“Crack open the shell of certainty and let the beating heart of life blossom” ~ Imogen
- Martyn took this photo of me the other day and have to admit, I don’t really recognise myself – and this was a bit of a shock at first.So much has shifted these past years and months that the image that I once had of myself, is no longer there, it no longer fits.Now I see a lioness, a strength, a power, a vulnerability, and an openness and it’s beautiful to see. I see someone who is sitting in the pocket of who she is, finally comfortable in her own skin. That process has been amazing to watch and certainly very intense to live.As I write this I get a flash of collective ‘should’ saying “You shouldn’t say things like that out loud, you should be more modest and humble, you’re being egotistical and attention seeking.” But the truth is that to not acknowledge this is to dishonour life and the changes and growth that we all go through. To take a moment to really sink into this acknowledgement, to take stock of the shifts and changes in life is a good thing. It brings with it so much gratitude to life, gratitude to the lessons, the gifts and the humblings that it has shown.It’s not personal, I’m not saying it with a puffed out chest, I’m not saying it for any gain or need for validation; it’s just an observation of what occurs when life is fully allowed to flow and live into every crack, and every corner of existence. When the shell of conditioning is broken. It happens to all of us if we care to look, if we care to let it in. I’m acknowledging the change in myself with the hope that others might be encouraged to take a look and see it in themselves too.I’m pointing this out because I always promised myself to use this platform of my blog to be honest, to show all aspects of so called ‘awakening’, to not sugar coat and present only one side of myself, but to bring awareness to all aspects of life on the path of self discovery, as well as bringing the ideas of awakening back down to earth, back down to the lived reality.In fact I came up with my blog name Beyond Imogen four years ago at the start of this unfoldment and process of what felt like being born again. Now I stand in some ways, completely and totally beyond the Imogen that I once was, almost no remnant is left. But in other ways I am completely and totally Imogen like I never was before. So totally and fully grounded into this experience, living it all without apologies.To not acknowledge this is a false sense of coy-ness. To not acknowledge the power and presence and rawness that courses in every moment is to deny the beauty and vibrancy of life.So I look at this photo and I am in awe, Martyn captured something. He captured the dramatic recognition and effect of just how much has changed.The old Imogen does not exist anymore. This Imogen has a wildness, a strength, and openness, a realness and a vulnerability about her that never was present before. This new Imogen doesn’t care what others think of her, she doesn’t care about self image. She just IS.And I bowed to that.[Photo Credit: Martyn Webber]
I wear my scars
not like armour
that I’m proud of
or a badge of honour
that I boast about,
but as acknowledgement
for what I have experienced.
For the lessons
I have learnt
and as a reminder
of what I have gone through.
They depict the humbling
life showed me.
They are just a part of me
A part that I once tried to hide
A part that I was once ashamed
and avoidant of
A part that I have now
learnt to embrace and love.
My scars tell a story
But it’s just that
They don’t define me.
There’s a tendency to avoid dealing with the subject of mental health in some spiritual traditions and teachings. To poo poo inner work and growth, to try to meditate away ‘negative’ emotions, reactions, thought patterns and conditioning. But spirituality and spiritual awakening is not a panacea, it is many things and in some ways a lot of the “problems” of the mind do in fact disappear. But in some ways post awakening the work and cleanup becomes intensified and it can become even more important to address and give attention to anything that’s still arising. This can be when some of the true work begins, because the strategies that have stopped you from looking beneath the covers of the mind dissolve.
It is the embracing not the running away that allows one to look at where the stored traumas, memories, reactions, conditioning and energetic imprints are having an impact on the current moment, your current experience of life. So in some ways it’s only then that you can truly move through and on from the issues or patterns that may have plagued your life.
We all know someone, or maybe ourselves that have experienced mental health issues, and yet it’s still so hard for society as a whole to acknowledge, embrace and talk about. Why do you think we even need to have a ‘World Mental Health Day’. We’re too quick to try and fix, instead of taking the cues that are being shown. Those cue want to be heard, want to be seen. Not fixed or forgotten about, or covered up, or shoved under the carpet; but instead seen and heard and embraced like a small child looking for love.
There is no manual about how to live life. It’s difficult and there are no singular right or wrong answers that apply to all. But especially when we pay too much attention to what those around us, and society are saying about how we should feel and act and be in life. Often the first thing to go when we try and fit into something that we feel we should be fitting into, is our sense of internal well-being and peace.
