A Steadily Growing Forest

A Steadily Growing Forest

For fifteen dollars on the clearance table at Chapters I find enlightenment. Or so I’m promised. Throwing caution to the wind, I make the purchase. 365 Meditations: A Spiritual Journey on the Path of Wisdom. I flip it open and glance through glossy pages and colourful Zen images. A particular quote catches my eye:

“A falling tree makes more noise than a growing forest.” ~ Lao Tzu

I think about the program we are creating and the community that will be needed to support it. The extent of the problem is well known: thousands of military members, veterans, and first responders injured in the line of duty without sufficient supports in place to adequately facilitate their recovery.  I hear the sound of them falling.

At the same time, I see a forest growing silently and steadily around me.  It takes many forms:

  • A steadily growing group of talented and passionate clinicians, expert in trauma recovery;
  • A community rallying in support;
  • A breathtaking center that is almost fully renovated;
  • An ever expanding list of potential participants, tentatively stepping forward, daring to be the first  in the program; and perhaps most significantly,
  • Over the past few days… signs of  interest from potential funders, willing to join us to help make this all happen.

We’re not there yet.  But I’m hopeful.

There is indeed a forest growing around me. Caught up in the details of the work that needs to be done, it would be easy to miss. I glance back at my bargain Zen book and make a mental note to take a moment to appreciate the wonder of it all.

A Spoon Full of Sugar

A Spoon Full of Sugar

I’m not going to kid you, trauma recovery is painstaking, hard work. There’s no way to sugar coat it.

I remember when I was young (I refuse to tell you exactly how many years ago that was) most of the “older generation” used to take cod liver oil daily. Nasty stuff, I certainly was not about to have it.  Bitter tasting and vile, I turned up my nose.

They also regularly ate Jello for dessert. Jello salads at dinner parties filled with cabbage or carrots (vegetables in disguise), pineapple-marshmallow filled Jello for dessert. Wobbly brightly coloured stuff camouflaged in decorative forms in an effort to increase appeal.

Wow, I’d shake my head thinking how strange that was, and how lucky we are to have invented so many tastier and smarter ways of doing things.

Instead, I pay exorbitant amounts of money for bottles of Omega Oil and Hydrolyzed Collagen Protein

…historically known as cod liver oil and Jello.

Turns out they were right. A small daily dose of a bitter tasting substance can lead to a whole heck of a lot of prevention. Not doing that comes at a cost.

Trauma recovery is like that. Small doses of regular exposure to our deepest feared emotions can prevent blockage and backlog. The same blockage that leads to overload (PTSD symptoms).

So if you are doing the work, and wondering why it is taking so long, or why in Heaven’s name you would regularly do something that is so unpleasant, just think of the wisdom of our grandparents.

Hang in there, with patience, you will start to feel better, even though the process may not be enjoyable.

Just wish it didn’t taste so nasty though…

Finding Your Edge

Finding Your Edge

Recently I received a piece of feedback that produced food for thought. A veteran commented that professionals have been telling him for years to try to go out in public, but when he does, he is quickly overwhelmed.

“…it’s like being asked to jump into the deep end of the pool without properly knowing how to swim.”

He emphasized the importance of teaching people with PTSD to swim before asking them to take up high diving.

I couldn’t agree more.

There’s a common saying “go hard or go home”.  In the case of recovery from Operational Stress Injuries, this is a terrible strategy. The trick is to go forward slowly, with self-compassion.

I remember a yoga teacher once said to me “find the edge, and lean into it”.

“What’s the edge?” I asked.

“It’s that point where you are no longer comfortable, but not so far as to cause injury.” My instructor explained. The edge can even change while you are doing the exercise, so it is important to adjust. The truth is I have been doing yoga for a number of years, and I am still as stiff as a board. So my “edge” isn’t very far out. I used to be hard on myself about it, looking at how flexible everyone else in the class is while I closely resemble a cardboard cut-out figure.

Now I don’t sweat it so much. I’m just happy I made it there. I dropped out of high intensity yoga, and instead take restorative yoga, which is gentler, and more forgiving. Baby steps… that’s the key.

Only you know where your edge is. For each person it is different. If you haven’t been out in a while, it may be simply stepping on your back porch for 5 minutes and feeling the sunshine on your face. It may be writing a text or email to a single friend. It may simply be showing up for your doctor’s appointment.

So please don’t go off the high diving board.  A little toe in the water is fine.

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