Last weekend after finishing a wonderful week-long retreat in the Caribbean, I got a call that my flat in London was broken into and burgled. The kind porter in my building sent a few images of my front door that was smashed into pieces with an axe.
I could feel my heart drop, my stomach contract, and a mixture of anger, fear, and disbelief rising inside of me.
How could this have happened? I live in a large building with 24-hour security. I know my neighbours, most of the porters, and I am friendly with most of the people in the building. A few people knew that I was away for a period of time, but hardly anyone knew that my flatmate was also away at the same time. Was it an inside job? Was it one of the friendly porters? I was consoling one of them when his Mum passed away last year, he cannot possibly be the one who did it. I always offered to get them a coffee on my morning coffee run and whenever I baked, they had a sample of the cookies. Was this personal? Did I upset anyone so badly that they took revenge while I was away?
These were the questions whirling around in my head. I felt that the safety of my home and my privacy were violated. The violent act of hacking at the door with an axe made it even worse.
Before I could switch to problem-solving mode, I knew I had to ground myself. Before I could talk to anyone and tell anybody what happened, I wanted to calm down, get clear with my own feelings without bypassing my pain and grief. “This is what you teach for God’s sake!”
I took a few deep breaths and focused my attention on my body. The shock was so great that I knew before I jump into any calming, centring technique I had to literally shake off the feeling: I started shaking my arms, hands and even my head, just like an animal would shake off anything they don’t want to carry.
Then, I checked in with my heart rate, feeling the blood pumping, while continuing slowly breathing into my belly through the nose. I could feel my heart rate slow down gradually.
As a next step, I did a light body scan, I could feel myself holding tension in my shoulders, my jaw, and mostly my core. I was bracing myself, ready to attack, to fight back. I spent some time breathing into each muscle group and gently releasing the hold, relaxing the shoulders down, the jaw and with a big sigh out I released my core.
Then as I could feel myself relax, calm down, I felt my feet firmly on the ground. I felt supported by it.
I could tell that my nervous system returned to the parasympathetic state, or you can just say, I felt very present, calm and collected. I was ready to tackle the problem and my emotions objectively.
And this is the part that many of us miss. We want quick tools and techniques to shake off uncomfortable sensations, but in the process of that we lose touch with our emotions, and we bypass them.
So, I sat down and spent some time reflecting on how this event made me feel. Not trying to avoid or fix anything or come up with solutions. Just getting clarity on emotions. (This is an essential part of emotional literacy–keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming course on it!) The main primal emotion I was experiencing was anger, but there was sadness (especially grief for lost sentimental pieces from my father who passed away a few years ago), loss of sense of security, disappointment, and some fear (fear of uncertainty in the future and my living situation). I was relaxed enough to acknowledge all my emotions without trying to fix them.
After about 10-15 minutes, I was ready to get rational and come up with a plan and take action. I used my emotions as signposts to realise what I need to do in order to feel more secure and less angry.
I am back in London for the weekend to complete those action steps I have set out to myself. Meanwhile, I am aware that the moment I step inside the flat and see all the damage, emotions will rush over me and that’s okay.
I am ready, I welcome everything.