Friday, 29 April 2016

It Is What It Is

As I continue to tenderly caress the scars and wounds in my soul whilst continuing to learn to lovingly accept my (seemingly many) frailties and imperfections, I’ve reached a point of compassionate assertion within. It’s hard to describe ‘compassionate assertion’ and the phrase doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it’s the best I could do given the somewhat limited nature of words.
For a long time, I wholeheartedly believed in the concept of ‘cause and effect’ when it came to illness and ill-health. The new age, modern spirituality world in which I lived for many years frequently reports of the notion that repressed emotions causes physical ill-health and imbalance. I’ve no doubt there’s truth in these words but it’s far too simplistic a perspective for me. There is undoubtedly a connection between body, mind and soul; imbalances can manifest physically, spiritually and emotionally. Yet, ‘cause and effect’ leaves little room for the grey and smudged edges of being human.
In my personal and professional experience, ‘cause and effect’ can create layers of guilt as it can create a sense of self-blame: ‘I did this to myself’, ‘Why did I do this?’, ‘Only I can fix this?’. As a result, the cycle can intensify as we buckle under the pressure of trying to fix what’s broken, after all, everyone wants to live well so we feel compelled to do all we can to achieve that.
I did this for years. I felt a huge burden of responsibility for everything that was wrong with me, but this perspective wasn’t helping nor was it instigating change; it was simply making me feel worse about myself. I’m the first to admit I’ve got plenty of repressed pain and emotion stuffed inside of me. I’ve soul-searched and dug deep, I’ve also healed on many levels, but, despite being spiritually robust, I’m still physically fragile. I still have repressed ‘stuff’ within, and I always will, but the ‘cause and effect’ belief cycle was more damaging than the repressed emotions themselves.
One day as I sat in a grief-induced and broken haze, feeling a sense of despair and immense guilt for still not being able to heal, I broke. My beliefs shattered. I’d reached a point of realisation that whilst any ‘inner work’ would always help bring equilibrium into my life, my strategy of focusing so hard on trying to untangle the knots within was causing me more suffering rather than alleviating it and I was the only one suffering as a result. I was getting worse and feeling further away from me, and I realised that it was the very nature of looking for a ‘why’ in order to be able to fix it, that was at the heart of the destructiveness. My desire to heal and to work through the concept of ‘cause and effect’ had stomped on me good and proper as I’d managed to tangle myself up in well-intentioned, but highly destructive, knots.
My realisation was simple and succinct:
‘Sometimes things are the way they are because that’s the way they are’.
Okay, I’m the first to admit that this isn’t a particularly revelatory statement but it was for me as it was a sign of a profound inner shift. I could spend the rest of my life trying to unpick and untangle the knots and trying to heal but the cost would be a life un-lived. By accepting my realisation, I wasn’t giving up but I was stopping the violent and bloody battle going on between me, myself and I. So I put down my armour, I sent my trusty steed off for a well-earned graze and I let go. I stopped trying to make sense of my ill-health and I instead chose to start living once again. Instead of trying to heal and fix, I embraced my ‘what is’ and chose to live anyway. It’s not pretty: my ill-health isn’t discrete or polite, but it’s present whether I acknowledge it or not.
I haven’t given up, I’ve simply stopped looking for a why all the time. Nietzsche once wrote: ‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how’, but for me it was letting go of the need for a why that’s given me courage and strength, reconnecting me more wholeheartedly to life once again.
I’m not a puzzle to be solved, an imperfection to be fixed or a blemish to eradicate; I’m me. I’m not solely a result of my repressed pain and emotion (and I have lots), they’re an integral part of me and no matter how much work I do on myself, I will always have more inside of me as they are a part of being human. Trying to fix them in order to become whole suggests I’m not whole now and I no longer accept that’s the case. Shit happens all the time. A full stop just begins a new sentence, not always one full of challenges and ‘bad’ stuff of course, but we are never immune. Acceptance lifted an immense weight from my shoulders and my soul finally found some room to breathe.
Acceptance finally allowed me to turn to face all the pain, the un-cried tears and the grief within head on. I stopped trying to fix it, heal it, understand it or eradicate it and instead decided to love it as a part of me. I’m learning to wholeheartedly love myself exactly as I am. Compassionate assertion, or perhaps assertive compassion, is loving myself by being myself, warts and all.
These days when someone suggests my genetic condition is a result of repressed pain, emotions or trauma, I smile. Obviously I know the words come from a good heart but I’m in a very different space in myself these days. When I reply with my new mantra: ‘Sometimes things are the way they are because that’s the way they are’. I feel a deep sense of freedom within me. Living in the here and now leaves me nowhere to hide but isn’t that exactly how life should be? Our quest to fix and mend is a distraction from the here and now, sometimes graceful acceptance is the true key to freedom.
In this perfection-seeking world, it’s hard not to feel the pressure of trying to be perfectly perfect: to be one of those who appear to glide through life smiling, emanating a vibe of ‘Everything’s perfect in my world’, seemingly without a care in the world as they have mastered the art of denial. The smiley, happy, wholesome veneer of the new age is, on the whole, well-meaning, but it also presents a falseness that can lead to disempowerment and guilt when we can’t live up to the façade. We feel ‘less than’ because we are not one of those ‘shiny, happy, hold it all together’ people.
These days I’m keeping it real. I still work on my repressed emotions but I love them as they are a part of me. I don’t necessarily like having them in my life but we can’t always have what we want. I’m just me, but I am no longer trying to be the person I think I should be nor am I constantly chasing the horizon of ‘getting life right’ all the time, I’m just living it instead and I’m being myself. Achieving balance and equilibrium is a work in progress but I take each day as it comes and approach it with an open heart and mind.
Disability and illness (whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual) is a part of my ‘what is’ and I’m finally allowing it to bring me some joy and enrichment. I have met some incredible people on my journey through life and I have discovered so much about the human condition. I’m finding peace amongst the chaos and discovering tranquillity in the storms. I’m not a fan of so-called illness inspiration but I see no point in being angry or bitter about it. It is what it is, after all. Of course I have days (even very recently) when my resolve falters and I slip into those deep and painful emotions within and the strain of the daily struggle gets too much but I take a deep breath and it passes. I’m far from perfect! Yet I am no longer trying to eradicate these as they remind me I’m human.
Many still offer me condolences when they hear of my illness but I don’t want that. Maybe their response is more down to their own internal struggles than it is to do with me? I’m learning to live well as me and that includes my many conditions. I don’t want pity or sympathy, just love and compassion. I don’t want judgment, just acceptance. I’m finally learning what happiness truly is, don’t try to fix me…

