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Inspiration: 27 Vital Aspects of Breath

Pause, Breathe, Smile by Gary Gach

Have you ever paused to consider how amazing your breath is? Here’s a list of some inspirational aspects of breath. (The word inspiration itself means to breathe.) Some might already be familiar to you. You may feel drawn to appreciate some more than others. Devoting close attention to any one will lead to all the others. It’s all there – in a breath.

 

1  Present-ness

My mind wanders. My thoughts drift off. Sometimes, I could drown in regret, lost reviewing the past. Meanwhile, my breath is always precisely in the present moment.

2  Happiness

When we drop our worries and hurries, we can fully connect with our aliveness. Breathing with this joy on our lips, we learn a deeper, more enduring happiness. It’s our birthright. Conscious breathing can be a great relief, having nothing else to do but be – and a reminder there are enough simple reasons for happiness in this present moment.

3  Leadership

I’m a follower of my breath. Following my breath can tell me volumes about how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking; where I am and where I need to go in my life. When I notice my mind has wandered – I simply draw attention back to my breath.

4  Constant Companion

Since my birth, no one and no thing has been as close to me, without fail, rain or shine, as my breath. No sensation has been as familiar to me. When I follow my breath, I feel myself coming home, where I’ve always belonged.

5  Best Friendship

Ultimately, no one may love me as much as I do. To remain faithful to my part of the relationship, I pay utmost attention to my breath. Sometimes, I need to take time for us to get to know each other better.

6  Relational

I say, “my breath,” but I could b breathing in your out-breath. The simple implication of breath’s merging of within and around can dramatically shift my perspective.

7  Inspirational

We have many muses in our creative life. They may take the form of rituals, people, or substances. My primary inspiration is breath.

8  Nature
Through my breath, I observe my connection to Nature and her processes. The in-and-out of breath mirrors the natural cycles – the tides, the sun and moon, life and death.

9  Slowness

Nature reminds me to slow down, since my observation reveals how slowness tends to predominate our surroundings. Paying attention to breathing, it tends to deepen and slow, of its own, naturally. Living in a culture addicted to an ever-accelerating pace, slowness can feel like salvation.

10 Calm

Paying attention to breath allows it become as deep as it wishes to be. When I feel my belly soften and breath grow deep, my vestigial instincts of flight-fright-or-fight have gone away: less stress! I am aware of how calm I feel.

11  Solidity

Without calm, my strength can dissipate, disperse, and scatter. Without calm, I cannot engage in gentle inquiry into the nature of self and reality. My reserve of calm assures my presence has solidity, even in emergency. I can show up, and be present when I show up.

12  Silent

Paying attention, I notice breath is slower than thought. Nor does it obey the restrictive patterns of verbal language. I pay close attention to each quiet breath, from beginning, middle, and end – and with a blank space, in between. This silence is not blind.

13  Anonymity

My breath is totally unconcerned whether or not I am up with latest fashion, or what I look like. I don’t need to cultivate an identity. Breath accepts as I am. In that complete acceptance, I could be nobody – or anybody. This is anonymity is a passport to the undomesticated world of the wild.

14  Impermanence

Breath is a living example of the impermanence of all things – a reminder of the importance of flow. You can never breathe the same breath twice.

15  Focus of Awareness

Meditating, I could focus on sound, which is also ever-present, but I like breath best.

16  Emotional Self-Regulation

Being intimate with how a breath arises, manifests, then falls away is a transferable skill, applicable to emotions and thoughts. These too arise, take form, and pass. Besides my recognizing they’re impermanent, it’s great to also be able to catch negative thought forms and destructive feelings at their inception – before they’ve pulled us along by the nose – learning to step away from their pull on us, understand them, and heal and transform their energies.

17  Direct

Breath isn’t symbolic nor abstract. There’s no need to look behind breath, searching for hidden meaning. Beyond anyone else’s words or labels, connecting with breath is to see for one’s self, through direct experience.

