All my life, I’ve thought: my inner Soldier keeps me strong, and have been proud of that. I have a military family, after all. It’s where I get the part of me that wants to serve, or protect; where the part of me that lays down my own for others comes from.
I’ve thought this also: it’s an honourable path – to be impenetrable. To carry a shield. To not let the shadows in.
And then recently I caught a glimpse of this Soldier Self, twisted out of shape: a mere human trying to hold off the tides of past, present, and future. One small, bent person against a multitude, making their Last Stand…and for the first time I wondered:
Who is this ‘Soldier’ to decide what to protect and what to set free?
In flashes, throughout many days, I began to watch as my Soldier toiled alone in carrying too-heavy stone blocks, propping up a lifetime of walls. Watched as they crushed dreams into paste that would hold it all together. Listened to what they were saying for the first time in my life:
Help is neediness, their mantra repeated.
Receptivity is vulnerability, the second line goes.
And so, I discovered what it was that my Soldier Self had come to fight against. Learned why it had become all too easy to stonewall, to say no to other people’s help. Because somewhere deep down, I had absorbed their message: do not let anything in.
Good work, they would say, even as the walls began to crumble.
How had I ignored this pitiful racket?
How had the Soldier gotten this far without a changing of the guard?
It was a job that would kill anyone—and yet I was letting a whole part of my Self take it on.
The Caged Lunatic
They say that when some people are put in depravation tanks, the reason they can’t stay inside is because of the intensity of hearing their own heartbeat.
Stuck in the fortress of walls my Soldier had created, my ‘protected’ heart grew louder and louder until I, too, could no longer stand it. Tell-Tale Heart, as they say.
Yet even as my heart beat louder and louder with a desire to CONNECT, and BE VULNERABLE and RECEPTIVE, I ignored it, and my Soldier became stronger:
Help is neediness. Receptivity is vulnerability.
Serve. Protect. Give, but Do Not Take.
On being ignored, like a caged lunatic my heart began to thump against these walls, bruising ITSELF in its unwillingness to be contained. It cried out to those who so often tried to sneak in through the cracks, offering their help and love, only to grieve when my Soldier caught them and put them back where they belong.
A Soldier only rests when everyone’s been saved.
Thankfully, a heart will not rest until it’s message has been heard.
We can hear the same message so many times, and learn nothing from it.
Then when we least expect it, it comes back to us in sharp relief. Something pushes, or pulls, or tugs at it, and suddenly, the truth becomes clear.
These are the ways many of my “Walls” – we’ll call them stories – have appeared in my life (and now, my memory). I’ll repeat them again and again in the screen of my mind without hearing their message…only to realize much, much later what it all meant.
Wounded but not dead, my heart tried this trick, too: began to play its own films on the screen of my mind, bringing me back to the same memories, the same places, the same haunts, it’s soundtrack not just a rhythm, but a call.
A call that opposed everything my Soldier stood for:
A call for help.
A message that for once, the other parts of me could hear.
As it turns out, there were other people who could hear the message, too.
First a bard-like personality who gently challenged my Soldier in song.
Then a siren woman who reminded me that to receive is as powerful as to protect.
Through their small magicks, I felt my Soldier’s work slow. Walls became moats that protected with fluid water instead of cement stone. For whole moments at a time, my Soldier would see through its own labyrinth to discover there’s no danger there at all.
In those moments, I could sneak into my Heart’s Chamber and ask what it needed to escape:
Nourishment. Connection. Pressure. Vulnerability. Openness.
And then always:
Find a way through.
Thanks to the Merlin’s magic, I did.
See, I hadn’t intended to receive any more than a simple Shiatsu massage from Peter when I went to see him. I knew my body needed healing, and I’d had massages before. I would be in and out in 90 minutes, would feel some relief, and be on my way.
But from the moment I entered Peter’s office – conveniently in Downtown Kaslo (and soon two days a week in Nelson!) – I felt the rest of the world melt away into closed quarters of soft light, sounding bells, slow breathing, and Peter sitting with his back against the wall, welcoming me to sit.
So, I did, while we talked a moment. Peter shared more about his practice, explaining how Shiatsu is slightly different than your average massage: your clothes stay on, and your practitioner applies different forces and pressures to different parts of your body as opposed to massaging in circles.
He then encouraged me to maintain my breath through the session. Shared the ways that energy sometimes moves through the room as it rises and releases from a body; how it can cry or laugh or get caught in the throat.
I laughed with relief, his laugh echoing mine as I explained: I always cry during massages, so it’s nice to know I won’t be alone.
“Do you have an intention you’d like to set before we begin?” he asked next, and I felt a few of my walls fall away. Without realizing – in complete trust – I was already speaking my intention, as if those other parts of me were speaking and I was just tuning in:
“My body seems to know things I don’t. I want to listen to its messages. I want to listen to what it has to say.”
To that Peter said: “Yes. And remember that whatever messages you find—you already have the power to heal yourself within you.”
