Breaking Down to Break Through
Many years ago I was doing a programme with the coaching company Landmark in London entitled ‘Breakthroughs: Living Outside the Box’. Although it says ‘Breakthroughs’ in the title, a large element of the process involved identifying ‘Breakdowns’ as a necessary precursor to having a breakthrough. What became apparent for me during this programme was how little I trusted myself. All through my adult life, when it came to difficult decisions, I had sought the advice of others. I assumed that seeking the opinions of my intelligent friends was valid as they would somehow know what was right for me more than I did myself. This included following their advice to sell my company back in 2006 (just when after many years hard work it was reaching a place where it could sustain me financially – an interesting decision), thus propelling myself into a place of extreme financial discomfort. I assumed that just because a friend of mine was running a bigger business and had obviously accomplished a great deal, she would know what was right for me.
It was a good decision for me, because it taught me that I would never again rely on anyone else’s advice for where I should go in my life. The impact of that decision is also what led to me having to look more deeply inside myself so that I wouldn’t do the same thing again.
Back to trust. What I learned during the Landmark course was that I wasn’t trusting my self and I was always looking for advice. What I was experiencing then however, which continued over the next 2 years or so, was that every decision was excruciatingly difficult. Even the smallest decision seemed like life or death and I would become paralysed with inaction and would be constantly changing my mind and flipping between options. I was always told I was ‘in my head’ all the time. It was extremely distressing.
“It Sounds Like Chord Wrap”
What gave me a context for this was one of my early breath work trainers. She said ‘it sounds like chord wrap’. ‘What’s that?’ I said. ‘You had the chord wrapped around your neck when you were being born. It means that if you go forward you experience strangulation (death), if you go back you get pounded by contractions and experience suffocation (death).’ So everything was a death-death decision. Now, I don’t know if it’s true, but it was a useful context.
So I had to practice making decisions. But I prefer to call them choices. Every time I would encounter a situation involving a choice, it would feel like a ‘life or death’ decision, and so I would (eventually) choose and, miracle of miracles, I was still alive. The more I practiced, the easier it got and over time the pattern diminished until it didn’t get in the way any more (it hasn’t completely disappeared and comes up really strong on my birthday but I can meet it with more grace and a bit of humour these days). I had to just choose and trust that I would live.
What has really changed for me now however is that whatever choice I make I trust it. One thing that has helped me reach this place has been breathwork. As I have gone through the process of doing breathwork sessions, I’ve dealt with a lot of grief. The inability to encounter this grief within myself was keeping me out my body. As I dealt with it and re-entered my body, I became more in tune with what was right for me. It gradually became apparent to me that there is a wisdom in my body I could trust. I remember walking up the road one day, busy thinking and wondering which way I should be going, meanwhile my body had decided to cross the road anyway. My body had it’s own ideas of where I should be going. The more I have breathed and processed emotion held in my body, the more I have learned to trust my body rather than my mind. I also realised that my mind has certain deep-rooted patterns, particularly around relationship. If I listened solely to my thinking I would move away from relationship, but actually my body has carried me towards relationship and into marriage.
“The Body Knows Things The Mind Doesn’t”
This relationship with the body also takes us into intuition. The first time I experienced this really strongly was trying to book a flight south to see my breathwork supervisor. I couldn’t seem to book a flight. My fingers wouldn’t press the buttons to book. I forced myself to book something in the end but it didn’t work out and had to cancel the flight. I said to him I wanted to come down and was planning to come down but my mouth wouldn’t say I will come down. What transpired was that a friend of mine was dying and the night before I was due to travel I got the call and I spent the next 3 weeks with her. When I can’t say yes to something I know it’s not right. If my fingers won’t dial the number on my mobile phone it’s not right, even when my mind wills it to be so. The body seems to know things the mind doesn’t.
More recently I have just been through the process of renovating and extending our home. This was a new process for me. I’ve never built anything in my life. Stage 1: Design. We recruited an architect. I assumed that because an architect was an expert (here I go again), they would come up with all the solutions and present us with an innovative, creative and completely finished design. Not so. One thing that transpired was that we had to solve many of the difficult design problems ourselves. Another thing that happened was that when something wasn’t right, I couldn’t go any further in the process. I could never say what it was, but I would just know something wasn’t right. My wife would then have to question me and try and divine the answers (I realised that we had to add half a metre on to our building, although it only transpired well into the building process why this was required). Gradually I came to see that just because there were others more qualified in a certain discipline than myself (in this case architecture), it didn’t mean that they held all the answers. That actually, every single one of us is connected to all the knowledge and wisdom there is and we can all access it. We each of us have access to all the solutions we need.
This is a hard lesson. Sometimes timing is an issue. We need to know now. I frustrate not only those around me but myself as well when there is an apparent need to push ahead with something and some part of me is saying now is not the time. Perhaps there is more information required. Perhaps there is a better solution which will be made clear in time. But I have learned to trust that I do know the optimum solution to whatever challenge I am facing and that the answer I need will be revealed when I am ready for it.
“We Are The Experts In Our Own Life.”
One way of working with the breath is through intention. If I have a problem I am stuck on, or an area of my life I have difficulty with, I can go into a breathwork session with an intention around this. More often than not for me, there is no immediate answer during a session, but what I need will be revealed to me through life circumstance. This is extremely empowering. Once I realise that I can set intentions and see them manifest, I can fully trust in myself. The more we trust our ability to manifest, the more potent our intentions become. We can gradually and steadily move towards a place where we fully trust the flow of our life and everything that is transpiring. We are the experts in our own life.
If you have experienced sexual abuse, then it may be hard to trust others. It may also be hard to trust yourself. How can you trust yourself if you let yourself experience such a damaging and traumatising event (or events)? One thing to know is that we always do the best we can at any given time. What you know now is not what you knew then and what you can do now is not what you could do then. It may not even have been possible to utter the word ‘no’. Just learning how to say ‘no’ is one way of learning to trust ourselves again. Or perhaps there is a choice that sits between yes and no. ‘Yes, you may come to visit us – if you stay at the bed and breakfast just down the road’. It is okay for us to define how we wish to interact with the needs of others, if at all. It is okay for us to set the parameters of our own particular way of being in the world.
You are unique. Everything that has happened in your life has brought you to be exactly the person you are now with a unique set of gifts and talents. Every choice you have made has brought you to this point. Can you trust those choices? Can you trust that you have chosen the right way every time? Who is making these choices? Is it the mind, or do they come from elsewhere in your being? If you don’t know what to choose, how can anyone else know? How can you say you know what’s best for another person? Impossible.
Trust leads to freedom. The freedom to choose and to know that whatever we choose is exactly what we want and will take us exactly where we want to go, no matter how that might appear to us at the time.
There is a saying in breathwork – ‘no matter what you do, it’s impossible to get it wrong’. It’s a key principle. No matter what you do, it’s impossible to get it wrong.
Can you trust that?
If you have any questions or comments about this article please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.