Excerpt talking about being with what we’re feeling and recognising that there’s nothing wrong with feeling the way we do feel.
Excerpt talking about finding those ‘shoulds’ that cause so much suffering and learning to trust life, trust your Self rather than acting from old conditioning. Taken from a Satsang during the December 2020 Diving Deep 7 day retreat.
Video excerpt talking about how seeing is the only doing necessary, taken from the Sunday 13th December 2020 bi-monthly zoom group Satsang.
“Letting go of past habits, conditioning and unexplored assumptions is a natural byproduct of awakening and very much part of the process.”
We go lurching from one action to another all in the name of trying to pin down and find a sense of stability, find a resolution. All to avoid or fix the strong feelings and sensations arising in the body-mind. If only we could slow down or even stop in those moments, find our centre, find our inherent stability of Beingness and then observe what action comes about from this. Not an action based out of reactivity and fear but an action based from the quietness and centered-ness, stability even, of Self. An action that isn’t impeded by the conditioned mind, an action that is natural, spontaneous and correct for the moment.
Trying to ‘get away from’ is the source of so much suffering, quite often the thing we’re trying to get away from isn’t half as much trouble and suffering as the act of trying to avoid the feeling or sensation arising around it.
We jump from moment to moment constantly chasing or being chased, never realising that what we seek isn’t over there but here… in this moment, in the heart of this experience should we take the time to look, to BE.
What it actually takes is the willingness to sink into this moment and let everything else be as it is. Let everything else come and go without getting involved with managing the traffic like a traffic cop for phenomenal content.
What it takes is the willingness to sit in the fire and intensity of the moment until it burns itself out and gives way to the next moment.
What it takes is the self love and holding of space without conditions and judgements of all that arises.
And what it takes is having loyalty to being, not loyalty to thoughts and ideas of shoulds.
I was reflecting the other day on the fact that I had a massive shift in 2015, a shift that the consequences of which continue to unfold and deepen still today, so much so that I’m unrecognisable in so many ways.
That change required those closest to me, those that interacted and related with me intimately to change in those relationships too. It’s not something that could be avoided, and it wasn’t their choice if this change occurred or not. But it also wasn’t my choice too. Life changed the game and asked me to step up to something different, and that different was unfamiliar and out of any sense of comfort zone, for me and for them.
The game changed and with it we all had to learn what that meant.
In some ways I want to say sorry, sorry that it’s been unexpected and often difficult. I’ve required of them more than most. To radically shift with me, with life. It wasn’t something I asked for, but it’s something that happened. I know they didn’t ask for it, I know they didn’t maybe want it at times, and I bow with the acknowledgment of that. I bow to the courage and love that it took to stick around, to stick with it, to stick with me through these changes. I didn’t ask it of them and I understood if they chose not to or were unable to take this journey with me.
My life changed in ways I’m still coming to understand. And in my life there now are certain things that just aren’t available to me that once were… one of those things is inauthentic relating.
What this (nowadays somewhat overused and fashionable) term means to me…. I can’t not be me now, all of me. It’s all out there, no mask, no pretence, no conditioned shoulds or ways of being other than this. There is only so much space and time available to put myself into a straight jacket of someone else’s making. And so that requires of them the letting go of expectations and projections. It requires of them to relate with me in the now, in the present moment, in the rawness of life, in the truth of life. It requires of them to let go of any ideas of me and be with the reality of me. Anything else and it falls apart, anything else and it’s untruth burns brightly. Anything else and it gets shown for what it is… the conditioning of shoulds. I ask for authentic relating but I give it too, not as a virtue signal, a choice or a practice, but because life gives no other option, even when honestly I’d love an option to turn it off, turn it down!
The relationships become a radically clear mirror where there is nowhere to hide, for me or them, not in the fullness of time. We became linked in a way that leaves little room for posturing and falseness. All becomes laid out in the sunlight to be seen.
So I’m sorry, I’m sorry that we are unable to hide in our shadowy conditioned shoulds any longer, I’m sorry that by virtue of my change they found themselves under a spotlight too. It was never my intention, the light of life was just shining brightly for us all.
I’m sorry that I’m also not sorry. I’m not sorry because it also shows the potential of so much more to this life, so much more for these relationships, so much more than these limits that once kept us caged and bound in the conditioned mind and patterns of behaving and relating.
