Healing Injured Instinct

“Trauma is about thwarted instincts. Instincts, by definition, are always in the present. When we allow them their rightful domain, we surrender to the ‘eternal now.’ With the full presence of mind and body, we can gain access to the source of our own energy and enthusiasm.

“As we resolve our traumas, we discover missing parts of our beings, those that make us feel whole and complete. Our instincts house the simple but vital knowledge that ‘I am I’ and ‘I am here.’ Without this sense of belonging in the world, we are lost, disconnected from life. If we learn how to surrender to our inborn knowledge, it can lead us on a healing journey that will bring us face to face with our natural spirituality, our God-given connection to life.” —Peter Levine

I feel that this is starting to happen for me.

In some ways, I’m starting to feel more alive than I have in many years. More myself, more centered and calm than probably ever before.

After all the sadness and regret at my pain, and the grief over the loss of “what could have been,” I am finding that there is still much left that remains.

One thing I’m finding strength in is knowing how resilient I am.

I had always bought into other people’s perception that I was weak, “too sensitive,” incapable and insufficient on my own.

Now I see how different the truth is.

I am strong.

I have been through so much, yet here I am—I survived.

Injured Instinct

Journal Date: Saturday, November 7th, 2020

“I think you can see that a dilemma of profound consequences is set up if the people who are supposed to love and protect us are also the ones that hurt, humiliate and violate us. This sets up a double bind that undermines people’s basic sense of self and trust in their own instincts. Our sense of safety and stability in the world and our interpersonal relationships become undermined by childhood abuse because we carry these early thwarted—that is, deeply conflicted—survival pattern into adulthood.” —Peter Levine

I’ve hated myself ever since then. I’ve been disgusted by myself. And have believed that my mom must have been right. That I’m worthless, and a lost cause, and don’t deserve to be here. 

That I should hide, or even die, because to show my face in polite society is an insult to all those good people I’m trying to fool.

This is what I have believed, and eventually, have gotten oh-so-good at creating as my actual life experience.

Deep down, I was so invested in believing this about myself, that I forced it upon myself, even in circumstances where there were people who wanted to like me.

I’m thinking of all the times when there have been people who have liked me, respected me, admired me, and even wanted to try to love me.

I just couldn’t handle it. 

It was too much for me. I didn’t understand it. Couldn’t trust it.

It gave me the deepest, most terrifying sense of anxiety and dread.

I had to “fix” it immediately. I couldn’t keep up “the lies.” I was terrified of what would happen when they discovered the “truth” about me.

So I was compelled to show them.

[insert horrible betrayal here]

Look at me. “This is who I am.”

Do you love me now?

That’s right. 

I DIDN’T THINK SO.

And over time, I got so much better at showing people “who I was” up front.

It took a while, but soon enough there was not even a chance for them to try and love me; I did my best to make it obvious how much I hated myself (and how much they should too) right from the very beginning.

Amazingly enough, some people still tried!

It was always such a shock to me. It was what I said I wanted, but I could never tolerate it for long.

I was obsessed with my compulsion to “tell the truth” about what I was, and to prove how unworthy of love, respect, or even common human decency I was. 


What a crazy, stupid, unnecessarily painful life this has been.

None of this was necessary.

None of this was even really about me, at the end of the day.

Back then, I was just doing my best to be a good girl. So I just kept carrying all the crazy projections my family sent my way, no matter how painful or detached from reality they were.

God, it makes me sad to look back on my life and see the truth of what has been.

How easily it could have been another way.

This pain, this shame—it was never mine to carry.

I don’t want to keep holding onto it anymore.

I’m ready to be free, and just live as my own self.

I don’t need to do this anymore.

I’m ready to be free.

Bain Marie

One method that can be utilized in the process of Dissolution is known as the “Bain Marie.” The name essentially means “Mary’s bath,” and is a reference to the woman who invented the process, Maria Prophetissa, a Jewish alchemist who is said to have lived sometime around 100 B.C.E.

