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Inner Storms

by Thea Iberall

When I was 14 years old, my house was hit by lightning. I was taking care of my younger sister because my parents were out of town. It was raining hard and there was lots of thunder and lightning. Being a mid-Westerner, I was used to it. I was counting the time between the flashes and the bangs. I knew it was close. I told my sister to come down the stairs. After she did, I went back to cooking dinner. I didn’t know when it happened but I felt something. There was no loud bang, but it was like the air sizzled, like every molecule of H2O vibrated and disappeared.

We got out of the house and the firefighters were able to put out the fire. But this isn’t a story about loss or fire, but emotions.

In November, I talked about my commitment to serenity. I made it sound so simple. Just develop a belief in a higher power and one can be in serenity. And then a few days ago, I talked about my anger. So much for serenity. Words are easy to say; the question is how to truly live by them.

In Emotions Revealed, Paul Ekman explains how emotions override what we know. If we get angry or afraid, our thinking mind goes out the window. This emotionally-charged state exists for a certain amount of time. During that time, our thinking cannot incorporate information that doesn’t justify or fit with the emotion we are feeling. For years after the fire, I was petrified of lightning. When a thunderstorm started, I went into a hypervigilant, fearful, emergency response state unable to think. Even the counting, even knowing the storm wasn’t actually as close as it sounded didn’t help. Ekman says that while we all wish we could erase our emotional reactions to specific triggers, there is no definitive way to hit the delete key. The trigger is written into a write-only emotional database. But he says there are ways to weaken emotional triggers. Reappraisals, psychotherapy, behavior therapy, and yes, even meditation.

I like to meditate on the seven basic emotions. I write them all down: mad, sad, bad, glad, hurt, afraid, ashamed. And then I figure out which one I am feeling and contemplate it. Or write about it. Or scream about it. It’s true that we can’t intellectually think our way out the emotion, but reappraisals can help. In Energy Meditation, Donna Eden talks about reprogramming the emergency response loop. She says bring to mind the situation and place your fingerpads on your ‘oh my god’ points on your forehead, and place your thumbs on your temples. And breathe deeply keeping the scene in your mind for a few minutes. It brings blood back to the higher parts of your brain. She says as you relax, you are freeing yourself from the memory’s emotional grip.

These days, I still remember the lightning flash and I still have awareness in thunderstorms. But I have weakened their hold on me. Thanks to all the wisdom shared by courageous teachers, and thanks to my willingness to at least strive for serenity.

Every heart’s a hurricane,

Each soul a starlit sea,

Every mind’s a meteor

Unbound by gravity.

And everybody’s wishing

They could learn to tame their tides,

When nothing more than nature

Is what’s echoing inside.

Every life’s a lightning bolt,

Yet everyone’s told no;

Bite back all your thunder

And don’t let the wild things show.

Every heart’s a hurricane,

Everyone a world within,

Every life too short for loathing

Any storms beneath your skin.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Feeling enormous gratitude for all of you right now.

  • I had a transitional threshold in my life. I’ve been a key part of a project for the last 11 years and I have stepped away from it so that I can step into the role of what I am doing here. I have been carrying a lot of guilt about it, feeling like I am abandoning people. I was triggered last night by a television show, and I had a nightmare this morning pretty much about that. During the meditation, I asked for help in how to resolve my feeling that I am abandoning friends. In reality, I am assured I am not. So this abandonment feeling is in me. What I heard was to write a letter to the people in the project, explain the threshold I am standing in and my next steps. I am creating closure, not saying goodbye to everyone. I need closure in my heart to move on to the next step. It feels like a good next step and it gives me an action to do so that I can resolve this guilt I have. Nightmares aren’t fun and I don’t want to have anymore. Thank you.

  • Thank you. I was appreciating the ‘oh my god’ physical action to help relieve the power of triggers. Action is a part of what helps me too. During the meditation, I was thinking about my triggers. I have a trigger of self-judgment, assuming that everyone knows more than me about all topics. I have to let go of that trigger and grant respect to my own thoughts as well. I think that will help me, perhaps for the rest of my life. Thank you.