But I know it’s not been easy, it calls for a stepping up that’s sometimes uncomfortable and vulnerable. It calls for an openness and a radical honesty that can feel disarming. But the fruits of this ‘going there’ are that of freedom, acceptance and unconditional love, for all of us. And for this I am in full support of, even when it feels like it gets messy and complicated, it’s simple really… love wins out. So thank you, thank you to those souls in my life who have bore witness to these changes and who have gone through changes of your own… you know who you are.
It’s rare that we don’t impose some kind of limit, condition or expectation on ourselves as to who, what or how we should be in this world. This causes immense suffering as we’re then having to try to constantly keep up and meet these things, often falling short we then feel like we’re at war with life… which is exhausting. Accepting yourself and dropping these overlaid impositions leads to a sense of ease and naturalness of life.
But it’s not easy… these conditions are sometimes so subtle we don’t see them as such. We have to get good at discerning what is intrinsically YOU, an outpouring of your essence, and what is acquired.
Transformation comes when the old conditioning and ways of thinking that inevitably cease to serve are let go of. Their cracks begin to show, yet there’s still comfort felt in them as they’re known like an old pair of slippers whose time of service has come to an end. But when life is calling for growth and change these old habits being to feel like an increasingly heavy straightjacket, keeping one foot planted in the past. We are never who we were even yesterday and that which may have served us dearly invariably has to be sacrificed in service of what is happening in the current moment.
A step into the new and unknown may seem like a scary risk but let your loyalty be to the NOW. Let your loyalty be with what is opening up before you and you will see the fruits of this trust in life’s wisdom. Even though there may be trepidation, notice how fully you are held. Life comes up to meet you with each step, even when there’s fear, even when there’s hesitation, even when there’s resistance.
Life asks of us that leap of faith, that bold courage as we let ourselves be surrendered to who and what we are in THIS present moment. Let the old fall away and you will find that it transforms and gives way to the infinite possibilities of NOW.
“Love sometimes looks like having strong boundaries”
Story time… Boundaries are something I’ve always struggled with, in fact it’s probably been THE number one struggle in life for me. While it’s almost unrecognisably night and day compared with how it used to be, I still do struggle with it because that conditioning is so well ingrained. But luckily life shows up in ways to test where I still have trouble standing in my healthy and necessary boundaries.
And so boundaries is a topic I’ve shied away from writing about up until now, not because I don’t want to (believe me I’ve started to write about boundaries countless times!) but mainly because it’s such a big topic for me that I didn’t even know where to begin – posts ended up rambling and jumping all over the place. I think it’s also difficult because I’m still walking it, I’m still living the learning and growing from it. It’s raw, it’s intimate, it’s a big unknown because I’m not talking of a subject that’s all wrapped up in a neat bow, it’s woven throughout the fabric of my story in ways that I’m sure I haven’t yet gotten the big enough perspective of time to see some of the bigger lessons and themes fully. It’s coming, it’s happening, which is maybe why this is getting written right now.
Through my difficulties I’ve learnt that setting and keeping boundaries can actually be THE MOST LOVING AND HEALTHY THING that you can do when relating to both yourself and others.
A few years back this was a new and wildly scary one for me to accept. Like I was stepping on to an alien planet where all the rules had been turned upside down and I couldn’t fathom this is could actually be true. You see, somewhere along the line I had picked up the idea of the opposite of this being true; ‘No’ was not something acceptable for me to feel. No was not kind, no was not loving, no meant you were selfish and unreasonable, unloveable even. No was negative. No meant you were protecting your ego and if you were in a constant state of yes-ness to life then you were surely spiritually evolved.
In fact in my childlike innocence and ignorance I somehow misunderstood (or probably heard in a way that fit my learnt conditioning) that spiritually speaking if this was all one unified consciousness… then there ARE no boundaries… boundaries were false conceptions of the ego-mind to be gotten rid of. Somehow ‘no’ as a healthy and natural expression of life got twisted up into that idea of boundaries = bad. See… told you I had big issues and misunderstandings to unpick around this stuff !!!
‘No’ equated to wrongness for me and so I used to think my no’s were a pathology, a failing, a bad girl, an unlovable aspect of myself. I continually ignored them to the point that quite early on in my life I struggled to even say the simplest of no’s or ask for what I needed. This led me into a dark place of not only people pleasing and putting myself second to the point of mental and even on occasion physical danger. But more importantly it also led me to the point where I lost touch with my intuition and self knowing light. It put me on a path of having too many internalise voices of ‘should’ rather than being able to recognise my inherent and wisdom-filled true voice of Self.