18  Intentionality

Wanting to change my behavior – my thoughts, my words, and my deeds – conscious breathing is wonderful training. To be conscious of just one breath immediately sets intention into motion. Conscious breath provides a space where I can consider how to respond, rather than react.

19  Universal

Like the wind that encircles the planet, breath is everywhere. It knows no religious denominations, national boundaries, ethnic differences, or social classes. Languages vary but they all tend to point to the vital connection to life of breath.

20  Vital

Mindful of breath, I return my attention to the fountain of life. Dead people don’t breathe. Many languages equate our personal breath with a connection to something greater than ourselves.

21  Centering

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi once likened breath to a hinge between mind and body. In present-moment awareness of breath, my body and mind find each other. In the vital spaciousness of breath, body mind spirit can align as one.

22  Interconnection

Scientists tell me my breath nourishes the green world of vegetation, and vegetation nourishes my breath. I know, first-hand, such interdependent interconnection of all things through my breath. I can feel how body conditions mind … mind conditions body … breath conditions both.

23  Letting Go

Breathing out teaches me a central lesson: letting go. I can’t breathe in without breathing out.

24  Ineffable

Breath is invisible. It has no color, no shape. It’s invisible. Breath – like mind, like life – is ineffable.

25  Selflessness

Breathing out, I let my exhalation simply fall away from my body, as if as far as to the horizon. Then I wait. I am as still as a hunter waiting for a deer. I don’t summon it, nor try to will it into existence. My next breath comes, nevertheless. As if of itself. Without fixed identity, lacking any separateness, empty of ownership. In this, it is perfectly open to anything and everything, as limitless as a big clear sky. Selfless.

26  Prayer

Mindful breathing can be a form of prayer.

27  Engaged

Breath can’t be confined to a monastery. It’s actively engaged in the world.

 

Gary GachGary Gach hosts Zen Mindfulness Fellowship weekly in San Francisco, since 2009. He’s author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buddhism and editor of What Book!? ~ Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop. His most recent book is PAUSE   BREATHE   SMILE ~ Awakening Mindfulness When Meditation Is Not Enough. This brings mindfulness full-circle, back to its roots as a spiritual as well as secular path for complete awakening. It’s available in both paperback and as an audio book. His work has also appeared in over 150 periodicals and a couple dozen anthologies, including The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Huffington Post, In These Times, Language for a New Century, The Nation, The New Yorker, Technicians of the Sacred, and Yoga Journal.  More info : GaryGach.com.

 

Pause, Breathe, Smile by Gary Gach

Buy your copy of PAUSE, BREATHE, SMILE at your favorite bookseller!

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Copyright © 2019 by Gary Gach.

 

MINDFULNESS 24/7: 5 Simple Everyday Practices

24/7 Mindfulness, Gary GachMindfulness can be defined as the clear and calm energy of an intelligent alertness, spacious and awakening. The good news is it’s present all the time. It’s inherent in our human inheritance. We need only to remember this. Here are five simple everyday reminders for mindful living to try for yourself.

[You don’t need to take them on all at once. As you learn to incorporate each into your daily life, gradually, any one can be a model for all the others.]

1) BREATHE, YOU ARE ALIVE!—Conscious Breathing

Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, the grandfather of modern mindfulness, gives us this brief reminder to remember: “Conscious breathing is my anchor.” This thought stops me in my tracks. With breath now as basis of my awareness, I have returned to the present moment. Even when my mind might wander elsewhere, I can feel my breath in my body is in the present moment, my underwater anchor supporting my awakening mindfulness.

Allowing body, mind, and breath (spirit) to find each other helps me live fully. Paying attention to What Is, as it manifests right in front of my nose, lets me see things as they are, rather than through colored lenses of fantasy and personal cravings, invisible filters of cultural conditioning, and frames of ideology.

Conscious breathing doesn’t require taking a full breath, or any particular kind of breath at all. Rather, just being mindful of breath can amplify concentration which can, in turn, awaken full awareness. This can even lead to the cool, lucid plateau of meta-awareness: awareness of awareness.

