The Illusions of Others Do Not Define Me

There are many narratives about First Communion dresses (See Raining Stones). They are often about the parents’ struggle. On some level, these dresses are like prom dresses or even wedding dresses. They trigger parents’ need to establish a sense of prestige in their community and a fantasy about who their daughters are. The high stakes of these garments often overshadow any connection to their daughters or even to the ritual events.

How a Dress Can Hold so Much Meaning

A photo was taken of two seven-year-old girls who made their First Communion at the same time. One girl is me; the other is my cousin. Her mother was my mother’s sister, who was an excellent seamstress. She worked for a famous New York fashion house as a sample maker. The model Twiggy wore some of my aunt’s samples in fashion shows.

My mother took me to a local department store and bought my First Communion dress. I wanted a veil with a full crown. My mother refused because she said only queens get to wear crowns. I was heartbroken. I had envisioned what I wanted.

My aunt purchased beautiful, expensive fabric and created her daughter’s dress. Afterward, she took my cousin to a photography studio to take pictures of her daughter and the dress.

That afternoon my aunt showed up unannounced at our home with my cousin wearing her communion dress so she could take a picture of us together. My mother was not happy because I was playing in the yard with my friends, and she didn’t want me to change into my dress and get it dirty.

I didn’t want to take the picture because I thought my cousin’s dress was so much prettier than mine, and she had the full crown and veil that I had wanted. Also, my aunt often used me to show my cousin why she was “the best.”  The dress experience was full of shame for me.

A New Perspective

Forty years later, my aunt gave me the photo. I was amazed because my body immediately recognized the shame I felt at having an inferior dress. When I looked closely at the picture, however, I saw how the dresses were almost entirely identical.

The experience of being treated as inferior to my cousin was my designated role in our extended family. It was part of my mother and aunt’s issues with each other.

Letting Go of What Is Not Ours

The picture added new information to the experience. There was no inferior dress nor inferior girl, just a need to support an elaborate illusion that somehow addressed a suffering my mother and aunt experienced.  From a felt sense, I played with the photo in Photoshop and removed everything that was not me. Somehow, I found a wise smile hiding in the moment.  It helps me remember that the illusions others create do not define me.

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Mia Nonna Etrusca/My Etruscan Grandmother

When I was about six years old, I was in the basement of our house with my grandmother — my mother’s mother. She had a kitchen there for cooking in the summertime before people had air conditioners. It was a big space, and I was dancing by myself behind her while she cooked.

I saw her stop and turn around to say something. I wanted to hear what she might say because we mostly never spoke to each other. She mainly spoke Italian, and I spoke English. She asked me a simple question. “Will you remember me? I recall being overwhelmed by sadness by that question. I thought, “How could she have any doubt that I would remember her?” To me, she was the center of all that happened in my life. I told her there was no way I could ever forget her. She turned around and continued to cook. I wonder if my companionship while she was cooking made her feel loved and maybe a bit worried that that love might vanish with time.

While my grandmother died in 1978, she is still at the center of my life. Every meal I cook, she is there. I sense my grandmother in each of my creative acts. The walls of my healing room are alive with her art. Her old furniture and sewing machine fill my apartment. My other grandparents had already died or died soon after I was born. She was the one who connected me to the ancient world that was part of her essence.

My Grandmother’s Roots

My grandmother was from a small town called Corchiano, Viterbo, Lazio in Italy. When I went there in 1984, it was a tiny town on a precipice in the middle of hazelnut orchards and sunflower fields. She had told me stories about a castle, Etruscan burial grounds, and secret passageways that she and her friends used to play in to dare each other’s courage.

Etruscans dominated this land from 900 BCE to the height of the Roman Empire. When I visited this Corchiano, I found that my grandmother’s wildly fantastic stories were all true. It helped me understand that these ancient peoples were still very much alive to the people who lived in Corchiano, which was founded thousands of years ago.