For me it’s be a long journey home to this wisdom of self boundaries. So long that initially I didn’t even realise how off course I was because my boundaries were so covered up and hidden that when someone encouraged me to have my own boundaries, I felt lost, I felt confused, I felt like they were actually doing something wrong TO me, not helping me!
No’s are still in many ways uncomfortable for me. I still on occasion have a voice (yes albeit a very faint one now) that gets me almost looking over my shoulder as if I’ve done something wrong. But I’ve learnt that a ‘no’ honours yourself and in turn honours the other in that you’re not doing something that actually breeds resentment in your heart. Others can trust you then, trust you to communicated with them where you’re at, even if they don’t like what they’re hearing. Your yeses are true, clear and authentic and nothing is going unsaid and festering, there’s no reading (or misreading) between the lines.
I’ve learnt to love my no’s. I’ve learnt that “no” is a complete sentence too!! I’ve also learnt that my spontaneous natural expression is that of going with the flow (enneagram 9 anyone). As it happens my heart IS a (mostly) continuous yes to life, not as a pathology but because that happens to be in alignment with the most loving action and least resistance for me – acceptance… I learnt my yeses through learning about my no’s, so when there is a no… that no is to be listened to and to be trusted and honoured. That no is accepted wholeheartedly. That no is a sacred part of life. That no is just as much of a yes to life. That no, in that moment IS the most loving expression of life.
Post-Awakening Integration & Releasing Old Conditioning
Q: I’m fearful of what will happen as I continue on this journey of awakening. It’s coming up right now because working with you these past weeks I finally experienced a shift into Unity Consciousness and see the integration deepening as well. But the fear is mainly there because after my initial shift into non-duality a year ago I had a pretty traumatic time of instability and integration where I couldn’t function in the world very well. I don’t want to go back into that unstableness and overwhelm that came with that first major shift. I’ve felt this sense of “My God what is coming next, what if it’s like the other time?” And while it’s not been like that at all this time so far, I still have a little bit of fear of “how will this be?” I feel I can’t make plans because I don’t know how I will be in the coming weeks and months and this scares me.
That you will hit against a major period of instability is an assumption and definitely not a certainty at all. What I can say is that you will go through what you need to go through, but it rarely looks exactly the same. Especially once you’ve gone through something all the way to the bottom and it’s done. The next time it’s got it’s own flavour and shape to it, but it’s never the same.
So on the topic of stability I can’t offer you any guarantees, but I doubt it will look the same as it did a year ago. You’ve been through a lot since then, and a lot of wisdom has been embodied and a lot of trauma released and integrated.
But in the broader sense it’s also a good lesson for life really, that actually we can’t plan and we really don’t know what life will throw at us at any given moment. In many ways life gives us what it needs to give us for our evolutionary and spiritual growth. In some ways we are at life’s mercy and any plans are pretty futile unless they are just seen as a sketch.
To me this is where faith comes in – the trust and love of life itself to show us the way. This is why I use the word Grace so much, because to me, it’s all Grace and it’s all a gift. There’s an assumption generally that gifts are nice. But gifts are not always nice, nevertheless they are gifts because they show you something, they give you something or they teach you something. Life doesn’t give us anything that we can’t handle and the human capacity is phenomenal. It blows me away to constantly see the resilience and capacity of human beings.
But I understand that fear and while the appearance of fear in your experience needs to be fully acknowledged rather than ignored, I also encourage you to question whether that fear is actually calling on something in you to go into it, rather than away from it. Our mind plays all sorts of tricks and what-ifs but what’s happening is not necessarily any of the things that you fear it will be. Often the presence of fear is actually fear of the unknown itself. The mind wants certainty but life inherently can’t provide that for the mind.
Recently I’ve been getting many people coming to me with similar stuff. They’ve already awakened and have stabilised in that recognition and yet they’re struggling with integrating aspects of life to varying degrees. Some struggling on little things and some are struggling in a big way. But the answer is the same – going into the experience, not away from it. There’s a subtle assumption that all prior ‘issues’ will be solved upon awakening. It’s not true! Sometimes there’s even a feeling of “I shouldn’t be dealing with this stuff anymore, I should be done with it, I thought I’d be done with all this ‘personal’ stuff.”