The term mental health is a catchall for many experiences and often comes measured against a theoretical blueprint about what it is to be ‘normal’. This is massively problematic, particularly as from everything I can gather, there is no normal. And beyond that… often these things that we fear are ‘abnormal’ about ourselves are actually experiences that our friend, our neighbour, our family member, the stranger on the bus are also feeling and experiencing too.
The mental suffering comes in when we falsely accept that our experience is wrong – that we ‘shouldn’t’ be experiencing x, y & z. I’ve often said to people that I encounter along the road of life who tell me that what they are experiencing is wrong or broken, that what if they were an alien who had just arrived on Earth and were told x, y & z is completely correct to feel, what then? What would their relationship to x, y & z be? Would they think it wrong? No.
So it’s often our relationship to how we perceive what we’re experiencing that causes it to be wrong or right, to suffer it or not. What if we were taught happy is bad, sad is good? It’s our labelling of experiences that determines their value and therefore where we derive our sense of value in life. What if we were to drop these labels and sit in the pocket with our experiences. To not run away from the ‘bad’ and towards the ‘good. But to feel all.
I feel this is true mental health. To attend to all that’s arising with awareness and compassion, without labels and judgements of right or wrong.
Mental health assumes there is a good health and a bad health. It measures this good and bad against the idea (or ideal) of normal. But show me normal, find me who it looks like? We have to face facts, there is no one-size fits all. There is no ‘normal’, just life playing out as it does with all its colour and variety, shapes and sizes, all its seeming paradoxes and diversities.
Make no mistake you will be judged and you will be misunderstood along your path of life.
The question is will you hold true to the discovery of YOUR truth, no another’s? Will you stand up for your direct experience rather than someone else’s ideals?
- Letting go of a specific image of safety and security is so tricky. But life calls this of us again and again when we get too comfortable putting our stability and sense of security into objects and ideas that in their fundamental nature can’t provide that for us except temporarily.Can you find your home, your safety, your energy and the warm embrace of love in something far more stable… your SELF?It’s to deepen and sink fully into that recognition and then all the other phenomena can and does come and go without the ‘need’ for you to depend on the ephemeral for any derived sense of stability and peace. Find that which is unchanging in your experience and it will lead you home to an unshakable okay-ness and acceptance of all that Grace presents you with on your path of life. True freedom.
There are none so bright and full of love
than those that have allowed life to penetrate them fully.
Cracked open so immensely and felt so deeply
the depth and breadth of their experiencing.
Leaving no stone unturned, no shadow unseen, no feeling unmet.
Those that have surrendered so tenderly
to the acknowledgement that they know nothing.
That they are but a whisper on the lips of life,
carried in the arms of Grace,
and held in the groundlessness of Being itself.
Their cracked open heart laid gently to rest
at the feet of their very own beloved Self.
- If resistance shows up,then let that resistance in too.Let it wash over you and into youwithout any sense of wrongness.Even resistance in all its gloryis held tenderly in the depths of Being.So fall,fall darling oneinto the heart of surrenderand let life all the way in.Even if only for a moment,this moment is all it takes.
Your humanness is a gift to be cherished
not a dirty little secret to be hidden
It is divinity in it’s expression
ALL . OF . IT .
Don’t be tempted to run from it
Embracing the fullness of your experience
reveals the fullness of love
it reveals the emptiness of your core
and reveals that there was never anything to run from
and nowhere to run to
One of the biggest helps for me to move beyond my conditioned responses and traumas and to heal and integrate them has been learning how to cope with strong and intense emotions – which for the record I was pretty fantastic at avoiding for most of my life!
I would say that when all the strategies for avoiding no longer worked the only way to turn was through and into them. It was a case of let go or be dragged but turning into them was definitely the last thing I would have originally thought would be of help, go figure ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
For me this was learning to hold emotions and energetic arisings like you would a small child in a loving embrace, to pull them closer and say, “It’s okay you can be here. I don’t need you to change or be gone, you don’t need to be fixed or healed. You can be just as you are for as long as you need. You are also free to leave if and when you’re ready to as well.”
It was Adyashanti that first introduced me to this idea of embracing not running away from difficult experiences. To lovingly hold what is arising tenderly closer than close in my heart with the deepest compassion and patience, to let whatever is showing itself to just BE. And in this way whatever is coming up in the moment gets to be fully heard and met, not cut short or rushed but just patiently allowed for as long as needed. There’s no waiting or willing anything to be gone, just the full acceptance that if it’s there, then it needs to be there. To unconditionally allow, accept and embrace with compassion and tenderness.
