Healing from Childhood Trauma & Abuse
Continuation The Healing Power of Creativity Part III…
Special Real Life Stories Contribution this Issue: Early Childhood Abuse and the Healing Power of Creativity,
by Sharon Hawkins
An Introduction by Ronda:
You will read in this issue’s Real Life Stories, the beautifully tender, witty and vulnerable writing of kindred soul and client, Sharon Hawkins, who shares with us her own experience with the healing power of creativity during a recent retreat in which she unblocked a lifetime of suffering which resulted from early childhood abuse, and so reclaimed her freedom, power, and Self-authority.
I’m so grateful to Sharon for her open-hearted willingness to share this experience with you. Even if we’ve not experienced the horrific traumatic suffering of childhood abuse like so many in our culture have, we can each identify with her story through other areas of our lives that have caused much strife and a kind of wounding that, against our best efforts, seems to continually crop up in our lives and show themselves by way of withheld intimacy, fear, addictions, and less than positive self esteem.
Many of us suffer all our lives with deep scars and protective barriers that keep us from being fully able to love, forgive or trust ourselves or others.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
We all have wounds or unconsciously-embedded fears. They don’t have to be mined or dug up ad nauseam either. In fact, repetitive thoughts of strife rarely facilitate healing, and more often re-enforce the wound’s negative hold.
Rather, when our unique struggles are given over to the healing power of creativity, these wounds are literally reclaimed in a new light – a light that reveals our power of spirit to bring them on board as part of our unique gift in the world. When we discover how to transmute our pains in this way, we learn how to step into our spiritual wholeness as one who lives, loves, suffers and carries the wisdom of what it is to be fully human. It is character development through an inner reclamation of the totality of one’s Self.
Sharon experienced just such healing grace by her willingness to invoke the healing power of creativity to its fullest. Sharon not only gave me immediate and full permission to share her vulnerable life story, but has written her own synopsis of her experience with the healing power of creativity as her contribution to this first issue of our SoulArts Reflections. What a gift!
So many people in our culture today continue to suffer the prolonged dis-empowering consequences of early childhood abuse!
This generous response from Sharon is the kind of honoring act that creates radical transformation! Sharon not only faced her early abuse from a new level of depth, she met it at the level that carries with it the power to transmute real horrific suffering into the healing gift of reclaiming her Self – and now too by her courageous sharing, she offers the healing gift of hope to others as well!
Sharon’s story is a good example of making a sacred act in response to what is consciously seen from within the light of soul.
This is an act that carries tremendous healing power.
If anything is exemplary of the process that I teach and hope to inspire through the engaged use of this quarterly forum, Sharon’s story is it! Thank you, Sharon, for sharing the healing power of creativity to shed new light and thus return you to your beauty and wholeness!
May these reflections evoke in you the burning desire to know and live according to your own true nature and highest aliveness!
In the Light of Gratitude,
Early Physical Abuse and the Healing Power of Creativity: My Ojai Soul Arts Retreat Experience
by Sharon Hawkins
The fact that I booked a retreat based on an Internet site in a moment of I’m going to blow a gasket if I don’t get away for some introspection, still amazes me. I’m usually more reserved about decision-making.
On the trip to Ojai Soul Arts I was full of anticipation with a dose of wary mixed in.
I had packed a suitcase that was too heavy with my uncertainty about what to wear to a “spiritual” retreat. Far heavier than my suitcase was the heartache of sexual abuse I carried for the past 40 years and more recently, the suicide four years ago of my sister, Debbie. I am no stranger to therapy, various religious doctrine and old fashioned “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” methods but my grief and self-blame felt like I was treading life in quicksand.
As far as the retreat agenda, I envision long days of intense conversation with Ronda, maybe some incense burning and hopefully, no drumming. (That’s just my uncomfortable judgment for reasons that probably require another retreat.) Ronda’s emails to me tell me that she “intuits” each individual’s retreat program. I am soon to learn that what she hears in her heart for the retreat guest is the real magic ingredient in this process.
I arrive on a sunny afternoon to a property that feels as though I should have a U.S. Forestry pass to walk around it. Big majestic trees, boulders, and magic-like charm. I like Ronda right away in my own cautious “I’ve got my eye on you lady” way, “and I will leave here in a nano-second if I think that you are weird.”
My first session is in the late afternoon. I am nervous but ready to begin the work. The first assignment feels a little strange but also appealing. Ronda feels that I should spend the rest of the afternoon and night by myself, to include dining alone in my retreat cabin. No problem for me, I think. This is why I am here. I can lie on the lounge chair and read or write in my journal. Sounds like heaven. I am not prepared for the rest of the suggestion. “I feel it best that you attempt not to read or write, rather that you just be with yourself,” she says.
