Today I had the profound honor of observing Somatic Experiencing founder and master trauma therapist Peter Levine work with clients. With tenderness and deep presence, Peter tended to the traumas of wounded warriors from Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq; a woman with a Dickensian childhood of bone-chilling abuse and neglect; and a man suffering from a depression so severe it had recently left him catatonic. In the wake of yesterday’s tragedy there was a rawness to all of us in the room: a fragility and tentativeness to diving in, met with an over-riding commitment to the work and its urgent relevance.

There were many points during the day when I wanted to leave. I felt at capacity, as though I simply did not have the space to hold anymore suffering. Despite being a passionate believer in the power of bearing witness to pain and injustice, today I was an exhausted witness. There is just so much. Too much. There is no bottom to the brutality, the terror, and the tragedy human beings face. The world is full of terror. I can no longer hide from this truth by telling myself a story that imposes meaning and order onto blatant randomness and cruelty. Ever attuned to the room, Peter noticed a moment of my overwhelm, and kindly looked me in the eye and said: “It’s important that you are here. Let’s all just be here, together.” I let go of searching for answers, of trying to be a better therapist, of even attempting to save the world. All I could do was commit to stay in the room. To not leave. So though the tears came, the grief choked up, and at times I lost my breath, I resolved to stay. This was a gift, because along with the horror I bore witness to true healing. Despite the most devastating loss and violence, I watched the vitality, dignity, resilience, and goodness return in these traumatized people the way color washes back into the face of the near-drowned after resuscitation. The world is full of terror, and yet the beauty persists. The day wasn’t grandiose. Somatic Experiencing is not a quick fix (because there is none). There were no white-light moments, no scenes of catharsis scored by John Williams. There were numinous glimpses, reminders that we can make it: exhales of relief, inhales of possibility and the return to life. I am grateful I stayed. I think we all need to stay, to hold that tension of agony and awe, despair and hope, grief and going on. All day the words of Mary Oliver echoed in my ears, her rapturous poem Poppies: a hymn to holding the tension of opposites. I’ll leave you with her invitation to all of us to stay

during this sad time:
“There isn’t a place
in this world that doesn’t

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines likes a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.
Of course nothing stops the cold,

black, curved blade
from hooking forward-
of course
loss is the great lesson.

But I also say this: that light
is an invitation to happiness,
and happiness,

when it’s done right
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.”

So, here’s to staying. Staying with the indigos of darkness, the loss, and the light that invites us to the possibility of redemption. May our hearts break to open wider, may we find space to hold it all.

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