Friday, January 29, 2016

Reopening the High School Year Book

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

It comes around every 5 years. There in the mailbox is the letter from high school:

It’s that time again! Come join us for the 2003 high school class reunion!

To which I think nothing positive in response.

Cleaning Out the Closet

After my initial awakening, I cleared out a lot of stored physical junk and other items. I classify “junk” as anything I hadn’t used within a year and/or had little if any practical value, and “other items” as things such a CDs, most of which, though I may have liked the music, I’d purchased mostly in the desire to repress various inner discomforts.

From time to time since then, I’ve done similar but on a necessarily smaller scale. And with each one of these clean-outs, there’s always a gray area. To throw, or not to throw? that is the question.

Items that fit into this category are things like my high school year book. (As the ones from all prior years are basically the same and less comprehensive, I’ve thrown them all in the garbage.) On one hand I feel like, What the hell do I need this for? I hated high school, the experience is long past, and now it just sits in a box doing nothing. It did seem, however, that I was experiencing an itch on the other hand, the hand so subtly whispering: Not yet.

So I’ve kept it.

More recently, I was having an emotionally unpleasant Dark Night of the Soul kind of day. I was lying in bed feeling ultra shitty when thoughts began coming up regarding painful high school experiences, the people involved, and my related negativity. These memories ranged from me making “small” criticisms to myself about others to, in one instance, someone triggering a major you’re-a-useless-worthless-failure trigger and causing me to feel like I wanted to both die and beat the life out of the person on the gym floor—at which point I stuffed all my emotions inside and kept my mouth shut.

It’s here when I understood the reason for my intuition’s concern as to not be hasty in tossing out my year book. I yet needed to remember, to apologize, to forgive—to let go.

The processing I came to do in the days to follow is what I’m going to teach you here.

While having your year book on hand is, of course, a major benefit to the smoothness of this process, I would recommend not jumping away too soon if you've thrown yours out. My experience has shown me that the intention to do this process is alone enough to trigger remembering. There are quite a few people I'd gone to school with yet are not in my senior year book. Some of these people I've not seen or even thought of for ages. No matter, in the days following the process onset, former classmates and unintegrated experiences began coming to mind or into my experience in ways too frequent and synchronistic to call "coincidence."

Now, if you'd like to join me, let's get started...

“The Year Book Process”

After you take your year book out and dust it off, here’s what you’re going to do:
  1. With each person in the year book, write their first and last names, then consider and write out what you would tell them if you could see them again and had no fear or shame but absolute compassion and wanted to resolve prior hurt. Be sure to include your reflection.

  2. When you’re done making your written case “against” yourself, finish off with, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”
This process is about cleaning house—revealing and healing whatever hurts and criticism were given or received, feelings were felt, and so on. Big and small alike, it all has to come up and out.

Note that you don't actually have to tell anyone anything. Although you may find it necessary to do so in certain rare cases, what you're really doing here is mending fragments of self "in here" by integrating their associated reflections "out there."

Similarly, it is critical to acknowledge your reflection no matter how big or seemingly trivial the negativity is. If you’re hell bent on believing that Dan is a dick and that’s-that-period-end-of-story, you’re going to have a really difficult time with this. What happened “out there” is only possible because the person you’re pointing your finger at is a reflective fragment of yourself “in here.” You’re going to have to face it to heal.

Each entry is closed with what is known as the Ho'oponopono Process.

What You Should Write and What You Should Not Write

Since it’s quickest to explain, we’ll go with what you should not write, first.

What should you not write?

There is nothing you should not write.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to what you should write.

As you do this work, keep in mind that you will not be sharing your writing with anyone except Mr. Paper-Shredder or Mrs. Bonfire once you’re completed (whether after each session or the whole year book). Therefore, write anything and everything. Get it all out. Don’t let it stagnate and rot. If you’re going to do this, you might as well do it fully and “correctly” (by all means, tweak this process if you find something more personally effective).