Q: Yes I’ve noticed there are quite a few people that are struggling so much with this, “I just can’t deal with more and I wanted it to go away, I want it to f**k off. Really, I just can’t deal with this.”
I recently talked with someone who post-awakening everything’s been going great for a good while and then they hit this similar sort of thing. There was still a sense of, “Okay, so this is arising and I can sit with this for X amount of time but at some point, okay, now it needs to be done.” And so sitting together we came to the discovery that there was this sense in them that “Okay, now I should be done. Now you need to go.” And it’s actually at that point I believe, it’s the learnt conditioning that’s still present kicking in and is saying that something shouldn’t be the way it is.
And that’s the point at which they needed to hold it closer, get more intimate with whatever is arising. Not in terms of “I need to keep this” but in terms of, if there’s a sense arising of, “Okay this needs to be done” that’s when the most self compassion and attentiveness needs to be present. That’s when the most space, the most attention, the most acceptance, and the most love needs to be felt because that’s actually the call inward right there. It’s the call out of the head and into the heart of awareness. Into the subtler, a-conceptual nature of life where the call of acceptance for all that arises is heard. But the conditioned mind has a tendency to go, “Right, I’m going to throw a stone in the bush, and I’m going to distract you”. This is because it feels the attention and the sense of control slipping away from itself (the mind).
To me that’s a handy little hint indicating that you need to break out the ‘inner child compassion’. Where you go, “Okay, all right, you want to be done but that’s just a subtle form of rejection. We can sit here for as long as you need to be here. You can be present and you are free to go when you need to go as well. But I am not going to give you any rules to live by.” I won’t sugar coat it, it’s really hard to break that particular conditioning. To break that cycle of feeling like, “Okay, now I’m done. I’ve been at it for a couple of years. Now is the time to get my reward, time to get the good stuff. Now it’s time to be done with all of this”.
But it’s actually when you lean into that feeling that the space of emptiness opens up. And that’s the space of love and the fulfilment of all the things that we’re searching for. That’s where you find all of life, all of love and it’s not a goal, it’s just the natural fragrance and emanation of it.
Q: How is it for you when these things come? Because I know you also struggled lots with this initially post-awakening.
I still do occasionally. This is the thing people don’t get and so I try to be really honest with this because there’s the assumption that I don’t struggle is in of itself an idea that perpetuates the idea that “It’s just my problem. No-one else deals with this. (S)he’s got it all sorted out. (S)he’s done. I’m wrong, I’m broken. When I’m ‘awake’ I’ll be fixed.”
And it’s not true. Not true at all.
Q: But does it arise in the same way as before?
I would say the intensity, length and the frequency are much less, mainly because when I see it arising, there’s not a breath of hesitation in that I know what this is. I’ve been through it enough times. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I know what needs to be done now. So I hit up against these pockets. They’re like coal seams in the way that you’re going along in life and you hit up against a pocket. These pockets in life show up sometimes, it’s not like you have to go digging for them. It could be a new situation that you hadn’t bumped into before, or an old school friend, or any number of things. But now I recognise it, it’s familiar and my body recognises it. It’s not even to do with the mind anymore, it’s just that I physically recognise it and I allow and greet it like an old friend.
Not only do I allow it or put up with it but I love it too. And I don’t mean I smother it in love, what I mean is I accept it, I allow it and I am compassionate to that aspect in myself that is arising. I don’t try and reject it, I don’t try and push it away, I’m compassionate with it and I give space to it. Whatever’s coming up needs to be there and it’s calling for my attention. The way I respond to it is almost with the attitude of that’s the least I could do – not because I should but because that’s what feels most true and loving. That I can give it my attention in the moment, that’s the least I could do. So I give it my attention and my love. I give my attention to all these other things in life, why can’t I give that thing that is coming up the same level of care and attention?
Q: Yeah, so true. And when you do that do you feel it doesn’t take long for you to move through it?
It depends. It depends on the level of intensity or the size and depth of that pocket. Sometimes it’s a tiny little thing and I barely notice it even before it’s gone, it’s only a momentary something. But sometimes it might be a couple of hours or even days that are needed to attend to what’s coming up. They’re much less frequent now, those kind of big pockets. But they do come up. But also I haven’t got the attitude of ‘needing to move through it’ anymore, as if what’s showing up is wrong. I accept it fully as part of the current of life.