And so in this I have learnt to not run, to not avoid, to not change or reject, or try to morph, transmute or even heal anything. But to just innocently and patiently accept and love anything that can and does show up in the field of experience.
This was and is one of the most powerful tools in my tool box of life, allowing me to come to a place of deep peace and okay-ness with whatever shows up. I’ve also noticed over time this has spontaneously become a big part of how I meet others too, it’s seeped in not as ‘something I do’ but as a by-product of meeting myself this way continuously. The work started with me.
I know there’ll be those of you well versed in non-dual teachings that will ask “yes, but WHO does the work?” So let’s not be coy and beat around the bush…. yes there’s no ‘I’ to ‘do’ the work but you can be damn sure that nonetheless the work sure does show up to be done! And for me it was almost as if that work could only really truly begin in earnest once the false ownership of ‘I’ was let go of and the inevitable flow of life came rushing in.
I don’t have any method of teaching or techniques to hand out, but if I were asked what was most helpful to me where the rubber meets the road in terms of the practical embodiment of life; the act of tenderly embracing whatever showed up was the most pivotal turning point of my experience. Whether you take that as a prescription or a description… I leave that to you to discover.
I have a secret to tell…
I sound like I know what I’m talking about
but in truth I live entirely in the unknown
No stakes to place
No walls or ceilings or floors to hang on to
life is a free-fall of continuous newness
It’s a leap of faith and trust
and it’s the ever present continuation of acceptance
I have no opinions
and no agenda
nothing to rely on
or anything to lay claim over
I see life as a gift
and all the content that shows up in it part of that gift
Most people are so quick to try and pin down life
to make rules to live by
find positions to take
and opinions to have
But to step into the unknown is to step out of the mind of conception
and into the realm of Grace
into the realm of Self
into the realm of awareness
logic will do you no good here
Life is not some beast to be tamed,
a project to be mastered,
or your b$*%h to be controlled.
Life is a gift.
The gift of Grace.
And with this recognition
I bow to the feet of life
Grace courses through us
in everything we touch,
in everything we experience.
There is nothing that isn’t Grace.
“It’s all by Grace”
For me is the most powerful and humbling recognition.
The acknowledgement that I have no control.
That I am here,
all of me,
all of my experiencing
And so in this
it’s all seen as a gift.
Some call it God.
Some call it Consciousness.
Some call it fate.
There are many names
all pointing to that ineffable impersonal activity of life.
I call it Grace.
The infinite actions and endless possibilities
of life playing life
in the ocean of life.
Wild and unpredictable.
Plenty of variation,
but no separation.
Just as the sun shines on all,
Grace is in all.
There are no distinctions of good or bad,
no questions of right or wrong.
Everything that happens,
everything that doesn’t,
all by Grace.
Every whisper of a thought,
every flash of a memory,
every definitive decision,
every decisive action,
every palpable desire,
every subtle feeling,
every wave of emotion,
every happening of life,
all by Grace.
And so life is lived,
Please don’t forget to save some love
It’s so easy to give so freely
so that you avoid the heartache that pulses inside
To focus on the other
to love the other
to help the other
To have the attention be so fully on the outer actions of life
so that the inner shadows can be hidden and forgotten
Those inner shadows and pains
yearn for your attention
yearn for your love
yearn to be accepted
Don’t forget that the kindest thing you can do for humanity
is start from you and radiate from there
Nourish and hold that beautiful heart in the fullness of love
Let it shine with abandon
Let it sing it’s heart song
A loved heart is the most powerful thing to behold
A loved heart is unstoppable
Start from you
You are the key
to the heart of life
Do not shrink into smallness
Let yourself roar and feel fully into your inherent power.
Your power is found in the courage to be you,
to fully present ALL of you.
To cease with the judgements and accept all of your wholly divine messy humanness as your own.
To not second guess and hide yourself for fear of shame and judgement from others.
To let them see you, really see you in all your glory, in all your power.
Power is not an ‘evil’ blunt instrument that gets indiscriminately wielded around.
Power has many faces.
Power is found in full on vulnerability and openness
Power is found in the soft tenderness of heart
Power is found in the depths of sadness and heartbreak
Power is found in all the bits of yourself you can’t yet met
Power is found when living on the knife edge of exploration
Power is found saying no in order that you follow your yeses
In love and acceptance, there power resides.