As I put this before you, I realize that some people may be overcome by feelings of shame and guilt as they do this. Keep in mind these two things:
  1. You are both light and darkness. There cannot be one without the other. Darkness is not a problem unless we make it a problem, unless we reject it or act reactively on it.

  2. You wouldn’t be ashamed if you were the only person in existence, because we learn shame from externally derived beliefs, expectations, our culture, etc. Since no one will read what you write, you should be able to say anything without shame or guilt being an issue. Give yourself permission… You might even be surprised. Perhaps the very tears you hold back by avoiding this admittance of negativity and apology are the very tears that would heal you if you honored your experience by writing it down.
The last item to point out is that you need to write whatever you feel compelled to. In my own experience, the amount I write overall can be broken down into 3 categories:
  1. The Least (If Any): This is going to be the group of students you’d known and seen the least. While it may at first appear you can skip right over them, we tend to judge everybody if only by appearance and even if we don’t put specific words to it. For these "lesser" cases, you may wish to simply verbalize the process to them. This could begin with their name and a statement such as: “I judge you solely by physical appearances because that's how I judge myself.”

  2. The Standard: This group is of the people you’d known and seen regularly. What I’ve found here, for myself at least, is that writing about 3-5 lines is adequate for most. An initial glance might suggest more, but what I’ve noticed is that even those whom I’d made a lot of criticisms of, the criticisms tended to be the same ones over and over again. Most individuals will represent just a tiny fragment of you; only on occasion will they represent more.

  3. The Most: This final group is of fellow students who did reflect a greater part of you—enemies, close friends, boy-/girlfriends, etc. While the process remains the same, the number of reflective fragments of dis-integration within any single person will be the highest. Alternately, even though some in this group may be only a fragment or two, the depth of the fragmentation may go quite deep and require a page or three of self-reflection. (There is the potential for this increased depth to show up in other groups.)
Also, you will find yourself frequently exhibiting the same judgments toward different people. This repetition is not a free pass. Do yourself the favor of writing everything out. I’ve found time and again that rewriting will trigger alternate pathways of distortion that I’d missed when beginning by writing the same of someone else.

Some Examples

Since instruction is always easier to understand with example, below I’ve included instances similar to what I’d written to three different people. Some may be shorter; some may be longer—a lot longer.

To those who find this to be difficult in terms of shame and guilt and all that hairy stuff, notice what I’m writing. It’s dark and perverse (even if many of us call it “normal”). But it is human and a part of embracing the totality of ourselves.

Realize that you’re not alone in what or how you think. We all carry these things; it’s just that people are often afraid to acknowledge it.

You see, many people pretend to be “all light and no darkness,” and a lot of these very people fool others into feeling shame and guilt because it’s not understood that “all light and no darkness” does not exist. In fact, “all light and no darkness” is only and always a facade people put up for fear of facing their own inner turmoil—they’re afraid of facing their own inner darkness so they blame everyone else.

That said, here are the examples:
  1. [Name] ---- I hated you because you thought you were such a cool guy and got all sorts of attention. Really, I was angry at myself because in my self-perception of worthlessness, I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the attention I did get. I made friends with everyone but felt little connection to any of them because I couldn’t make friends with myself. The attention and popularity were there waiting for me, but I refused to show up and own it. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.

  2. [Name] ---- I always thought you were hot. I wanted to squeeze your big boobies and have sex with you. In other words, to me you were an object. Like myself, an inert mass undeserving of love, connection, and touch. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.

  3. [Name] ---- I was fake to you. I acted like I was glad to have what you unexpectedly gave to me. I’m glad I meant something to you. Took me 12 years to get it. I suppose I didn’t get it in high school because I didn’t mean anything to myself. Thank you for seeing deeper. For caring. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.
Again, like I said, get it all out. Take this wherever you need to. Maybe you’ll simply note the reflection in you calling someone ugly because you saw yourself as ugly; maybe you’ll see in another the reflection of a trauma you’d sustained when you were three years old and have been unconsciously blaming on others. Follow the paths which present themselves and write as dirty as you must—you are writing for you and you alone. All will be cleaned up in the end.

