A Healing Journey

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice -
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
”Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do -
determined to save
the only life you could save.
— Mary Oliver

To start, I want to share a poem, "The Journey" by Mary Oliver. Years ago I came across these words when I needed to hear them. I was grieving and feeling lost, unsure what the next step of my life would be. It felt stressful and scary at times. This poem helped me know I was not alone and I was not the only one who struggled with finding my way.

I thought of this poem the other day and looked through my old journals to find where I had written it down. In the process, I found another journal entry that jumped out at me. It was from my first experience with somatic therapy. I had signed up for a five day program at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. At the time it was called, SomaSoul® Somatic Expressive Therapy Training: The Expressive Body and the Contemplative Mind. The teacher, Dan Leven, continues to offer similar programs and trainings at Kripalu, though the format and title has changed a little over the years. (For a list of his upcoming offerings, go here.)

A couple years had passed between my discovery of the Mary Oliver poem and the program I attended at Kripalu, but I was still struggling. I felt stuck in physical and emotional pain and unsure where to turn. I was exploring anything that seemed promising and part of me was immediately drawn to what Dan Leven was offering. Traveling from Kentucky, where I lived at the time, to Kripalu in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, I was cautiously optimistic that I would find something I needed. Okay, that is an understatement. I was excited and terrified of what I was getting myself into. Honestly, I believe part of me knew that this might change my life. And that turned out to be true.

Here is what I wrote that first night. "Tonight, within the first hour and a half of SomaSoul, I felt release, fear, sadness, joy, laughter, isolation and connection. Nervous about the sensations of pain in my body - and then, dancing with more freedom of movement than I have felt in more than a year. My hips, released, free, open. This is why I am here. Re-building my relationship with my body...After dancing, at the end, we laid on the floor and I cried. I relaxed and released something. And then walked back to the main building by the light of the moon."

That night I had a hard time falling asleep. I was wired. Then I had this dream. I am in a room, sitting just outside a circle of people. Dan, the teacher, is asking me questions about myself. I say I am detail-oriented and organized. Someone says to me, "You ask for your authentic self to come up and when it does, you say, oh, but not that part."

In reaction to this dream that next morning I wrote, "I say I want to be truly me, and yet I still fight parts of me that are inconvenient or painful, ugly, etc. The intention of wholeness. Integrated self. I'm scared and apprehensive of what I will hear. I'm listening."

This was the beginning of an incredible journey into the depths of my being, a journey that I am still on and may follow for my whole life. It has been terrifying and harder than I could have imagined at times. At other times, I open into such feelings of peace, satisfaction, love, connection and meaning that it is beyond words. There are peaks and valleys, always.

And there have been several important gifts along the way. The first is how my relationship to myself and my body has changed. I fight myself less. With help and guidance, I have learned how to welcome and honor the hard parts, such as my pains and fears and the parts of me that are mean and hateful. I have more kindness and compassion for myself. 

The second gift I will mention here is that I have learned so much about relating to other people. This is a big one for me and something I am still working on. I have held people at arm's length most of my life. I am learning how to let them in. I am learning how to have deep, caring relationships with other human beings and how to accept that we are all imperfect and make mistakes, sometimes painful ones.   

I felt moved to share this part of my experience today, to honor my journey and where I have come from and to recognize I am still healing and growing. It also feels like an offering to anyone who has felt lost, alone or in pain. We all face challenges and everyone's experience is their own. And so many times our deepest hurts and fears are held inside and it's hard to truly know how intimately others can relate to our personal struggles. There are many paths to healing. For me, healing has come through connection with others and learning how to reconnect with my physical body. Feel free to contact me for more information about the programs and trainings I have done and/or what I offer as a practitioner.

Katherine Grigg, MPC, RSMT is a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist who is passionate about weaving mindfulness and compassion into everyday life. She sees clients in West Hartford, CT and teaches classes and workshops in the Greater Hartford area. To learn more about her work, visit her Spirituality and Mindfulness and Pain pages.