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A JOURNEY TO THE ROCK BOTTOM OF TRAUMA

“The wound is the place
where the Light enters you.”
- Rumi

As someone who has recovered from what we now call Complex PTSD, I want to share my most important discovery, the one principle and insight that saved my life, altered my destiny, and ultimately led to profound healing.

The discovery? Awakening to my own indestructible Presence. Discovering who I really am, that calm, surrendered place in the midst of the somatic, emotional and psychological storm of the body-mind. The holy non-dual light in the darkness.

No matter how intense and terrifying my feelings got over the years; no matter how tense and contracted the muscles in my body became; no matter how my mind raced and spun and catastrophized over every tiny little thing; no matter how loud and violent the inner voices of fear and shame became; no matter how much I spaced out, dissociated from my body, went numb, lost myself in nightmares; no matter how hard it was to breathe sometimes in the midst of fear, crippling social anxiety and that crushing sense of unworthiness at the core of all trauma; no matter how many times I escaped into my addictions – binge eating, computer games, codependency and people-pleasing, fantasy, overworking, self-hatred, desperately attempting to control others; no matter how bad things got, there was a safe place I could always return to, a sanctuary of Self.

Many times I forgot this safe place of course. Many times I lost myself in the whirlwind of trauma again.

But then I would remember…

“Trust. Breathe. You are safe. Thoughts and feelings and bodily sensations have never hurt anyone.

You are here. It is now. You are not in the past. You are not in the future.

You are here. Now. You are breathing. You are safe...”

Sometimes the work of recovery felt impossible to do by myself. Many times I sobbed in the arms of my partner, or a dear friend. Once or twice I sobbed in the arms of a stranger. Sometimes I had to write out my pain, splurge it all on paper, let the paper hold me and ground me and give me hope.

Sometimes I felt I was about to die or go mad. Probably thousands of times I imagined myself being carted away in a straight-jacket, or a coffin.

And then, I would drop out of the mind again, come out of thought and its myriad futures, and fall back into the fucking earth. Into the ground. Into the couch, the bed, the grass, the living day, the reality. And then, spontaneous tears would come. Or spontaneous shaking. Or spontaneous fire, the sense of my own animal power.

“Here, Jeff. Come back here…”

Healing is messy. Healing is terrifying sometimes. Healing can also be blissful of course, some days. There is no “right way” to heal. We learn to expect the ups and the downs. We learn to expect the despair and the joy and the confusion.

Sometimes healing can come unexpectedly through a scene in a movie you’re watching, through a piece of music, a passage in a book, or a moment of stillness in a shopping mall. Sometimes a work of art, or a poem, or a conversation with a friend, healed and inspired and soothed me and brought me to Presence more deeply and quickly than any therapist or healing technique ever could.

Sometimes, feeling unable to go on, unable to escape myself, the only place I could go was the core of my deepest pain, into the abandonment wound itself, into the heart of the dissociation and the numbness. I took the risk of letting the numbness kill me (as my mind feared it would).

And every time, as I turned towards the abandonment depression, the cosmic tiredness, the searing sense of isolation, the voided void, the howling trauma core, every single fucking time it didn’t kill me, and every single fucking time I found that it was the safest place to be, and every single fucking time I found relief, relaxation, even sweet healing tears there, in the place I thought I would breathe my last breath. In the darkest place, I found new creativity, new love, new life.

I learned to bless my sweet body, in its full-on fight-or-flight mode, or its full-on “get me out of the moment” mode, bless the racing heart and the trembling limbs and the sweat and the nausea and that awful sinking feeling in the belly and that terrible sense of urgency to escape.

I learned to trust it all although I hated it all so badly sometimes!
I leaned to trust it all although it felt so very hard to trust sometimes.
I started to become the parent - the mother and the father - I never had. The one that stayed with me in the pits of hell, who held me close and whispered, “I am here. You are safe. This is just the passing intensity of the mind and body and nothing bad is happening, and you just need to remember to breathe, and it will all pass as it always has, and I am here with you through every breath you take...”

I learned how to be with the abandoned one inside, that terrible, lonely, searing depression at the rock bottom of all trauma. I learned to see that it was just a feeling calling for love, and it didn’t define me, and it wasn’t a threat, but an exquisite part of existence itself, that didn’t have to be cured or defeated, but loved.

Yes, I learned how to befriend the lonely one within, the abandoned one, the one who wanted to die, I learned to breathe with it and see it as a frightened part of me desperately needing my love. I learned to take care of the lost child.

I found that I was bigger than my frightened mind, bigger than any feeling, however intense, bigger than grief, bigger than trauma itself, bigger than my own limited notion of myself. Layers of shame and fear began to melt away, layers of addiction, layers of mind, layers that were only trying to ‘protect’ me from raw life, and my raw self, and my raw feelings and bodily sensations, and my raw truth.