But as an example, I had one come up a few weekends ago. Some situation came up and I recognised it was something that I hadn’t dealt with since almost the beginning of mine and Martyn’s relationship. It had been in the background all this time, so much so that I hadn’t even noticed it was still there because it hadn’t actively come up in so many years. And then this big pocket came up and, whoah, the intensity of that was so vivid, so raw. I spent a sleepless night just sitting with it very intensely. I was watching this process of the mind and the body literally trying anything it could to get out of this situation that it found itself in. Any excuse to not sit with it and include it, integrate it or embrace it, and to instead run far away from it. But I found myself saying to myself, “Okay, all right, it’s okay, you’re trying to get out of the situation and I hold the space for that even.” Even in that desperate mind-body attempt to avoid the crap that was being felt, I was present and holding enough space for that. So yeah, it still happens for sure.
You see I’d done very little ‘work’ before awakening compared to the depth that I discovered was needed to be held, healed and integrated post-awakening. The intensity of what I felt a couple of weekends ago was what it felt like pretty continuously for many months initially post-awakening. I’m amazed I got through it in those early days, but I did, even though there were times where I felt that I might not make it – quite literally. It was quite unexpected, the level of intensity for me. It’s probably why I put so much focus on helping others in this way now.
Q: It’s the same for me. It’s so much less and not so frequently now than a year ago.
These things do pass in really a relatively short period of time but we think that it will last forever when we’re in the midst of it. Even the intensity of those first few months and year(s) post-awakening, when it feels like it will go on forever, in time it’s seen as only a small part of your life story.
I feel the processing of these pockets could almost be likened to when you get just a little bit of a song stuck in your head. Round and round the same chorus or the same couple of bars of music or something and you cannot for the life of you get it out of your head, no matter what you do. You have to be finally willing to play the song all the way through to the end, otherwise what happens is you get stuck on the little brain worm of a couple of bars or the chorus over and over again.
And so the willingness to do that has to come about. And it’s not something you can force because sometimes you’re just not ready to go there and do that. But eventually whatever is coming up has to be played out, and when it’s played out fully, it’s done. Then in the future, when something comes up, it may be very similar but it won’t ever be the same thing exactly.
So surrender is actually what is required. It’s that surrender and freefall into the allowing of the full song to be played out. I feel it’s actually the only way eventually.
But sometimes we’re like “No, no, quick, quick, I want the song to be done”. But the song has exactly the right amount of beats, the right amount of words, it’s got its rhythm, its pace. It’s the full length of the song and you can’t speed the song up and end it any quicker, you also can’t slow it down and keep it going.
So the recognition of this process brings an ease to it in itself actually because then you get to learn your rhythm. You get to learn the rhythm of this song playing out, and then it becomes less alien. You’re no longer thinking “Oh what is this?” And I think that’s the thing that comes in time is the recognition of, “Oh, this is what’s happening. This is nothing to be afraid of”. It’s actually old stuff that’s coming up that needs to be processed. It needs to be gone through instead of trying to push against it.
Q: Yeah, I can’t do it, even though I’m trying to escape it for sure unconsciously, and sometimes consciously. But it’s impossible. I have to stay with it.
And maybe you’ve also noticed the more you don’t listen to life, the louder it gets. Learn to actually listen to that intuition and trust it. For me, I feel it in my gut, but I think other people feel it in different places in their body – but it’s never the mind! If I ignore that intuition, and the more and more I ignore it, the louder and louder the lesson gets.
Q: Yeah. Before awakening I could only see the results of ignoring my intuition later, maybe some days, a week after. But now it’s instantaneous.
Yes, it’s keeping you right there in the present moment process. It’s life’s mechanism for keeping you honest and truthful to yourself. Sometimes those intuitions go against every rule, go against every idea that society has about what you should or shouldn’t be doing. But you cannot not listen to it because it is the right thing for you. Even if seven billion people tell you it’s the wrong thing, it’s the right thing for you and only you will know that. Being centred in your heart and not your conditioned mind you’ll know if it comes from a true and honest place of Self intuition or if it’s coming from layers of conditioning and ego. Awakening certainly makes it easier to see those distinctions.
Once you let go of those layers, or once those layers have dissolved and gone, each of us has the answer to life in this moment. Not the answer that it ‘should’ be, but the actual natural, spontaneous answer to every moment. It’s comes from truth, your truth, not my truth, not anyone else’s truth. Just truth, your truth.