The Purpose of Writing It Out

Aside from any potential benefit of the Ho'oponopono Process, the act of writing itself is very healing.

This is not to suggest that we need to know proper punctuation or what predicates or past participles are. All we need to know is how to write words on paper with a pencil.

Here’s the thing: When dis-ease arises in life and we fail to immediately integrate it, we end up repressing it inside of us. We effectively say, This didn’t happen. It’s not mine. Later on (which may be no more than one second after an experience or not for 25 years), this inner hurt comes to the surface. But because we still don’t want to see or feel it, because it seems easier to us to blame it on someone or something else or pretend it’s not really there, we end up trying to relieve it in unhealthy ways. We may complain; we may try to drink it, eat it, or shop it away; we may beat our kids—anything that helps us avoid being here and now in acceptance of what discomforts us.

Contrarily, writing out our troubles heals us because writing forgoes denial, avoidance, and blame for the physically acted admittance and ownership of our dis-integration.

Writing has a way of getting far closer to truth than thought does. If you do practices like this regularly enough, you will find that it’s vastly easier to be impartial in your writing (even if it takes multiple drafts with each one becoming more objective) than it is to be impartial in your mind. Ego simply has too much control and can too persuasively gloss over critical clues as being unimportant.

So, too, with writing you can stop and focus on certain items or reference back to them later on. The primary (perhaps only) setting of the ego-mind is “run.” Thinking is running. It’s not uncommon that in order for us to fully process what we’re thinking and feeling we need to utilize the “pause,” “repeat,” “analyze,” and “be with” modes.

A Wish

Before we part ways, I want to offer my wish that “The Year Book Process” works well for you should you choose to use it.

For me, at least, I can attest that it is most certainly effective. I’ve been experiencing healing shifts which parallel the writing process. While I’ll keep mostly quiet as to how this healing is occurring for me (everyone’s will play out more or less differently), there are two things I would like to acknowledge:
  1. I feel a deeper sense of love and beauty toward everyone and life as a whole.

  2. As I skimmed through the year book before closing it for good, my fellow classmates looked like people. Not assholes, shitheads, or back-stabbing bitchs, but people. In a way impossible to truly describe, seeing them was sort of like I’d never seen them before. And why not? Each person is and was only ever me, alternately defined. By reintegrating “in here” my reflective fragments “out there,” my now-objectified awareness reveals to me only what is. Meaning: I’d only ever “known” my fellow students by a blunder of definitions; now they just are. Former splinters reintegrated back into the totality of me.

Ho’oponopono Revisited

In closing…

If I went to school with you, whether we knew each other personally or not and even if you weren’t in my senior year book, I remember you. If you hurt me, I hurt you, or we both hurt each other, even if these hurts were only internally held criticisms and judgments and the like, I haven’t forgotten. I couldn’t have.

It’s hard to forget anyone when they can’t let go of you until you let go of them.

That said, I’d just like to tell you:

I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.

[Update 2/3/2016:] A Few Steps Further

Since writing through the folks I'd been in grade and high schools with, I’ve been working on the people I'd known in college, co-workers from my various jobs, and the people I'd been involved with in other activities such as karate and boy scouts.

I'll tell you what... High School was an outstandingly terrible experience for me. Nonetheless, I feel like I sailed through the processing with relative ease.

Wasn't I surprised then when I began recalling the people I'd taken part in varying other activities with... Sailing hasn't been so smooth this time. These "reflective fragments" are revealing some huge masses of junk—stuff I hadn't even touched on previously (out of ~1000 people). Moreover, the ratio of troubles to person count is vastly higher; meaning: where in high school it may have been 1 in every 20 people whose reflection shone sharply, with these other activities it’s more like 1 in 1.2.

All of which meeeeeaaaaans...

Yep! Get to it! Whatever activities beyond school that you'd taken part in—sports, service, play, work—get processing!

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