So don’t be afraid to stand in your power.
Don’t be afraid to turn up to your life in a completely unapologetic way.
Own your power, don’t shy away from it.
In relationships we have to trust and we have to communicate. It’s a constant leap of faith to say the things that we think they won’t want to hear and we won’t want to hear the answer to, to constantly face the fear of rejection and hurt.
But if you do take that leap of faith and trust, then it’s my experience that life constantly surprises you. It’s such a beautiful thing, but it’s scary, terrifying in fact. I’ve been with Martyn for 15 years and it’s STILL scary. I still have to take a breathe at first sometimes before I say something that is tender and edgy for me, something that I’m not sure of his response to.
This feeling of fear doesn’t disappear over time, you just get used to it. You learn to know it, you even learn to love it because it tells you where your edge of comfort is. It never fully feels safe to share those things that you don’t want to share, because it’s NOT safe. It never feels safe because when you reach an edge of yourself it’s ALWAYS scary. It’s not about the other person, it’s about you. It feels scary to you because you can’t guarantee the response and that’s terrifying, and that doesn’t stop.
If it does then you’re living out of truth and in a fantasy of your own making, because the truth is you can NEVER guarantee what’s going to happen, or what someone’s response is going to be.
So speak even though it’s scary, give them and yourself a chance to deepen and grow. Relationships aren’t easy. They never stop being a constant leap of faith. It’s very much a part of it, and that leap of faith is happening every single second if you’re lucky enough to be in a nurturing relationship. If you’re lucky you are relating new and fresh every moment, every second without reference to past or future and that is both wonderful and terrifying.
It’s opening your chest up, your heart, and trusting. Sometimes your heart gets hurt, but if it stays open life and love goes even deeper than the hurt and that is truly magical. Because with great risk comes great reward.
That risk is terrifying, love is terrifying, so it’s okay to honour that and feel that. But I encourage you to step forward even so, to open your heart wide. Only you can do that. Love is magical, love stretches you to capacity and then stretches you some more.
Love is all there is.
When we show ourselves to others, fully open and vulnerable with our hidden tender aspects, without self censoring and hiding, we step into the conversation, into the relationship in a new way. Through this we also invite others to free themselves of their constraints and speak their tender truth too. It’s a true gift, the gift of openness and love.
Come as you are, no agenda and no expectations, heart open and ready to be met. There are no boundaries between us, no gulf to be filled. Meet me in this moment where you are, without pretence, without posturing or needing to be anything or anyone. Without judgements of good or bad, better or worse, just tender openness.
If you find yourself being uncomfortable been seen fully without a mask of pretence take a breath, it’s in those moments that it takes great courage to stay open, to stay present, to stay vulnerable and trust.
There is a great strength in vulnerability and openness, a strength and power that brings with it such freedom and sweetness that all else melts away in that moment.
This is my invitation to you, to meet your fear of being seen and judged with the fierce love of courageous openness.
When we experience a strong emotion or felt response to life there is a call to be present, a call to sink into it. It’s not the moment to run away and avoid. It’s not the moment to reject and try with all your might to change the course of life. Life is giving you a gift, an opening, the natural call to Self, the great unknowing by which all becomes known, accepted and loved. Don’t be afraid, the call into the unknown is the call home, the call to the ground of your Being, it’s the natural call of freedom and peace. In this moment attention is your true power, your place of healing. The only doing is the seeing, is the accepting. Tender loving attention embracing the aliveness of life.
- Sometimes life brings you to your knees.Floors you with it’s strong wisdom.Shows you where the shadows still lie.Where the aspects of yourself are that still go unmet.It’s a calling that when ignoredscreamsandkicksandshoutsto be seen, to be heard.It’s a gut punch of a momentone that takes the breath awayand leaves all else quivering in its wake.All else stops.So you stop with itclose the eyesand listen.Listen to where life is taking you.Listen to what life is showing you.Listen to your heart, to your soul, to your Being.No more strategiesNo more solutionsNo more resistanceNo more avoidanceJust simply what is.And in that silenceall is found.All the messall the heartbreakall the mistrustbeing met fully.All the darkness comes into the light.The opening of yourself so vast that the edge is never metThe melting of all the hurt and violence into acceptance and love.Love wins out.And so you pick yourself upand dust yourself offand on you goheart fully cracked openwith love.