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Day I Woke

In truth, I’d never really acknowledged just how challenging it would be for me to put my struggles down in writing and then share them openly and wholeheartedly with others. I had no idea how it would feel to become completely vulnerable and transparent leaving myself nowhere left to hide. I had no idea how my confession of brokenness would be treated; in this world of ‘love and light’ spirituality, would acknowledging my fragility and lack of robustness be seen as ‘less than’ and I’d be dismissed as damaged goods? When I pressed the send button I had no notion of just how many people would read ‘The Year I Broke’ nor could I comprehend how many messages it would trigger. However, hearing the words of love, support, compassion and unity of so many from so many different places on the planet, warmed my heart and soul to it’s very core.
We often suffer and struggle in isolation and disconnection; we pull back from life when things get tough which leaves us feeling awkward and disjointed like a misshapen piece of the universal jigsaw puzzle we call life. We all have times when we feel fragmented and broken; unable to reach out to others through a fear of judgement or rejection. We try to present the façade of being whole and complete as we know that many don’t really want to hear the truth when they ask how we’re doing or feeling: ‘fine’ is all they want to hear. We also try to kid ourselves that a smile and ‘keep on keeping on’ approach will fix and heal. After a while, we begin to assume that no one wants to truly know our pain and we smile stoically trying to keep up the pretence, trying to fool everyone – including ourselves – that we’re coping. And yet, the more we try to hide away the truth of our pain and the depths of our feelings, the more they intensify and grow as we begin to buckle under the strain.
Last year I reached a point where the intensity of my disconnection, desolation and despair grew even deeper as life events exposed, and then trampled upon, the delicacy of the fine-line I walk when it comes to ‘holding it all together’. I tried desperately to rush around picking up the shattered pieces before anyone noticed but I couldn’t muster the energy; there was nothing left. I was struggling to breathe, my mind was unravelling and my spirit shattering as the raging torrent of ‘stuff’ inside me whipped up into a frenzy. It was hard to know what to do with it as it was so intense and powerful; it consumed me. I couldn’t keep trying to contain it as it split me open and tore me apart.
In truth, when I feel this fragile, all I want is to return to the safe place from my childhood: under the kitchen sideboard resting in a basket of freshly dried washing listening to the reassuring sound of the whirring washing machine. I felt so safe there. I wanted push the world away, weep uncontrollably and get back into the safety of my own little world and stay there. But I couldn’t, I’d nowhere left to hide anymore as every corner, nook and cranny had been used already. I didn’t even have the language to navigate and articulate myself away from my pain as it all felt too raw, my emotional core was exposed and exquisitely sore and I was drowning.
When I go into that desolate space I’d previously only ever sensed two options available to me: 1) box it up and push it back inside or 2) end. I have never opted for the latter, obviously, but I have felt perilously close at times. Yet, I know there’s a third way: to talk about it, express it and to stop stuffing it all inside of me. After all, how could I have a healthy relationship with life if I didn’t have one with myself? Yet, I’d always fought hard to keep it inside and hold it together; I feared I’d shatter if I let it out.
I’ve pushed the pain away; I wouldn’t acknowledge it, allow it or accept its presence in my life. Of course, it’s hard to face reality when it’s so painful, and it’s hard to bring acceptance or grace into every day when every day feels so heavy and arduous. Yet, it is my reality, and it’s ultimately my perception of this that flavours it. So, if I continue to carry these burdens, how will I ever set myself free? Indeed, I wonder if there is such a thing as being totally free. Of course, intuitively I know that freedom comes from within, but as my within was so choked and suffocated with repressed pain, grief and emotion, freedom felt a million miles away. It wasn’t a million miles away, but as long as I continued to believe it was, it would always be out of reach.
So, the time came to stop spending my days simply using up perfectly good oxygen and creating greenhouse gases. I became ready to open up my heart and soul in order to step beyond my pain, to admit my failings and fragility, to accept that I’m not perfect, to be willing to be vulnerable, and to not be afraid to falter in the presence of others. My stoicism wasn’t fooling anyone any more, well, other than some of my hospital consultants who still take my smile at face value (although I must admit I do wear it well after so many years of practice).
Yet, wanting to break free and change isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. I was aware of the changes I needed to make but until life pushed me to the brink of collapse I didn’t know how to implement them. It was only when I broke that I realised I was over-thinking the situation. I didn’t need instructions, I just needed to let go and be real.