As all these outdated coping mechanisms fell away, I learned to see and love my imperfections again. To rejoice at my wonderful mistakes. To laugh at the absurdity of my moments. To let myself break down sometimes, to give up sometimes, to surrender, to not know. To let myself be seen by others. To stop repressing my authenticity and weirdness. To stop trying to be a carbon copy of other people. To pursue my own wonderful, scary, original path.

To let myself forget, and remember, and forget again.
To let myself be humbled, often.
To begin again, each day.

There are a hundred other things I could tell you about my healing journey.
But if I only leave you with one thing right now, let it be this...

There is a place in you of utter safety, innocence, stillness, purity. It is ancient and wise and has survived a billion nightmares. It is unnameable and crystal clear, as soft as the finest cashmere, tougher than diamond, and more loving than anything you could possibly imagine. It is fearless yet it holds the most overwhelming terror like a newborn baby.

It is not a destination. It is not a place you get to one day. It is not some far-off utopia.
It cannot abandon you. It is God before God.
It is you, your deepest self, prior to any trauma.
Obscured sometimes, yes, but never truly lost.

It is the eye of the storm. Utterly unmoving. Utterly still. Utterly powerful.

I am grateful to my deepest psychological pain. It showed me the way Home. It cracked me open to my holy vulnerability and the preciousness of this human existence. It taught me things that joy and bliss and all kinds of worldly success could never, ever teach.

My trauma took me close to death, yes, but then it woke me up to more life.

There is so much hope, friend. There is so much hope.

- Jeff Foster
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24 hours ago  ·  

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1 day ago  ·  

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I love how this poem has touched so many people. I thought I'd read it out for you <3

HOW I BECAME A WARRIOR

Once, I ran from fear
so fear controlled me.
Until I learned to hold fear like a newborn.
Listen to it, but not give in.
Honour it, but not worship it.
Fear could not stop me anymore.
I walked with courage into the storm.
I still have fear,
but it does not have me.

Once, I was ashamed of who I was.
I invited shame into my heart.
I let it burn.
It told me, "I am only trying
to protect your vulnerability".
I thanked shame dearly,
and stepped into life anyway,
unashamed, with shame as a lover.

Once, I had great sadness
buried deep inside.
I invited it to come out and play.
I wept oceans. My tear ducts ran dry.
And I found joy right there.
Right at the core of my sorrow.
It was heartbreak that taught me how to love.

Once, I had anxiety.
A mind that wouldn't stop.
Thoughts that wouldn't be silent.
So I stopped trying to silence them.
And I dropped out of the mind,
and into the Earth.
Into the mud.
Where I was held strong
like a tree, unshakeable, safe.

Once, anger burned in the depths.
I called anger into the light of myself.
I felt its shocking power.
I let my heart pound and my blood boil.
Listened to it, finally.
And it screamed, "Respect yourself fiercely now!".
"Speak your truth with passion!".
"Say no when you mean no!".
"Walk your path with courage!".
"Let no one speak for you!"
Anger became an honest friend.
A truthful guide.
A beautiful wild child.

Once, loneliness cut deep.
I tried to distract and numb myself.
Ran to people and places and things.
Even pretended I was "happy".
But soon I could not run anymore.
And I tumbled into the heart of loneliness.
And I died and was reborn
into an exquisite solitude and stillness.
That connected me to all things.
So I was not lonely, but alone with All Life.
My heart One with all other hearts.

Once, I ran from difficult feelings.
Now, they are my advisors, confidants, friends,
and they all have a home in me,
and they all belong and have dignity.
I am sensitive, soft, fragile,
my arms wrapped around all my inner children.
And in my sensitivity, power.
In my fragility, an unshakeable Presence.

In the depths of my wounds,
in what I had named “darkness”,
I found a blazing Light
that guides me now in battle.

I became a warrior
when I turned towards myself.

And started listening.

- Jeff Foster
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2 days ago  ·  

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I love how this poem has touched so many people. I thought I'd read it out for you <3

HOW I BECAME A WARRIOR

Once, I ran from fear
so fear controlled me.
Until I learned to hold fear like a newborn.
Listen to it, but not give in.
Honour it, but not worship it.
Fear could not stop me anymore.
I walked with courage into the storm.
I still have fear,
but it does not have me.

Once, I was ashamed of who I was.
I invited shame into my heart.
I let it burn.
It told me, "I am only trying
to protect your vulnerability".
I thanked shame dearly,
and stepped into life anyway,
unashamed, with shame as a lover.