How We Reflect our Heritage

As I continue to recapture my Italian language, I become more curious about my heritage and culture. I began working on my family tree. I found that names repeat over centuries. So do professions. My father, his father, and all my paternal grandfathers were either carpenters or cabinet makers going back five generations. My brothers also work with wood as a pastime. My nephew, who always eschewed construction work, recently announced he would begin working in construction.

On my mother’s side, the men were barbers. I have a talent for cutting hair. The women on both sides of my family worked with textiles. I’ve made many of the essential clothes I’ve worn during my life and have a love of exotic textiles.

Connecting to Ancestors

I’ve always had an appreciation of my connections to my ancestors. I grew up in a household where the adults spoke out loud to those who had passed to share news, ask for their help or complain that they had been left adrift. When I began to go to a Buddhist temple, and I learned about the rituals to console one’s ancestors, it was as if a missing piece had shown up for me.

I began practicing this ritual mostly about ancestors whom I might have known and some for whom I only knew by reputation. A particular situation arose for me that was related to the actions of some of those ancestors. I decided to ask for their consolation as part of my chanting practice.  An outcome of these prayers that I had hoped for was that my mother’s suffering might subside.

After a few weeks, my mother called me and said that she fired the home health aides that I had helped provide. She wanted them out of her house. My mother is 90 years old and mostly deaf and blind. She also lives in a large multi-level home with lots of stairs. I took in the news and wondered if there was anything to this consolation of ancestors. Now, who would take care of my mother’s daily needs? I also had some space for this being the outcome for which I was asking.

A few days later, I spoke to my mother, and she said: “I am so happy to have my home back.” I have never heard her say she was happy. Even though I fear for her safety being alone, she is sure that she is much better off.

What We Ask for Might Be Different from What Shows up

I am holding space for how, when we ask for a situation to move forward, that forward movement might not look like what we expect. Any changes can also include new things arriving into our lives that we may not even have known would be essential to us.

A few days later, my friend Jim sent me an email about an Etruscan webinar and I immediately registered.

First, I found that so many of the paintings from Eturia were of people with dark curly hair. I had never seen cave paintings with curly-haired people before. Then, I discovered my Etruscan grandmother. The photo of the statue reminded me of a picture of me. I pulled out my likeness and put the images next to each other and felt this fantastic resonance. When I was 26 years old, I needed a photo for my international driver’s license before my first trip to Corchiano, Italy. I sat with these likenesses and checked into my body. I had a sense that I have found my home—a place where others looked like me. It makes me very happy even though these images are from two thousand years ago.

Later, I recounted this story to my acupuncturist. She explained that connecting to one’s ancestors strengthens one’s kidney energy. Establishing a link to a place of origin enhances one’s earth energy—both areas of weakness in my body.

The Help We Receive Is from Timeless Sources

My work in reaching out to my ancestors is unveiling so many new ways to be with who I am and how connected I am to the expanse of time, space, place, and energy.  My Wholebody Focusing training supports me in trusting what my body feels and enhances my spiritual connection to this ritual that connects me to my ancestors.

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Incontro il mio Corpo/I Meet my Body

Painting by Cristina Griggio

Incontro il mio Corpo

Antefatto:

(Nasce dal racconto a Natale 2019 con Claudio…..Il sollievo del superamento, gratitudine per il rapporto cambiato).

Il mio corpo inizia ad oscillare…destra – sinistra

Incontro il grande attraversamento e la fatica che c’è stata………Densa…

Oscura….Brullicante….sul mio lato sinistro.. del corpo.

Lo ascolto …

E’ UN GRANDE LABORATORIO !!!

E’ un posto… con un grande laboratorio

Che è qui.

C’è un gran lavoro qui….nel mio corpo… a sinistra.

Sono sollevata, sostenuta e contenta….di questo laboratorio che mi aiuta..

Che non si ferma mai,

Lavora anche quando io non lo so..…

E’ un gran conforto tutto questo

Cristina Griggio

I Meet my Body

Background:

It comes from a Christmas  2019 story with Claudio…the relief of finding a new way becomes gratitude for our changed relationship.