I think most importantly I’ve accepted that my stoical smile isn’t fooling me as I can’t believe the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ positive thinking anymore. It’s not that I don’t believe in the power of positive thought; I’ve just decided to opt for realistic thinking instead. I’m turning to face myself with honesty and authenticity, I’m beginning to acknowledge my pain, my grief, my anger and my fear. I’m finally allowing myself to experience them as they are important facets in the spectrum of my life. I can’t push them away any more, I need to face them, befriend them, and find a way to live well with them as they are an intrinsic part of me.
Whilst I may have a way to go before I start loving these difficult emotions, I’ve realised the importance of trying not to fight or resist them. The residues of grief and pain have etched deep engravings into my heart and soul; they have helped to shape and define my essence. They are no less a part of me than joy or love and they make me, me. When I finally acknowledged the truth that I was the biggest obstacle holding myself back, I began to see a deeper and more enriched picture of the intricate and tangled web I’ve weaved over the years in a seemingly futile attempt to stay ‘safe’.
I feared letting others in. I feared them discovering the real me and feeling so disappointed as I wasn’t ‘Miss Everything’s Wonderful in My World’. I feared them walking away as a result. I feared them getting close. Yet, an even bigger fear was the fear I had of myself: I wouldn’t gaze into my own depths as I felt ‘less than’ because I wasn’t the superwoman I thought I should be. Of course, in hindsight, I now know there was never anything to fear, but hindsight is easy with the benefit of hindsight! Whilst in the midst of turmoil and disconnection, it’s hard to think rationally about anything much.
The Day I Woke was a powerful one for me. I had just been told I needed major high-risk surgery. My consultant mentioned death a few times and, during the conversation, I realised that I no longer held any fear of death; although I wasn’t (and I’m still not) overly keen to die, I was at peace with myself. I have much I still want to achieve in life and I have a rich enthusiasm for the preciousness of life but I had found peace with the only truly inevitable thing: death. It was only when I reached this point, I realised that when death holds no fear, everything changes including fear itself. I refused the surgery which has potentially created an even bigger risk but I’m at peace with my choice. Intuitively I know I’ve made the right decision for now.
I felt a profound and exquisite peace rising up within me as the turmoil quietened and I re-connected to an essence that danced and laughed within every single one of the billions of cells in my being. I had woken and I felt as though I had been given a new chance at life. I am still processing the somewhat profound shifts within me as I grow accustomed to the giggling, dancing sprite-like energy within me as it feels at a tangent to the somewhat fragile and broken figure I see looking back at me in the mirror. Yet, my eyes are bright and the fire in my soul is radiating brightly. Finally, I feel alive, tantalisingly awake and exquisitely connected to life (and to myself) exactly as it is.
Someone once said ‘to find real peace you have to let the armour go’. Mine fell away during the year I broke and rather than trying to find replacements or welding together the shattered fragments into some kind of Frankenstein-esque armour, I’m finding strength in my vulnerability and open-heartedness. I have no idea what tomorrow, next week or even today will bring but that’s okay. Whilst I can’t pretend that everything’s now rosy and perfect in my world because it isn’t. I feel more awake than ever before but I’m still fragile and delicate. Breaking may have been a gift but it will take time to restore a true sense of equilibrium in my body, mind and soul.
My world turned upside down and tossed my spirit about like a ragdoll and it continues to do so. As I continue to peel back layers and make peace with myself there are still violent lurches as life continues in it’s own unpredictable way, yet, it’s okay as although I still have no idea who I am becoming or where I am heading, I am me and that is enough and it’s incredible because it’s exactly as it’s meant to be. I’m finally learning to love the inherently unpredictable and confusing nature of being human and, most importantly, I’m learning to love myself (imperfections, frailties and quirks included) with every ounce of my being…

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Year I Broke

This year I’ve fallen apart. Everything I once held dear has been torn down and ripped away. My beliefs have been shattered, my sense of spiritual connection has disintegrated and turned to dust, and my physical self has crumbled with ill-health and disability. The story of my life unravelled as everything fell apart; I broke. It's not easy to admit any of this as the truth is rarely easy to face. Yet, I've reached a point where I'm no longer able to hide behind the relative safety of my keyboard or to wax lyrical about the joys of pain and struggle. Life isn't all fluffy bunny and marshmallows; sometimes it's gut wrenchingly difficult.