She invented the “Bain Marie” for use in laboratory alchemy, where it was intended to wash the burned material left over from the Calcination phase. The basic concept is that of something like a double boiler, where the water in the central vessel is kept at a constant temperature through being submerged in another container of boiling water.

It is the larger, outside container which is subjected to the direct heat, allowing a more gentle, stable process to occur in the container in which the actual contents being washed are held.

The Bain Marie is also useful in psycho-spiritual alchemy, and in this instance, refers to a cleansing and calming meditation we can use after experiencing the difficult emotions associated with personal calcination.

How to practice

We begin by calming ourselves with several deep inhalations and exhalations of our breath. Then we can start to imagine ourselves in the warm, soothing waters of the Bain Marie. 

We may also choose to imagine ourselves in a warm ocean, held by the waters of the all-loving, compassionate Divine Mother.

As you breath in, imagine the warm water permeating your energy body that need to be cleansed, gently soothing difficulties as it washes away all impurities. 

As you exhale, you can imagine all of the pain and hardness inside of you melting away. 

You can repeat this process as many times as you need to until you feel yourself cleansed and soothed by the element of water.

You may decide to draw yourself a warm bath and perform this meditation while submerged in the water. You can also add salt to the bath, which is known to be both physically and energetically cleansing.

As you finish your meditation, you can imagine that all difficulties or negative energies have been captured in the water, and watch as it flows down the drain and out of your life forever.

Descansos

Journal Date: Thursday, November 5, 2020

I just finished an exercise Estés suggested we do in this chapter on rage in Women who Run with the Wolves. It’s called “Descansos,” and here we are to mark all the little (and large) deaths of our lives.

Descansos are symbols that mark a death. Right there, right on that spot, someone’s journey in life halted unexpectedly. To make descansos means taking a look at your life and marking where the small deaths, las muertes chiquitas, and the big deaths, las muertes grandotas, have taken place.”

Estés encourages us to make our own descansos, to sit down and examine our lives, our losses, all the places which must be remembered and at the same time, put to rest.


I had a lot of crosses to mark.

My life has been filled with losses. One right after another, with little chance to recover in between.

At this point, I have between 25-30 crosses marked down to represent what I have lost.

Descansos

It’s a lot, but somehow it still doesn’t feel like enough.

I don’t even think my greatest losses are even on here.

My deepest pain comes from having missed something more intangible than a job or a boyfriend or anything I listed here before.

Maybe my greatest loss is actually me. My own self.

To have grown up never knowing (not to mention never liking) myself.

To never have felt at home. Not even in my own body. 

Especially not in my own body. This was a source of shame, and where I could locate all of my pain. Better just to not be here. To escape, by whatever means necessary.

And not just my body. I was estranged from all of me.

Always looking outside of myself for the “right” answer. 

The “right” way to look, think, feel, act, be.

I didn’t even know what I was looking for.

I just knew that I was doing it wrong.

I was just wrong, period.

I never belonged to myself. 

That’s the worst part.

I was in such a rush to give myself away. I would sell myself off to the lowest bidder. I was constantly in a rush to find the quickest way to betray myself next.

It’s very sad.

Looking back on all of this, I feel so tired. 

Exhausted. 

What was the meaning behind all of this?

It’s hard to understand.

But I’m starting to feel ready to grieve my losses. To grieve, and to let go.


“Remember in ‘The Crescent Moon Bear’ the woman said a prayer and laid the wandering orphaned dead to rest. That is what one does in descansos. Descansos is a conscious practice that takes pity on and gives honor to the orphaned dead of your psyche, laying them to rest at last.

“Be gentle with yourself and make the descansos, the resting places for the aspects of yourself that were on their way to somewhere, but never arrived. Descansos mark the death sites, the dark times, but they are also love notes to your suffering. They are transformative. There is a lot to be said for pinning things to the earth so they don’t follow us around. There is a lot to be said for laying them to rest.”

