“When a part of me is able to feel loved, it awakens to its own healing!”
Author: Diana Scalera
I am a Certified Wholebody Focusing Professional and Reiki Master Level III. I am interested in the cross-section between Wholebody focusing and energy work. I offer Reiki treatments in person and at a distance. I am also available to train clients in WBF. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently I have noticed my reaction when something stops working for me that is typically so quickly done it is almost automatic–like signing into a much-used app. Since I spend so much time online, I usually face things that sometimes show up as obstacles. Today, I signed into Zoom to start my session with Kevin McEvenue, and Zoom said my password is incorrect.
Something Stops Working, and I Start Worrying
After typing in my password many times, several narratives quickly came to the forefront of my consciousness.
“This is Zoom forcing me to change my password.
“I am losing my mind because I have typed this password every day for years.”
“Kevin will be impatient with me for not signing on in time.”
“It will take me 10 minutes to change the password.”
“I hate being late.”
“I have to warn Kevin, so he won’t think I’m irresponsible.”
“Kevin will think badly of me for being late.”
Once I sent Kevin an email, I paused and held space for all that was there. A simple inability to sign into an app brought all these feelings into consciousness. It felt compelling to acknowledge this. It also opened me to a new solution. Since Kevin sent me the link, I didn’t have to sign in. I could click on the link he sent, and the app would open.
I Find My Way
When I connected to Kevin, we worked through all the narratives that arose from the inability to sign in to Zoom. There is the arbitrariness of how apps function. I am often baffled by how apps change to meet the needs of newer generations of users. If something I usually do causes me distress, I wonder if my brain is failing. Then the shame comes. Why can’t I be as efficient as I think I am? How did it happen that I am late for my session? What will be the impact of not functioning at total capacity on my relationship with partners or participants?
Fortunately, it was Kevin that was on the other side of the camera. We took time to be with all of these narratives. What came for me was how the narratives are related to my background feeling of “there is something wrong with me.” I had a chance to hold space for this complicated felt sense simply because I could not complete a well-known repetitive task. Then it dawned on me that this was a great opportunity.
Each time I can make a choice. I can indulge in the “something is wrong with me.” or I can hold space with equal regard for it and allow it to find its own way. What happened when I worked with Kevin was that by letting “something is wrong with me” pass through my body, I came to the point of “something stopped working for me.” This statement leaves so many unknown opportunities for healing to occur.
I suggest reading Kevin’s article Wholebody Focusing: Life Lived in the Moment. He talks about how Wholebody Focusing evolved, and the first time he connected to his inner self. It is an excellent read to help one see how habitual experiences can develop into openings. Kevin talks about how holding space for a felt sense can give us “several options for living my life more fully beyond what I already knew.”
My response to the locked password was to go into a hyper-problem solving mode motivated by fear of criticism and failure to meet some standard that I think everyone shares. By being compassionate with all that came, something new emerged. I heard, “something stopped working for me.” At that moment, I felt very joyful and free of the earlier narrative voices.
I look forward to being aware of how I react when something stops working for me. I pause, and hold space for what is there. I ask for support and wait to see what comes.
I want to get lost in the other worlds around us. I’m talking about the worlds we walk by and seldom see or hear. Our attention lately is frequently drawn to the larger picture–the health crisis we share with the rest of the world along with the political and financial upheaval. How can we find a way to go on vacation from the Big Picture?
What Other Worlds?
I was in Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area in Wyoming a while back with some friends. They were ambitious and wanted to hike up a mountain. I wasn’t interested. So I found a rock on which to sit overlooking the Gorge. It was a sunny day and this was a gravely overlook. Siting on a rock looking over the gorge meant that there were no humans, cars, airplanes or anything else with a motor anywhere in sight. This was my first experience with other worlds.
Insect Worlds Around Us
The silence felt like my ears were relaxing. Nothing to pay attention to, or so I thought. As my body relaxed, I started to I enjoy the silence and the calm. Then, I began to hear a crunching sound. It sounded like someone walking over gravel. I waited and listened. No person or animal in sight. Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. Then I didn’t see it. The movement was in rhythm with the crunching sound. I looked down and saw a team of unidentifiable insects walking across the sand in front of me. Was I really hearing the sound of insects walking?