There’s a constant
exploration of life
that is immediate.
To listen to your body,
your physical response to life,
your intuitive knowingness.
The pull towards yes or no.
Not on an intellectual level,
but on a physical level
of what’s right or wrong
for you in that moment.
And we are conditioned to override this all the time.
There’s a bravery
and a risk
to listening to that intuition.
response and reaction
Often it can go against
everything that you think you know.
But it’s screaming for your attention.
Will the head win?
Or will the heart?
Will you let the conditioning and the head run the show?
Or will the naturalness of life win out?
This can be a big battle for most.
The intuition and the heart
eventually will win the war,
but it can take time.
We’ve lost the focus of a spiritual centre in communities and culture today. Don’t get me wrong I am not advocating for religion in its traditional sense, but what I am noting is that life used to have a balance of both the practical or material and spiritual. At the heart of our communities used to sit a church or maybe a temple or synagogue, a mosque or even a shaman’s huts. These were places to contemplate deeper and bigger ideas, bigger aspects than the day-to-day practicals of life.
They also provided sanctuary of contemplation and silence, a place to look inward. Currently Martyn and I travel around almost constantly never staying in places for more than a month or two. In each of our adventures we seek out these places of quiet. It’s in someways strange that I’m drawn to these spaces of worship because my parents never brought me to church (or to a synagogue as the case maybe) as a child. But in later life I have been drawn to the silence and contemplation that I find in these spaces. If you look around they are actually the only places where one can sit quietly, no phone in hand, no distractions, where one can sit in silence without drawing a strange stare.
I am not religious, I am spiritual. I do not subscribe to any one particular set of beliefs. To me they all point to the silent awareness at the core of our being. Some attribute this feeling, this sense of contentment and the sense of peace to a God or Gods, but to me it’s all pointing back to the Self, to Consciousness, to primordial awareness.
I cherish these places. I’m sad that they are losing their place and their bricks and mortar in this world. I think these spaces need to evolve, to cast off the chains of dogma and ritual that have no connection to the lived experience. These traditional religions hold people in conceptual bondage. Laying concepts on top of concepts that pull someone away from their natural inclination towards the ineffable silence of the Self.
But the physical buildings and spaces that allow for silent introspection, and the guides that are sometimes found in those spaces, I believe this when lost is a tragedy for society. If you look around any modern day town how many spaces do we have that focus on the material and practical, outward expressions and parts of our lives. I believe these spaces are just as important. We have to create space in our lives to balance both the silent, introspective realm and the physical outer dynamic experience. Without both life hangs precariously out of balance.
I charge you with next time you find yourself near a space of contemplation, be it a church, a temple or something similar, that you take a moment out of your day to sit quietly. It doesn’t matter what the denomination is, it’s about the broad focus of these spaces. These places have a gravity to them, a gravity towards silence. You can feel the very visceral experience of presence and silence in these spaces. Presence is enlivened, almost as if it is imprinted in the very bricks and mortar of the building.
They are sacred spaces, not because of any particular set of beliefs, spiritual dogma even, but because each and every person throughout the ages that has stepped foot in the spaces is focused on something other than the ‘small self’. And it’s my experience that this in itself leaves a lasting and powerful imprint. One that we would be wise to take advantage of while these spaces still exist.
Many of us have experienced trauma and hurt from abusive, harmful or dysfunctional relationships of all descriptions and types in our lives. I bow at your courage to try and move beyond it and heal. Equally if you’re not quite there in your journey that’s okay, I honor that too. I feel conversations about this topic are so vital so that we can explore these sorts of things together, both individually and in a broader sense within our communities and society at large. This is where I think healing happens, through open dialogue and exploration and I believe a lot of healing needs to happen overall as the world seems to have a lot of traumatised people who in turn perpetuate and carry on this cycle. Shutting the conversation down isn’t the answer, opening it up is, even though it opens up those wounds. Those wounds need to be seen and given some TLC to be healed so that the cycle can finally come to an end.
But it doesn’t mean it’s an easy topic to talk on, the courage and vulnerability it takes to even go into this subject from any angle (and as reader or writer) is not to be underestimated. We each have our own unique path through the hurt and healing that life shows us and I just want to encourage each of you to listen to yourself as far as what to take or leave in my words. I only aim to speak from my own perspective and experience here, which I’ll try to keep as broad as possible, but it doesn’t mean this is (or should be) YOUR experience. Honor your own journey and path.
