Supporting our Wounded Inner Child

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Thursday Evening Online Program
June 30, 2022, 7:00 to 8:45 pm Eastern Time


Dear Still Water Friends,

Like many, I am still processing the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. I was born 50 years ago — during Watergate and just before Roe became U.S. law. This decision is frightening because it heralds a drastic shift in what I have always known. A tide of difficult emotions — fear, anger, and grief — rises in my body. Because I have witnessed close family and friends go through the challenges of having legal abortions, I am horrified by the insensitivity of the justices voting to overturn Roe. I am especially saddened that two of my peers still in their fifties, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett (born the same year as I), voted with the majority. The decision feels to me like a deliberate unleashing of profound suffering, especially for minority women, women with disabilities, and women with insufficient resources, all of whose bodies are often vulnerable to abuse.

As I write these words, I take a few breaths to calm myself, hoping to regain my balance by coming back to an island of safety within. There will be a time to take action, but first I return to my mindfulness practice and listen to Thay’s (Thich Nhat Hanh’s) wise counsel to breathe, look deeply, and understand the suffering in myself. In Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child, he writes,

When we become aware that we have forgotten the wounded child within ourselves, we feel great compassion for that child, and we begin to generate the energy of mindfulness. The practices of mindful walking, mindful sitting, and mindful breathing are our foundation. With our mindful breath and mindful steps, we can produce the energy of mindfulness and return to the awakened wisdom lying in each cell of our body. That energy will embrace and heal us, and will heal the inner child in us.

The first function of mindfulness is to recognize and not to fight. We can stop at any time and become aware of the child within us. When we recognize the wounded child for the first time, all we need to do is be aware of him or her, and say hello. That’s all. Perhaps this child is sad. If we notice this, we can just breathe in and say to ourselves, ‘Breathing in, I know that sorrow has manifested in me. Hello, my sorrow. Breathing out, I will take good care of you.”

Once we have recognized our inner child, the second function of mindfulness is to embrace him or her. That is a very pleasant practice. Instead of fighting our emotions, we are taking good care of ourselves. Mindfulness brings with her an ally — concentration. The first few minutes of recognizing and embracing our inner child will bring some relief. The difficult emotions will still be there, but we won’t suffer as much anymore.

After recognizing and embracing our inner child, the third function of mindfulness is to soothe and relieve our difficult emotions. Just by holding this child gently, we are soothing our difficult emotions and we can begin to feel at ease. When we embrace our strong emotions with mindfulness and concentration, we’ll be able to see the roots of these mental formations. We’ll know where our suffering has come from. When we see the roots of things, our suffering will lessen. So mindfulness recognizes, embraces, and relieves.

Because of Thay’s wisdom, I calm myself with this practice:

As I breathe in, I feel a deep fear of being powerless.

Breathing out, I acknowledge and cradle my fear, observing difficult childhood memories that arise.

Another way I am integrating my response to this challenging event is by sharing and holding my reactions with others. Being connected with others helps me release some of my sense of isolation and fear and helps me remember that I am part of a network of small but strong communities and sanghas.

This Thursday night, after our regular sitting, we will take time to be present to all that is arising in ourselves and each other. In our Dharma sharing, we’ll explore these questions:

  • What happens internally, when you are triggered by an external event?
  • How do you stay with yourself and listen to your inner child?
  • How do you reach out and get support when you need it?

You are warmly invited to be with us!

Many Blessings,

Eliza King

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