See for yourself. Enjoy just three conscious breaths—right now!—and feel yourself solidly grounded in moment-to-moment awareness.

2) PAUSE—Intentional Conduct

To enjoy just one conscious breath means to pause. Pausing opens up a vital space. Between stimulus and unconscious reaction, I have space to discern how I might best wisely respond to what’s at hand. What can I do, right now, that could be harmful, and what might be beneficial? This too is spiritual practice, making evident my values via concrete action.

Throughout the day, I remember to pause, return to my breath, and check intention. A wonderful reminder is to smile. Aware of your breathing, notice what happens if you also give yourself the gift of a smile. Just a faint smile can help me realize I have enough reasons to be happy in the present moment. Earth beneath me, blue sky above, air in my nostrils—life itself! My smile also arouses my sense of taking responsibility, truly being author of my life, to live the life I was meant to live.

Plus, a smile can be contagious. Here is a fulcrum, so to speak, that can facilitate deep transformation. That is, to my intentionality I add relationality. It’s my intention for myself—and for others. I know my well-being is intertwined with the well-being of everyone else. We’re all in this together.

The Dalai Lama sometimes refers to his “selfish altruism.” That’s an honest way to view relationality. Who wants to live in a world where everyone’s depressed, burnt out, and close the edge!? I recognize I am not free unless everyone else is too.

To check how I’m doing, I use my life as the clear mirror of my practice. For instance, I look in the rear-view mirror of my actions. (I consider actions, by the way, as including thoughts and words, as well as deeds.)

As the East Bay Meditation Center reminds us all, there can be a difference between intention and impact. If my actions have good intentions but are triggering destructive emotions in others, it’s a good cause for engaging in self-examination as to what I still need to work through.

3) DEEP LISTENING—Awakening the Mind of Love

Now you know the three primary reminders I engage with in my everyday life: breathing, smiling, pausing. From that base, I am glad to offer three more.

Living in an Information Age, I feel like I’m being asked to get a glass of water off an open fire hydrant. It’s this way with stimuli in general—too much. Instead, I listen to what’s really important. I hear what’s not being said, as well as what is. This way, I can connect with info more deeply.

How does this work? I listen without my interrupting what’s going on. I’m simply present, without agenda or labels.

I train this skillful listening by being aware of each breath—arising, manifesting, and falling away. My body has been breathing all my life. Now I’m learning to be intimate with it. This awareness then becomes the model for my listening to my emotions and thoughts, as they too arise, take form, and fade away into other phenomena. I pay attention to whatever’s coming up within me, openly, with a nonjudgmental, gentle curiosity.

Just this morning, I had to stop my meditation midway. Difficult emotions and thoughts were arising, and I wanted to quit. Then I remembered not to look away. After all, the only way out is in. After setting my intention to give myself enough self-care to make it through, I returned to my meditation, and listened until I soon heard the key to where I need to go next with some of the current sensitive, vulnerable, juicy, meaty stuff in my life story.  [To Be Continued.]

With the clarity of mindfulness, our heart opens to the realization we all want the same thing: an end of suffering and a life of happiness. When we liberate ourselves from our prison, the prison of the illusion of our separateness (“the skin-encapsulated ego,” as Alan Watts says), the eye in our heart can open: the eye of true love. Then we can see and hear ourselves and life around us as it is—a miracle.

4) SLOWLY, SLOWLY, STEP BY STEP—Walking Meditation

Sitting still may be the most commonly known posture of meditation in the world. You can see it in ancient South Asian statues and Mayan, alike. Yet the body has four basic postures: laying, sitting, standing, and walking. Being aware of our body, whatever position it’s in, is an everyday meditation anyone can practice.

Walking meditation is simply meditation walking. Try it—walking from a car to a door, or walking down a street. Notice your body and its posture. Is it relaxed, yet alert? Can you notice your breathing?

As you walk, notice how many steps for an in-breath; how many for an out-breath.  Maintaining awareness of present-moment breathing, I’m no longer marching, marching off into a fictive future, to attain some abstract purpose. Instead, I’m permeable to what is. As it is. Within me, and all around. With each step, I’m arriving in the present moment—the only moment ever available for me to live.

