It was an interesting week for a graduation.
After three years of studying Somatic Experiencing, learning from some of the finest practitioners in the field, it was my time to take up the mantle of Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. I expected a joyous occasion. Instead, that SEP certificate was handed to me in a time of grief. It came with a call to action attached.
I had to fly out to the Bay Area for my last training. My flight took off the morning after the Paris attacks. As I packed my bags, I watched the developments on the news. I did not know how to respond, other than with a few brief words on Facebook. I was unable to speak aloud, but I needed my thoughts to be heard:
Pondering why I am alive, and why all those people in Paris are not. I do not deserve it more than they did…but for some reason, I have been gifted with life, to use as I see fit. This is not something I take for granted anymore.
I’m completing my SE training this week. I hope that I can make at least some small difference, with the skills I have been privileged to learn…the world is in so much pain.
There was a lot I did not say. It was true, I was hoping that I could make a difference. I was also praying that I’d survive the flight, and live to be an SEP. In that moment, after years of being bombarded with news of terrorist attacks, I hit critical mass. I was terrified to get on that plane.
Vicarious trauma is a real thing, and I suspect none of us are immune to it. We can only witness so much before our nervous system says “no more”, and I was at that point.
I’m fortunate. Very, very fortunate. I have people I can call, to reassure me with kind words. There were other SEPs at the training who very much wanted me to be there, and friends in Denver who were cheering me on.
So, I got on the plane, and landed in San Francisco. I was grateful for my life, but struck by what my experience indicated about the state of our collective unconscious. So many fears are coming out into the light. A sense of groundless terror had gripped our nation, and I lived within that resonant field. How many other people had been unable to board their flights that day? What had become of us?
When I arrived in my room at the Mercy Center, where the training was held, the first thing I did was write this status:
We do not get to know “why” bad things happen to good people.
We only get to know HOW to live our lives in a compassionate manner. This knowing comes from surrendering ourselves to human connection in the moment…and opening our hearts, knowing that they can, and will be broken.
This is the only way to truly be alive.
And oh, I felt alive then…alive, broken and more human than I had felt in a very long time.
This training offered a lot of opportunities to experiment with being more human. It was not just about learning therapeutic techniques. Some of the most valuable parts, the ones I will remember most, are the discussions that happened in the hallways. How is SETI addressing issues of power and privilege? How can we incorporate these discussions into our training? The training culminated in one of the most powerful graduations I have ever attended. Rather than continuing with lectures or demonstrations, we stood up and told our stories.
I will not speak to anything that was said in confidence. I will only say this: the events on the news are not happening to distant abstractions of people. They are happening to human beings who are actively a part of your life. You see them in the grocery store, on the bus, or at work. They may not speak, because they may be afraid that they will not be heard.
You have the opportunity to make a change. I am asking you to do something that takes courage. Please realize that the world cannot afford for you to do otherwise: Listen. Listen to the stories of people whose experience is different from yours. Put your defenses aside. You are not there to debate…you are there to hear a story. So, let the story affect you. Share that person’s grief, their rage, and their joy…their pride for their heritage or their grief over a homeland that has been lost. Offer your unconditional presence. It is a gift too rarely given, and it is the one we need most.
I will warn you that there is a side effect to this. You will no longer be able to keep your mouth shut, when you see oppression. You will be accused of being a Social Justice Warrior and laughed off the internet. The good news is that you won’t care, because you’ll remember the stories, and the courageous vulnerability of the people who shared them with you.
This is how we will create a more compassionate world, where our society emerges from fight/flight/freeze and starts to live in the present moment. Violence is a response to a threat. Let us make ourselves less threatening, in our daily interactions. Let us not inspire more terror.
There is hope, if we all uplift the world in our own small way. And some day, hopefully in our lifetime, travelers will look to the skies and know that they can fly, unafraid.
*This post is dedicated to everyone in my Advanced SE cohort. You know who you are. Thank you for honoring me with your presence.