On mood swings and accepting the flow of healing in recovery

I found the following meditations very helpful and enlightening when I read them a few years ago.  When we are recovering on an emotional level it is likely that we will experience many ups and downs.  I know I have less of the abyss like days than I had two years ago.  When I have one of these days lately I do feel scared that I am regressing.  I have heard it said that recovery is often three steps forward and two steps back, if we are doing work to process past experiences the feelings we can feel can be scary and intense.  In the long run we need to accept them, so we can feel them understand them and let them pass through without keeping them lodged deep inside.  We abort this healing process when our inner critic judges us when we have them or tells us we should not have them or they should not be happening to us.  We need to let them move through us so we can move to a better place but this process takes a while and uses a lot of our emotional energy.

I hope the following mediations help some readers.

Accepting Mood Swings

Today I will not be down on myself if I seem to swing in my moods through my recovery process.  Mood swings have been scary to me, so I use them as a way to judge (or misjudge) my health.   I force myself to be in a stable good mood and then I feel I`m okay.  As I re-experience old, repressed feelings, it is possible that I will feel deeply disoriented, angry, rageful or depressed and then two hours later almost high.  This is not just because I can’t control my moods – I am opening myself to all that is going on with me. – I am not longer denying parts of myself so that I will fit into a designated constellation of roles.  I am allowing what happening with me to happen to me.

I understand that my moods may swing in this life changing process.

Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live. 

Goethe

Natural Growth

Today I recognise that my bursts of growth are accompanied by backslides and I accept that as a natural learning pattern.  When children have a learning explosion into talking, walking or whatever, they experience a minor regression.   When I have a learning or growth explosion, I may experience a regression afterward.  New behaviour and awareness stabilise with practice  Today I will not take the regression to mean that growth was not genuine.  I will understand that accompanying a large step forward is a small step backward.  I will allow this to take place,  trusting that my experience of growth will integrate naturally if I allow it to.

Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.  Where there’s love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.

Ella Fitzgerald

Taken from : Meditations for Forgiving and Moving On, by Tian Dayton

So alone : reflections on awakening along the path of consciousness

Now that I feel I am finally casting off the demon of self blame I am seeing the deeper reality of my life and most particularly of my struggles after getting sober in 1993.   I was waking up, pure and simple, to the consequences of a tortured emotional past that I had buried over years and through my addiction lost the way to.  But with the surrendering of alcohol, I was finally committing to a pathway of descent and uncovery.

It has not been easy and my marriage had to go into the fire at 11 years in.   I know there are many sheddings, ending, losses deaths and surrenders me must undergo and accept as we struggle on the path to becoming more deeply conscious beings.  As we travel along the path it narrows before us as it lead us into a spiritual wilderness, we become the orphan and live out of that archetype as we are trying to birth something so deep our parents could not give us.  So many of us carry unconsciously their unintegrated children deep inside and we have the spiritual and emotional task to make something new of our ancestral legacy.  At least that is how I see the bigger picture and it is the only one that gives my life meaning.  And we have to undergo this journey alone but not necessarily without guides and companions.

I found my own guidance emerging in the final years of my addiction when my soul witness self knew something was terribly wrong with my life and my drinking.  That guidance came from people like Carl Jung, Marion Woodman and John Bradshaw who showed me my addiction was but a symptom and what I suffered was not purely personal but was strongly collective and affects so many others as we struggle under the weight of an unconscious past so spiritually bereft of the healing feminine.

My own parents had it hard.  There was no place of comfort or soothing for their inner children.  Both lives had been devastated by the impacts of World War ,I both lost their fathers as a result, not during it but in the painful aftermath.  That silent history of father absence dogged them both and has repeated its deep echo of abandonment all along our later genetic line.   I see myself as ‘the awakener’ to it all.  It took my older sister out, the pain of all of those hundred of years of trauma gone unconscious and I stood on the sidelines as the witness.   I did not know I was affected by so many larger forces and that my own struggle must, of necessity, be lonely and hard,] as I was trying to open up and break new ground in a family that in so many ways is deaf dumb and blind to deeper realities.