Rather than trying to get anywhere—I’m almost aimlessly experiencing the miracle of walking. Zen ancestor Rinzai tells us the miracle isn’t to walk on water, nor to walk on coals. The real miracle is to walk on this green earth.

As with sitting, formal walking meditation can take a good 20 minutes before you can feel it digging a well of peace for you to draw from throughout your day. Such formal meditation might be just walking slowly for twenty minutes, as slow as synchronizing your left step to you inhalation, and your right step to your exhalation. Remembering to smile. Being aware of what it’s like to be stepping into the unknown, with eyes born for wonder.

5) SLOW FOOD IS SOUL FOOD—Mindful Meals

I practice sitting still in the morning and evening, and walking meditation before lunch or dinner. Plus, there’s a meditation you can practice three times a day: mindful meals. When I teach this, I begin with Raisin Meditation: experiencing the whole universe in a single raisin. And mindfulness meditation is as light and common as a raisin.

Anyhoo—you might try out these five basic steps the next time you’re alone at the table for a meal.

First, pause. Look. Smell. Take it in.

As you feel your gratitude arise at the generosity this meal represents, take a moment to express it. Even if it’s just “Thanks!” or “Grace!,” “L’chaim!” or “Bismillah!”—everyone knows how to do this. (And the food knows too, and will respond by tasting better when you give thanks for it.)

Second, as you bring it to your lips, pause to regard each bite.

Third, as you chew, please consider how this is a messenger of the whole cosmos. In any slice of food is present the gift of earth, rain, air, sun, and many hands. Awaken to the marvels of the interconnectedness of all things—interbeing—enabling this meal.

Fourth, remember to put down the fork. (Don’t reach for the next mouthful while still chewing the present one.)

Fifth, from time to time, pause between bites. Be mindful of how your body knows how to perfectly extract the nutrients from food . . . exchanging enzymes and aminos . . . adding to and supporting your life and your practice of the way of awareness. (Will somebody please say, “Amen!”?)

So, whether you’re a newbie, or wish to take a deeper dive, I hope any or all of these simple practices will water your roots and extend your wingspan.

Enjoy the journey!


Gary GachGary Gach has hosted Zen Mindfulness Fellowship weekly in San Francisco since 2009. He’s author ofThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buddhism and editor ofWhat Book!? — Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop. His most recent book is PAUSE, BREATHE, SMILE: Awakening Mindfulness When Meditation Is Not Enough. This brings mindfulness full-circle, back to its roots as a spiritual as well as secular path for complete awakening. It’s available both in paperback and as an audio book. His work has also appeared in over 150 periodicals, including the Christian Science Monitor, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, the Huffington Post, In These Times, The Nation, The New Yorker, and Yoga Journal, as well as a couple dozen anthologies, including Language for a New Century, and Technicians of the Sacred. More info: GaryGach.com. Copyright © 2019 by Gary Gach. The author wishes to acknowledge Nick Aster for publishing a schematic draft of this listicle in GatherLAB.

Buy your copy of PAUSE, BREATHE, SMILE at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Pause, Breathe, Smile by Gary Gach
Pin It! 24/7 Mindfulness, Gary Gach
 

Gary Gach: Pause. Breathe. Smile. Spiritual Awakening ...

Gary Gach is a writer, meditator, and mystic who draws on his diverse life experiences to inform his nonfiction and poetry offerings. He is the author of What Book!? and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Buddhism. With Sounds True, he has most recently published Pause, Breathe, Smile: Awakening Mindfulness When Meditation Is Not Enough. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Gary about the titular process of pausing, breathing, and smiling—how it can center you immediately, plant seeds of awakening, and help light the way on the path to peace. They talk about the “mouth yoga” of the half-smile and why meditation is only “part of the menu” of daily mindfulness practice. Gary and Tami also discuss what it means to exist in three kinds of awakening reality: the spaces of impermanence, interbeing, and selflessness. Finally, Gary shares his love of reading and writing haiku, offering a spontaneous haiku poem that arises in the course of the interview. (59 minutes)

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What are flower essences?