I’ve been standing precariously close to the edge for quite some time looking into the murky depths below, wondering what’s hidden in the mist and trying not to let my imagination run riot. I clung tightly to the edge until the day I couldn't and I fell. This year I’ve been falling, just like in those nightmares of my childhood when I’d suddenly lurch backwards into freefall, waking up in a blind panic, feeling nauseous and trembling. It felt like the nightmare had shifted into reality as I turned to face my ‘what is’ head on. Yet, this makes it sound like a conscious and willing choice, but I was dragged to this point and pushed into a corner leaving me with no escape route; I’ve had to face my reality as there was nothing else left as all of the facades, false beliefs, hopes and various levels of denial fell away. In hindsight, reaching such a point was inevitable, after all, no one can keep putting on a brave face, smiling and pushing on forever.

As the storm clouds kept coming, their relentless and tenacious determination ensured there was nowhere left to hide. There was no shortcut around the storm, the only way was through. This meant facing my shadows, facing my reality and facing up to myself with a lot of brutal self honesty. I guess I'd always believed that life is a journey, and, as we evolve, we step from one room to another, carrying with us new insights, new wisdom and new awakening. Yet, in a slightly whimsical kind of way, I hoped my point of breakthrough would be akin to walking in to a new room, turning the light on and starting afresh. I thought I would simply start seeing the world with fresh eyes and a new perspective, and keep striding forth as I've always done. However, life had a very different plan for me. Admittedly, I tried hard to cling on to what I had, even though I intuitively knew I couldn't carry on as I was. I felt a kind of safety in denial, it was an uncomfortable comfort zone to me, yet I didn't want to let it go. 

There is a lot of wordage given to the concept of awakening, breakthrough and acceptance. I myself have written a great deal about this, feeling a deep sense of awareness of the process of my own personal evolution, as well as a sense of collective awakening. Of course, I, like everyone, am on a continual path of growth and learning, but it has always been a more palatable option to believe that breakthrough and, indeed, breakdown, were, ultimately, immensely positive experiences. Who was I kidding? 

As I gazed around at the debris scattered all around me in the aftermath of the storm, it was undoubtedly hard to feel a sense of positivity. In that moment, I felt grief, anger, despair and desolation; positivity was conspicuous only by its absence. I had been forced to a point of breakdown and surrender, and yet, although it took me a while to see through the blurry haze of my tears, I was aware that my perception had shifted as everything looked different. Every sound, colour and smell was somehow more vibrant, as though I had opened myself up to a new layer of awareness. Initially, it felt as though I had no skin as I couldn't filter out the intensity of the shifting vibration all around me and within me. However, despite sensing a shift, I kept on resisting and denying as I couldn't bring myself to face the truth that everything had imploded and fallen apart. I kept on resisting until my resolve was smashed and there was nothing left standing between me and, well, me.

By being forced to a point of surrender, I had stripped back the facades I had clung on to for so long and I was left naked and bare facing my ’what is’ with total honesty as there was nowhere left to hide. The intensity of the chill in the cool air was undeniable, yet, at the same time, it felt refreshing as I could breathe freely for the first time in years. Spiritually, emotionally and physically I felt able to expand and, although the pain of falling apart was exquisite, the sense of reconnection I sensed would rise up within me stirred my curiosity and spurred me forward. However, reconnection wasn’t the default setting that emerged at the point of breakdown as I found myself in a kind of numb voidal space: not quite here, there or anywhere.

I felt as though every atom and cell of my being had been shocked and broken open; like an egg being cracked apart. Through those cracks poured a lifetime of ‘stuff’ and it was immense. Perhaps breakout is a better description than breakdown as although I definitely fell apart, I sensed a profound and intense feeling of indescribable release at the same time. 

I've often pondered why this was the year for my falling apart. I’ve faced a lifetime of challenges, so why now? I’ve spent my life trying to be the best me I could possibly be, I’ve embraced self-healing and spiritual teachings, and I’ve worked so hard trying to heal myself in order to free myself from the ties that have bound me to ‘ought’s’ and ‘should’s’. Yet I’ve pushed my own self-destruct button as I wouldn’t pause; I wanted to keep on keeping on just in case everything fell apart if I stopped (even though my fragile house of cards had already fallen apart, I wouldn’t accept or acknowledge it). My head became a logjam of thoughts, beliefs and fears, and my soul became saturated as I built layer upon layer of facades. I stored up years of uncried tears for all of those experiences I wasn’t fully present for and I allowed the cracks in my physical health to become a gaping chasm as my body buckled and crumpled. 

I fell apart this year as I could no longer keep on keeping on, trying to cling on, trying to push on. I fell apart as I tumbled into the gaping chasm I’d created and landed in a heap on the cold ground below. It wasn’t a soft landing but, in that moment, everything stopped, frozen and raw as I saw the truth of myself in all it’s glory. It wasn’t pretty, yet it was also beautiful at the same time as my awareness was fully in that moment and I realised that, despite my best efforts, I’d spent most of my life focused on what I hoped was ahead of me; I'd never allowed myself the opportunity to step fully into the present moment, and it was this denial and resistance that finally broke me. 

My overloaded mind, body and soul needed to fall apart in order to fully get my attention. It was time to express the pain, sadness and the disconnection, and it was time to allow my true self to step consciously into the here and now. I found myself staring into that big hole, so beautifully described by John O’Donohue as, ’the precarious broken threshold of my own heart and soul’. I needed to let those uncried tears flow freely and I needed to let myself breathe, rest and take stock of my reality. 