Kat, my therapist was saying yesterday what a lonely path the path of conscious awakening to the deep feminine soul is.  Carl Jung nearly went mad on his way to find it, if you read his autobiography and follow his journey it was just prior to the outbreak of World War One that he broke with Freud then had visions of a bloodbath in Europe and then he developed the concept of the shadow and the collective unconscious.  He could not agree with Freud that all was ruled by sex and death and that the child wanted to seduce the parents.  I am not saying that there are not valid points and great insights in Freud’s ideas and he was bringing them to birth out of Victorian times but Jung went deeper when he realised there are so many larger influences around us as individual souls which we are subject to.

Anyway, as usual I have digressed….back to the sense of being so alone.  If we don’t ‘fit in’ maybe it is because we see deeper, and this is what Kat was saying to me yesterday.  It IS a burden to see this deep but it is also a gift and a result of all we suffer in our path of being and feeling so alone yet knowing at a deeper awareness other truths we don`t fully understand yet that are emerging (if that makes sense?).  Our aloneness is a doorway into recognition of truths others may fear or shun, that they may want to turn a blind eye on and call us ‘mad’ for glimpsing.  And on the path we are not totally alone really as there are others souls who went before lighting the way.  There are also are our fellow travellers who are willing to dive below the surface to do their own deep work who we share with and recognise.  We are all in a process of waking up to what may be being asked of us as humans to recognise at this point our evolution.  Could it be an awakening to the truth of our own feelings, soul and love, to understandings of how thwarted power drives can shape and misshape us?

I do not think we should shun or stigmatise the so called ‘mentally ill’; if we are on the pathway of emotional recovery we have to go a bit mad on the way.  Our addiction or bi polar or BPD or other diagnoses are but symptoms of soul suffering that we are being asked to understand.  We are not our diagnoses and our true selves lay buried somewhere deeper inside.  All of our reactions make sense, most particularly our violent reactions to the emotional violence we are so often subjected to in childhood, which may I say has become more endemic in a technologically oriented industrialised society.  Go study the myth of the Handless Maiden if you want to see a parable or metaphor for what happens to our soul or inner feminine when it is neglected or abandoned in such a  cutlure.  We loose our hands, our access to our inner life and our emotional agency and we only grow those functioning hands back when our deep soul suffering awakens our tears which we, in crying use to wash our tortured souls clear and clean of illusions and within that seemingly powerless place, find and embrace our true soul power.  We are all in a process of awakening.  Let us remember that.

In the depths of our personal and collective dark night we fall down and struggle and awaken alone but we are also connected, nothing of our shared collective human experience is alien or strange, just our dissociation from it and from the larger awareness that we are only as separate as we believe we are at certain points along that path of awakening.  At times we are so deeply alone and yet, paradoxically, it is through that aloneness that we are also connected at deeper levels.   That said the path does narrow as we move further along it and the loneliness we feel at certain times is so acute, but my deeper experience is that as we deepen into the loneliness a great spiritual light so often is felt if we just hold fast and keep opening our hearts to the deep truths we glimpse and face and integreted the painful realities we have known inside.  Through this painful path we finally come to know what love is.   Both feeling and action.

Little seed

Little seed

Little seed

It looks like you are nothing

But you are a powerhouse of energy

All wrapped up inside the coating of containment

Planted in uncertain ground

What is it that you will receive

To help you unlock potentials you hold deep inside?

Will you find the right soil

The necessary nutriments and sunshine?

Will you be gazed upon with eyes of love

Or eyes of disintrest or fear?

Little seed in nature

You never become other than who you are

In potentia

Let us remember we too were once seeds

And even now we can decide

Which seeds to nurture

Which seeds to water

We can trust that in time

And with the right conditions

Our souls too will bloom

Out of what seems like barren ground

Tender shoots will burst forth

And grow

If we can just discover and express

Our authenticity

And even if the essence of our tears

Is what is called for

To make new life blossom

Don’t be afraid to let them flow

This all a part of how we

Heal, nurture and grow

To bloom as the precious beings

That we really are

Deep inside

A gift from the Gods : reflections on love, loss, grief and melancholy

Sometimes, now, I imagine that there was a moment when the gods and goddesses of creation offered us this : the gift of love, provided we accept the fact of knowing we will die.  Would any of us refuse the offer?  Would we choose to live a life without love to remain ignorant of death?  Even in the early moments of my grief, I never hated the bargain.  Even in the midst of the pain of loss, I welcomed the fact that we had twenty five years of learning to be lovers.