The goals of flower essence therapy include: ease in accessing higher vibratory states like joy and gratitude; enhanced mind-body-spirit balance, presence, acceptance of emotions and integration of difficult vibratory states; encouraging flow states like creativity; manifesting; supporting balance; expanding awareness of self and the Universe, ancestral connection and healing; and helping us to be of greater service to ourselves, others, and the Earth.

Flower essences work by way of the following:

  • synchronicities—helping us connect seemingly unrelated or previously unseen opportunities or happenings
  • indirect occurrences—positively affecting different environments and interpersonal dynamics
  • insights—supporting mental, emotional, physical, and/or astral awakening; new ideas, solutions, or information may present
  • physical changes—bringing up new sensations, shifts in organ/system functioning or in symptoms
  • emotional responses—bringing up new feelings or memories; stabilizing or releasing them
  • expression—inspiring artistic, verbal, and kinesthetic expression
  • dreamtime—bringing about new or recurring dreams, insights, and subconscious resolution
  • invoking intention—the more time and space you can offer, the more likely you’ll be able to feel flower essences. For example, taking them with a light meditation, a visualization, while doing yoga or some other kind of bodywork or prayer  

flower essence illustration

How to Select a Flower Essence

Flower essences can be purchased from a quality producer, or you can make your own. Here, I will discuss how to select and apply ready-made flower essence remedies. You can learn how to wildcraft your own flower essences with me in this video.

When you’re starting out with flower essences, it can be overwhelming—so many producers and so many essences! I like to encourage people to remember that it’s your relationship with the plant that is the most important thing in selection. Your relationship with the remedy is the co-creation with that plant. The more you work with flowers, the more you will be able to feel and trust this part of the process.

 

The following are some ways to begin exploring flower essences:

  • Depending on what issue(s) you’d like to address, begin by taking one to three essences that resonate with you. Many producers offer sets of remedies that have a particular focus. You may want to purchase a set to experiment with, such as the FES’s Range of Light, Delta Gardens’ Protection Set, Alaskan Essences, or the Bach Essences.
  • Consider flower essences that invite presence, relaxation, protection, and grounding.
  • If you want to study the essences more carefully, consider making flashcards or purchasing the flower cards (Alaskan Essences, FES, and Bach make sets).
  • If you’re curious to learn more about how a plant might connect with your ancestry, consider doing some research on how it was used historically.
  • Perhaps there’s a flower you’re curious about, or have seen in nature. Ask this plant if it would like to work with you.

flower essence

 

Here are five basic ways to select a flower essence:

  • Intuitively: A flower essence might come to you by way of revealing itself in nature, or appearing in a dream.
  • By dowsing: Using a tool of resonance, such a pendulum, to test for essences.
  • Through muscle testing: A simple way to muscle test is to make a ring with the index finger and thumb of your nondominant hand. If you would like to test for a yes for an essence, say the name of the plant and flick the circle with your dominant hand. If the circle holds, that’s a yes. If it breaks open, that is a no.
  • By consulting reference literature: Books, repertories, or flower affirmation cards.
  • Through blind testing: By drawing a card or randomly selecting an essence from a set. This method works well with children.

Any of these methods can be integrated into your ritual. Before making remedies for other people, it’s a good idea to spend some time with the flower essences yourself. The flowers will have much to share with you. Also, the more experience you have with the essences yourself, the better you will understand how the essences will work for others.

This is an excerpt from The Bloom Book: A Flower Essence Guide to Cosmic Balance by Heidi Smith.

 

Heidi Smith, MA, RH (AHG), is a psychosomatic therapist, registered herbalist, and flower essence practitioner. Within her private practice, Moon & Bloom, Heidi works collaboratively with her clients to empower greater balance, actualization, and soul-level healing within themselves. She is passionate about engaging both the spiritual and scientific dimensions of the plant kingdom, and sees plant medicine and ritual as radical ways to promote individual, collective, and planetary healing. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her partner and two cats. For more, visit moonandbloom.com.