While I was contemplating the walking insects, something flew past me. I was sure it was a large bird but no bird appeared. I began to hear the sound of something flying from a distance and listened as it came closer. Once again I realized it was an insect! Then, more insects buzzed by like airplanes on a recognizance mission.
What occurred to me was, that as I sat in this location that was completely devoid of the human noise, my body reorganized itself to be part of the world that is hidden by human sounds. I felt very privileged that I had this time to learn that there is so much more life around me. My ability to hear the insects helped me understand that we have layers of perception. Some layers are so loud they block out others. “Civilization” makes sentient beings that exist around us mostly out of our range of perception. When we allow these energy patterns into our awareness, we expand.
The Plant Worlds Around Us
My friend, Barbara Fotta, in one of focusing sessions, spoke about her walks through a cemetery in Pittsburgh as a place of calm. Here is her description of her experience.
I love wandering through cemetery parks. I have fond childhood memories of adventuring in the cemeteries near my house with my brother. Since then, I never fail to find refuge and solace there. The cemeteries feel sacred and quiet and weeping is allowed. Combine that with the natural wonder of trees and shrubs and a cloudy sky and I’m in heaven. There is something about seeing clouds that can shift my mood dramatically. They can take my breath away. And I am unquestionably a tree huger to the core! So living in Pittsburgh is a blessing because we have an abundance of both here.
What we Learn from Other Worlds
Nature shows us that it exists and keeps on functioning according to long established processes whether humans recognize it or not. Insects continue to be insects and can even take some time out of their busy day to check out a human sitting on a rock. It makes me think about how nature photographers find that the animals they photograph often come and crawl all over them.
It is known that cells of plants communicate with each other across species for each’s mutual benefit. These ecosystems surround us no matter if we live in a crowded city or the countryside. When the lock down started in Italy, Deni Tessarolo was limited to staying within 200 meters of her home in the small town of Marostica. She described how she spent time learning to appreciate her garden and how that relationship supported her. She wrote:
This time helped me to discover the expansive effects on my body that contemplating the beauty of the flowers initiated and how the act of looking at them filled me with wonder by opening a space of time where I could rest.
For Barbara walking through the cemetery…
The cemetery I walk in almost daily is atop a hill, full of trees and a panoramic view of the sky that has me turning in circles to admire all the sights. I feel cradled in its arms. It is where I first experienced a deep sense of the beauty of all things. Sometimes I try to capture what I see with my phone’s camera. I thought that then I could hold onto it in some way. Then the realization came that nothing of real value is ever lost. The essential matter is the capacity to see the beauty that is always here and everywhere whenever I’m willing to let go of my guardedness and open to it. I aspire to have my feet on the ground and my head in the clouds like a tree!
For me, sitting on the top of a gorge, I learned something that has stayed with me for life. My surroundings impact my perception in any given moment, as well as my willingness to notice, and the forces of energy around me. Many things obfuscate my ability to perceive the fullness of my experience. In any situation, I might ask myself “what is here that I do not perceive,” then I wait for it to show itself to me.
I invite everyone to reconnect to or to find their own personal otherworld vacation and share your stories with this blog. It will help us to remember that we are part something much larger than ourselves. We can also observe how these ecosystems communicate and mutually support each other. There are things we can learn from this–we are part of this system; and enjoy its benefits. We also have a responsibility to create mutually-beneficial environments for all sentient beings.
These albums documented how one family used the available means of communication (photography and letter writing) at the time to support each other through a challenging time. Twenty years later, my aunt and her daughter used audiotapes. Now online videoconferencing is giving us a medium to hold onto ourselves and those we love.
Many generations have survived pandemics, wars, and political strife. I’ve looked back at how generations of my family used our need for connection with each other to stay whole and survive.
When I was a very young girl, I escaped to the attic to find out information about my relatives. There were steamer trunks my Italian grandparents had used to travel to the US in the early 1900s. At that point, they were full of old photos and artifacts from my parents, grandparents, aunts’ and uncles’ lives.
I would spend hours looking at pictures, trying on dresses, and holding each item in my hands. I could see photos of everyone so many years younger and wondered what secrets these images, old dresses, scraps of material, baby shoes, and other everyday items held. It was my favorite place to be, and it was part of my ongoing need to gather information about the past.
