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The Matrix of Support

As this typical Montana spring storm rages outside my window, pelting the ground with pellets of ice that have now turned to snow, the wind and cold intense, I am reminded.

 

I do not prefer the wintertime – the cold and the dark that comes with it; the constant emphasis on survival that these conditions necessitate whenever I leave my house. It is so at contrast with the ease of summer for me where it is warm and bright and easy to be alive and outside, where I most want to be.

 

Since the Equinox where day and night are equal, I’ve been examining my relationship to balance within my life. When the metaphorical cold, dark, and threats arise within my internal landscape, how do I balance them within me to a withstandable equilibrium? What is it that I turn to, to feel safe and supported; to give me the strength to navigate any challenge that comes my way, not becoming overwhelmed?

 

Recently, I assisted a Somatic Experiencing training, which is all about trauma, and how to heal it. The teacher spent a whole morning talking about something called the Matrix of Support. Everyone has a Matrix – it is our own personal amalgamation of things in our life that provide us some sense of support, relief, care, peace, acceptance, love, strength, vitality…the list could go on. It could be a place, person, thing, animal, real or imagined.

 

And here’s the best part: you don’t need to have this supportive thing be literally, physically present to have the desired impact; you don’t have to ACTUALLY go to that place in nature that gives you such peace to have an experience of that peace.

 

Our brains have an interesting capability: if I imagine vividly that there is a monster under my bed, my body will respond to that imagining the same way it would if I had actually heard or seen the monster. My heart rate will increase, I will become a zingy ball of tension, and I’ll jump at the slightest noise. In the same way, you can instead imagine your place of peace very vividly, and you’ll notice your body relax and soften, calming.  

 

“But Julia,” you might say, “it isn’t that easy!” To which I would reply, “You’re right!” But when has anything worth having ever been easy – at first? We all have a matrix of fears and anxieties we live with in our lives. We can choose to put our attention there and allow it to color our experience, sucking all our vitality and energy into it…or, we can lay down our matrix of fear, and instead choose to channel our attention into our matrix of support and cultivate an internal landscape that makes us feel good. This is what we all want after all, isn’t it? It doesn’t just happen.

 

Over the eons, our brains developed a survival adaptation called the “negativity bias” which simply means that when left to its own devices and without our conscious guidance, our brains will always pay more attention to the bad thing, because bad things could kill us.

 

Focusing on unpleasant things is the path of least resistance. When a water droplet falls to the ground, it goes downhill. Our mind has the same tendency. It’s the easiest thing in the world to think more negative thoughts. It actually takes EFFORT to maintain a more hospitable, pleasant state of mind and being.

 

You could also compare it to a garden. When we first moved into our house, the retired, previous owners spent all season maintaining the yard and flower beds. Because, if you want flowers, you must exert effort to keep the weeds away and maintain an environment where they can flourish. But if you do nothing, at first there will be a few weeds…then a few more weeds…and eventually, all the flowers are choked out by a dearth of weeds. I regret to say that our flower beds are now weedful. We chose to put the resources of our time and money into other things. But it was a CHOICE. It didn’t just happen.   

 

It reminds me of a time in my life when this happened in my internal landscape. I became fed up and frustrated with my spiritual practices and let go of all of them. Without my conscious intentions to drive my focus in my life, things went downhill pretty fast. One day when I finally woke up and looked around, deep in depression, all the flowers were gone and I was surrounded by prickly weeds. “How did this happen?!” I wondered. But I knew. Knowing and practicing are two different things. It was a dark time in my life. It wasn’t easy, and it took time, but I plowed the whole thing under and committed myself to maintaining a different state of mind.

 

Of course, this was nearly impossible at first. My nervous system was so fried after so much stress that I couldn’t maintain my attention on the pleasant for any length of time. It doesn’t matter. This is the starting place – right where you’re at. Choose peace. When it falls away after a few seconds, choose peace again. Later today when you’re in your car driving and pissed at traffic after most of a whole day among the weeds, think back to this and choose peace again – even for a moment. Do the same thing tomorrow. Each time you revisit this, you’re yanking one weed out. Eventually, as you return to this practice, you will one day notice that you’re actually spending a lot of time dwelling among the flowers, and there are few weeds that steal your attention for long.

 

My Matrix of Support has grown broad, like a spider web spun across the top of my garden, each supportive element glistening within it like a dewdrop in the early morning sun. There are dozens of them. Memories on river beaches, carefree, soaking in the sun; dwelling in my house which is filled with plants and other natural objects that make me feel connected to nature; my friends, my mentors, who believe in me – they lend me their strength and confidence; there are songs that alloy my spirit; there are plants, and animals – like Valentine, the horse that showed me such love and fills my heart with goodness just to remember that one special moment. And as I allow myself to receive the nourishment of this memory, as I soak it in like dry crusty bread dipped in soup, I notice my body releasing its grip – relaxing, softening, taking in the safety and allowing myself to feel ok. And even more than ok. 

 

If we want to feel good in our life, we need to focus our attention and efforts on feeling good. Yes, of course, there are the realities of life, and we will feel fear and anxiety, a lack of safety, discomfort, frustration…the things that bring those feelings will need our attention sometimes. But when our attention isn’t actively NEEDED on those things…where is it going? Are we allowing it to dwell and roll in our matrix of fear, or are we allowing ourselves to revel in our Matrix of Support?

 

So dear reader, what is the STRONGEST element in your Matrix of Support, that when you think of it, it always brings at least a small semblance of support to you even when you’re at your lowest? Shift the focus of your attention to this. It is available to you NOW – you don’t have to wait for your outer circumstances to create it for you. Choose it. Choose it now. Even for 5 seconds.

 

Rinse.

 

Repeat, as often as you remember each day.

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