 

 

 

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Building the Bridge Between the Heart and the Mind

How can we drop what we are holding on to, if we do not first look for the hand that is grasping so tightly?

Have you ever noticed that you have two distinctly different personae and tend to vacillate between them?

One is very rigid and concerned with the outcome of everything. It worries and frets, its gaze mostly downcast. It doesn’t rest easily, even keeps you up at night sometimes. It acts almost like a dog chasing its tail. It circles obsessively over every detail and unknowable outcome, chasing the same things in a constant repeated pattern. It is cunning, convincing, and tyrannical in nature. It is feverish and ungrounded. Changing, morphing, and flopping from one story or idea to the next. This is your unharnessed mind. The persona you take on when your mind is not connected to the compass of the heart.

For most of us, that’s the dominant persona. But the other aspect of you, as if by some divine intervention, will from time to time slip past the censor of the mind and cheerfully take over your being with its boundless and uninhibited spirit. This personality doesn’t worry. Its face is often lifted, looking in wonder at the shifting sky and swollen moon. Lips curled into a slight smile. It is fluid and flowing, as if it’s on a river of unending joy. It acts like water and reflects light. You feel buoyant. This is your heart-centered self, your true self.

Because most of us moved into our mind long, long ago as a way of protecting our hearts, we now live most of our time in that rigid, concerned first persona. Without even realizing it, we allow our minds to stand between us and our true nature. We have no (conscious) idea how much our minds are acting as a defensive block against our soft and tender core, constantly at work trying to find ways to keep us from feeling, from hurt, from heartache. The price we are paying, however, is that we are also kept from accessing source.

In order to be heart minded, we need to bring the heart and mind into harmony and partnership with one another. For this to happen, we have to train the mind not to fear and close off from the heart, and instead, serve our heart and implement its wishes. In order to do this, we have to undo our mind’s association of feelings of the heart with hurt and harm. In situations that would ordinarily have us retreat or retaliate, we need to remain conscious of what’s happening and choose to soften and lean into our heart’s center. Each time we practice this softening, we send a new message to the mind that signals that we are safe, willing, and wanting to live in this more open, more sensitive way.

Over time, if we are resolute in our intention to step into our heart, our mind will become less rigid in its defenses against feelings and tenderness, and gradually we will become more heart centered.

Remember, we are not trying to pit the heart and mind against one another; we are trying to marry their aptitudes.

Let’s say a wave of anxiety washes through you. You notice your mind begin to race and attach to fearful thoughts. The anxiety then morphs into panic, which courses through you and makes you feel like jumping out of your skin. You begin reaching for an escape, resorting to some form of substance or distraction that can act as a numbing balm.

What just happened? Because you avoided your distress, you are only slightly comforted. A part of you remains braced under the distraction, in fear of the next time this could happen. Your mind’s instinct to protect and defend has been confirmed.

Your heart is neglected and still aching.

But let’s say a wave of anxiety washes through you and instead of looking for an escape route, you go to a quiet room to confront the feeling. You let go of the notion that something is wrong and respond as if something very right is taking place. You know some part of you is calling out for your love and attention.

Let’s say you close your eyes and open your heart to the bigness of the feeling. You create space around it simply by looking without resistance at its contours. You know the only antidote is self-love and hospitality. The mind stops racing away from the distress, which makes room for the heart to begin healing and soothing the body. Your mind learns a new route. You are gifted with courage and resilience.

The only difference between these scenarios was one simple choice: to remain a bystander as the mind continues to ignore the call of the body and heart or to act in ways that support leading from the heart, so the mind can follow.

The two can be wonderful allies if we let them.

As we become heart minded, we begin transforming our human experience from something out of our hands to something very much in them. We begin to cultivate joy instead of haphazardly stumbling upon it when we are willing.

Each moment, our bodies are counseling us to make choices that bring us closer to love. The wisdom of the heart and body is there for us, always, if we listen and let it lead.

