A New Face: Change in Spring

( Post-traumatic Growth is PTSG)

Spring is about life, growth, change, the ceaseless cycle of life and death. Endings make way for new beginnings, or better put: beginning anew. In the spirit of Spring, I invite you to join me in an exploration of what’s come to pass and what you see on the horizon. An inventory of sorts. What have you learned from the past year?

It seems to me that the New Year concept falls entirely in the wrong season. Don’t you think? Each season has a primary purpose. To fulfill that purpose, each season has qualities that are strong and others that are weak. The particular constellation of energy patterns that we experience in a given season is attributable to the balance of the elements. Elements are: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and the fifth, Space, enables the other’s to form. Space creates the context by which all else occurs. Each session has, at it’s heart, dominant element(s). Thanks to those elements, summer expresses itself in that familiar way we tend to love. As does winter, even when we don’t particularly love it.

In CAM (complementary alternative medicines) such as TCM and Ayurveda, each individual possesses a dominant element, or set of elements, as well. We are part of the fabric of life, so what’s out there, also finds itself in us. The dynamic interaction between the elements provides us the ground of our strengths and weaknesses. Of course, experiences will ultimately shape any raw material. Thankfully, we have control over our experiences, even when we think we don’t. (Some of the elements have different names in TCM vs Ayurveda but the principles are consistent).

When you align your purpose with the larger purpose unfolding in nature, you are far more likely to be successful. The New Year, in my world, would accompany the crucial practice of “Retrospection”. First you need to really understand what’s transpired and what that is showing you you need to address. Then you can begin to make resolutions, or better yet, plans to make it happen. The dead of winter is appropriate for January through February. It is not the right time to try to make changes. Instead, take the opportunity of the quiet and still energy around you to introspect and retrospect. Then, come March, you’ll have a good idea of what you need to focus on the rest of the year.

Since I do not preach what I don’t practice myself, my end of year review led me to change the face of this blog, to bring it more in line with BHCHAP’s mission: to promote Post-traumatic Growth or PTSG.

I’d like to introduce the Bodhisattva, Ksitigarbha, best known as Jizo, a prevalent feature of Japanese culture. Jizo will be guiding us on our journey. (You’ll see why in just a moment).

Little Jizo statues seen at a park in Japan.

Little Jizo statues seen at a park in Japan.

But first:

What is a Bodhisattva? Good question.

A Bodhisattva is very much like a Patron Saint in other religions. A practitioner of dharma, the wisdom practices taught by the Buddha, upon “awakening”, realizing enlightenment, dedicates him or herself to aid sentient beings until the very last one has also attained enlightenment. Bodhisattvas represent different aspects of Enlightenment. Unlike other religions, they are not seen as individual “entities” or “figures” but faces, or elements, of what is essentially “whole”. Just like the interplay of elements gives rise to our world. Without “Air” for instance, we have nothing. There’s air in water. There’s air in fire. There’s air in earth. Everything is interdependent. Nothing is missing. Such are Bodhisattvas, they are elements of Enlightenment: a particular Bodhisattva may represent any facet of the path, such as wisdom- realizing how things really work; others may focus on compassion; others on overcoming obstacles that are extremely tough.

Some, like Jizo, focus on particular kids of human experience, particular kinds of human suffering. Jizo is the Bodhisattva of Lost Souls, of Travelers, of Children and Animals. Travelers does not refer to vacationers, rather to the recently departed. The photograph shows a Japanese custom: parents of deceased children will offer clothing to Jizo statues, much like Christians in this country might light a candle.

Jizo is the perfect Bodhisattva for my clients. Among the feelings I hear people share about is that of feeling “lost”, “unseen”, “unheard”, “not recognized”, “afraid to be authentic”, among many others. Among the experiences of abuse, neglect, or other violations or injuries my ears are entrusted with hearing, I see how suffering in childhood (beyond what can be supported), causes a rupture in the unified field of their sense of self. And as they grow up, that rupture grow up within them.

PTSG is the experience of reclaiming your sense of self, of wholeness, and all of what that means: your strengths, resources, and ultimately your whole hearted ability to love, without reservation or apprehension: unabashed.

Coming next: a way to use the elements to guide your self care, a self care that’s rewarding, not another task on your “things to do”.