Adverse Childhood Experiences and the path towards healing. You are not alone.
I share my trials, my victories, and my stories with you in hopes that if any of you were ever touched by childhood abuse or neglect, as I was, you will see yourselves in my experiences and feel strengthened to voice what you had not been able to before. I hope we can learn together why we respond to life through a particular lens, and that there are ways to climb out of this prison of pain, silence, and shame.
My name is Bess Hilpert

Uncovering the Gold

This Little Light of Mine…

American psychologist and author, Tara Brach, is known to teach us through the story of the Golden Buddha discovered beneath a clay façade in Bangkok in the 1950’s,

“Just as the monks disguised the beauty of the golden Buddha in order to protect it during dangerous times, we cover our innate purity and goodness as we encounter a challenging world.”

I am recognizing that as a person who survived childhood maltreatment in various forms, I spend much of my time hiding from my innate goodness, or as Franciscan monk Father Richard Rohr terms it, “my original goodness.” My goodness gets tethered to the inaccurate truths about myself that keep swirling loudly round my brain. Does this sound familiar to anyone else?

Dutch psychiatrist and author, Bessel Van Der Kolk, is quoted as saying,

“The greatest sources of our suffering are the lies we tell ourselves.”

Undoubtedly, you are familiar with shame researcher and author Brene Brown’s saying, “The story I’m telling myself.” In her work to distinguish what we walk away with from what actually occurred, Brene uses this phrase to help us understand that our impression of a situation is informed by our own story, our experience, and often our own fears. She uses the example of saying to self or others, “The story I’m telling myself is…” to get hold of the distinction between what is actually going on and what we might have imagined is happening for the other person.

As children having experienced early life adversity, we grow up increasingly internalizing the judgments and values of our society, further losing touch with our innocence, our creativity, and our tender hearts. We cover over the gold Tara Brach describes as we seek the approval of others, looking to them to measure our worth—to determine whether we are good enough, smart enough, or successful enough. Does this resonate with anyone?

And, yet we already are good enough. We just do not know it or aren’t willing to believe it.

Tara Brach is also a Buddhist mediation teacher, and she explains:

“A core teaching of the Buddha is that we suffer because we forget who we really are. We forget the essence — the awareness and the love that is here — and we become caught in an identity that is less than who we are.”

Adding layer after layer to protect ourselves, we become identified with our coverings, believing ourselves to be separate, threatened, and deficient. It colors how we both see and respond to the world. This is the lens through which we view everyone and everything around us.

Even when our “stories” tell us otherwise, and we cannot see the gold hidden inside of us, the light and love of our true nature cannot be dimmed, tarnished, or erased. The “story” does not erase your goodness. Your God-given light. It still shines forth for others to see and to catch. This internal light calls to us daily through our longing for connection, our urge to understand reality, our delight in beauty, and our natural desire to help others. Does something in these words ring true for you?

There is a quote in the Bible, in Matthew 5, 14-16 that says:

“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, women, all.”

Our deepest intuition is that there is something beyond our habitual story of a separate, isolated, damaged self: something vast, mysterious, and sacred….  

These moments of awareness are fleeting but when they come, they grab our hearts hard. It could be the bird’s song early in the morning while the only light is the moon’s reflection on the stone patio. It could be the delight of the first light green hummingbird of the season whirring past your cheek on a warm Spring afternoon. It could be in the hand of your grandchild as they squeeze yours ever so tightly asking for protection from the monster on the screen. The cuddles of your favorite pet as you walk through the front door after a long workday asking for nothing but your presence. Or it could be in those special eyes that look deeply and longingly into yours when you need it the most. In these passing moments the vast, mysterious, and sacred are unveiled. Your light is touched, and it touches others. You are not alone.

Amazingly, even if you’re hiding your light, telling yourself stories, or having a bad “self” day, you can provide light or encouragement to someone else.

I had a brief moment that emphasized this a few days ago. I am still impacted deep within my heart by this fleeting moment. It is no secret that I suffer from anxiety around my swimming. I acknowledge that I have, as I said above, identified with the many coverings I have dressed myself with to protect myself. The armor is there to keep me safe from perceived threat, self-deficiency, and rejection. Anxiety in the water takes the physical form of violent shaking, heavy breathing, and sometimes dizziness or disconnectedness. All of which I was experiencing during a recent swim practice as my fear of failure loomed larger than the actual task, swim practice. One of my lane mates kindly suggested we get moving soon as “Bess is obviously cold,” as exhibited by my shaking. I smiled and nodded, face down. Alone with my story.

Then there was this moment of sheer silence. Nothing but quiet surrounded me. I felt the words before I heard them. A tender voice pierced my terror. A voice gently and without judgement asked if I was anxious. The voice held me in the water, leaned in, and whispered “I’ve got you.” The voice was followed by unconditional love being poured into me through the touch of a hand on my back. It stayed there, for a brief moment, before being pulled away. And while the hand was removed, the touch was still there. It is still there. I was safe. I was not alone. My light had been touched and I could now touch back with my little light.

I read a lovely quote today on holding space that a friend, @faithindrag, quoted on social media. I would like to share it with you.

“What Does It mean To Hold Space for Another Person?

It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they are on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.”

That voice, that swimmer, held space for me. What a gift.

Even though the gold of your true nature can get buried beneath fear, uncertainty, and confusion, as mine was during that swim practice, the more you trust this loving presence as the truth of who you are, the more fully you will call it forth in yourself, in all those you touch, or who touch you. This was profoundly demonstrated to me through a simple touch at just the right moment in time.

This coming week, may we all take brief moments to see the gold in each other. Or notice when a friend or acquaintance seems a little off, and gently shine your light on them.

Until next time, friends.

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