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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
What does happen is that when established in silence, in Being, in the Self, when faced with those hard truths, those hard experiences, those very human experiences, that when faced with this we find that the capability and the capacity to hold space for these in the ground of our Being is infinite.
When established in Being, this is when the true work begins. When the strategies no longer work when they are seen through and seen as temporary Band-Aids for the work that is inevitable.
Don’t be afraid of the radical honesty and difficult work that life requires of you. It’s in this that you see the pure power and magnificence of humanity. It’s nothing to be afraid of, it’s a glory to behold, the complicated and messy magnificence of being a human. Don’t run from it, if anything, run towards it. It is in the full embrace of all that you are where you will find your freedom, where you will find your peace.
Peace and freedom don’t come about from limiting and controlling your experience. Peace and freedom come about from blowing the doors, and walls, and floors, and ceiling off of life. Peace and freedom come about when you are no longer trying to avoid any experience that shows itself in your life.
There is a lot of emphasis in spiritual circles of the wonderful, blissful, joyous experiences that can happen in life. But life is so much more. Don’t be tempted to only go towards the “light and good” experiences. Don’t be tempted to run away from the “dark and bad” experiences. Instead run towards all experiences, run towards and beyond all experiences. You are beyond all experiences. All experiences appear to you, you are greater than them and therefore need not be afraid of them. Experiences come and go, you are that which witnesses and knows those experiences. Don’t be tempted to identify only with those experiences, see that they come and go. What you are is far more and therefore cannot be overwhelmed by any experience.
Let go into the void of Being. Let go your notions of how this should and could go. Let go of any limits and any concepts of what life will look like. It is the height of arrogance to believe that you can figure out and control the mystery that is life.
So see that anything that does show up in your experiencing is a gift and bow your head to the feet of life. Surrender your small notions of personal authorship. Bow to the feet of the unknown, let life and Grace carry you through. Give over your need to pen the story, instead bear witness to that story. That story is your path and your path is uniquely yours. Never can you stray from your path, never can you take a wrong turn. Never is there a moment when you are not carried by Grace. Grace is at the centre of all actions, don’t be the judge of Grace.
So in the depths of strong emotions, and fears, and memories, and projections, fear not, even this is being held in Grace. Even this is the destiny of your path playing out. Even this is a gift being given to you, a gift that you are capable of receiving. Strength is not found in ease and comfort, strength is found when all else is lost. Strength is found in vulnerability. Strength is found when you let go into the unknowing. Strength is found at the core of your being.
Give life a chance to show you this. Take a leap of faith. Let go of the steady ground you think you’ve found and take the next step, even though you don’t know the one after it. Have faith that Grace will carry you.
Life is the ultimate mystery. Not ‘life’ in some mystical imagination of the mind, of some projection of what you think I am talking about when I say life. But life in its very ordinary and mundane and very human experience. This is the mystery, nothing more than this. This is mystery enough, we need not try to hijack it with imaginations.
Life is mystery enough.
The utter humanness of existence cradles in it every possible emotion, sensation, feeling & thought. We can’t run from that, we can’t hide from that, we can’t avoid or resist that, and nor should we want to.
It’s our human experiencing that reveals the ever-changing world of perception that we live in – our ‘world’ is constantly being born and reborn in every moment. Embrace this change, embrace it as the play and display of awareness-consciousness (you). This play is set on the stage of pure open, unconditioned and ineffable awareness-consciousness.