Neptune Square Mercury Dream

I used an AI app called Wombo Dream to create this image of the sinking phones

Back in May of this year, I had a dream where I saw hundreds of old cell phones and pagers with open text messages displayed on their screens, all sinking slowly into the ocean.

I was out in the ocean in a row boat, paddling around and trying to read the messages on the screens. But every time I approached one of these devices, it just sunk further and further into the ocean.

I rowed around like this for what must have been hours, trying to catch a glimpse of the messages which I thought may have been meant for me.

But no matter how hard I tried everything just sunk deeper and deeper into the depths before I was able to grasp it.

Of course, as I usually do, when I woke up I asked myself what this dream could mean for me.

The first thing that occurred to me is that is that it showed me I was starting to feel the effects of Neptune in Pisces squaring my natal Mercury in Gemini. This is a transit which had started to come into effect earlier this year at the start of March (and which is going to last for the better part of the next 3 years).

This image generated by the app probably comes the closest to representing what I saw in my dream

Neptune in astrology represents dreams, fantasies, illusions, spirituality, confusion and sacrifice, while Mercury symbolizes the conscious mind, words, communication and logic.

The square aspect is usually thought to be a challenging one, where a crisis is often brought to a head, sparking an opportunity for creative resolution of the original conflicting dynamic.

So on one level, I took this dream to represent a sense of confusion I’m feeling around how I have conceptualized my spiritual principles and ideals, and what this all means for me in my day-to-day lived experience.

On another level, I think this also means that I’m being forced to confront some of the illusions I’ve had about the ways I’ve communicated with others in the past.

I think that some of these habits, thought patterns and ways of interacting with others are not really serving me anymore. This transit could be an opportunity to re-evaluate, let go of what isn’t working and find new ways to express myself and my vision.

Akashic Records Reading

Journal Date: October 29, 2020

Today I had a phone consultation with Leah Garza of Crystals of Altamira for an Akashic Records reading. 

My question to Leah was, “How can I heal after a lifetime of trauma? Is it even possible for me?”

Here is what she told me according to what she saw in the Akashic Records.

She told me that I have indeed had a difficult life, but it was the exact right situation for me to understand my power. There was an intentional reason for what I have experienced in this life, and knowing this and shifting my perspective toward it can change how I relate to it.

Leah told me that in some way, I am always on the path. I am never not heading toward my destiny. What I can do is to focus on coming into greater resonance and alignment. 

She said that it’s true, I am meant to be a healer and to be of service to others in this life. That is my path, but I am going about it the wrong way. 

The way that I have been approaching it has been with the attitude that, “If I’m doing it just for me, then it’s self-centered and selfish.” 

I have been trying to help others from a self-sacrificial, even codependent stance. Being of service with “please accept me” as the hidden, underlying motive is the wrong way to go about this.

I understand exactly what she means by this. I grew up with these ideas crushed into my psyche through intense shame, punishment, violence and rejection. The only way that I could be “good” and worthy of existence was if I disregarded my own needs entirely and focused exclusively on meeting the needs of others. Then, if their needs were met, I might someday be rewarded with whatever was left.

What I needed to do  was “put pleasure first. You can be of service, but it should be from a place where it fills you up,” she said. “You should be asking yourself, ‘How can I give myself permission to enjoy life? Choose pleasure, all the time. You have the right. Just claim it.”

Leah said I had to be willing to turn my back on societal pressures to be endlessly self-sacrificing in order to live up to their ideas of what a “good” woman was.

“There is this fear that you have that, in breaking from the norm, you’ll draw attention to yourself, and it could lead to violence.”

I know that this is true, especially in what I believe may have happened in some of my past lives.

“You should sit with this question: ‘How can I love and accept myself if I’m cast out? If I’m not accepted?

