Reflecting on a second coaching session with Leo
There is a place, out where nobody can find me, where I go to nurse my wounds and cry. Let us go to that place now, weaving past mountains of fear and remorse, to a secluded forest. In this safe embrace of mother trees, there is clarity and release. I sit down on the cool earth and cry, mourning the loss of trust and safety in a dear friend.
Letting my disappointment dissolve into the earth, my anger rises like a fury that matches the power of the wind. Declaring to the corners of this earth that I will not stand for being treated in this way again. I will not let my fear of not belonging prevent me from taking good care of my needs. I will not make invisible my anger out of fear of her rage, blowing in from the coast like a hurricane. My anger empowers me to stand firm. My needs for emotional safety, respect, and listening are okay. They are real and valid. And I will honor them in who I choose to follow and how I devote myself moving forward.
On this earth, I say to my friend: I cannot work with you anymore because I don’t feel safe with you. In times of conflict, I fear that you will fly into a rage, uncontainable and punishing. Maybe you’ll ignore me and exclude me from our community. Maybe you’ll say hurtful things out of anger. In these moments, I often fold under the heavy weight of shame and self-anger. Why did I even try to voice my ideas or needs with you? I strive to be a perfect practitioner, to tiptoe around my truth in order to prevent your rage and punishment. I try to make invisible my anger to meet you with compassion. This isn’t working for me anymore. My anger still exists in my body, and I will no longer ignore it.
I fear that you will claim power because of who you are, because of your experience and intuition. In the process, I fear that you will devalue who I am and where I come from. I fear that I will always need to give into your ideas in order to feel safe. And so I cannot, in good faith to my own experience, continue to collaborate with you or be around you as much as I used to.
But I am not sorry that this is the place I’ve arrived. The times I’ve spent with you have illuminated my own aspirations in this land and beyond, and I am so grateful for your guidance and love. I am now realizing that I need something that you are not yet able to provide, and it is with this understanding that I must create some distance.
I am mourning this shift in our relationship. There is deep sorrow and even heartbreak in my body, manifesting as a hollow heaviness in my stomach. And yet I also notice stability arising, in my feet and sit-bones. I sit as if I am an unshakeable cube in my position on the chair, all limbs in alignment, soles of my feet firmly on the earth. I am sitting with the conviction that my anger is okay. It is in my body, and my body tells the truth of my experience even when my mind wants to rationalize it away. My body tells me that I will be okay, stable even, stepping away from your shadow.
I turn back towards the voice of my guide, Leo. He reminds me that the roots of my anger are needs, needs that are always valid and real. Some needs can be held loosely, with spaciousness and generosity, and others require more strict attachment. Together, we explore these different needs.
He describes walking down the street with a plate of delicious food, and having a person steal some away. I smile at my willingness to give away the entire plate. You must need this more than me, I can always find more, I say to the imaginary thief. Leo mentions that perhaps I grew up in a household where there was always food on the table, and I remember the refrigerator at my parents’ home overflowing with leftovers, fruits, abundance. I have never gone hungry because of an inability to find food, and so I do not perceive giving away a plate of food as a threat to my survival, even if it conflicts with my need for sustenance. I can meet the hunger of the thief with generosity.
My need to be heard has not been nurtured in the same way. In my lived experience, I have not found an abundance of being truly listened to and understood. And because of this, I hold this need more tightly. My anger is quick to rise when I perceive a person to “steal” my space to speak. I cannot offer with generosity the space to be heard or to make decisions if I don’t have faith in my ability to find this tomorrow.
Many of us haven't been trained to listen to each other, or even to listen to ourselves. Over time, I've learned to numb my difficult feelings in order to belong, be accepted, be loved. Anger only brings about separation, I've heard my teachers say. Only speak out of love and compassion, never anger. Perhaps I have misunderstood the nature of this practice, allowing my mind to "look deeply" and rationalize away my anger as a barrier to loving others. But what about loving myself?
Can I offer my anger recognition and love? Anger is okay and based in valid needs, and I can follow where it is leading. To a place of greater safety and rest for the time being.
At the same time, can I increase my trust in my ability to be heard, transforming my relationship to this need into one of spaciousness? How might this trust grow?
I can choose to be with others with the ability to listen, to cultivate environments where listening and mindful and considerate speech are an aspiration. To reduce my time in environments where I feel small, invisible, trivialized and devalued because of my age, lack of experience, lack of knowledge. To stop investing in relationships which have, in conflict situations, focused on my “lack” of anything, rather than on reconciling differences in perspective. That have pushed decisions through without mutual understanding and agreement.
With this practice, perhaps, instead of a tightening in my heart, I will find over time an expansion and welcome for those that take up a lot of space. Perhaps I will see their own fear about not being heard with compassion, without needing to fight for my own space.
For now, can I greet my own anger with this same compassion, building up trust that I will always find space within myself to be heard? What's possible when I can honor my anger?
My mind is weary from this exploration. It's time for a nap before an evening of freedom school.