Where To Start
I’ve had first hand experience of being in relationships where there’s a harmful or dysfunctional dynamic, the damaging effects of this had a deep effect, effects I’m still healing from. That healing has gone through many cycles and in some ways I was reluctant to put this out into the public domain because while this is certainly a part of my past, it’s not necessarily where I am today. Nevertheless, it does provide some context to my journey and possible a different perspective for yours…
So how did I broadly go about healing from this type of dynamic?
Well firstly recognition was key for me. Seeing it. That Ah-ha moment came quite late on for me after an off-hand joke someone made about abusive dynamics and suddenly it was like someone had turned a light on and the room that I was standing in lit up completely. Up until that point I had been so ‘in it’ that while I knew there were some major issues, I had tended to blame myself as the relationship itself offered no validation to what I was feeling. So this was the first thing for me, acknowledging and see that it was a dynamic, both an external and internal (conditioned super-ego) dynamic that had come about through that person’s wounds and their own conditioning.
[I just want to interject here and say I believe we all have wounds and conditioning that we can quite easily lay down on another, it’s for each of us to break and heal from this cycle. So in this way, I don’t blame this person now, although at the time of this Ah-ha I very much did. I actually believe that’s was a healthy thing for me at the time: “It’s you not me,” as this was part of the problem, them always blaming the other and never taking any responsibility.]
Initially it was impossible to get the kind of closure, validation and accountability I sought, and that I felt I deserved from them. I had to actually walk away, unhook and focus on myself and my own healing in the broader sense. So sometimes the most closure, and therefore the peace is in the realisation and acceptance that you can’t get closure, and then in time this becomes all the closure you need.
How I came to this is I asked myself is who is this need for closure and resolution really hurting, them or me? The answer was ME and ultimately what I wanted was not to hurt anymore. I had tried going down the route of reasoning, explaining how I felt and trying to ‘fix’ them, showing them their wrongness of their actions & ways many times, but the first real step of healing for me was disconnecting. Physically disconnecting but also very importantly, mentally and emotionally.
I was perpetuating the hurt within myself by having my attention on them and their wrongs rather than my emotions, feelings and thought patterns in their own right. The only thing in this equation that I really could and should be focusing on was ME.
Focusing on how to stand in my truth and not give into the conditioning that I had taken on in life that was so destructive. For me it really meant learning to not be afraid of my emotions or the physical sensations and thoughts that came with them. Learning to life fully, even if it meant falling flat on my face. Learning to stand in my own emotions, not suck them up in favour of someone else’s needs.
This mean also learning to give space to the parts of me that I hated, ignored or felt shouldn’t be there, even embrace them like I would a small child – this was a big part of that, learning to be tender and forgiving of myself. This helped me to learn that whatever reared its head, that was okay, I was a big enough space to let it pass through me. In this way I found acceptance and love of myself and all that I had gone through in life. I stopped making any affliction or troublesome thoughts and emotions that I was going through wrong, even the meta feeling of wrongness. I had to learn to love myself and recognise that I was important, deserved to be seen and loveable, even though I wasn’t ‘perfect’ and I made mistakes. This wasn’t a quick or easy processes by any means.
The Road of Forgiveness
Later down the road forgiveness was also necessary for me to fully be free and ultimately be at peace. And for that I need to come to a deeper level of understanding, which is partly what that ‘Being Human‘ piece was talking to, that we ALL have deep and dark areas of ourselves, we are ALL capable of deep and destructive hurt whether it’s on purpose or not. That goes for hurt of ourselves AND others as the way I see it our hurt to others is often (but not always) a reflection of our own inner world and vice versa.
Damaged people (can) cause damage to others. So from the tender shoots of this recognition I believe forgiveness and ultimate healing can come about. As difficult to accept as this might be, I feel every person is doing their very very very cutting edge best in any given moment. And sometimes that best is just not good enough, but it’s still their best. Their actions may be coming from their own deep wounds and trauma, leading to the inability to act from anywhere else. To leave room for this possibility is to leave room for that possibility in ourselves too.
You might be thinking, “Well for some it comes out of a conscious ‘choice’ to act in a harmful way,” but even in this I feel we always have to eventually go deeper. What made them feel that they needed to act in this abhorrent way? Defensiveness, fear, lack of love, low self-esteem so that hurting another made them feel bigger, better? The list goes on and on. For me these dynamics seem to come from a deep seated sense of lack, lack of love, lack of security, lack of control and if you’ve been badly conditioned and taught to look to fill and fix this sense of lack in destructive ways… well we see what happens all over the place.
