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.
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.
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
I was asked the other day how I deal with being around others, particularly when there’s a level of pretending or not speaking your truth that seems to be required of you.
I too know all too well this feeling of suffocation in the company of others. The subtle unsaid permissions of what you can say, which topics you can touch on and how deep that can go. The unsaid permissions that someone can’t give for fear of threatening their own sense of Self, views and place in the world that they hold so tightly so as to keep the facade of security and knowingness intact.
There’s so much focus on enlightenment and awakening in the abstract. In the projected ideas and ideals of what people, seekers, see in their idolisation of gurus, teachers and enlightened sages. In the goals and focus of wanting never-ending bliss and happiness, and superhuman abilities and powers because they think that’s what it’s all about. The person becoming bigger and better, the person becoming enlightened.
But what is enlightenment really about? What happens when someone awakens, how will their expectations match the reality? This is what I’m interested in, exploring this, the lived experience, the embodiment of awakened living. Not the projected and imagined experience and the constant trying (and failing) to match up to this – but the actual lived experience. That lived experience can’t be codified, it’s a moment to moment exploration without rules. It’s a free-fall through the groundless experience of life.
The only way forward and through this life is to embrace our humanity, not run from it. It’s no good hiding in “nothing is effecting me” and “I am beyond it all.” While true on an absolute level, it doesn’t account for the lived, embodied experience of being human. To be beyond it all is to accept it all. You can’t hide from it, you can’t run from it, you have to lean into it, breath into it and feel it all, right from your fingers to your toes.
What does it mean to embrace our humanity? It means to accept all and reject none. It means that even in the midst of messy, ugly, complicated life that you embrace all of it as part of you. Does a tree reject its gnarly root?
What are we afraid of? What is it in our humanness that we don’t want to look at, don’t want to accept?
My heart hurts today.
The loss of a loved one is never easy.
Tender, broken and so wide open.
So full of love, so beautiful.
The waves of emotions, energies and memories break over me when least expected.
Life is a precious thing,
but so is death.
Death brings up so much to the surface
The unavoidable mirror of change
and the inevitability of loss.
The lack of certainty and control,
and the great unknown.
Emotions are high,
everyone dealing with it in their own way,
messy and inelegant.
The appreciation and love for those who are both gone and those who are still here.
All parading past in my heart.
Every moment filled with equal intensity of love and pain.
In memory of my dear Uncle Andrew, 1951-2019
There is a mask that we’ve all experienced. Many even have several masks, each for a different set of circumstances, a different set of people. The mask that you wear for your boss is not the same mask that you wear for your grandmother, which is not the same mask you wear for your friends. All a partial view of who you are, what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking.
But what happens when the cracks in the mask begins to show? What happens when that mask full of pretense and fake smiles becomes heavy and suffocating? When the toll of not showing the full range of your human experience, showing your whole vulnerable self becomes unbearable. What happens when you find that mask slipping off or not fitting anymore? So what then?
What if your true Self was something your mind rejected, found disgusting or worthless, what then?
Would you spend your whole life rejecting what is at the core of your Being? Or would you give up the constant resistance and accept what the mind won’t?
It’s exhausting to be in resistance to what is.
What is it in you experience that takes no effort? What is it in your experience that you cannot NOT be?
Discover this and discover the natural omnipresent awareness that is you at the center of all. The unshakable core of your Being. It may not, no – it WILL NOT be what your mind dictates it should be. It might not even be something your mind likes or even respects. It might not be something you mind can grasp and relate to. But does this make it any less true?
Where do you go from there? Where do you go when the insight and discovery of who you are doesn’t match up to the mind’s view? Which will you find yourself choosing? Where will your loyalty lie? With yourself, or with the thoughts and concepts of the mind?
We deny our humanity. We hide in the ideals of ‘The Absolute’ and yet it’s the absolute that contains all of humanity. It’s the absolute (field of awareness) from which all of this springs. Does awareness have such distinctions? Does awareness *need* life to look a certain way. No! That is the small limiting notions of the human mind, too feeble to comprehend the magnitude and the mystery of how life is playing out.
It’s easier to think that we don’t have to deal with difficult emotions and wounds. It’s easier to think that all our problems will be solved when we are established in silence, in the absolute. But silence is only half of the equation, silence may be the ground of experience but from that ground springs forth the full diversity and experience of life. And included in that is the story of our personal life where wounds and traumas and relationships have a deep impact on our emotional, physical and energetic experience of life. So we can’t hide in the silence expecting that those experiences of life will fade away.
In my travels it’s become very clear to me that to talk about acceptance is to talk about love, and to talk about love is to talk about acceptance. They are one and the same. They are the key to peace and freedom. They are the key to the recognition of your own nature. They are the key to everything. And they are happening right now, right under your nose – whether you recognize it or not.
When you fall in love with another person you accept that person, you accept their differences, you accept who they are. Similarly when you love an aspect of yourself, you accept that aspect of yourself. Equally, when you hate an aspect of yourself you are attempting the futile rejection of that part of yourself. In this way love and acceptance are seen as synonymous.
