There are different paths to enlightenment, therapies for healing, and journeys to inner peace.
We take a few tentative steps here, peek around the corner there, maybe find some success or even a new practice.
Or, we simply flail.
But sometimes all that work quietly coalesces into the simplest of realizations: That many of us are seeking a way to run from fear, when what we really need is to turn and run right towards it.
In the end, for me, it was as simple as one, two.
The thought arrived like a mantra while I was running on a trail of parched soil studded with gravel, dust flying up with each scuff: one-two, one-two. When running a comfortable and familiar pace, effort is a function of distance. Ponderosas ahead, beside, behind, turn the world green all the way up the sharp slopes of the San Francisco peaks that rise above northern Arizona.
My mind is not on the peaks or in the pines. It sees something that is not there, something that I am chasing.
Memories work this way for many of us, especially when those images were planted by trauma—not in neat, organized rows but randomly. They do their damage and retreat into the recesses, storing pain like midnight stores darkness.
Daylight is an illusion. Midnight always returns.
We can obsess or numb or lash out, but we cannot escape.
I fall into that familiar empty gaze in the therapist’s office, where the acronyms of stress and stress recovery all come into play. EMDR for the PTSD, with instinctual reflections Transcendental Meditation (TM).
The bilateral therapy of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing seems too easy. One-two, one-two, the plastic paddles in my palms—no bigger than skipping stones—vibrating, alternating pulses. My mind is in the trees, deep among them, now in the space between the trees, now…I am not running. I am in a moment from the past.
Knee-deep in the thick tar of fear. Run or be swallowed.
I am losing that fight, and I know I am going to lose.
“I can barely breathe,” I say through a tight throat. “I remember thinking I was going to pass out. As if everyone I knew was going to stand there and watch me crumple to the ground.”
The hypnotic daze from where that thought emerged is familiar to me. Many years ago, I had learned Transcendental Meditation so I could listen and release. Struck by how the mantra of fear—imprinted on the tape that plays in my brain—could so quickly and so viscerally wrack my body with tension, I sought a mantra of transcendence to lift me away to a place that is no place.
I remember that it goes beyond place.
But sometimes we need a guide on the path. One-two, one-two. The simple mantra of EMDR. Left-right, left-right, maybe two vibrating paddles, maybe the therapist’s two fingers leading my eyes side to side, so easy to obey. How can this action be so powerful? Yet the brain, exquisitely complex, surrenders to simplicity.
One-two, one-two, the mantra dislodges the memory, floats it to the surface, puts it back into the flow.
That is the wonder of a long run—what rises up, what floats just ahead. Let the eyes do the seeing, they will keep me on the path.
I don’t need them for this—for what has risen out of the shadows.
One-two, one-two, don’t flee, just run.
Author: Eric Dieterle
Editor: Renée Picard