Forever taking leave, always on the verge of departing, we wander the world and along the way, at one time or another, meet others and together for a  brief moment arrange things.  We fall in love, marry, raise a family, start work, become knitted to the fabric of a community .  Yet all the while we see with a deeper, third eye, a subtle erosion of all that we have so patiently and lovingly built.  One by one the things we make slip away.   One by one those whom we love pass on.  And always in the dark silence of the night we know.  Always in that dark  hour of solitude we understand that death will take away the ones we love

But where do they go, those whom we have loved and have died?  We soothe our children with stories of heaven, and even as adults we still continue to cherish this place in our heart, eve if we can no longer believe it with our minds.  Something in us needs these tales.  Something in us needs to imagine that love does endure, perhaps even beyond death.  And yet, these stories can cheat us of the deepest demand which love makes upon us : to love what does not last, to love the rose which in its blooming already fades.  To embrace here with love what will pass away, what is in this very moment passing, while still hoping for a love which lasts beyond the grave!  How can we do that? Again I don`t know, I only know that after the shocks of grief and long, slow winter of mourning, I have found myself experiencing the world through different eyes, as if grief had changed the prescription of my vision.  In these moments, I experience all that is around me with melancholic eyes, with those eyes which can see in the midst of what is present in the moment, an absence which already haunts the moment.  Melancholy, I now believe, is the mood which allows us to love in the midst of our continual dying.  It is the mood which nurses the fact that love is born and rests in the cradle of death.  It is the mood which allows us to bear the mystery of love as the fragile home which the homeless soul builds in the human heart.

Robert Romanyshyn : Mourning and Melancholy : The Orphan and the Angel

Experiences of grief and loss do make our souls feel homeless.  That in which we have taken root, or those with whom we shared linkages and connections, even if haunted with shadows of disconnection are gone, suddenly taken.  We can experience grief over the loss of more than just a person, but when the person we have lost or who has died was so centrally important to our lives a vacancy or lacunae is left and into that void we fall.  Some of us are lucky to have those who will stand by as we are swallowed up, others of us may not be so lucky and may have anxious ones swoop in and try to save us.  Others of us may watch loved ones being swallowed up and feel powerless.  (I most certainly know I experienced a lot of that in my own life witnessing the traumas, losses and abandonment of my two sisters and mother.)  How we respond from this powerless place is very important.

I have personally felt that sometimes medication was being used as a way to stop a necessary descent.  I remember listening to a lecture by poet Robert Bly in which he said this: in depression we suffer a loss and refuse the call to descend, in grief we go willingly down.  Perhaps our various reactions and responses to depression, loss and grief or a dark night of the soul are not so clearly demarked, but the point is during these times the unconscious comes calling and its a testament of our love not only for that or who we have lost but also for ourselves how we respond. Bearing in mind such responses are never fully conscious.  Loss and grief do seem to demand of us an opening out after we fallen for a time and an opening of our heart in love, maybe even if for years we collapse or fall into a closed or folded up state.

When our world falls apart

Winter to spring

I am moved to write this post after a heart rending comment I received on another in which I shared some writing from Robert Romanyshyn on grief and reverie.  Grief and loss are universal experiences but so little understood in our modern technologically driven culture which can be so devoid of soul.  One of the issues Robert addresses in his book The Soul In Grief is just this, how do we honour and fully enter a deep process in which all known supports are torn away and we are literally left either falling through space with the feeling of nothing to hold us or as if we being sunk deep in huge chasm which seems as though it will swallow us up.  When these kinds of reality changing and transforming experiences occur to us we can never be prepared.  They demand of us on some level a deep surrendering into experiences which we can experience enormous resistence towards.