I want to be VERY clear. I am NOT talking about letting someone off the hook and saying “Oh they were hurt or damaged, that means I have to forgive them and excuse them.” I’m also NOT saying that you have to be physically or emotionally in relation to them. NO!! I’m saying that it is possible to hold the seeming paradoxes inside of you – The acknowledgement and self validation that “Yes what happened happened and it was destructive and horrible.” But ALSO that we are all human and we all make mistakes and act in ways that are less than. This understanding helped me to realise those final hooks of hurt and move into a new era of healing.
We all have to have accountability to ourselves and others but also forgiveness. We need to be able to acknowledge wrongdoing but also move on – in others and also ourselves. Without both of these aspects healing is difficult.
Like I said in that ‘Being Human’ article, we all have a darkness and a light inside of us. It’s part of the lived experience of being human. No one is exempt. Those who show most compassions to others often have accepted this in themselves. When we hide from our darkness we put it in shadow, we make it unconscious. When it’s unconscious it pops up in the most unexpected and often violent ways, like a hole in a cracked bucket. You plug the hole but then the water bursted and breaks through the cracks anyway.
At least if we can see our darkness, we’re aware of it, awake to it, then we can know it’s shape, it’s boundaries, we can work with it, not against it – we can accept it. Which is why I encourage others to see this in themselves, to not be blind, afraid or ashamed of these darker aspects of our human experience.
Root Out Any Conditioning
I do also have one practical thing that was of help to me and may be of help to you, but always measure any advice (mine absolutely included) against what feels right for you – stand in YOUR TRUTH, listen to yourself.
So my ‘advice’ as it were: Root out any implanted conditioning or views that this person or persons has laid on you. Those doubts, those fears, those uncertainties of who you are or what is right or wrong. Root them out, question if they’re true. Question if they’re your actual views or something that you’ve taken on without question, taken on as an assumption of Truth. Was it their projection and their own wounds being laid on you, or were they pointing out something in you that is actually true and that you feel yourself? Being able to tell the difference and throw out those untruths can be very healing and I believe totally necessary.
I still on occasion have that little voice of the super-ego that was actually just their conditioning implanted in me, telling me I am this or that, I should behave and do this or that in x,y or z way. Without identifying and rooting those out you can find yourself still stuck in a cycle of self abuse, even though the ‘abuser’ is long gone.
Healing is possible, but it’s YOUR healing, not theirs. Take care of yourself, learn to love yourself, learn to accept yourself.
This is part of your story, it’s part of what makes you you right here, right now. You can’t cut it out, but you don’t need to wear it like a badge of honour for the rest of your life either. Can you forgive and accept yourself for falling for it, for letting yourself be in that situation? Can you grow and move beyond it, free from it but still grateful for the lessons it taught you?
I know this is a difficult and painful processes. I’ve been through it intimately and am still learning and growing from it. Today I find myself with gratitude to all my life lessons. Would I like to go through them again? Hell no! But I also see that they made me into who I am, warts and all. They made me seek freedom and peace, they helped me to find true happiness, they brought me to a clarity that wasn’t there before.
Like I said earlier, please do only take what feels true to you. I offer no advice here, just a perspective on part of my journey and how it unfolded. None of this is easy, it’s messy, there are no right answers.
This is not a safe space.
I am not a safe space.
If safe space to you means that you will not be challenged,
and that you cannot challenge me,
then I am not a safe space.
I want to fully lean into life,
have no stone unturned.
No sacred cows that cannot be found.
To me the only way to deal with this life,
is to learn how to live it without a safe space.
To learn to live it without the need to avoid.
To meet everything, in every moment, fully.
I’d rather meet and be met then avoid.
No matter how painful, how raw.
I’d rather live in openness, not closed-ness.
So IF I offer a safe space, it’s the space where anything can be explored, anything can be embraced, with compassion and tenderness. But especially those things that trigger us, because how can you expect those triggers to ever be healed if you’re not willing to go there, to look at them. They will forever be in the corner of your existence, just there within reaching distance, never far away. Leaving you with an ever-present sense of insecurity and danger.
So to me a safe space is one where there is no walls, there is no ceiling, there is no ground, there is nothing to hide behind. Anything and everything can and does show up. There’s room for it all. And so I offer a space with room for it all.