I guess it is somewhat ironic that in the process of trying to find myself, I actually lost myself. I looked so hard for the truth of me, I failed to notice my reality. I have long been dealing with health issues, but it was only when they escalated and I fell apart, I realised that I wasn't accepting my 'what is’, I was doing quite the opposite. Integrity, authenticity and acceptance are crucial steps on the path of awakening, yet all three involve a willingness to see beyond the facades we've created in order to stop trying to be anything other than what we are. Although I believed I was in a space of acceptance and surrender, I wasn’t. Of course, I would have preferred a little nudge to show me the error of my ways rather than a devastating tsunami tearing me open and ripping me apart, but, in truth, I’m rather good at ignoring nudges. 

I’d love to say that the sun then rose and everything was well in the world as all the pieces suddenly fell into alignment and I felt a deep sense of peace. Entering the chilled darkness in the depths of my heart and soul pushed me to the point of extinction as every ounce of foundation fell away. There was nothing left to cling on to as hope was absent as I was made to truly face everything I had denied, repressed and ignored for years. My sense of spiritually, of inter-connectedness, shattered and I felt so angry and abandoned. The intensity of the pain rising up from my depths left me feeling isolated and alone, scared and confused. At the time I needed my spirituality the most, I turned my back on it as it felt hollow and without sustenance. This was of course a reflection of how I felt: disconnected, desolate and barren. 

Although I’ve spent my whole life in the dark believing I was already in the light, reality shook me into consciousness and I remained fully awake and aware in that dark, cold place for months. I had days when I longed for death and I had days when I longed for life. I felt frozen in paralysis, not having the energy or strength to do anything other than be fully aware of where I was. Denial takes a phenomenal amount of energy but acceptance takes much more. I stayed there until the day I didn’t. I can’t say I had a powerful moment of revelation or insight, I just felt a weight lift from my soul and a light re-ignite from the core of my being. It was as though someone finally flipped the light switch on in that room I’d been pushed into on the next stage of my journey of evolution. It took a while to adjust my eyes and, in truth, my soul still feels jaded as I recover from the devastation. Yet, I find myself grateful as I feel as though I’m finally home: I’m present and the facades and falsehoods have fallen away. Of course, more will surface as that’s a part of being human, but, for now, I feel a glimmer of hope rising from deep within me as I'm tentatively exploring a deeper and more enriched connection to my mind, body and soul.

I'm still coming to terms with my physical ill-health and disability as its changed my life from the inside out and this involves grieving, anger, compassion, allowing and accepting, all of which churn up layers of emotions and belief patterns. Of course I have days when I'm angry about my reality but it passes as I know I'm the only one who suffers as a result. Awakening is an on-going process but I finally feel ready to be here now. Maybe ‘awakening’ isn’t the right word but it’s hard to extrapolate an apt description that suggests a positive to a period of utter devastation. I think I’ve been awakening for years and I’ve realised it’s not ‘being awake’ that matters, it’s noticing or paying attention. It’s the same as being alive: being alive isn’t the same as feeling alive as the former suggestions existence but feeling alive suggests a conscious interconnectedness. It’s only now I can say, hand on heart, that I actually feel alive. It’s painful and raw, but I’m wholeheartedly feeling every emotion, feeling and sensation. I’m feeling a growing sense of the true essence of me as I breathe deeply into my heart and soul. The threshold of my heart and soul that I’d feared for so long is still fragile but I’ve dived in and now fear isn’t the force that’s holding me back or shaping and defining my life. 

I, like so many of us, have experienced breakthrough over the last few months after years of spiritual, physical and emotional upheaval. I had to breakdown to reach a point of surrender and I had to have every one of my many escape routes cut off in order for me to stop trying to out-run and out-wit truth; not to deliberately live an ‘un-truth’ but in a somewhat futile attempt to relieve the discomfort of being human. It’s taken a while for me to assimilate the process in order to articulate the essence of the changes within me as I find myself with a brand new vocabulary and a brand new perspective as a result. 

In truth, I’m still adjusting and I’ve given up trying to condense and distil the experience in order to try to make sense of it as it’s beyond my logical and rational comprehension. Thinking about it gives it structure and it has none. My wounds are still raw and my soul feels weak and, although I intuitively know that falling apart was what I needed, I know it’s my willingness to be vulnerable, genuine and real that is setting me free. My essence shattered, but spiritually I feel more whole than ever before. It's  certainly complex and confusing!

So, this was the year I fell apart but it’s also the year where echoes of possibility began to ricochet down the long corridors of my soul, tickling my consciousness and re-igniting my desire for life. I haven’t, as yet, given shape or form to these possibilities but I can feel them stirring within. For now, I’m resting in the moment, allowing myself to breathe fully as I slowly begin to open wholeheartedly to the process of healing; I feel weary from the battle, but the whisperings of hope keep the flames of my optimism flickering gently in the darkness. 