  • Thank you for the reading. Sometimes, I’ve been seen as being inappropriate because when people are in pain, I sit grinning and I don’t notice it until I look around and see faces. I realized that I was smiling and beaming inside as I listened to you. Because I’m learning I can feel the feelings today and feel the hope for tomorrow of what is coming new at the same time. Each time I feel pain and move through things, I get stronger and happier, and doors open. I’ve always felt guilt for being a single mother raising children. I’ve been having a swirl of emotions. I’m making a list of them to place in front of me. I’m going to soon be spending a lot of time with one of my children. It’s an opportunity to be with him. I’m going to keep praying for the highest good. We’ve struggled. I feel like I’m getting a second opportunity. It’s scary and I’m smiling through it because I trust that what’s happened in our past can be healed. Thank you. You have brought that home for me.

  • Thank you. I’ve found thinking about serenity and that I can’t will it. It’s a process. We need tools as you have been helping us see. And breathing, and the ‘oh my god’ state are reminders, are bits and pieces that I can’t just will it. Intention helps. It takes a lot of awareness and breathing and letting go and finding the tools that work.

  • I had a similar experience. I am putting my house on the market. This massive amount of work that we’ve done to get to this point is complete. With that as a focus, it was a distraction from the emotional changes that I am constantly absorbing. I’m exhausted at nighttime and then I wake up early. I get caught up in the hierarchy of needs and things to be done. I haven’t had a chance, or made the chance, to really sort it through. Now I have the space to. During the meditation, I was allowing whatever to surface. One of the simplest ones is about the financial things I am doing. It’s new for me and difficult for me, and remembering where we put things in the move. I’m realizing that I have multiple ways of getting the information. Just the idea that I can reach out and get help. It’s not just me. I think that’s what the emotional turmoil is about, the sadness, the anger, the disappointment—the variety of feelings. I think I appreciate so much being able to air it. With the exception of a couple of friends, I don’t air it at this level. I don’t have the time to do that, I want to stay focused. Thank you.

  • Thank you so much for the reading. I am so aware we are at a time when there are a lot of emotions around the choices that are around us right now. During the pandemic, I’ve often felt you can’t put old wine in new wine skins. In many cases, the old wine skins are gone. The question for me is how do we move forward in calling in the new wine and new flows in our lives and honor that. Someone left a high-powered job that I used to have. I knew I could have picked up the phone and would have gotten the job. I had to check in with myself, knowing I could do a great service in that position and that it would help me financially. But also knowing that that was old wine, that I was not to re-walk that path, that I would continue in the service by honoring the spiritual guidance I’m getting now for where I need to go. I was in a choice moment this week with a lot of emotion because I love the people that job helps. This part of my life purpose, to help dreams come true for others. I did that in that job. I honor this time of redefinition and this time when we are trying to stay wide open to follow the guidance no matter what is in front of us right now. It is still organic and we don’t know. But we do know what is in our hearts. It’s why I love this group. Every morning, I get to drop into that silent space that is vibrant and alive and wise and aware. And I know that the choice that you are making now is along those lines. Imagine what’s going to happen with that project when a new spirit arises and they rise to the next level. My heart is with all of us at this time of new choices and new definitions after the pandemic.

  • I don’t like to repeat worn-out phrases but this one isn’t too worn-out yet. It’s so much easier for others to forgive us than for us to forgive ourselves. When we go through tough times making decisions, sometimes it’s because the topic is important to us and we are attached to it. The thought that we have to struggle and trudge through the decision-making, says it is so important to us. I appreciate this group. have never been a part of a group of this size where it feels like every person is as honest as we are. We don’t dress up what is happening. We come in openness baring our souls to each other. I’m taking a class getting things ready for end of life. One of the forms asks if one wants a minister at one’s memorial service. I think I’ll get a list of all your names and put your names on it. That would be meaningful to me. I so appreciate your honesty. It’s so easy to see people who are so spiritual and so psychic, and think they have it all figured out. They know the resources and what to do. But even they, like the rest of us, don’t always know the right tool to pull out. Thank you so much.