Robert speaks in his book about how after the sudden and very painful death of his wife he was like a ghost.  He struggled with all the tormenting questions which accompany the loss of a loved one, had he done something to contribute to his wife’s death, had he not been emotionally present enouh? (amongst other things). In time he found ways to enter the grief by experiencing it deep in his heart and soul rather than trying to make sense of it in his head.  On one level his mind was destroyed as it could not really take him into the deep mourning place and experience his body and soul needed to embody and my experience is that none of us find this easy or even have many overt examples of this process or even affirmation and support with it.  I know how my own mother was hurried out of her grief by my brother.  She never got to sit and cry her eyes or heart out with anyone following the loss of the love of her life.  I was overseas lost in my own vacacny and wandering of the London streets.

Grieving most often goes on in silence and is not spoken of although in recent times more is being done to address and help those who are grieving to find their way. At the same time as I write this I know there is no deeper solution to grief and mourning but the experiencing of it and so much of this is a deeply lonely process but one that can on some level be mysteriously spiritually transformative.  (Although often we do not understand that until we have passed through grief’s long dark tunnel or night,)

To find our way when the path that we were travelling on previously has disappeared or been torn up, well that is another issue entirely.  In Robert’s case he learned to wait, to tune in and to listen in reverie.  In a powerful quote which I had used to head a blog I havent yet published he saids “reverie can hear, because first it has listened”.  In reverie we tune into the deep wordless spaces inside us, those vast expanses which are beyond words.  When the bottom drops out of our world our world also opens up to a vast cosmic emptiness.  In Robert’s case he experienced himself as an orphan as we all do after loss but he also found that in the cosmic emptiness he found his angel too.

I had similar experiences after my own life feel apart after my ex husband left me.  I would be lost and wandering for days.  I dreamed and wrote and then received channelled messages from angelic like beings, as well as doing battle with demonic energies that wanted me dead, trying to convince me that since my husband had left I was worthless.  Those profound expereinces are all recorded in the many journals I wrote in the intense period following his leaving from 2004 – 2007, when I met someone who tried to pull me away from that intense inner world which threatened him with his own abandonment and grief issues from the past.

I look back now after being part way through Robert’s book and think powerfully of how important and pregnant that time was.  My old world was being destroyed so that a new one could emerge in time out of the ashes of grief and my blog and many of the poems I wrote then that I shared here in the blogs early says were a big part of this process.

As I contemplate all today after reading Amy’s message of this some favourite lines of mine from the poet Rilke come to mind:

Oh how dear you will be to me then, Nights

of anguish. Inconsolable sisters,

why did I not kneel more to greet you,

lose myself more in your loosened hair?

We, squanderers of pain.

How we gaze beyond them into duration’s sadness,

to see if they have an end. Though they are nothing but

our winter-suffering foliage, our dark evergreen,

one of the seasons of our inner year – not only

season – : but place, settlement, camp, soil, dwelling.

What Rilke is speaking of in this, his tenth elegy from the Duino elegies is of the transformative power of loss and grief.  Most surely we do no want to have lost what we have lost.  There is a part of us as humans that longs for things to never change.  But what the Buddhists remind us is that suffering and loss and change are intrinsic to life and living, they are the shadow side of much darkness that we dont know how to face because we do not learn in our culture to honour or fully enter them, at least in my experience.

We are so much, particularly in the West, a culture in the midst of what Purlitzer prize winner author Ernest Becker has called The Denial of Death and yet nature and the seasons know what we seem oblivious to and forget, that for spring to come autumn and winter must occur too.   And so our losses and transformations ARE as Rilke and Romanyshyn points out just seasons in a life where all goes fallow and we find ourselves wandering the stony ground or buried down deep in dark and seemingly barren earth. And yet even here and in the midst of much loss new things can and are growing.   They will grow out of our suffering if we kneel and surrender ourselves to them fully rather than resist.

I don’t know how many of my followers also know of Amy Rose’s blog here on WordPress Petal’s Unfolding.  Amy posts stunning photos with gorgeous quotes and it was Amy who just shared with me in a comment how her own losses have inspired her art.  Art or poetry is the stuff that can help us when we are in the midst of grief, change, transformation or loss.  Art can come out of our suffering and our stumbling and our deep humanity which has been piereced open by things we were powerless over happening to us.  We can use them to mine or find soul consolation or expression on our many days and nights of suffering and to find the deeper often agonising beauty in the midst of them.   The glint of moonlight on water, the soft feeling of a summer breeze kissing our cheek or even the numbing chill of winter snow are all reminders of the deep soul that is still alive and beating even in us and in nature even in the midst of the most profound loss and sorrow.  Oh you nights of suffering let us find our courage and ability to kneel to meet you and allow ourselves just for a while to lose ourselves in your loosened hair.