The War Albums
My favorite images were from my father’s photo albums from when he was in Europe during World War II for three years. He had three albums of photos. I could spend hours looking at these photos and making up stories about who Dad was, what happened to him, and how I could relate the essence of what I saw in the pictures with the man who was my father.
How My Father Survived World War II
My father’s approach was unique for his time. Instead of being caught up in the fervor of nationalism, it was clear to him how the Army used working-class men as cannon fodder in the war. “The Red Ball Express.” was a movie about one of the platoons in which he served. When we watched it on TV, I asked him which character he was in the film. He answered, “the guy who peeled the potatoes.”
As a young girl, I felt crushed that he wasn’t one of the “hero” characters. As an adult, I admire him for being honest even though he knew it wasn’t the answer I wanted. It taught me that jingoistic responses were of no value when you are talking about living through wartime.
Many years later, one of my brothers scanned the albums and gave me the files. On a whim, I set up the photo albums as a screen saver. I was sitting with a friend when the photos started rolling onto my computer screen. My friend and I paused and talked about the images. She loved seeing them and asked a lot of questions.
Later I looked at the photos one at a time. I already had a pattern from my childhood: Who are they? Where are they? What relationship did they have with my dad?
What Emerged from the Photos
Initially, I saw each picture as a separate story. And then I paused. Something new came to me. These pictures tell the story of a family with a son in the theater of war during WWII. The images were from two locations–Europe and the US. Some were the pictures my father took of his experience in Europe (mostly England). My father worked as a carpenter transforming rail cars into hospitals throughout England. He was mainly on the periphery of the war in small villages that had train stations.
On the back of one photo, my father’s friend documents that his friend kissed the woman he loved at 11:30 pm on April 23, 1943, during an air raid in Swindon. When I read the back of the photo, what came to me was the joy at finding happiness despite the horror. Almost all of the pictures were of my father being with people on bike rides, in the countryside, dressed in his uniform and street clothes, smoking cigars, working on the railroad, and fixing things. He documented what made him happy. That’s what he sent home to his family.
He had lots of pictures of his fellow carpenters. Each image of a person had a name and address written on the back in a handwriting that was not my dad’s. Most likely, the script belonged to the person in the picture. These were relationships which both partners wanted to keep for longer than the war. Others had commentary from my dad about why the day was essential to him.
There were no pictures of dead bodies, destroyed buildings, or any evidence of war. They could have been a series of images from someone who spent a few years abroad. But it was not. My dad only chose to document his experiences that were pleasant and life-affirming.
He once told me as I was going into surgery to treat cancer that he knew what fear was. My father said he was fearful that he would die each day for three years when he went to war. Dad assured me that there was a way to be with both the fear of the moment and the hope that everything will be okay.
The pictures tell that story. My dad chose to get to know the people he had never met, form strong connections, and enjoy every minute he could. He also documented them to help him keep going. After D-Day, he went to France and participated in one of the most dangerous assignments—he drove gasoline trucks that refueled tanks across France, Belgium, and Germany under fire and mostly without sleep. There are no pictures of those times. Maybe the memory of these pictures kept him going. Maybe there was no time to take new ones.
How the Family Survived World War II
His family’s pictures told how, when my father was in the war, his brothers and sisters started their families. They had had four children while he was in Europe. My father’s twin sister took on the role of the family communicator.
Below is a picture of my grandmother and my oldest cousin. The note from my father’s sister tells him his niece was a timid person. I love this short note and photo because it included my father in the family’s life. He got to see a picture of his mother and his niece, find out something about this young girl’s personality, and also how the family was improving their multi-generational home.
Many years later, when one of this aunt’s daughters became a nurse in Vietnam during the war, she did the same thing. She documented the family’s life so that her daughter could stay connected. This time they used audiotapes to communicate. My aunt would play the tapes from her daughter for us when we visited. Our nurse mostly talked about what she did when she wasn’t a caring for the wounded.
My favorite picture is the leading photo that I have spent many hours examining over the years. It is a picture of my grandmother’s birthday party (the lady in the back row with the flower on her lapel) in the garden of her brother’s house. Someone took the photo specifically to send to my dad to let him know that they held space for him. There are people you can immediately see in the picture–his parents and aunts and uncles. One can see parts of other people. This photo is full of wanting someone far away to feel loved and remembered.
