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Recovery is not a place you land and unpack

“Peace is not a place you land and unpack.”
Petrea King, Quest for Life 2016.
… and neither is Recovery.
In stages, the impossible becomes possible.” T.V.K. Desikachar
Recovery from any adversity, whether illness, drug addiction, trauma, mental health disturbance, grief, disaster or major life change, is a process that is ongoing. We don't wake up one day cured rather we continually make progress along the path of recovery.
In my own recovery process, I have often felt like I have been ascending a spiral, often returning to similar issues but at a higher or deeper level of resolution. This appears across all the layers of my experiences and I often don't notice until I am moving out of an experience and may need to reflect on the last rung on the spiral to get perspective and prevent being disheartened.
Yet over and over my students and clients ask why it is taking them so long, wondering if there is something wrong with them or they are doing something wrong. Our society seems to think that recovery from trauma, illness, grief or any kind of life-change happens in distinct stages within a distinct time-frame (usually within 12months), and then we move on.
There have been many occasions when people, having read my book, heard my story or even been taught by me during a particularly ‘well’ phase, will have expected me to be cured and if I fall off this perch they will be distressed and disappointed on my behalf…and perhaps theirs.
I am always moved by people’s concern for my wellbeing and reassure people that I have chronic illnesses that I manage not cure. I manage with the tools I teach and that even if I don't come out of this exacerbation, I will continue to live in peace which for me is what it’s all about and if I do come out, it will be at a higher place than I was before.
You see, this the reality for those of us who have suffered some form of trauma or major life change is that recovery is ongoing and comes in waves. For many of us, the greatest recovery comes from the inner peace gained from the acceptance of our present situation and this too is ongoing.
So, if we accept this to be true, if we accept that recovery is ongoing, how do we support ourselves and each other through this process?
Firstly, find a practice that improves your wellness and then maintain a regular practice, even after the initial flush of recovery. It seems to be a common nature for us to find a practice that makes us feel better only to let it go when we start to feel better. The best way to stay out of the hole is to keep doing whatever it was that got you out of the hole.
And if you fall off the wagon and find yourself in a hole again, give yourself a break releasing as much guilt as you can because you're human. go back to the Same ladder and start climbing again.   
Find a support team and give them permission to keep you accountable. This might be a coach or a counsellor, a yoga teacher, therapist or trusted friend. Choose wisely, not because they will take you out and get you pissed but because you know they will respectfully keep you honest.
It is a friend, colleague, partner or family member the first step is to listen. Stop what you're doing, make a cup of tea and listen. Ask questions – what has helped before, how would like me to support you, would you like me to come with you? Questions that invite the person to consider and find their own wisdom and path. Set an example in your own behaviour. Things not to do: nag and remind them they've been here before - They know, already!!!
The most important things I have learned about recovery is that it is not a place you land and unpack. It happens in stages and requires resilience, acceptance and forgiveness. Whether it is yourself in recovery or someone you care for, it takes time, is ongoing and is often more about finding peace where you are right now than finding a cure.
Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit Listen to Lynnette telling her story Part 1 and Part 2, and be inspired.


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Dissolving the Grief Monster of the Deep

Have you ever been sailing along triumphantly, feeling like you have a handle on this boat called life when suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, an ancient grief rises from the depths of your ocean and threatens to swamp your boat with a tsunami of suffering? This happened to me last night.

I returned home from an amazing five days of preparation and teaching on a Dru Meditation Teacher Training module, feeling elated and inspired. I was finally realising my skill as a teacher and mentor, in a way I had not been able to understand previously, and the students were on their journey to stillness. My boat was sailing smoothly, the ocean of my consciousness was smooth and the sky was blue.

Then part way through a conversation triggered by an English television drama, the grief monster rose from the depths and began rocking my boat with a suffering I thought I had already resolved. A wave of sadness rose in front of me and seemed like an insurmountable mountain that was going to engulf me. Then another thought, ‘I thought I had dealt with this’, sprang a leak in the bottom of my boat.

After some moments of feeling the beginnings of drowning, I remembered that in the past my suffering has been released in layers when I was ready to hold the pain, and maybe this time was no different. It was a deeper, causal aspect of the very familiar issue I was seeing here not the same old same old, and may be the previous five days of practicing the eight limbs of yoga, including a shirt-load of meditation, created the space in my awareness to releasing this particular thought pattern. I was able to use my tools to navigate the tsunami and over time the grief monster dissolved – ‘it’s not my fault … it’s not anyone’s fault … it just is’.

Today I am again sailing freely on a smooth ocean in a clear blue sky and feeling very grateful for this opportunity to let go of this layer of suffering and embrace the truth I keep learning – it just is. I am also grateful that I have learnt tools that I can use to facilitate this letting go and am in a position to share them with other people.

We have all experienced traumatic events that leave traces of recurring grief long after the event itself has become a memory. Unresolved grief can have many negative effects on our lives. At the very least we unconsciously create negative patterns that impact on our relationships and our life decisions; at worst, our grief becomes the seed for disease, sometimes life threatening.

The good news is that when you are ready to let go of your grief, there are tools to help you to part the clouds and the let the sunshine through.

The Practice

I’d like to share three simple tools to help dissolve your grief monsters when they threaten to swamp your boat.

First is the Gesture of Letting Go that I shared in a series of tips for living life that I wrote for Dru Australia, called Dru Tips for Life,. It is a simple yet profound practice from the Dru publication, the Dance between Joy and Pain, by Dr Mansukh Patel and Rita Goswami.

Gesture of Letting Go

  • Come into a comfortable sitting position with your back aligned.
  • Bend your arms at the elbow so your arms are at a ninety degree angle, with palms facing up.
  • Allow the source of your grief to sit in the open palms of your hands.
  • Breathe in and lengthen through your spine.
  • Breathe out while raising your palms to face behind you, with the intention to ‘let go’ of your grief.
  • Hold this position for 1-2 minutes with your eyes closed, imagining your lungs filling with white light, with each breath.
  • When you are ready, lower your palms, and sit quietly with your eyes closed and your hands folded gently in your lap.
  • Rest in silence for a few moments before moving back into your life.


Shedding your Coat

The second tool is a visualisation that came to during a time of suffering and one I have since used often since and found useful. I hope Shedding your Coat might come in handy for you too.

  • When you arrive at the essence of this version of your grief monster, visualise it as coat resting on your shoulders.
  • When you are ready to release the grief, visualise lifting the collar of the coat off your shoulders and shed the coat on to the ground behind you before going forward and leaving the coat behind you.

Opposite Sides of the Coin

  • Ask yourself, “What is the belief I have formed from this suffering?”
  • Allow the belief to arise and observe it from a distance.
  • Watch the belief and notice the emotions, sensations and images that arise.
  • Then allow the opposite belief to arise in your awareness and observe any emotions, sensations and images that may arise from that opposite belief.
  • Invite your awareness to flow smoothly between the two opposites, observing each one before returning to the other, in your own time.
  • When you are ready, hold the two beliefs simultaneously in the hand of your awareness, and notice what happens.
  • There is no right outcome for this process but it helps to put your thoughts into perspective. They may dissolve or a new solution may arise or it may remind you that you are not just your mind.

Choose the tool you feel most comfortable with, knowing it is most effective when you practice it regularly, at the same time each day when have a few moments of peace in your life. You may even find your sea becomes smoother with each practice.

PS: remember, when you are ready to let go of your grief, find yourself a few minutes of peace in your day and practice the Gesture of Letting Go, Shedding your Coat or Opposite Sides of the Coin.

With peace,


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