Something that is on the right and is now on the left…..

Dark….confusing…. on the left side of my body

I listen to it….

IT IS A LARGE LABORATORY!!!

It is a place… with a large laboratory

Right here.

There is great movement here … in my body…on the left

I am relieved, supported and happy…with this laboratory that helps me

That never stops,

That works even when I am not aware of it.

All this is a great comfort.

Grazie

Cristina Griggio

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Direction / Suunta

Photo Credit: Juuka, Finland by Maria Hakasalo

I had set a really tight schedule for writing the focusing book. I woke up to reality in January. While attending  a focusing course in Chile I received a request from the publisher to provide them with the title of the book and the back cover by the end of the month. Help! I did  not have a name ready and I was far from home. I thought that I would not think about writing a book at all during this trip.

On the same day we explored the tremendous ability of focusing to open us up to what cannot be measured on a logical scale and where to reach what is even more than logical. First, we created a few sentences to define the word direction. I wrote: “The direction is the path that must pass from A to B so you can achieve something.”

After that, we brought our attention to the body and how the word direction “sits in our body”. For me it started with a feeling of space in the chest and, as a result, my body bent backward in the chair, casually. Rest. My hands followed really slowly. When I tried to move them faster, I feltl how wrong it was and I had to return my hands to where I had started to rush. By hurrying forward my hands were out of sync with my body’s timing and location.

“The direction is something that moves at its own pace, in its own way, and you can’t rush it or make it happen faster,” my body said.

Next, we did a pair exercises where we compared the wisdom given by our bodies in the direction of a real situation in our lives. I compared it to the schedule I had set for the focusing book. In my right hand was the direction, in the left was the timetable. They were not close together, but stayed far apart. I felt energy in both hands, but in the right hand there was considerably more energy than the left. When my partner called me to look more closely at my left hand, I noticed the holes in it.

I called these far away places to meet each other. I asked for a “book schedule” to show up  where the direction is. I moved my left hand toward my right hand. This movement opened up like a curtain to what I had never seen before. I saw deeply, who I really am and how it contradicted with what I thought I should be. It also showed me what made me want to hurry. While I cried for something I am not, I was deeply grateful for what I am.

After talking to the publisher, I woke up to feelings of shame. The shame arose mainly from the fact that I had not at all considered the correct timetable.

The shame revealed a deep-seated pattern in myself: I appreciated speed over everything. Something in me wants me to be fast. What is this all about ? Now I am learning to be slower in what I had wanted to do quickly.


Olin asettanut fokusointikirjan kirjoittamiselle todella tiukan aikataulun. Todellisuuteen heräsin tammikuussa. Ollessani fokusointikurssilla Chilessä sain kustantajalta pyynnön, että ilmoittaisin kirjan nimen ja takakannen tekstin kuun loppuun mennessä. Apua! Ei minulla ole nimeä valmiina ja olen kaukana kotoa, lähtenyt sillä ajatuksella, että en mieti kirjan kirjoittamista lainkaan reissun aikana.

Saman päivän aikana tutustuimme fokusoinnin valtavaan kykyyn avata meille yhteys siihen, mitä ei voida mitata loogisuuden asteikolla, vaan missä tavoitetaan se, mikä on enemmän kuin loogista. Muodostimme ensin kukin muutaman lauseen sanakirjamaisen määritelmän sanalle suunta. Minä kirjoitin: ”Suunta on tie, jonka tulee kulkea paikasta A paikkaan B, jotta voit saavuttaa jotain.”

Continue reading Direction / Suunta

Silence is a Voice / El Silencio es voz / Hiljaisuus on ääni

Photo credit: Eduardo Esquivel

Silence is a Voice

I look out of the huge windows that open to the sea in the retreat center at Punta de Tralca, Chile. It is the morning. The sea is quiet. The sky is looming pale and it is hard to see where the sea ends, where the sky begins. Yesterday red warning flags waved on the beach. Wild, foam-headed waves wandered loudly to the beach. The water was cloudy brown from the sand.