“If you entertain this thought, it doesn’t mean that it will happen. Just consider it.

“Meet your body where it’s at. Ask yourself, “If this happens, how can I be okay with that?”

With that, she finished with the guidance the records had for me on what I had asked. But she told me my guides had another message for me: 

You need to make art. You are an artist.You need to make and build for yourself, not for anyone else’s consumption. You can think about sharing with others later, but create first.”

It was something I had not really considered before. I had always wanted to be a writer, and had always felt I had a poetic sensibility and approach to life. 

But there I think there was something in me that felt it was selfish to pursue that. I had always been so focused on meeting the needs of others that that thought of creating for myself first had seemed impossible. 

Now I’m starting to consider that there is, in fact, an inherent value in what I create and do for myself that is intrinsic and needs not involve anyone else. 

And perhaps they are not mutually exclusive. Maybe through my work people will be able to find some of the healing that I have worked so hard to cultivate for myself.

An Introduction to Inner Visions

About a year ago, I started working with a Reiki healer for the first time, due to some challenges I was experiencing with my health.

White roses bloom

During these sessions, I began having a series of visions that were ultimately instrumental in healing deep-rooted issues (some of them even addressing trauma experienced in past lifetimes.

I wanted to begin sharing these visions with you here. 

First, I’d like to explain what I mean by “vision.”

I’d describe the experience of the visions I’ve had as a kind of altered state of consciousness. The closest thing I can compare it to is simply a dream, but there were some important differences. 

For one, although I was relaxed, I was still fully awake and alert, able to open my eyes and move if I wanted to.

Like in most dreams, I did not have control over the contents of these visions. I experienced them as being “given” to me by something beyond myself (or at least, beyond my conscious, ego self). 

Unlike lucid dreaming, where you can influence the object and events which you’d like to appear in your dream world, I had far less control. 

It was as if all I had was a remote control, where I could slow down, move on to the next scene, and even go deeper into a particular scene or object. The content of what I saw, however, was not up to me to determine.


I had my first session in August of 2020, and my first experience was fairly simple. This was a distance healing, and I later found the in-person sessions to be far more intense.

At the start of the session, I put everything down and lay on my bed in a quiet room, with eyes closed and an intention to be as receptive to the energy as possible.

Not long after, I began to see in the darkness behind closed eyes what appeared to be shifting shades of colored light.  It was more like the emptiness of the dark void was a piece of  black or dark gray paper being painted with light watercolors. 

The blackness remained, but there was a new overtone, a shading that was not present earlier. These colors started out on the violet end of the spectrum down to red, as my healer worked with my energy body from the crown of my head to the root chakra. 

After several more minutes, I started to see more concrete images appear in my field of awareness. I began to sense all the blocked areas within me, places where there was stuck energy, the result of long years of denial and suppressed emotions. 

The stuck areas appeared to me like old, dusty scrolls of parchment covered in illegibly scribbled symbols, written ages ago by the hands of men who never knew me, men who had long since died, men who did not matter.

As I felt light come into contact with the stuck energy, I saw the parchment burst into brilliant orange flames. These flames consumed the paper, devouring the scratches of ink, nullifying all that was ever thought or written by false authorities of times past.

Where once there had been records of false philosophies, now, there was only ashes. From the ashes of this all-consuming fire, I saw the tendrils of vines sprout and grow to cover the charred earth. The vibrant green of these vines soon gave way to the blooming of lavish white roses, bursting with life and vitality, almost overwhelming in their rich aliveness.

I could feel myself being renewed by the cleansing breath of the flames as they coursed through my body. The fresh vitality unfolding in the roses which bloomed within assured me with hope of a new life to come.

A Tarot Reading from July 10th, 2020

For this reading, I had asked the following questions:

What should I be focusing on now? Is there anything I need to know about my purpose, especially as it relates to my personal healing and growth?