“Uh, really? This is what you see would be helpful for me?” I can feel my eyeballs spinning wildly in their sockets at this suggestion and I am a little concerned that she is not intuiting me very well at all. Mental panic sets in. I love to read, it is how I relax. I am here to add joy to my life not have it taken away from me.
Apparently, Ronda either can’t see my spinning eyeballs or is familiar with the look from prior retreat guests and just ignores it. She continues, “Yes, as best as you can, just be quiet with yourself and see what comes up for you. It will open the door to your soul work that we will explore tomorrow morning.”
This is very uncomfortable and I am half joking with her when I blurt out, “Don’t leave me alone with her, she’s a crazy person, ya know!” But off I go to be with “me, myself and I” and I soon discover that these three characters barely know each other and don’t get along very well which is an uneasy revelation to me through this night of aloneness.
Thankfully, the next day arrives. By the middle of the day, we are into the meat of why I am at Ojai Soul Arts Retreat. Ronda hears things that I don’t know I am saying because it is not just my words that she listens to when I speak or cry about my abuse and the red raw pain of suicide.
She suggests that I create collages that represent my feelings about these issues, these feelings that are sucking me down. I am nervous about creating things. I am not an artistic person, I can’t sing, I can’t paint, I can’t even draw stick people. But I figure I can rip pictures out of magazines and glue them on cardboard. I’m not sure it will help anything but I will try.
Ronda’s art studio was a great place in which to work. She makes her beautiful masks in this room and I am in awe of how artistic everything feels. She puts before me boxes of do-dads and baubles to use with the magazine images. Hours start to pass and slowly each dab of glue to the back of an image or a shiny bauble is cementing the truth, the pain, the fury and more strangely, a goose-bumpy feeling of forgiveness creeping onto the collage that I have not been able to claw my way to before now.
This time it is my choice to dine alone, to be with myself in this process. I work late into the evening on my first collage about abuse and it is a labor of love to myself. Initially, I thought it would just be a collage of rage but just when I think that I am finished, the collage seems to tell me that I have only told half of the story that way. I go with my instincts and add a tender message through images next to the abuse side. Images that tell me that God has been and always is with me, taking rocky times in my life and creating smooth stepping-stones on a pathway to a journey that is uniquely and lovingly mine to take.
I go to bed exhausted but proud and tell myself that due to lack of time and energy, I am not able to make a collage on my sister’s suicide. Yet the next morning I feel pulled to say good-bye to Debbie through another collage.
Ronda brings breakfast to my retreat cabin early in the morning. She lovingly encourages my efforts as I attempt to tell this story with ripped and broken things representing the sadness of losing a sister to suicide. These pieces are a metaphor in my mind of how ripped up my own heart feels in my chest. Without thinking, just feeling and being in the moment of creation, I pour my soul and love into this goodbye collage. I stand back to look at the finished piece and am touched to see that I show Debbie breaking through a barrier and shooting into the heavens with her arms stretched up in triumph and freedom. And I feel a peace within myself for her.
In the meditation room Ronda creates an altar on which to place my collages and we contemplate them and discuss my meaning of them. In front of each collage is a sacred candle for me to light when I am ready to honor and release these burdens. I love my collages and how I, the “un-artistic one”, was able to express myself in a new creative way that feels healing. A calm settles over me and I feel an opening in my lower abdomen that feels like a rippling brook flowing gently over smooth stepping stones. It is a comforting feeling. I am ready to light the candle in front of the abuse collage and free myself from a burden that keeps me mired in the quicksand of my past.
Ronda and I stare at the remaining collage of my sister breaking free. The more I stare at it the more I see things that I did not see earlier that morning. I am astonished by the realization that this collage showing the movement and triumph of Debbie breaking through a barrier also represents me doing the same. I thought the collage was all about my sister but it is, in a very profound way, about myself!
I too am the woman in that collage breaking through my own hemisphere of pain and regret into the freedom space of forgiveness and understanding for myself. As I lean forward to light the sacred candle before this collage, a tiny square of mirror glued onto the collage reflects back my own blue eye. It gives me chills to realize that I am recognizing my true self through the collage that looks back at me.
I ask Ronda if other retreat guests have found the making of a collage to be such a breakthrough experience? Ronda laughs. “Sharon, this was not arts and crafts time at the retreat, this is what my inner listening into you revealed would be helpful. No retreat guest has ever done a collage here before.” Me, myself and I, who have finally befriended each other at this retreat, are pretty amazed by this.
Did my retreat experience alleviate sadness from my life? No, I still have sadness about the reality of the sexual abuse and my sister’s suicide. But the gut-wrenching grief and self-blaming pain went to live on the collages and now when sadness comes up, it feels pure and framed in grace.
At home I look at my collages and feel a sense of completeness and peace. I still sense gentle waters washing smooth the stepping-stones on my path [see collage images], guiding me to freedom. And I whisper thank you.