The definition of healing has changed for me as it no longer means ‘being fixed’ as that's unrealistic in terms of my physical being but I haven't given up and I now acknowledge I'm not broken or 'less than'. Healing is re-establishing balance as an imbalanced person in an imbalanced world. Perhaps healing means ‘coming back together’ again but I’m changed; altered forever. I cannot go back to the person I used to be and I don't want to. I have no idea who I am becoming, but for now, in this moment, I am me; not only is that enough, it is exactly as it’s meant to be…

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Embracing Our Fragility

It’s not always easy to accept being the author of one’s own life, after all, that means taking responsibility for choices, decisions and paths followed. It also means taking responsibility for our unlived lives as well: those choices we didn’t make and those paths we didn’t walk. Life is rarely a case of either/or as we are constantly faced with a plethora of choices at any given moment, including the choice of ‘non action’.
The incredible John O’Donohue once said that: ‘our unlived lives travel with us in a world of implicit, latent, held over possibility’. Of course, we do carry it all with us, sometimes in the form of regret, sometimes ‘what if’ or ‘if only’. Often we’re not even aware we’re carrying it at all, its only when we reach a point of challenge in life that we usually go within seeking answers and come face to face with a lifetime of ‘stuff’. For some, such points create an atmosphere of overwhelming emotion, others reach a point of emptiness. Some try to push it away, trying to keep on keeping on, others buckle under the strain, some seek resolution and others become lost in a kind of ‘in-between world’ which lies in between the spaces in life.
There is no set place that one reaches where it can all feel too much as we are all unique individuals, each with our own perspective on life and each with a unique collection of coping skills. Despite our tremendous resilience as a species, the result of being strong for too long can lead to an imbalance within our hearts and souls. Yet, despite living in the twenty-first century, it’s still so hard for so many to admit to struggling, as showing any apparent signs of weakness is still frowned upon by so many. But why? We are sensitive, complex and in a state of constant flux and change. We are inter-connected bundles of life, filled with emotions, thoughts and a sense of being a part of a seemingly incomprehensible whole. Isn’t it only natural to experience highs and lows, too feel fragile and to feel a teeny bit broken at times? Isn’t that a part of being human? To deny this is to deny our humanity and to therefore live in a state of disconnection from the full spectrum of life. We can’t have the sun and no rain, day and no night, joy without pain.
Many spend their lives asking what the point of life actually is. Many more, never even consider the question. We live, we love, we cry, we rage, we pray and we grieve, and sometimes when we leap wholeheartedly into the pit of rampant uncertainty and unknowable destiny called life, we can get lost and slip into the cracks in-between the cracks in the pavement. Yet, when we fight it, we get stuck in a falsely created world of disconnection and denial which often leads to collapse. This seems to be at the root of what’s wrong in the world. Instead of accepting our fragility, vulnerability and fallibility, we fight it and try to convince ourselves that we can buck the trend. Yet, if we face it, love it and accept it, perhaps we can realise these are not weaknesses to be fixed or pushed away but a part of being human?
Loving and accepting our weaknesses is not the same as giving up or giving in but it’s a willingness to gracefully lean into life rather than pushing it away or trying to fix the unfixable. If we were able to change things we would but when we can’t it’s important we don’t bang our heads against the brick wall of life in denial or resistance, raging at the inherent unfairness. Life often doesn’t make sense and sometimes things happen that are unthinkable or unspeakable and out of our control. The only thing ever in our control is our response. Sometimes we need to allow ourselves to feel vulnerable and to experience difficult emotions as this is the pathway to home, to our middle ground. Living on the edge and pushing our boundaries is important for our evolution but there are times when we need to rest, recover and rebalance.
It’s a part of life to experience ups and downs, highs and lows, but its important to honour these in order to move through them. Each moment passes, nothing is permanent. Yet to fight or deny the lows denies us the full experience of life as they are no less important than the high’s. In fact, perhaps they are more important as they give us context and reference enabling us to truly savour and give gratitude for the highs when they come.No one ever said being human was easy but when we stop fighting ourselves and instead embrace compassion, love and tender kindness, although the experiences themselves don’t change, we do and this allows us to accept the completeness of the human experience and to thrive as a result. Whilst we will inevitably have periods of challenge, disconnection, fragility and of despair, those are a part of life but intuitively we know that, like the day follows the night, these too shall pass…