What follows are the notes I took that day on my interpretation of these cards:

The Core of the Issue & What Crosses It: Death crossed by 10 of Cups

Truly, the core of my question is in many ways about the process of death and rebirth I now find myself in.

I’m dying to many past elements of myself and my past so that I may be reborn again and become the woman I know I am meant to be now and in the future.

As I accept and lean into this dying, my natural joy seems to be returning. There is no longer such a driving pressure to push myself into “achieving” happiness.” 

Instead, as I let all that does not serve me wither and fall away, my well-being seems to arise more spontaneously.

The Basis of your Question: 7 of Pentacles

The basis of my question is that I am looking to my past to observe what has come about as a result of it, in order to start making plans for my future. I’m seeing what I have sown and what I have reaped so that I can do differently in the future if I want to.

Recent Past: 3 of Wands

This is reinforced by the 3 of Wands in the position showing my recent past. This card is about surveying the landscape in front of you and using your previous experiences, current desires and even your past pain as you look out toward what could become your future. It means pausing and taking the time to ascend to higher ground to view the territory from a more objective perspective.

Higher Self: Queen of Pentacles

This position is meant to represent your Higher Self, and with the Queen of Pentacles here, it shows how I have been learning how to take on the role of being a mother to myself. I am finding ways to give myself all that I once wanted and needed as a child, but never was given or allowed to have by my actual mother.  Above all, I am learning how to hold myself gently and with care, much as this Queen holds her Pentacle on her throne.

Near Future: 8 of Cups

This shows how, much like in the image on this card, I am preparing to leave behind one situation to go out in search of greater happiness and fulfillment. In this card we see a solar eclipse, symbolizing one kind of order or way of being in the world receding as a new one arises to take its place.

What I Bring to the Situation: 9 of Cups

I think that in some way I do feel like my wishes are being granted right now. I’ve read anything and everything out there, gone through so much therapy, and worked so hard in an effort to heal, and now I feel that this healing is happening for me. 

What Others Contribute / How What You Bring is Perceived in Your Outer Environment: Page of Wands

This card can indicate a sense of honesty, innocence and eagerness to please. It can mean someone who has great ideas and intentions, and shows a lot of excitement at the beginning of a project, but is usually not so great with the follow through. It’s a reminder that I need to be more persistent and committed to acting on my goals (and not just the dreaming and planning parts).

Hopes & Fears / Advice: 9 of Pentacles

The woman in this card is known to be independent, self-assured, secure, and at ease in abundance. She has good boundaries and has taken the time to cultivate herself in order to achieve success. Truly, this is what I want most for myself right now.

Final Outcome: 7 of Cups

This card is all about imagination, fantasy, illusions and dreams. This reflects the danger I am in of falling into a familiar pattern or trap that I have of eternal dreaming about the possibilities and never getting anything real or substantial accomplished. So with that said, I know now that I need to be careful and watch out for this as I move forward.

I want to commit to taking direct, practical action on specific tasks that will actually move me forward towards my goals. I need to release my previous patterns of overthinking and endlessly theorizing while I neglect reality and my actual state of affairs. I’m ready to start making real changes now.


Want more clarity on what’s really going on? Need guidance on what your next steps should be?

A tarot reading is the ideal resource for all of that and more. Let’s work together.

The Dance of Sulfur

After Bellows Breath, you may want to follow up with another practice called the Dance of Sulfur.

Sulfur is a yellow powder which the alchemists believed symbolized the active masculine principle of fire. It was often used in laboratory alchemy in the form of sulfuric acid (also known to them as vitriol).