You have all the tools, all the things you need in life. You are not lacking in anyway. You are not broken, you just need to accept all that you are… accept even the seeming imperfections into the wholeness and you will see that your light was there all along… hidden under the rock of self doubt, strategies and egoic-mind. But the light of your true Self is far too infinite and vast to be hidden by a rock.
Emotions, traumas and experiences, all of it are life’s way of showing you that it’s alive and kicking. Don’t be tempted to create separation where there is none. You contain multitudes and that’s a beautiful thing…not something to run away from, minimize or control. But something to be embrace, accepted and integrated.
When you notice the pernicious tricks of the mind creeping in, simply let go and return. Let go into the unknown. cast aside the tendencies of the mind to grasp and ‘know’. Notice this dynamic and let go, anything other than this simple act is a distraction.
So notice and return to the core of your being… everything you are, everything you think you need, right there at the bedrock of your experiencing all that time.
You are perfect.
The truth can not be broken so don’t be afraid.
Trust that life will take care of life.
Hold on to that even in the depths of fear.
What you are can never be lost.
The truth will win out.
What is the ground of your experience?
Is it the world?
Is it the body?
Is it the thoughts?
Is it the sensations?
Or is it the simplest form of non-conceptual awareness, aware of all of *this*.
Search for the gap in between the content.
Our perception of reality and truth is filtered through many layers of concepts and ideas of how we think things ‘should’ be. We constantly measure our experience against these shoulds/shouldn’ts and depending on how we measure up our sense of okayness or problems with any given moment is derived from this.
But what if there was another way? What if under all that, prior to the shoulds and the should nots – our sense of self prior to all conceptions of it, actually inherently had the fragrance of peace, contentment and happiness all along.
What happens when you drop the ideas and stories of shoulds and stand free in this moment accepting all that IS?
We are all figuring out life best we can, in our messy and imperfect, perfectly human way. Life includes in it the whole spectrum of experience and there’s no guidebook or rule book, there’s no one way to live life.
A lot of the people I meet along the way are looking to others to give them answers. But other people/ gurus/ teachers (even life) are only ever a mirror, a reflection of your own awareness, your own subjective experience of life, pointing you back to Self. That mirror can be crystal clear or that mirror can be partial and muddy. I encourage each and every one of you to look into your own direct experience, use your discernment, listen to what others have to say and mark it against your own internal compass and intuition. Drop all your judgements about what you think you know and take a careful look, take a look prior to your assumptions, observe. See if whatever they (or I) are pointing to stands up to scrutiny, does it point back to Self? But don’t take my word for it…. go looking for yourself!
“We must explore the darkest corners of our existence
in order that we bring light to the shadows that lurk there.” ~Imogen
In those moment when you can’t see a way forward
through the darkness and confusion,
breathe all the way through to the ends of you fingers and toes.
Notice your aliveness,
your awareness of that aliveness.
Don’t be afraid of the shadows in the dark night of your soul.
Embrace that darkness,
lean into it.
Bring the light of awareness,
into the dark.
The shadows call for attention and recognition,
they call for love not rejection.
Give them the attention they seek
don’t hide from them.
You can’t hide from them.
Breathe deep and boldly move forward
one foot in front of another,
even if that boldness is full of fear
don’t let fear stop you.
Don’t become a slave to doubt and fear.
See that they are arising and falling as naturally as you breathe,
as naturally as happiness and joy
or sadness and sorrow.
See that all that arises is fleetingly held in the sweet embrace of your being
and then dissolves whence it came.
So dig deep, belly breathe through ALL of life’s experience
one foot in front of another
without reference to past or fear of future.
Q: Is the whole old spiritual paradigm collapsing?
The old way of doing things may well be, the very strong hierarchical Guru-lead spiritual organisations as an example. But I feel there will always be the search for connection to, or rather awareness of Self (it’s like consciousness forgets itself, just to for the delight and play of remembering itself too!) and those ‘big’ answer-less answers will be searched for as long as there is suffering in the world. What that search looks like, and if it’s so widespread that it’s not to be seen as ‘special’ or different (fringe) anymore… yes I think this world is changing, but then it has done before and it will do again.
“There are no choices. Just happenings. Just happenings, appearing as choices.” – Imogen
“We are already enlightened”
This statement seems overused in many spiritual circles and is in serious danger of creating concept fatigue. It’s been placed up on the spirituality pedestal as something teachers, gurus and seekers alike say but for many it has become an abstract ideal to aim to understand but never truly a reality to reach. So what use it is other than to dangle a carrot and perpetuate the seemingly endless cycle of seeking?
Don’t be tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet; what is being pointing to is the fact that our inherent or primordial nature is one of open awareness (consciousness). Within this arises the sensory phenomena of experience – thoughts, feelings, sensations (body/world). Included in that are all those beliefs, views, conditioning, embodied memories, traumas and concepts – everything that we experience and call ‘life’.
In my life journey thus far I’ve had to transgress two* major spiritual paths/groups/movements that were both whole-life encompassing – Guru, lifestyle, friends and family, home, job, it felt like a lot could and would be lost. It’s was for sure a very difficult thing to navigate but I feel it’s important to share and talk about as I see a lot of people dealing with this, particularly in the realm of spiritual organisations.
Over time I’ve actually come to see that it’s a totally normal and healthy part of ‘spiritual’ development