How feeling our grief connects us to compassion and love : grief as an Underworld journey

One of the saddest most heartbreaking things I have both experienced and witnessed in my own life is how being in pain or suffering pain can lead to disconnection, right at the time we or others most need it.   I shared in a recent post about a friend who I contacted who had lost her Mum a few months ago, she was feeling happy and supported in her pain.   I felt a knife pain all through my heart when I read her reply, that is not what happened when my father died many years ago.  As a result I buried a lot of my pain and acted it out and I have shared about that elsewhere in my blog.   I also think the loss of my father that lay ungrieved led me to doubt his love due to his emotional distance which was more about his own past than about how he felt about me deep down inside.

Today I was overcome with happiness at finding a wonderful book at my local library written by a man who lost his wife and fell into the most profound grief.  Rather than run from his grief he fully surrendered to and embraced it using this deep process of undoing as a doorway to enter into depths of his humanity and soul in a way that would never have been possible before his loss.

In the book he makes the point that it was through experiencing a psychic ‘orphaned’ state that he came to realise that the pain and abandonment of his orphan self could lead him to the angel within who helped him cross the threshold of pain over his loss to an ever deeper and deepening sense of love, connection and compassion with life and the cosmos.   He was able to fully enter both his mourning and grief and through active reverie, paying attention to soul cues, including a book case that collapsed twice in the months following his wife’s death he was able to read these messages and respond, rather than resist.   You would need to read his painfully beautiful memoir to be able to understand the depths of insight and soul he navigated.

For the purposes of this blog I am just going to quote from some of the more eloquent and heartfelt insights he shares in the early part of his book.  I am only midway through the book but really feel it is a book I would love to give to anyone struggling with grief following the death of a loved one.  Grief and love are really one and the same. Once we realise that essential truth we wont be led astray by those who try to have us believe grieving for ‘too long’ is some kind of pathology or aberration, rather than a testament of how deeply loved and cherished our lost or absent loved one is.  Even if the one we lost was not loving to us and we longed for their love, the pain and grief over that still runs very, very deep and if we run from it, there are problems we will face as the denied soul truth tries to get our attention.

The name of the book is The Soul in Grief : Love, Death and Transformation, and it is written by Robert Romanyshyn.   I believe that those who suffer grief are the ones we need to turn to in our own grief as they know more than the ‘experts’ or others who may in their own fear of the feelings of powerlessness watching someone grieve or struggle with grief respond in unproductive ways that further hurt or alienate that person.

Individually and collectively we fear grief and are impatient with it.  Everything in our culture is aimed at hurrying us through the process. In the midst of loss I was encouraged by well meaning and good intentioned friends to get back in the swing of things.  I was told “life goes on”. Staying in the land of grief too long I was, I believe, something of an embarrassment or a threat.  I was a walking ghost, an invisible shade, an empty shell with a broken heart.  I was a companion of death, and to my friends, a too painful reminder of its presence in the midst of life.   Better, then, I was advised, to let the dead bury the dead.  Better to forget the loss.

The soul, however, has its own rituals of grieving, rituals which plunged me into the organic rhythms of nature.  Loss is a season of the soul – its winter – and, like the winter of the world, a moment whose time must have its place.  I could neither hurry nor avoid these rhythms of soul any more than I could hurry or ignore those of the world.  In this landscape (of grief)… there are no map, no markers to plot the course of grief.  I was forced to find my own way.

But there were stories to accompany me along the path, tales told by those who had returned from the land of grief and who had brought with them an account of their travels… they were testimonials that told me, while I had to find my own way through grief, I was not alone. ….