Once, I had great sadness
buried deep inside.
I invited it to come out and play.
I wept oceans. My tear ducts ran dry.
And I found joy right there.
Right at the core of my sorrow.
It was heartbreak that taught me how to love.

Once, I had anxiety.
A mind that wouldn't stop.
Thoughts that wouldn't be silent.
So I stopped trying to silence them.
And I dropped out of the mind,
and into the Earth.
Into the mud.
Where I was held strong
like a tree, unshakeable, safe.

Once, anger burned in the depths.
I called anger into the light of myself.
I felt its shocking power.
I let my heart pound and my blood boil.
Listened to it, finally.
And it screamed, "Respect yourself fiercely now!".
"Speak your truth with passion!".
"Say no when you mean no!".
"Walk your path with courage!".
"Let no one speak for you!"
Anger became an honest friend.
A truthful guide.
A beautiful wild child.

Once, loneliness cut deep.
I tried to distract and numb myself.
Ran to people and places and things.
Even pretended I was "happy".
But soon I could not run anymore.
And I tumbled into the heart of loneliness.
And I died and was reborn
into an exquisite solitude and stillness.
That connected me to all things.
So I was not lonely, but alone with All Life.
My heart One with all other hearts.

Once, I ran from difficult feelings.
Now, they are my advisors, confidants, friends,
and they all have a home in me,
and they all belong and have dignity.
I am sensitive, soft, fragile,
my arms wrapped around all my inner children.
And in my sensitivity, power.
In my fragility, an unshakeable Presence.

In the depths of my wounds,
in what I had named “darkness”,
I found a blazing Light
that guides me now in battle.

I became a warrior
when I turned towards myself.

And started listening.

- Jeff Foster
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3 days ago  ·  

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AN ALTERNATIVE LORD'S PRAYER

Our Father, our Mother,
Who art in Heaven,
or Who art not in Heaven at all,
Break me.

Send my dreams to the furnace.
Do it.
Show me the extent of Thy love.

And if Hallowed indeed be Thy Name,
Then put me together again
(like they tried to do with Humpty Dumpty).

Make something new out of me.
Or at least something beautiful.
Or at least something more true.

Return me to the world
Unchanged yet forever changed.

Thy Kingdom may never come.
Thy Will may never be done.
I really don't care.

I have discovered for myself
This ordinary moment -
Containing all of Heaven's riches.

- Jeff Foster
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3 days ago  ·  

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THE MYTH OF VULNERABILITY

You don’t have to be emotionally vulnerable all of the time, with everyone you meet.
You don’t have to unload your vulnerability 24 hours a day – to strangers on the street, to people you have just met, to the public on Facebook.
You never, ever have to share what you do not feel ready to share.
And maybe you never feel ready to share, and that's perfect too.

Let’s not make ‘being vulnerable’ into a new dogma, or a new religion, or another ‘should’.

You are allowed to have strong boundaries around your vulnerability. You are allowed to withhold your precious, fragile, sensitive heart, your deepest, most private and secret feelings and longings and thoughts and fears, until you are ready and willing to share them.
You are allowed to keep your vulnerability from those you do not feel safe with, those who do not want your precious heart or cannot handle it, those who have proven untrustworthy and those who judge or shame you for not “opening up” on their schedule.
Your boundaries around your vulnerability do not make you weak, or afraid, or unevolved. Sometimes saying no to sharing your vulnerability is an act of tremendous courage (just as sometimes sharing your vulnerability can be an act of tremendous courage).

You get to choose who to be vulnerable and fragile and open with, and when, and why, and you get to choose how much of yourself you reveal, in every moment.
You get to draw these lines and redraw them. You get to share more, if you feel like it, or change your mind, or share less, or share nothing personal at all.
Others are allowed to be disappointed or frustrated, and they are allowed to want more vulnerability from you.
And still, you do not have to share an ounce more than you feel comfortable sharing. This is your right and your power.

Your vulnerability is a sacred gift, and you give it only when you are ready and willing to give it, and not a moment before.

And that, my friends, is true vulnerability.

- Jeff Foster
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4 days ago  ·  

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YOU ARE NOT YOUR FEARS

It will never be as bad as you imagine, friend. It will never be as awful as you fear.

It literally can’t be. One is reality and one is your fantasy about ‘reality’. One is what‘s happening and the other is your nightmare future projection about ‘what might happen in another moment’.

The two can never truly meet. An image can only ever burn in the fire of Now. You can only live in the present.

And even if ‘the worst’ happens, you will find yourself dealing with it. In the midst of struggle, you may even tap into resources you never knew you had - courage, intuition, fearlessness, self-belief, unexpected physical strength. You might just know what to do, without even having to think.