I feel we are conditioned into so much shame and wrongness with our experience. It’s very difficult to go against that conditioning or break it, but it’s very simple in terms of the work that needs to be done. So the reconditioning, or the deconditioning of that shame and that wrongness is a big part of the post-awakening work and embodiment in many ways. Because it’s going away from the ‘shoulds’ and into the ‘what is’. But you really physically feel that shaming, that wrongness in your body, and it’s hard to ignore.
So I think wrongness is a big one to get over for most people. When we have a conditioned sense of wrongness for whatever’s appearing in our experience, there’s a voice that says “This is wrong. This isn’t correct. I shouldn’t be feeling this. I shouldn’t be going through this. I shouldn’t be, shouldn’t be, shouldn’t be”. When we recognise this to be false the release that we feel is that relaxing into the sense of “Okay, this isn’t wrong. This really isn’t wrong. None of it is. It’s all perfectly as it is”. The release of any sense of wrongness is to me so powerful.
I feel there’s actually no such thing as ‘wrong’ experientially speaking. Because the idea of wrong automatically creates a sense of separation between something correct in consciousness and something incorrect. But if it’s appearing, or happening, surely this IS consciousness, this IS life too!
Q: Yeah. I’m doing wrong, I’m being wrong, and the shame of many different things.
For most it’s been a lifetime of that, this is why it takes time and it can be a difficult one to fall away. We talk about there being no time, yes, it’s all now. But at the same time, in the paradox, there is time too, and it takes time for these things to unwind and unfold. It takes great patience and great forgiveness of oneself.
Q: What do you think the difference is between dealing with these things post-awakening and pre-? Is it easier? Is there less resistance?
Before awakening it’s difficult to really deal with and see a lot of the conditioned behaviours because the ego-mind strategy and structure is working against this in many ways. Functionally it’s protecting the mind and self image from going into the depths of held beliefs where it all begins to fall apart and be seen though. But a certain amount of ‘work’ can be done as you go without a doubt. I personally just wasn’t very successful at this, or rather I should say my mind was very efficient at building structures to avoid this! Post-awakening a lot of these false structures and identities dissolved or at least were seen through, so this is when there was true openness to have it all arise. The brakes came off, so to speak.
Generally I’d say after awakening what happens is that there’s an acceptance of whatever is arising. There’s nowhere else to go, there’s nothing to be done that isn’t already happening, it’s just what is arising in consciousness. And so the human experience is very raw in that way because you’re faced with whatever’s coming up in your life. So that’s where I’d say there’s lack of resistance – you can’t hide from life, it’s just happening.
Even in that recognition and acceptance, resistance or fighting against something can still show up. But the meta of that is that there’s a complete acceptance somewhere in there, maybe deep down even, there’s the acceptance that “Okay, this is what’s happening”.
This sounds like a very ordinary and obvious thing, which it is, but it’s the full acceptance of the recognition that there’s nothing else other than this. This is what life is presenting right now. This is what is showing up in me. And so therefore it’s not wrong.
But that can take a little bit of time to come to trust this as old conditioning still plays out that says otherwise. So initially this can feel very groundless and there can be a lot of fear that can come up with that. The rules of right and wrong in regard to experiences get thrown out and you’re just left with the suchness of life.
If you’ve been conditioned to believe that the feeling of groundlessness is wrong, that you’re a broken human being if you experience that, then that can bring up a lot of embodied trauma and fear of uncertainty. You can intimately feel that sense of groundlessness, the emptiness, the void; but the mind interprets the lack of control and the lack of anything to hold on to as threatening to itself. It can feel like life or death to the conditioned mind, and this can take some patience and courage to work though as life gently guides you to see that it’s actually not true; that groundlessness is the ground of your Self and it’s nothing to fear.
But even in this post-awakening process of unwinding old conditioning and integrating the current lived and embodied experience, fundamentally there’s a recognition and acceptance that whatever is showing up simply is. It’s not even right or wrong, it just IS. And what is is not personal, it’s just an arising in consciousness.
The ‘Conversations & Questions’ series comes from snippets of conversations taken from emails, 1-on-1 sessions, group meetings or in-person conversations. I take out any personal or sensitive content, but often these conversations have a universality to them that can be helpful to more than just one person. Feel free to get in touch via email, social media or even post your question in the comments below and I may answer them in this way…
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.
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.