In moments of rest, I felt that my personal grief intersected with a collective one.  On these occasions I lost myself in a kind of reverie.  Time would slip away, and for a while, the boundaries between myself and the world, were erased, easing somewhat the cold feeling of isolation which grief brings.  In reverie, before these warming fires, I could hear those other voices whispering that grief arises, because we have dared to love, that grief is the mark of the power of love, to love even when we know life is loss, to love even thought we knowthose whom we love will one day pass away.

My tales… are a testimony to (this) descent from the early shock of grief into the black holes of mourning and, at times, the unexpected opening into that quiet sadness of melancholy, where I felt a sense of belonging to others, where a new feeling of hope would emerge, only to be swallowed by a darkness even blacker than before.

Grief is a wound which leaves a scar, and that scar is forever etched in the fabric of of the soul… grief lies in the very marrow of our bones… (and) in the deepest recesses of the heart we are all orphans and that orphan in each of us carries our shared, collective sense of human sorrow.

Not all of us in our lives will be put in touch with our inner orphan.  In my own life my inner orphan was a very early experience and once that had collective roots.  Being given a name for this very deep and archetypal of human experiences and a reminder of it in reading Robert’s book I am aware of how knowing that such a psychic or psychological energy informs our life and experience at archetypal levels is helpful in some way.  It provides a context for an experience that is deeply human and spiritual and not only pathological as society would have us believe.

Our inner orphan can lead us to an inner angel, that one who holds the orphan’s hand through deep experiences of physical and emotional abandonment, an inner guide or witness who mysteriously appears in our darkest hours and can hold us as we cry and help us to contain the pain of our orphaned, lost or grief filled state.

In grief, the heart’s song is one of sorrow, a song of lament.  Maybe the Angel is especially receptive to us in our moments of pain and sorrow, in our moments of loss and grief.  Maybe that is why it seems to me that the Angel is the other face of the Orphan…. The Angel waits to escort us into a realm which I can only describe as one of cosmological connectedness, into that place where even in that early moment of grief I felt connected with and held by forces beyond the human realm.

Robert’s experience in his time of grief mirrored my own.  In the dark days of my grieving in Glastonbury I went to the Cathedral and acquired some beautiful angel icons cards which still lie dotted around my home in little nooks and crannies.  At that time of deepest grief it was to those angels that I turned.    Later I found the loving presence in my own heart but it was not always constant.

I do believe that grief when deeply felt and engaged with as a necessary (if unwanted) soul season, does transport us to a different realm or underworld that those who have never grieved or loss will ever fully understand.  That is why when we are grieving we need to find those companions who understand that place, even if we have to travel there many years alone.   There are those out there who have gone before us and can give us hope that in time we will return, perhaps always changed by never the less deepened and enriched at a very fundamental level of soul.

What takes form in the void

“There is, in every event, whether lived or told, always a hole or a gap, often more than one. If we allow ourselves to get caught in it, we find it opening onto a void that, once we have slipped into it, we can never escape.”

Brian Evenson

In the deep void Left by their emotional absence You stepped in Thinking to keep me safe from harm If you are perfect You whispered No one will notice you too much And you will be useful So never again abandoned But this void filler Tells all kinds of lies He keeps you jumping And you find it hard to rest With the all the gauges Set on high alert You dare not sleep In case disaster falls Or surrender Emptiness

But what you do not know Is how In this space Inner emptiness grows Through self abandonment Of the child you once were Who needed loving arms to hold And a place of rest The absence of these cut deep And lead you to make all kinds of poor bargains You will never see Until so much further down the road

Now you weep With realisation of all that you betrayed Or gave away so cheaply But its not too late Though there is weeping still to be done For all those betrayals and lost years These tears are the price Of your birthing and emergence into the light

The truth is you were always precious And so now need to guard that preciousness So to do your work Much of it in silence After silence the real truth telling can no longer be denied (Your soul heard those silent screams and finally responded!)

Tears fall down But with the shedding Some deeper soul realisation is being restored You will never again Be as lonely as you were In those years of unconsciousness The price of consciousness is pain But also some kind of freedom The freedom to see deeper and know Truths others so often deny, fear or run from Or wish you to block or never know The full truth of

You must heart must bear this full weight Hard as it is No one can really live inside a void We all need so much more And the protector who forms inside it So often become jailor And so must over time Be lovingly released