middle of little waterfalls, to hug trees. I walked almost every day, most often into the canyon just up the road from my house. I sat, and sit still, nightly at the stream's edge on my hug-me or my nap rock. I sat in trees on the property where I lived, began sleeping year round (except in the rains) on the ground in a four-windowed tent outside my house, under an ancient live oak. Every tree, boulder, stream and cloud brought me the energy of their fierce and abiding love. I felt (and still feel) it flowing into my body and my being. The further I am from the signs of human progress, the more strongly that energy flows into me.

Singing the lullaby song-chants the Grandmothers taught me and embracing their messages about bringing loving kindness to my self, I continued the process – begun a full twenty years before – of slowing my life and further simplifying my existence so that I could work less and spend more of my time immersed in the sacred play that has been helping me to heal the wounds of living in this crazy-making, woman-negative, out-of-balance world.

I spend lots of time walking in the canyons by day and through the groves and to the creeks at night – listening to hawks in their courting flights, to owls' calls and to the coyote conversations across the valley at night: drifting, dreaming, making art, puttering about my studio and garden. And, I keep in touch with the Little One's voice. Sometimes I find my self unaccountably full of rage, crankiness, sadness or aching of unknown origin. I yell and howl, beat on drums or a stuffed duffle bag, stomp my feet, roar, cuss, cry, wail, howl, curl up with the covers pulled over my head feeling sorry for my self, don't answer the phone and don't go out in the world.

Repeatedly and in cycles, more layers rise up into the open space: more old feelings to be felt and released. Unlike the me-of-the-past, I no longer need to make sense of the whys and where-froms of these torrents of emotion that overtake me. Sometimes images and memories come with the feelings; sometimes just the inchoate feelings by themselves. Each time, given the safe space to be in the midst of their storms, I come through to the other side. There the sun shines again, I feel cleansed and I have more of me from which to live and create. I feel the chest-full-to-bursting, heart-singing joy of being surrounded by so much beauty and wonder. And, even in the now less frequent hard times, I find my self (as my sister describes it) feeling wonderful about feeling awful – because, in the middle of it, I know I'm coming home to the all of me.

 Between the rising up times, I continue to rest deeply for days and sometimes weeks or months on end. I read tons of women's detective mysteries and novels curled up by the fire or out under a walnut tree in my hammock and I take long and short voluptuous naps.

Because connecting with my Little One and the Mommy Inside has made such a profound difference both in how I live inside of my self and how I continue the ongoing process of healing my life, I try to share the wonder of it with the people who come to work with me. Over the years I've experimented with ways to help others create magical space for meeting their own inner Little One(s) and kindling their own loving inner Mommy. It's impossible to come up with some general recipe that will be just right for everyone, that won't feel stilted and formulaic. It's such a personal process. So, I've learned to use some concrete details to communicate a sketch of the possibility. Then, each person uses her own intuition and sensibilities to refine the sketch and tailor a process that feels exactly right for her self.

Here's the sketch. Remember none of it is meant as the-right-way-to-do-it, so consider using the sketch as a jumping off place from which to improvise and create what works for you. Keep tweaking till it feels like your very own way.

It helps to gather a photo or two or three of your self as a child. Try looking through old photo albums to see which pictures of your younger self catch your eye. Those are probably the age-selves who most need your attention at this time.

Choose a safe, quiet and private corner in your world where you can create a sacred space for you and your little one(s) to meet. A nice bit of cloth can define the space for you. Add the photo(s) and perhaps a candle that you can light each time you come to this meeting space. Lighting the candle can help you and your little one(s) mark the threshold between regular life and your special time together. Lighting some incense, burning some sage or ceremonially washing your hands are other ways that might appeal to you to help mark the transition. If there's not a place where you can safely leave this sacred altar space set up all the time, try arranging it in a special box that you can open when you're ready to visit your little one(s).

It can help to include in your sacred space any little toys or objects that remind you of things that you treasured and were comforted by as a little person.  If you still have any of the original things you used, that can be especially wonderful.

It's important at the start to commit to only a very tiny bit of regular time. Five minutes twice a week that you keep to is much better than promising a half hour every day and then not showing up. The little one(s) have done without any attention for a very long time. In order for them to risk trusting that you really will be there for them if they show up, they need to know you'll keep your promises.

Having a pillow or a specially chosen stuffed animal or doll that you can cradle and hold while you talk with your little person(s) can be very comforting. You can imagine that your little one is inside whatever you're cradling. And, sometimes, you can imagine that you are inside the little being that the big you is holding so tenderly.

A good way to start each time is by apologizing to your little one(s) for treating her/them as harshly, neglectfully or uncaringly as she/they were treated by your original caregivers. It's helpful to keep letting her/them know that, even though you are feeling quite awkward and uneasy with all this, you are committed to learning to be an unconditionally loving, fiercely protective Mommy to your little person(s); to learning how to be there with and for her/them as much of the time as possible.

It may take many visits before you actually begin to hear from your little one(s). While you're there talking to them, singing favorite lullabies, reading favorite childhood books, telling made up stories or just rocking and humming can feel good. When they begin to communicate with you, you may hear or feel them in your heart. Sometimes words come, sometimes just a sense of their feelings. A blank drawing book or pad and some colored marking pens or big crayons are good to have for your little one(s) to use to draw pictures for you, scribble feeling-colors or even words when that feels right to her/them. It's good to place the pens or crayons in your non-dominant hand for this. It may feel weird or odd to see words/pictures emerge either inside of you or on the pages. Try not to dismiss them as just-your-mind, they really are coming from the little one(s) heart to you.

It helps each time to ask your little one(s) to let you know in words or feelings what she/they needs from you in order to feel safe to come out to visit/talk/play with you. And, too, to ask what your little one(s) might need or like from you in the middle of your ordinary day to day life.

If none of this feels right to do, don't bother your self with any of it. Just read the tales ahead.