My story: what shaped me, including how I healed

The bottom fell out several times; however spaciousness is now welcome.

I am writing this story so that it may help us beings be happier and suffer less. These are some of the stories that shaped me, told so that I may share the lessons learned the how I healed.

I had rather commonplace Asian American experiences through childhood. Delicious Asian food cooked by my mom, love that was and is unconditional, yet tarnished by our parents not allowing my sister and I to express strong emotions. Our dad had no such restrictions, as he had a moderate frequency of temper blow-ups replete with shouting and throwing and shattering dishes. He hit me few times; the time I remember most vividly was when he chased me, a stubborn 4 year old, out onto the back porch and brow-beat me by hitting my forehead (the seat of the prefrontal cortex) into the cement ground a dozen times.

A few days later, I pooped in my pants in Montessori school.

The lessons of my early childhood, and really all adversity I have experienced in life is this and what’s written below:

I figured out that I needed to make the effort to heal, no matter how long it took or how painful it all was. My healing is and was up to me, along with support networks I work to cultivate. I take full responsibility for everything that happened to me.

In puberty in the late 80s/early 90s, I used a Jane Fonda workout book to try to forcibly shrink my widening hips and posterior. It felt very visceral, like something compulsory. A year prior, I had concentrated deeply on “who am I” while sitting in a sun patch in my room and plunged into an egoless void-like spaciousness that was terrifying at the time. Groundlessness, the bottom falling out.

It took me 20 years to recover from my education.

Carter G. Woodson, The Miseducation of the Negro

Same.

My parents strongly emphasized to my sister and me the importance of education, which is part of why I was so driven to excel through school-first, early college at 16, then Stanford for further college, and following that a PhD. College was boring; I ran 50 miles a week to keep my spirits up, especially during the El Niño winter of 1997-1998.

Grad school included 2 published papers and older men in positions of authority over me who wielded their power unfairly, one through what I felt at the time was deception (I felt romantically betrayed) and another through inappropriate actions, including inappropriate touching and verbal castigation that I felt went far beyond scientific critical thinking and communication. There were good times in grad school too, and several beautiful friends I still think of.

Due to a lot (the above and all the other conditions), toward the end of and after grad school, the bottom fell out and I landed in an alcoholic hellishness. I did plenty of things I’m not proud of during those difficult times.

Why did what seems like a commonplace experience for a woman of color in a patriarchal discipline affect me so adversely? It doesn’t matter; that is the past and it is not here now. What is here now are the lessons and the specific steps I took to heal.

How I Healed

  1. A few months after I quit drinking in 2016 I started practicing mindfulness meditation. This returns me to the here and now, to spaciousness that feels freeing rather than like the bottom falling out. Sometimes I’m more grounded than other times; however, usually I feel safe in groundlessness even when I am outdoors with my dog. Letting go of the past (and future) for 30 or 90 minutes a day through mindfulness practice (which is: paying attention to our present moment experiences with kindness, curiosity, non-judgement, and while seeing things as they are) carries over into letting go of the past during daily life.
  2. This is a different item in the list because of its importance, but relates to 1 above. “Don’t check, just go straight,” quote by Korean Zen master Seung Sahn, illustrates the helpfulness of bringing to mind a short, quick phrase that directs the mind into the present moment whenever we want to let go of the past or future1. When we keep returning to the present moment during mindfulness practice and in life, presence starts to be almost a habit, a modus operandi. Presence is always here now; it’s not going anywhere and is always available.
  3. I practice lovingkindness. This has been extremely helpful, and over time has become more and not less a practice I rely on. I find it quite grounding and it is usually energizing, beautiful, and pleasant.
  4. How did I begin to feel free and safe in groundlessness and regain my confidence? I let go of what others think and I cultivate authenticity. (thank you to my therapists). This is a process.
  5. I stopped using social media, including Apple News, for however long it takes me to let go of what others think. Sometimes, when I feel empowered, I open myself to what others think2.
  6. I create art. I learned a lot about myself from creating art, and indeed some of it includes narratives about others. I figured out that I need to create positive art, both for me and for others. I figured out that I tend to have an exaggerated sense of scale (making a mountain out of a molehill). Bringing to awareness this exaggerated sense of scale helps me see things from a big mind view. There is endless space. Awareness has no spatial bounds; it is always here now. I, and really, we, are insignificant and also significant.
I stand at higher ground overlooking beautiful Lake Mineral Wells, arms stretched high and wide. I am embracing this moment in nature, grateful for presence and for the kind beings who helped show me how to heal. How I healed.

May you be safe and protected. May you be happy and peaceful. May you be healthy and strong. May you live with ease.

Chapter 2: clearing away clonazepam and ziprasidone

Chapter 3: clearing away modafinil

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  1. Sometimes, we actually do not want to return the mind to the present moment when we are thinking about the past (including trauma) and perhaps feeling associated emotions. I worked with therapists and mindfulness teachers to understand the connections between events of the past with some of my current habits of acting and mind. For example, lack of safety and protection by my father in early childhood had led to me to fear and anxiety even years later when there was no real threat. Once the insights were gained, I was free to change my actions and mind and let go. ↩︎
  2. For me, empowerment is deeply connected to physical and psychological safety. It is also connected to not being attached to or identified with the fruits of my actions, including my work. Sometimes on the internet it can feel like we are groundless, in that we’re not sure how the interconnectedness has led to this. We humans on computers or phones are like a vast network of dots and lines, and there is likely no one on top directing who does what. This makes it all the more important for us to return to the ground of our being, our inner goodness and kindness, before we act. ↩︎

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Presence is Here Now