On the fourth morning of the Focusing Weeklong, during the bio-energetic movement group class, I move according to the sounds of nature in me. I become nature itself. It is not easy, because I am used to the fact that all the sound, which arises from me, should be wise, reasonable or right. I am now the wind, I am swinging in the breeze. I am a seagull skipping on the beach.

Then we settle in a circle. Everyone who wants can step into the middle, move and make the sounds their body wants to express. I step into the middle without making any sound. I look everyone in their eyes swinging my body from side to side. At some point, I feel timid. Is it acceptable to be silent, if we were asked to make sounds?

Is it acceptable to be silent if using our voice is what was asked? This question lives in me until the end. Only at the very end, a new thought sneaks into my mind: silence is a voice.

During the Weeklong I sometimes get tired of speaking English. I don’t understand Spanish at all, or just a word now and then. In the cafeteria, I start to think about speaking Finnish without waiting for anyone to understand me. In this way,  nobody would be confused nor would they find it distracting or worry about the meaning, because that wouldn’t be my point. It would just be…my voice. With this thought in my mind, I try to listen to Spanish with the idea of listening to the “voice of another,” another person with a voice and language different from mine.

Continue reading Silence is a Voice / El Silencio es voz / Hiljaisuus on ääni

Love – The Most Powerful Force…

Sculptures and Photo by: Gabrielle Clark

….hello sweet tiredness, hello despair, hello anger, hello body.
Tell me of your wanting, your desires your needs. Tell me of your tiredness, your depression, your choking on all that’s inside. Tell me of your trying so hard.

I want to know it, I want to hear it all.
I don’t care if it’s not right to share.
Tell me all your mysteries.

Keep it all in they say, get over it they say, lose weight they say, get fit they say, do this, don’t do that, be anyone other than who you are.

But it’s the truth and the truth will set me free.

I want nothing but you.
Nothing but what is.
No more fighting it.

What would that be like?

I pause and feel into it.
I sense a deep peace that comes with this surrender.
I feel the love of a mother to her babies, so tired and worn out, she gets up hour after hour to nurture her child. Breasts so full, so tight, so sore, so little sleep, tired to the edge of exhaustion, she keeps going.
Love, the powerful force that drives her.

I have that to give all these places in me!

I can want them all like I chose them,
Like precious gifts.
This life
This pain
This joy
This body
All of it

held, transformed, healed…..

by the most powerful force in the universe.

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In Response to the Question “What’s Alive in Me?”

Photo Credit: Eddie Nunns

I don’t have to solve that problem.
………………………fix

I don’t have to solve that problem.
………………………fix

I don’t have to solve THAT problem.
………………………fix

I don’t have to RESOLVE that question.

I don’t have to.

and then…

Just because it’s sometimes fun for me to brain-storm with mySelf
doesn’t mean that I’m obligated to.
Something in my body is recognizing the ways I storm my brain.

I don’t have to do that.

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Connections can be so powerful and so rewarding when we can stop and take in!

Photo Credit: Pixaby

Sharing this Heartfelt blog together seems to bring more in each one of us. That is my experience—enjoying what you have added to us from your direct experience of life shared with us.

Recently I had a very powerful experience with another person, a person who I regularly meet when I come to get my medication filled. Usually I ignore such moments, but this time I did something different again. I allowed my body-self to take it in.

Later, in a private moment, I allowed this experience to return and to give it the time it needed to be fully appreciated for what it was for me.  Suddenly the felt sense of the moment came so alive, so powerful that it overwhelmed me and seemed to scream; “A connection is happening here!”    My body seemed filled with passion and a desire that felt so satisfying when I could find my ground. All because I stopped and allowed that simple connection to complete itself rather than walk away before it had a chance to become more fully present.

I invite you again to join me and Pause and notice an everyday connection that demands attention. Perhaps it will be someone you don’t know and yet this powerful connection feels so good and you wonder why! Maybe you could spend time with it and let it show you why!

Kevin McEvenue

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