Then I lay down on the table.
The Last Stand
How can a lone Soldier fight against true magic?
Like a conductor, Peter channeled his source energy into mine, and vice versa. I kept my promise to keep my breath, and pushed back with every push in, feeling as if I was truly safe to do so.
I accepted every pain from pressure to learn what each part of my body had to say. Soon my shoulders, my hands, my gut, my hips, my heart, all flooded my head with their own emotions, their own messages.
I learned what my shoulders were tired of carrying, what deep fear lives in my hips.
I learned how much love my legs carry as they carry me, and how much strength I savour in my fists.
Most of all, I found exactly where my heart had been hiding, trying to make its escape:
Like a pounding pregnant beat my heart began to pulse in my belly as Peter pushed into my gut with expert hands; as I pushed back and felt my diaphragm tighten and release old hard knots of pain I’d kept with me. Knots that when released put my Soldier in a frenzy as it watched its own walls come crashing down. It’s life’s work. Over. It’s mantra, finished. My heart’s call for help, heard, met, and accepted by the wizard Merlin.
Yet as the walls come down, as I let them fall, scenes come rushing back and I am transported through time. I hear and see an old movie I’d replayed and replayed in my head; benign, I thought. No message there. Just a memory of me as a small girl in a dark basement, rocking myself to sleep on a lonely loveseat.
Here, near its end, my Soldier makes its last stand. Tries to block what comes next, waving its sword in the air, telling the rest of me to look away while it tries to raise the walls again.
But it is too late: I’ve already seen what the Soldier wanted to protect me from:
That the loveseat wasn’t lonely; I was.
In the same breath of realization, my Soldier and I cry out, wretched in pain from the sight, and I watch as their white flag rises to the sky in surrender.
Back on the table I am rocking as if on that old loveseat, trying to cradle that inner child who – though never abandoned or neglected – feels so deeply alone. Who so badly wants someone to be rocking her. Only, without the Soldier closely watching, for the first time I became vulnerable to the feeling; let it flow through me into the energy source Peter had created and watched it transform before my mind’s eye:
The loveseat is rocking, and I am still on it, but I am not perpetuating the motion. Slowly I recognize I am not rocking myself.
From Peter’s office, I can feel the push into my heart-gut, can feel his other hand gentle and careful and firm on my wrist, tethering me to the room…and yet I find his energy in this other space too, where I am a child and he is unconditional; caring, and rocking, and there.
Like a story being rewritten, the old lonesome edition is erased and I am that child, and I am rocked and held and not alone.
Again, my Soldier and I cry out together; cry out, and then just cry.
The End of War
When I ‘come back’ to the room, I am alive to the sounds of my body—the blood rushing through my veins, my heart pumping, my lungs filling up with spiced air. Without walls I feel weak, bare, but open. Vulnerable, yes, unsafe…no. I had accepted help. I had received a true gift.
Was this the reward for throwing caution to the wind? Peace at the End of War?
All I can say is that I was speechless when the session closed; a doe, stumbling and barely making sense, but radiating weightlessness all the same. I remember the strange fog as I said goodbye with deep gratitude. It was only later that I could begin to articulate what had even happened…
…and really, it’s only now that I can see clearly the cleansing power Peter brought to me at his own ‘round table’. Only now that I can describe it properly in the hope that you bring yourself to this Merlin person to find what I found, which is a safe space, a container, and a friend. He will provide more than wisdom, but magic; he will call to what’s hurting within you and lend you the courage to face it head-on.
Peter has since told me he goes to another place during his practice, and I believe I was able to go with him that first session and since—to rise above my own body’s suffering and return to his replenishing sanctuary, where our oldest stories can be retold. He had listened to my heart’s message, had left my Soldier without walls to hide behind, yet left me free to find my own power; to rebuild in the gardens of my past, and my dreams, my grievances and pleasures, knowing I no longer have to do this on my own.
I still have a lot of work to do, yet in accepting Peter’s help I’ve found it easier to accept help from others. I have felt freer to address other stories out here on my own, in the presence of my Self. Now that I’ve been vulnerable…it is easier to be vulnerable. To be innocent. To be unafraid of letting things or people in, knowing I can breathe through any hurt with the help of ALL the parts of me, together as one.
At peace. With a heart of gratitude.
I would like to formally thank Peter for inspiring this piece. Peter is a master of his craft and the light that he holds within him is infectious and full of joy. These are the elements that he brings to his practice which make it fully unique to him, and it’s easy for me to say that you don’t find many practitioners like him. If you take anything away from this piece, let it be my insistence that you find your own safe-keeping with Peter’s help. Healing is possible when you breathe and listen to your body through the veil of his etheric energy. He’s right here in Kaslo (and soon in Nelson), and I have no doubt he would be available to provide his excellence to you in a heart-beat…so to speak. I will be continuing sessions with him ad infinitum. Go ahead, and may you do the same!