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  • Writer's pictureAmy Vales

Returning to the Before

Sometimes I rewind the tape to go back to the Before. Before there was any reality that included me needing to zip up my authenticity and only allow it out when the world felt less scary. Before I felt the need to self-protect my body and soul.

To the time where I would cry if I needed to cry, it didn’t matter who saw.

To the time I would ask my questions without worry of how that question might be received.

To the time where I’d eat when hungry without any thought of that food’s goodness or badness.

To the days of cartwheels and summer-salts, make-believe and sleepovers.

I go to the Before to remember who I AM.

We know there is a Before in all of us. Before what, exactly? In my estimation I have narrowed it down to two things. Two pollutants that find inlets into our river bed and bring us from the land of “before” to the land of “after”. And those two pollutants are shame and fear.

Shame, the belief that something is fundamentally wrong with me and you. Fear, the belief that something bad is going to happen to me or you. If there were ever two portends of the devil himself, I think they might be these two villains. They are our arch-nemesis. Because from them flows so much pain and, consequently, attempts to avoid further pain.

Before shame and fear, I believe our river bed’s water ran clear. In that space we flowed. Do you know what I mean by flow? Flow to me is that state where our purpose and identity are perfectly married and out of that space we bring what we were meant to bring. It is a state of fearlessness and self-abandon. There is no need for ego when we are in flow. We simply are who we are. We let instinct and intuition guide us and we trust without thought of how the world might harm us.

Which brings me back to the Before. This is what our childhood selves can remind us of if we allow them. They can remind us what it felt like to be in our flow. If we were to travel to the place before shame and fear, what might we find?

For many of us the days of clear water are so distant from our experience that it is difficult to even recall the feeling of those days. Our water has become so muddied with so many inlets of shame and fear that self-preservation has become our chief goal. Our muddied river makes up some of the inlets to other people’s streams, namely the people we love most. My muddied water muddies your water, and your muddied waters further muddy my own.

And this continues through generations. Our ancestors muddied water is inherited by us as we experience the inlets of our parents muddied rivers. A muddied river that THEY inherited from their parents. Which then begs the questions about what kind of water we are filling our own children’s streams with and how will they pass that down. Is the mud of our own river going to be the mud of our great-great-great grandchildren’s rivers?

I do believe there are ways to clear up our river bed again. To return them to the state of Before, where the water ran clear. Before, where I was my sense of value was assumed, not questioned. One of the ways is to take time to remember the Before. To reacquaint ourselves with our childhood selves in order to allow them to teach us about who we are.

So many faith and spiritual traditions resonate with the idea of rebirth. Why do you think that is? What is it about that word that appeals to us? Could it be because we all long to be brought back to that place of Before? We long to go back and do it all over again. Because, who would we be today if that muddy water was never allowed entry?

Rebirth is the chance to go back to Before and have a “do over”. It is the process wherein I can start from birth and “grow up” again- but this time perfectly held, perfectly accepted, perfectly guided, perfectly loved. Who would I be today if this had been the world I had grown up in? A world fully healed from shame and fear?

We long for Before. It is part of why we love having kids- we want to go back to the land of Before by living it through them. It is perhaps what Jesus really meant when he said that the kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children. I don’t think perfection exists without the spirit of a child. The spirit of Before. They are the most amazing teachers if you are open to their lessons.

The real work of healing is a process. We cannot find a short-cut to this end point. It involves effort and attunement, sacrifice and bone resetting. It involves noticing where there are still inlets into our own rivers and damning those inlets off. It involves gathering others close to us who are also committed to that work so that we can have access to clean water that flows from their stream as well. It involves recognizing that we do not just do that work for ourselves but for any who will receive water from us.

It involves remembering the Before so that we can remember who we are.

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