How We Can Survive
These albums documented how one family used the available means of communication (photography and letter writing) at the time to support each other through a challenging time. They limited their communication to things that brought normality to their lives and shared their stories to reassure each other. Twenty years later, my aunt and her daughter used audiotapes. Now online videoconferencing is giving us a medium to hold onto ourselves and those we love as we enter the second year of this pandemic. I thank my father and Aunt Virginia for teaching us how.
It’s been a few days since I wrote The Ambient Grief of the Moment. I’ve been able to make some progress in finding ways to be with the energy of this ambient grief.
Ambient energies are more likely to impact us if we have body memories of those energies. My own experience with unexpressed childhood grief opens me up to sensing the suffering around me. WBF helps me know what to do about it.
After connecting to this grief, the I first time I noticed that I struggled to understand or explain something, I recognized that grief was present. I took a few breaths and chanted a Buddhist prayer to connect me to a power outside of myself and then took a few more breaths. I also held space for “this is grief, my own, or what is floating around in the world. What I did not do, however, is even more critical.
Whenever, confusion arose, I had been getting anxious about my health and creating catastrophe scenarios about what is wrong with me. Now that I am aware that grief is engaged here, I can let go of the need to determine what is causing these problems and what I have to do. That is the game-changer. There is no longer a need to see these symptoms as a health problem and go into overdrive to solve them.
I know this is the correct path because the symptoms have lessened since I began holding space in this way for confusion or the inability to function.
I also connected to a flower essence remedy called Grief Relief, made by the Flower Essence Society. There are three ways to administer this remedy. One can spray the mixture into the mouth (has alcohol), on to your skin, or into the aura. This treatment also helps with the intensity of the sense of grief. It gave me hope that progress was happening in how my body is adjusting to the moment. If you use a flower remedy, I recommend that, whether you take this remedy by mouth or on your skin, include the area around your body for the grief that is not yours.
I hope that others find new ways to be with these energies that are part of our existence at this moment and may get stronger as we move forward in the next few months. Please share what you find with the Wholebody Focusing Community. Sharing may increase the possibility of advancing the processing of grief by helping others through this difficult time.
A Colorado woman wrote an article in the New York Times about how her heated car seat provided her great solace physically, sexually, and emotionally. The text was mostly about who invented the heated car seat and why it was so pleasurable. Amidst the light-hearted story, there was an accurate description of what many of us have been feeling: the ambient grief of the moment.
I recognize grief. I felt it deeply 22 years ago when I had endometrial cancer and lost my last chance to have a child. That grief helped me remember my grandfather’s death. He died when I was 14 months old. I had no conscious memories of being with him, but in a Reiki session, my body revealed my baby self’s grief of the loss of the one person who loved me deeply and who I had loved deeply. I cried for many months during this period.
I also had other symptoms. I lost things, essential things like my wallet, many times. I would find myself in the middle of NYC without my purse and any ID or metro card. The only way to get home was to walk a couple of miles. I remember thinking that the cancer treatment had taken away my uterus and was also a sort of lobotomy. It was when I found focusing through an organization called Cancer Care. Focusing helped me find myself again.
Lately, with the rise of COVID to such dramatic proportions, I find myself in the same position emotionally. I’m always losing things. I think I’m doing something that I usually do, and it turns out I missed a couple of steps. The outcome is I have to spend hours fixing it. I’m also losing my ability to explain things.
There is weekly news of friends and acquaintances who have died along with the thousands world-wide. It was impossible to find a world-wide number of deaths, but the US is reporting that one person dies every minute from COVID.
There are also deaths from other things like heart disease, cancer, lung, and digestive disorders. Most of the people I knew who have died lately are not dying from COVID, but some other conditions. It is as if living with a chronic illness in the time of COVID is just too much to bear.
I am a part of a Buddhist organization. There is a recommendation that we chant for the consolation of those suffering from the impact of COVID. I didn’t take this seriously at first, but now I sense how it can help me with the grief I feel.
On the surface, I “handle” living with COVID by plotting how my husband and I can survive this crisis. What I haven’t been paying attention to is sensing into how the situation is impacting my body. Reading that phrase in an article about heated car seats gave me a connection to my symptoms and the cause. It is the collective sense of grief that is overwhelming our senses.