For a guided practice in learning to stay in our hearts during difficult times, follow along with Sarah in this video.

 

This is an adapted excerpt from Heart Minded: How to Hold Yourself and Others in Love by Sarah Blondin.

 

Sarah Blondin

Sarah Blondin is an internationally beloved spiritual teacher. Her guided meditations on the app InsightTimer have received nearly 10 million plays. She hosts the popular podcast Live Awake, as well as the online course Coming Home to Yourself. Her work has been translated into many languages and is in use in prison, recovery, and wellness programs. For more, visit sarahblondin.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Let the Dark Places Be Teachers

FIND THE SOURCE

This is a tender exercise, a tracing of pain, the path back to the deepest wound. For myself, a huge hurt that I carry is often the source of great realizations and growth. I’ve worked with many different types of therapy for years to figure out where my pain stems from, and my curiosity has been my greatest guide in this effort. I want to know why I am the way I am, and my trauma informs so much of my mindset. Do you know where your pain comes from? Does it point back to a certain occurrence? Do you have only a vague idea, a slight memory, that seems to be the source? What do you do to familiarize yourself with the hurt you carry?

quote 1

There are countless, well-trusted methodologies to help us become acquainted with our pain, and when we dig into this work, the cave of our understanding becomes incredibly deep.

I like to turn my pain into a guide. I follow its directions, meditating on where it all began. It’s at these starting points where I find the most potent feelings. My heartbreak from a failed relationship will often give me a chance to let out my sadness in verse, but not before I try to unpack the whole story. Only when I attempt to understand the many aspects of this failed relationship can I fully feel it and pay tribute to it. I begin this kind of investigation by rambling in my journal. Then, if I feel inclined, I might pull the heart of my understanding into poetic form. I recently wrote a book of poetry called Help in the Dark Season, which focuses on my childhood trauma, the way it affects my adult relationships, and the modes of healing that have helped me grow. Writing this book was extremely hard, but after I finished, I felt like I’d turned coal into gold. I pulled back the curtain inside myself and let light do its thing. Now I not only get to feel the inner effects of my work but I’m also able to witness the importance of sharing this book with others, the way my words act as a key to unlock their personal process of healing. The result of this revealing has been an honesty and a newness that I couldn’t have reached without the alchemy of writing poetry.

I urge you to do this hard work with your trauma, if you’re able. Give yourself permission to move into the realm of blame. Maybe move beyond it toward forgiveness.

quote 2

Our traumas create our fears, and our responses to these fears can be as poetic and beautiful as we make them. Let your pain be a source of inspiration, turn this heavy load into poetry, own it, use it, and take as much from it now as it has taken from you in the past.

Close your eyes and meditate on the hidden ache you carry. I like to start with my childhood because that’s what makes sense for me, but you can start anywhere along your timeline. Do you see any images attached to your discomfort? Can you try and put words to your grief and your loss? Who hurt you? What was their childhood like? Why did they do what they did? Make use of the pain of being alive. See the universality in whatever caused you harm, and focus on the connection to others who have survived similar experiences. When I sit with my wounds, I find my resilience, and that makes me want to linger there, gather up the lessons left in the aftermath, and use them for my own creation. Writing about my pain enables me to claim it as my own, and this ownership is empowering.

quote 3

How can you show your reader your personal methods of self-care in a poetic way? Maybe start by writing a list of poems or even song lyrics that have been healing for you in the past. I have poems dog-eared and underlined in every book on my shelf, and I’ll pull them out in a moment of need. They’re my reminders that yes, it is indeed hard to be alive for everyone.

This is an excerpt from Every Day Is A Poem: Find Clarity, Feel Relief, and See Beauty in Every Moment by Jacqueline Suskin.

jacqueline suskin

Jacqueline Suskin has composed over forty thousand poems with her ongoing improvisational writing project, Poem Store. She is the author of six books, including Help in the Dark Season. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Atlantic, and Yes! magazine. She lives in Northern California. For more, see jacquelinesuskin.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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