I’ve spent plenty of time in my life avoiding my trauma and triggers, my hurt, my conditioning and my precious concepts. I’ve learnt that this only causes tightness and suffering. The opposite of freedom.
It was when I learnt to meet all of my unexplored pains and traumas, that I was able to be free of them.
So that now they can show up, they can be there, and it’s okay. I have the facility and the sufficient openness and vastness to meet them and not be afraid.
In some ways I’m feeling life more fully, more intensely, and with a rawness that was never there. And that’s not because I avoided or stayed in my sandbox, my safety. It was because I blasted those doors open, no matter how painful, how scared, how vulnerable that was.
I live in perpetually shaky, unstable ground.
But it’s in that instability that I find my true stability.
That I find that I need no stability, that I need no ground.
This is my grounded-ness.
So if we are talking the same language of exploration, then yes… I offer to you a safe space.
There’s an impulse to avoid difficult and uncomfortable feelings. To reject them and cast them aside, to deny their existence. We think we can exert mind over matter and control our inner world, think positive thoughts and all will be okay. Yet when we do this we push these experiences into shadow. We don’t resolve them, we hide them, we sweep them under the carpet.
Life includes in it the whole gambit of human experience, all feelings, all sensations, all types of thoughts and emotions, the whole spectrum. By judging what we experience as good or bad and trying to ‘keep’ good experiences and ‘get rid’ of bad experiences then we are limiting the wholeness of our expression. We’re putting ourselves in opposition to what is, we’re creating tightness and limitation where there naturally isn’t any. We’re trying to control what turns up in our life, a futile and unnecessary battle.
So instead don’t listen to this learned conditioning of avoidance, break the cycle and embrace all, reject none and find freedom in the wholeness of your existence.
Here I am again,
holding space for the palpitating panic that I’m experiencing.
Giving it the space to roam free.
A safe, embracing, loving space
of not trying to fix it.
A shaky space of unknowing.
The need to fix, to help,
to soothe, to solve,
taps into my deepest struggle of a core wound.
It still comes up, especially in the role I find myself in.
Somedays I feel like life is playing one big cosmic joke on me.
The joke of putting me front and centre in the fire of my biggest struggle.
Making me face it again again until it’s accepted, healed, dissolved, seen through, felt fully….
I don’t know what, all of the above and more probably!
The need to fix so as not to feel this burning,
this sense of helplessness,
unbearable pain and heartbreak.
The deep feeling for another’s struggle.
My need to fix is my escape,
an escape which solves nothing,
certainly not permanently.
But can I walk my talk?
Can I hold space for this?
Can I let myself fall into this burning,
into my own heartache?
Can I let go of this escape route?
Because what is the alternative?
Perpetuating this unhealthy old conditioning of ‘needing to rescue’.
This option isn’t available to me anymore.
I see the futility of it again and again,
I see the dead end and the falseness of it.
No-one is anothers rescuer,
life doesn’t work like that.
I’m not talking about being cold and hard and not feeling deeply for others pain and suffering.
I’m talking about seeing that I cannot fix it.
I can hold space for it, but I cannot get rid of it.
That the real power, the real truth is in letting them see that they too can handle it.
All of it.
That no-one can fix anything for them.
No-one is responsible for their salvation.
All I can do is respect and honour the journey that they must and can walk for themselves.
This is the only sane response to life.
To love, but to let go.
To support, but not fix.
Can I be ‘the bad guy’, the one that doesn’t come charging in with all the solutions and stop the suffering?
Can I stand in my burning uncomfortableness and heartbreak because I know in my heart my ‘need to fix’ is mine, not theirs.
I am no-ones savour,
I don’t have solutions,
I don’t have the answers.
I am just here,
burning in my own fire.
Trusting that life has a plan,
That life embraces all of these struggles.
I find it funny that the further into this journey of life I get into the less and less ‘spiritual’ I become. Granted, I never self-identified as particularly spiritual, but at least outwardly I certainly was a card-carrying member of the ‘spiritual seekers brigade’. I was brought up surrounded by spiritual types, I meditated from aged 6, I want to a spiritual consciousness-based school and university. I worked for companies where every single employee was a meditator and spiritual seeker. I’ve lived in spiritual communities and Ashrams. I’ve lived like a monk, albeit a married one, but a monk nonetheless (and I still do pretty much live like one).
For a while my focus was well and truly on the abiding recognition of awareness