I don’t have a solution, but I hope our readers can share how they are experiencing this grief and if you have found a way to hold space for it while allowing your body to discover what it needs to heal.
Take a few minutes and sense into where you encounter forward-moving life energy. For me, sound has been my guide. As a new wave of the international pandemic lays bare how present death is among us, we need to find ways to connect actively to what sparks life in us. Recently, I’ve found that sound helps me find a way to connect to myself and others. This supports the life in me.
The Impact of the Pandemic on our Bodies
The current situation has subtly impacted my nervous system. I don’t feel any different from moment to moment, but I am experiencing panic attacks again, which had disappeared from my life after years of focusing. Just buying groceries, sitting on a bench with a friend, or throwing out the trash includes masking up and putting on gloves—all reminders of the chaos surrounding us.
For example, the other day, I felt my body switch into panic mode in the middle of my virtual Italian class. There was a felt sense, a click in the middle of my chest. After that, I started having thoughts about possible problems with our gas stove.
I acknowledged the felt sense and new thoughts. I also recognized that these were irrational thoughts because I knew no one had used the stove the entire day, and there was no smell to sustain such this concern. I acknowledged that something in me was frightened, yet I did not know what or why.
I recognized “not knowing” the source of the panic and held space for this distress. That allowed me to notice the sound of my classmates’ voices again. We are all very dedicated to learning Italian, and to be a part of this group is very important to me. When the class ended, I held space for this anxiety in a fuller way. What came for me was that the panic is my body’s way of letting me know that it is on overload. It needs more support. How do we support both– the need to move forward and the horror of the pandemic?
Even though the numbers in New York City are relatively low compared to the rest of the United States, they are still rising. New Yorkers have lived through the worst experience of the first wave and we know where it can go and how fast it can get there.
Recognizing the Sparks of Life
A few days later, I started to prepare to do some errands. I put on a mask, my defogged glasses with a guard strap on the back that keeps them from falling off. Then came my coat and purse and finally my face shield and gloves.
As I began walking to my favorite organic grocery store about a mile away, I noticed that my body was on high alert. First, there was a physical sensation– walking was too difficult. I felt overwhelmed by the mask and the shield. Was I breathing okay? Then came the thoughts about not being able to do the errands I set out to do. “How could I keep going forward while I am feeling like this?”
I kept on walking and hoping the sensation would subside. As I neared Thompkins Square Park, the first thing that woke me out of my thoughts was the sound of a car alarm. NYC banned them a long time ago, so it was a bit surprising to hear. Something, however, was comforting about the jarring sound. Maybe it matched my felt sense energetically. Paying attention to that sound shifted something in me. It broke the spell of my thoughts.
I began to hear someone playing the trumpet. The dogs in the large dog run were barking along with the music. As I paused to listen actively, I heard so much more. Then an idea came that I should record what I heard because it was so full of life. In the middle of the pandemic, my neighbors found ways to connect and interact in safe and life-sustaining ways. The trumpeter was playing a cheerful tune; the dogs wanted you to know they were there. There were three competing bands, sometimes playing over each other, and occasionally stopping to listen to the other bands. The sounds were loud and were full of life. Each experience could grab you and take you along their journey.
The car alarm helped me ground. The walk through the park, and more specifically, the sounds of life, pulled me into presence. As I exited the park, I noticed how my thoughts had changed. I was able to get through my errands for the day, and I returned home to share the experience with my husband.
I invite you to take a few minutes to listen to the sounds of life that my neighbors shared with me last Saturday that helped me connect to the forward-moving life in me. If you click on Thompkins Square Park you can see some photos of this very special place.
I find my body seems joyful that it has a chance to be observed in its natural state. It has become so used to being observed that I often do not have to speak or think the process but just let my body know that I am taking time to notice it part by part.
Are we only Wholebody Focusers when we are in partnership with other Wholebody Focusers, or is it a way of life? For me, it is a way of life, a theoretical structure that holds my experiences. The most important concepts are:
Body Wisdom knows what our bodies need.
We hold space for everything we find within us with equal positive regard.
Our bodies only need our awareness to begin and support the healing process.
What happens when we are living our lives? How do these concepts come into play? Do we ignore them? Do we fully enter other worlds and adapt to other ideas? Or do we integrate what we know supports life within us? These are questions I ask myself when I want to participate in other energetic practices.