The moment will be your ally, not your enemy. The moment will give you all the answers you need, all the information, all the intelligence. Your body’s flight or fight response will kick in to drive and support and empower you. You will be fully present to the challenging situation, and deal with it beautifully. But you can’t live it until you’re living it, and you may scare yourself unnecessarily - over and over again - by trying to.

You are not your fears, you are the one who is aware of them now. This understanding changes everything.

- Jeff Foster
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5 days ago  ·  

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“The mind is not the problem. The problem is taking the mind to be who we are, or rather, taking it to be all of who we are.

In reality, what we call mind - that is, those myriad thoughts, voices and images that come and go all day in our heads - is just a tiny fraction of the infinite intelligence that we are.

We can stop fighting the mind, or trying to silence or stop it, however ‘crazy’ it gets, and instead ask, what is aware of the mind, right now? What is it that hears these voices, sees these images, watches all this mind-activity? What is aware of the madness?

These profound questions can effortlessly guide us back to the clarity, peace and equanimity that we are - the loving Awareness of mind, the curious, patient parent to that beautiful wild child...”

- Jeff Foster
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5 days ago  ·  

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HINDSIGHT

Sometimes it’s okay to close a chapter of your life, to turn the page on a situation or connection, without having all the answers worked out. To leave questions unanswered, and doubts unresolved, and concerns just hanging there in space, and take that brave step into the unknown anyway.

It can be okay to end a relationship, a friendship, a certain way of connecting with someone, without everything between you being resolved, or made right, or even understood. To let awkwardness, discomfort, disappointment and disagreement stand where they stand, and take the step anyway.

Sometimes we are called to leave loose emotional ends, untied strands of thought, unhealed wounds and even conflict behind us, and spend quality time with our doubt, guilt, uncertainty, and our desperate addictive urge to fix everything. To take a leap of faith and trust the ‘not knowing’ instead.

Some wounds simply cannot be healed from where we are. Sometimes we cannot make everything right again, no matter how hard we try. Sometimes we just need a simple boundary and a clear decision, not more processing and talk and working on ourselves.

Some of our issues may only EVER make sense in hindsight. Or time may resolve our very need for sense altogether.

And sometimes, time itself is the only resolution possible, and the only freedom.

Trust in time, I say. Trust in time.

- Jeff Foster
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7 days ago  ·  

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With each of our breaths
We plug the gaping void.

We watch the eclipse of some other moon
In some other sky.

We don’t know each other’s names
Yet we stay close.

And against all advice to the contrary
We ride out without a plan.

We have nothing to hold onto anymore
Except this awesome sense
Of being alive.

Nothing to follow
Except this unmarked path of
Never needing to know.

Nothing to speak of as ‘real’
Except perhaps this love.
This unexpected grace.

You see my love
Every journey has a beginning
and an end.

Except this one.

- Jeff Foster
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7 days ago  ·  

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MASTER PLAN

Sometimes you don’t need
to have a Master Plan.
You can trust
in your Not Knowing instead.

Sometimes you just need
to take the next step.
A small step.
Into safety.

Or into the wilderness.

Trust. Breathe.
The great Master Plan
unfolds with each tiny step
that you take.

- Jeff Foster
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1 week ago  ·  

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THE JOY OF LONELINESS

“I am lonely. So very lonely,” she told me one day.

"Please, tell me of your loneliness", I said.

“Nothing can help me, you see. No person. No substance.
No experience the world has to offer.
Everything offers only brief respite.
I soon plunge back into my own loneliness.
Where nothing and no-one can reach me.

On this tiny planet spinning in infinite night,
I am lonesome. I feel far from wherever things are.
I have not been able to escape this feeling.
I think it has been with me since the beginning of time.

But then, I tell myself, I must turn towards this desolation.
Let me no longer be ashamed or frightened of my alienation.
Let me own it, hold it close.
And let me cry out into the clear air:
I AM LONELY!

Let me hear the power in my own cry.
Let my song reverberate throughout the whole damn world.
Let all my lonely brothers and sisters hear:
I AM LONELY!

And then, in my loneliness, I am not alone.
In my desolation, I am together with everyone.
With all those lonely hearts.
Separate, but never apart. Beating together.
Divided, but indivisible, from the sun, the sea, the sky, the moon and her madness.

There is dignity in my loneliness, I tell you.
It is so alive. So present.
It keeps me close to my humility.
It reminds me of the nearness of miracles.

No, I do not want to lose my loneliness!
I wish to be lonely for the rest of my days.
Lonely like the oceans. Lonely like a star.

Love me, please, but do not take away my loneliness!”

Oh, she taught me so much about love.

- Jeff Foster
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1 week ago  ·  

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