The Dance of Sulfur is an exercise to increase energy and circulate it in the body. Not only that, it is ideal for taking the emotions which arise in Roasting Cinnabar and the energy raised in Bellows Breath and expressing them in a healthy way. We can use the Dance of Sulfur to let go of pent up rage, aggression and other emotions that have been suppressed or held in our bodies for too long.

close up shot of blue flame
Sulfur fire burns blue

HOW TO PRACTICE

  1. To begin, you can put on some music (some say angry or aggressive rock music works best) and start to dance. You can try any other type of aerobic movement that will increase your heart rate, like jogging in place or jumping rope, but I prefer to dance, as it really allows you to get into the music and feel the powerful feelings which have been brought up by other alchemical practices. Aim for at least 20 minutes of movement in this practice.
  2. Try to leave thought and the conscious, rational mind behind. As much as you can, drop your awareness into your body, feel all the emotions coming up as the energy grows stronger and rises within you.
  3. Once you feel you are in the moment and present in your body, start to imagine intense, fiery energy rising up in waves from below. You can then direct that fire energy to any areas of tension or pain in your body (either physical or emotional). Let the flames wash over you, consuming the stagnant ego structures of your past, and burning up and releasing any ideas, emotions or behavior you want to let go of.

This practice, along with the previous two, may be used alone or in conjunction. If you have the time, I recommend creating a ritual that combines Roasting Cinnabar, Bellows Breath, and the Dance of Sulfur (in that order).

When I have done this set of practices together in the past, I like to say a prayer or set an intention (whatever works for you), and I light a red candle to honor the rage and pain of the past, and to symbolize what will be consumed and released during the ritual. You may also want to conclude this set of practices with a ritual bath (salt baths are great for this). Visualize the salt water cleansing you of any remnants of anger or stuck energy, then picture all of these troubles leaving you for good as they are washed down the drain at the very end.

Roasting Cinnabar

A good Calcination ritual to start with is known as Roasting Cinnabar.

This meditative process is related to the work done by alchemists in the laboratory, working with real chemicals.

In this process, alchemists would would roast the mineral known as “Dragon’s Blood,” or Cinnabar, which is a red-colored sulfide of mercury. When roasted over an open flame,  drops of pure liquid mercury are released from the cinnabar and fall down into the ashes.

The purpose of this meditative process is to get us in touch with our mostly unconscious judgements and reactionary behaviors that serve to protect and enhance our egos. We must become aware of these forces within our psyches before we are able to release them to make room for our true or higher Self.

Pure Cinnabar powder

HOW TO PRACTICE

  1. Start by entering a state of relaxation, one in which you feel detached from your worries and daily concerns or problems. You can do this by focusing on your breath, by noting the “in” or the “out” breath or by counting each breath as it passes. You may also use a mantra of your choice to bring your attention inward. When you find you are relaxed, move on to the next step.
  2. Slowly count backwards from 10 down to 1. While counting down, continue to relax each part of your body, starting at the crown of your head and moving down to your toes. Take care to make each breath slower and deeper than the last.
  3. Visualize brilliant red cinnabar roasting over an open flame. As you do so, let your mind travel back to any moment of your life where you felt humiliated or enraged by someone else. Try to notice the true cause of your intense feelings—they are typically tied up in a sense of losing control, of not having any power over yourself, and of your ego or sense of self being diminished.
  4. Observe your thoughts as they stream through your mind. Notice the ways in which you reacted to being hurt. This can include such things as promising yourself you will never be vulnerable and risk getting hurt again, or lashing out at someone else to soothe the ego’s pain. Re-evaluate how you responded to these painful circumstances. Ask yourself, is this the best way to respond? How would my higher or wiser self choose to respond instead?
  5. Most importantly, allow yourself to experience all of your difficult feelings. Avoid suppressing and repressing your pain. It never truly goes away, and there is much wisdom to be found in the depths of your own darkness.
  6. Notice all of the insights and wisdom that come up as you do this. Picture this to be the mercury being released from the cinnabar. Imagine yourself gathering up all of this precious mercury into a glass bottle as it is released from the rocks of cinnabar.
Mercury
Mercury in his element

This mercury, this purified thought, is now yours to use as you wish.

Liquid mercury