I became very fond of Yoga Nidra when I worked in NYC public schools. My days were always long and full of demands and challenges. To relax, I would use an audio guide to help me get into the Yoga Nidra state when I returned home from work. I would take 20 minutes to allow my body to recover while my dear husband cooked our dinner. I am not an expert in Yoga nor a scholar of its history. I am approaching this discussion as a student in a yoga class.
Yoga Nidra is the part of a Yoga class when you lay on you back with your arms spread out and palms facing up and legs hip-width apart. The goal is to enter a state somewhere between awareness and sleep. This state is profoundly relaxing and acts like a tonic that recharges your body.
As one listens to the teacher’s guiding words, you notice different body parts. Some teachers might say something like “ask your toes to relax” and proceed through the body from bottom to top asking all areas to relax. I began to wonder if even this small demand on the body was out of step with my Wholebody Focusing practice?
Can I find this place of deep relaxation and apply what I know about WBF? In other words, how can any energetic practice become a Wholebody experience?
I changed this practice to make it more in line with my Wholebody practice by setting a different intention for the Nidra state. Instead of asking my body to do something, I want to give my body a chance to do what it needs to do. By observing a particular body part, it activates in some way. I feel energy churning. I stay with this felt sense until it seems to have found its rhythm. Then, another part becomes activated. I do not move on to another part of my body in a predetermined order but by what appears next. I stay with that new part until it recognizes my awareness.
I find my body seems joyful in that it has a chance to be observed in its natural state. It has become so used to being observed that I often do not have to speak or think the process but just let it know that I am taking time to notice it part by part. I set the intention at the beginning that I am giving my body time to be with itself and it just happens.
I tried to create an audio file to help you experience this, but anything I would say might limit your experience of WBF Nidra.
For me, as my different parts churn away (my energetic experience), I feel a great relief from the need to “be in charge.” My body knows I support its need to create this energetic movement and is happy to have a chance to have the time, space, and support to do what comes naturally.
I have learned something significant over time. When I first started this practice and felt the energy, I would imagine that I had some illness that needed attention. Once I had a diagnosis, I would begin to create an action plan to treat it. My plans were so detailed on a particular occasion, I was able to observe the nonsense of it and just laughed out loud.
At first I would remind myself that I needed to let go of any ill health diagnosis that might come to mind. Without a diagnosis, there was no need for an action plan. My mantra became, “No diagnosis, No Action Plan.”
In fact, our bodies are constantly seeking stasis, an equilibrium of two opposing forces. By holding these energy patterns with equal, positive regard, our bodies have a chance to use their innate wisdom to help themselves be the best they can be. I go deeper into my Nidra state and allow my body to have its own time to heal and come back refreshed and anxiety free.
Please try this and see what it feels like. Let us know what your experience is in the comments.
Photo Credit: Swamp Rose Mallow Hibiscus on the East River, Manhattan. Diana Scalera 2009
I have begun to exit from my total COVID-19 lock down. My husband is a person at high risk for severe complications from COVID-19. We decided to stick to strict social distancing and other recommendations to keep both of us safe. Since New York City has reduced the number of infections significantly to below 1%, I’ve been venturing outside more.
During the height of the virus in New York, there were so many people protesting the death of George Floyd. We watched it from inside. A few days ago, I walked with a friend to Union Square in Manhattan, a central starting point of most demonstrations. There I found a colossal mural supporting Black Lives Matter. I was so moved by it I began filming with my cellphone to get a sense of it. I eventually went back with my video camera to record the experience. Here is what I found.
The artists divided the mural into two parts. On Union Square East, there are Black people’s names on grey painted plywood who have been killed by the police in the US and other countries. Feet and legs are moving forward from different cultures and places. It was, at once, a memorial to their lives and a celebration of their spirits. The grey tones also help one’s grief.
Around the corner On East 15th Street was something completely different. There were quotes by leaders of African American rights’ struggle on how to change these unjust situations from various decades. Once again, the plywood was grey, but the messages were is a bold and strong font. Not a scream, but a steady, honorable voice of encouragement to those who will struggle against this gaping in wound our society that has not yet been replaced with equal positive regard for all.
Here is what you will see if you come to New York City and walk around Union Square.