Friday, 18 April 2014

Ticking Along

As we continue to navigate the twists and turns of being human, it seems that we have entered a time for taking some big deep breaths and re-affirming our connection to life. We so often take life for granted, ticking along and along until one day we don’t tick anymore. Losing our tick does not necessarily come from the end of life as it also surfaces through illness, dis-ease or trauma. When we tick, we go with the flow of life, never really thinking about the incredible jobs our bodies do every single second of every single day. It is only when the tick shifts out of sync, develops a fault or stops that we realise just how precious and fragile life truly is.
When we gaze within we become aware of the vast universe within each and every one of our millions, if not billions (I’ve never counted all of them!) of cells. We become aware of the processes that keep us alive and the mini-miracles that we are. We step beyond the boundaries that we perceive to be in place in life and realise that we are each vibrant, integral parts of the magnificent whole.
Of course, if the tick shifts out of sync, we can lose our equilibrium and life suddenly feels very real, very precious and very short (we start to fear not making the most of every single moment). We realise that taking anything for granted is foolhardy as nothing is truly permanent. At the same time, we step beyond trying to fix those things that make us miserable and instead start to focus more on those things that bring us joy. We no longer seek to find ‘completion’ in order to live as we realise that we already have all we need to live now. It becomes easier to accept the perfection of imperfection, not because our tick is ‘faulty’ but because we no longer try to live conditionally, striving to achieve a state of being that comes from a state of doing more and achieving more. We realise that ‘being more’ is the state of realisation and acceptance that we are perfect exactly as we are.
Although this does not mean that we have to sit back and accept all that life throws at us (far from it), it does suggest a willingness to stop fighting so much.  As human beings we are very good at thinking we know best and trying to push ahead regardless of what our body, mind and/or soul are telling us. We can spend our whole lives trying to find completion, trying to fix our faults and eradicate the pain but this simply leaves a void: a deep emptiness as there is nothing in its place. Unless we open up to joy and happiness, how can they flow into our lives? It therefore seems important to shift the focus away from fixing, healing and mending towards living, breathing and being at One with ourselves, our bodies and the universe.
When we become truly aware of life, everything changes as we no longer take anything for granted. Every moment becomes precious as we allow ourselves to become aware of every moment. Even during those times when our ticks move out of alignment, it is important to realise that this is a perfect opportunity to re-connect to the true joy of being alive. Even if the tick never fully recovers or returns to its former glory, we can find new glory and new joy in every state of being; it is just perception after all.
Remember that we all have our own unique instruments in the orchestra of life, hearing our own note is important as it keeps us connected and integrated. Just like the ‘tick’, our notes can change over time, but instead of trying to reclaim what ‘once was’ it seems important to be open to creating new melodies and tunes. No one knows what life has in store for them; we can never be sure what lies around the next corner. So, instead of taking it all for granted, we need to live consciously in the moment and treasure the true magnificence of being alive…
Present moment living, breathing and being is not for the faint-hearted as it means leaping into the gap (metaphorically, not literally) but not becoming defined or consumed by it. It also means stepping beyond linear time and embracing the concept of true happiness. Of course, in reality, there is no other way, but until we reach that point in time where we are prepared to wholeheartedly embrace this, we can find ourselves stepping over the cracks in the pavement, minding the gaps and watching out for potholes. In other words, our focus remains not on where we are but on where we were and where we think we need to be and until we realise that neither of these exist in the present moment we can never truly be liberated.
Of course, we will always remain mindful of the gap between here and there, as this is a part of being human, but the more consciously we step into the present moment, the more we can become One with the awe-inspiring universal consciousness. It is in the present moment where we step beyond the edge of the boundaries we perceive to be around us in life and fly free into the realms of joy…

Friday, 14 March 2014

Mind The Gap

As we continue to stand in-betwixt where we once were and where we want to be, there is a growing sense of awareness in connection to where we are now. Such an observation may sound obvious, but relatively few souls ever truly notice the present moment, focusing instead on the journey between ‘here and there’, looking back and looking forward but never really noticing the now.

Living with a linear perspective is something that shapes and defines both our lives and our world as it tends to keep us locked in the past/future mindset and away from true awareness of the present moment. Of course, it is only natural to look ahead towards goals and dreams, and to use the past as a reference point for decision making and for shaping the storylines of our lives, yet, such a path tends to keep us focused on the gap between where we are and where we want to be as opposed to raising our consciousness to the ‘bigger picture’, inspiring us to step beyond linear thought and towards conscious living and being. The gap becomes something to step over, to get from one side to the other rather than a place of learning, wisdom and growth. We ‘mind’ the gap (as in, we are bothered by it), but are rarely mindful of it.

It is part of being human to notice the gap between where we are and where we want to be as this inspires the motivation and determination to strive ahead, to discover, to innovate and to invent. Yet, when we become overly focused on this gap we become stuck in linear time and unable to re-connect to the infinite consciousness that shapes and defines the present moment. This may sound a little perplexing as the nature of infinite consciousness suggests a step beyond shaping and defining anything, but this is the point, as it is only by consciously embracing the present moment that we can make sense of the true nature of infinite consciousness; in other words, we cannot make sense of it until we consciously embrace it and become it.

Life has a habit of repeating patterns and cycles as we walk the treadmill and follow those storylines that play out over and over again. Although we think we have learned our lesson and moved on, we can still find ourselves back in familiar territory as the cycles repeat themselves and we find ourselves looking back for reference and looking forward for even more reference, understanding and wisdom. Yet, there comes a time when we need to realise that there will always be lessons to learn from the past and wisdom to discover and re-discover in the future but neither of these need to keep us away from the present moment.

There is a risk that we create a new cycle of distraction as we try to make sense of life and try to accomplish more in order to ‘get it right’ before we live the lives we know we were born to live. We set conditions: ‘when I lose weight, when I meet my soul mate, when I get that perfect job...’ and each one of these does not take us closer to living the life of our dreams but further away as it highlights the gap between where we are and where we think we need to be in order to be truly happy.

