Yesterday my clinical supervisor gave me a book about self esteem published by Sounds True because we're planning a series of group therapy sessions on self esteem. The book is a collection of chapters from different writers and at the top was Mark Nepo, a name I hadn't heard in awhile. Two years ago I went to the inaugural Sounds True conference in California and met Mark Nepo in person. I'm reminded of the story that he told and the post that I made afterwards.
Mark Nepo told a story about a monk on a long journey alone. To cross the many rivers the monk brought with him a raft. After many weeks and months of carrying this raft it occurred to him that there are no more rivers to cross. He looked at the raft and remembered all the rivers he crossed with it and said "I would rather burn you in reverence than to carry you with resentment" and with that he left the raft behind and continued his journey.
The moral of the story is that many things in life, like the raft, were so useful to us at one point in our lives, but one day we may find that they no longer serve us and have now become a burden. We may hold onto things for sentimental value but it's hindering us. Maybe it's better that we let things go, the people we were once so close to, the promises we made that had meant so much to us, when they no longer help us get to where we want to go. What are you holding onto that you can let go?
I once flew to Johannesburg for a weekend of safari. I managed to book three game drives from three different parks. On that Sunday morning, I was at the Lion & Safari Park. Me and the park ranger were alone in a closed vehicle inside the lion enclosure. If you don't know what a lion enclosure is, it's basically a plot of land surrounded two electric fences. It's basically a bigger cage for the lions so that they don't run out and eat other animals. Think Jurassic Park.
So 6am, it's still dark out, me and the park ranger were inside the lion enclosure shining a flashlight at the lions and talking about what they eat, how they sleep, etc. Suddenly the park ranger got super distressed and starts telling me to back off from the windows and start making loud noises to scare the lions. I was just like what the hell is going on? Apparently, she saw the lion ears go up and walking towards us, which could mean that the lions are stimulated and may try to open the door and attack us.
Thankfully, nothing happened in the end. Once the lions got bored and went away, I was keen to get the hell out of there. I was freaking scared. The day before, I was super relaxed taking photos next to lions only 2 metres away at another park. But after this lion enclosure experience, I am now afraid of lions.
A couple years later, I was in Kenya for a safari and I was really struggling with the lions. There were prides of lions hanging around; while everyone else took their cameras out and got super excited to see them up close, I was freaking out. Chris Germer, the cofounder of mindful self compassion was near me and I sat right next to him because I was freaking out. He told me, hey maybe now you can have a corrective experience.
Corrective experience. It means experiencing a previous trauma but this time you feel safe. Security, safety, is of the utmost importance. With trauma, one good experience is not enough to be corrective. You need repeating good experiences for it to be corrective. Whatever trauma you are dealing with, you need multiple corrective experiences to change your neural connections but it can be done. Thank God for brain plasticity.