  • I really appreciate this meditation. What resonated with me was the phrase ‘the storm beneath my skin.’ That’s what I meditated on. This is a storm beneath my skin. It’s similar to what many people have said already this morning. I tried to figure out what is making me feel this way. Is it one of those emotions? What is it that I want? Why is there a storm beneath my skin? If I could just identify that, it would help. There’s a different storm going on; it’s all of them meshing. Just trying to be quiet with different aspects of it. Which ones can I forgive myself for? Which ones can I stop worrying about, and just move on. Thank you for allowing me to acknowledge that storm beneath my skin.

  • Our hearts do all connect. I remember one day, someone was feeling pain and I remember at that moment, I saw white streams of light pouring from me to that person. It’s one of the many reasons I appreciate this group so much. Someone told me that I wear my heart on my sleeve. I did do that through my life. There are many people who don’t appreciate that or understand that or criticize me for that. There have been a few people and animals I have been able to help, because it is my heart I am speaking through. It’s wonderful I can be here and I do my best to find my way here, no matter what I am doing. It’s amazing, that one can be so honest here, knowing everyone is accepting and has compassion.

  • I’m nervous. It’s scary to speak. I’m new here. I couldn’t attend last week and I missed it. Thank you. I’ve been hospitalized for multiple panic attacks. This group has helped me more than anything. I don’t know why or how. But sitting with my thoughts and feelings I can regain control again. I’ve never had anything like this before. And Covid, is another layer. I may not be as eloquent as others. I just want to share my gratitude and thank everyone for being vulnerable. When I sat with this meditation, I realized I’ve been struggling with my self-esteem and feeling that I need to prove something. I also wear my heart on my sleeve and sometimes overshare with people. And I don’t get anything back from people and I am putting myself under the bus sometimes. That’s what I sat with, the self-esteem piece and connecting with my Higher Power and my self-esteem through internal sources, not external sources. I’m finding it from within because that’s a more sustainable way.

  • Thank you. Finding your voice is huge. I know panic attacks very well, have survived them over the years. You are surrounded here, such comfort, such safety. It is what I require in order for me to feel safe because I deal with fear all the time.

  • I do meditation on my own, but it isn’t the same as meditating with a group of people. I feel it when I am sitting here. I feel surrounded.

  • I am a huge advocate of building our own toolbelts for what we need to manage life. Meditation is one of them. Reading Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is a huge part of my toolbelt that I still draw on.

  • You spoke beautifully. We don’t want you to think you didn’t. There’s no perfect way to speak because we speak from our hearts no matter how it comes up. I was crying my eyes out the other day. I am very sensitive. I am learning to accept my heart on my sleeve. When people make fun of me or downgrade me, so be it. I’m learning to accept me. I also think, personally, anxiety—there’s many things we can have anxiety around, rightfully so, but I also think negativity affects people, especially sensitive people. There can be more anxiety because we feel things so deeply and sense so deeply that many others may not. It’s not even on their radar. So please be kind to yourself.

  • I think it’s important to remember we are living in a huge transition, not only of the world, the climate, human awareness, and each of us, whether we are aware or not, are breaking open and becoming more heart-centered. The heart center has such emotion. It’s not a surprise that there is such emotion and feeling so much. We are all connected.

  • Thank you. Thank you for such powerful mornings. The synchronicity, how we live and breathe together. I am so grateful for each of you, I am grateful to everyone who lives in their hearts and feels their feelings. It’s hard; it takes courage because there’s so much emotion. We are doing it one step at a time; we are doing it together. We do it through tears and laughter. It doesn’t matter because we are doing it in truth. That is the ultimate goal of my life is to live in my truth.

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