Happiness is a word that is hard to define as it means something very different to every single person. Some define happiness as ‘having it all’ and achieving material success. Many see happiness as having a plethora of external successes and achievements and yet it is only when we realise that no amount of external success can truly make us happy we begin to feel a sense of emptiness that all we once held dear actually doesn’t really matter all that much after all. Such a realisation can leave an after-taste of emptiness for a while as we strip back our souls to the bare bone, but we soon realise that from the emptiness true happiness has room to grow and flourish as we connect to the essence of happiness and embrace this feeling from deep within.

Present moment living, breathing and being is not for the faint-hearted as it means leaping into the gap (metaphorically, not literally) but not becoming defined or consumed by it. It also means stepping beyond linear time and embracing the concept of true happiness. Of course, in reality, there is no other way, but until we reach that point in time where we are prepared to wholeheartedly embrace this, we can find ourselves stepping over the cracks in the pavement, minding the gaps and watching out for potholes. In other words, our focus remains not on where we are but on where we were and where we think we need to be and until we realise that neither of these exist in the present moment we can never truly be liberated.

Of course, we will always remain mindful of the gap between here and there, as this is a part of being human, but the more consciously we step into the present moment, the more we can become One with the awe-inspiring universal consciousness. It is in the present moment where we step beyond the edge of the boundaries we perceive to be around us in life and fly free into the realms of joy...

 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Night Becomes Day


Over the past few weeks there has been a powerful sense of shift and re-emergence. As the inner (and outer!) winds howled and the rain cascaded down in torrents, there has been an undeniable sense of breakthrough as the chrysalis cracked and a new wave of clarity began its slow journey towards the sunlight. For many who walk the earth, such events seem to go unnoticed as life continues to tick along and nothing seems to penetrate the pedestrian-ess of the routine. Yet, there are those of us that seem to feel things far more acutely and intensely, and this most recent storm has been one of fairly monumental size and proportion.   

There have been times of clarity and times of confusion, times of insight and revelation, and times of isolation and disconnection. There have been times of light, times of dark, times of day and times of night. There have even been times when night became day and day became night; when the light and the dark were no longer distinct and separate, but entwined and merged in a kind of spinning mass of energy. Of course, light and dark are not really separate forces, but, as human beings, we tend to see them this way as it helps us to find context, depth and definition to life. 

Yet, during this storm, our very perception of life altered as we no longer see things as we once did. As a result, the merging of polarities and melting of defined boundaries and beliefs no longer feels confusing, but intuitively it feels right and as it should be. Although there are, as yet, few words to describe this new way of being, the vibration of residing in such a space feels life affirming and right.  It is as though the vibration of life has changed and everything is much more itself once again. 

As we open up to this life-affirming vibration, our senses are reaching new levels of sensitivity as we hear every thought and every heartbeat, see sharper colours and feel the true pulse of the universe. In such moments of magic and amazement, we can lose self-definition and clear boundaries to become a fully integrated part of the Whole; it is as though we no longer stand alone and finally feel connected and unified once again. It is in these moments that we feel, see, hear, sense, touch and taste more acutely than ever before. 

It is akin to those few moments once the storm has passed; the stillness feels energised and poised to burst back into action with a single breath that triggers a chain reaction of birdsong, insects humming, and everything taking a big stretch as it comes back into full focus once again. Yet, nothing is the same any more as the whole world feels, and looks, different; the trees are stronger, the colours are brighter, the light is somehow more condensed and the whole vibration of life feels more energised and invigorated. It is as though life was holding its breath, trying to get through the storm, but in the stillness, there is no need to struggle, resist or fight any longer. 

This moment of breakthrough is a collective experience, but, at the same time, it is also deeply personal. Therefore there is no set moment of breakthrough, but a cascading effect as we each get our time in the stillness to break out of the chrysalis that has served us and protected us for so long. Some may choose to remain in the safety of the chrysalis, and there can be no judgement for such a choice, after all, we are all unique. Yet, many will choose to let go and become One with the experience in order to evolve and let go; there is no ‘right’ way to do this, just an acceptance of the process and a willingness to offer gratitude for the experience. 

Although we know that the storm will pass, during its peak, it is hard not to feel disconnected, isolated and alone. Of course, intuitively we know that this is part of the process as it is only by experiencing the disconnection, the isolation and the feelings these states of being invoke, that we can truly appreciate the value of the shifts we are now going through. Like night without day, and light without dark, we need the context in order to truly ‘make sense’ of the experience. Yet, these emotions and experiences do not define us, they are simply a part of us, and once we breathe them in, they re-integrate and become a little part of a much bigger Whole. 

Denial of our imperfections, darkness and nuances no longer serves a positive purpose; we can no more eradicate these from our lives than we can stop the day turning into night, but there is nothing to fear about this process as it is a part of the natural cycle of life. The time for total self-acceptance is upon us as we let go of the storylines and beliefs that have shaped and defined us for so long and instead open up to a brand new way of living and being. 

We are all a mass of complexities, nuances, eccentricities, quirks and imperfections; this is what makes us unique, incredible and perplexing. At the same time, it is this mass of ‘stuff’ that allows us to find true context in life in order to step beyond the dim light and back into the brilliant sunshine once again; in fact, we step beyond the concept of light and dark completely as we take a big deep breath of life and relax. More storms will come, but when we let go, we realise that each one is an opportunity to grow ever closer to living and being free...