Drink from the Beauty

I have decided that each day I will drink from the beauty all around me, and allow it to rejuvenate my entire Being. All we need to do is pause, for just one minute, and really take it in, remembering to thank Mother Nature for her beauty. This is one of the real blessings of life…

Ashtara.

These are not my thoughts or words but I am posting them up as they are a powerful medicine for me and for my soul.

I am sure I am not alone in putting my focus at times on the difficult things in life. the things that have hurt me or caused me pain.  I know that in loving at times I will lose and there will be pain in the losing and the letting go.  It may be a process I have to work through in order to feel through to my heart, but I can also in the midst of pain look to the things that will bring beauty, peace, love and healing into my life.

When I had separated from my husband a profound period of loss and grief came upon me.  I had a bike accident and a major head injury as a result of a cranio sacral session to deal with a major trauma at 17.  It can happen when we go deeply into the body unconscious that something is triggered and I was not properly grounded by the therapist following the treatment.  The end result was that I crashed and hit my head on an iron foundry.  I date my difficult PTSD symptoms including broken sleep from that time.  When I awake every day I try to check the position of my limbs which seem all out of kilter and then adjust when really I just need to realise I need to get up slowly and orient to my day.

Anyway following the crash I went on retreat to Glastonbury in the UK and while there someone gave me a card with the following words on it:

Rather than focus on all the misery, I would rather remind myself of the beauty that still remains.

I do know that at times this is really, really hard and there is no easy way through grief, but I also know while going through this process we can focus on taking care of ourselves, being loving and surrounding ourselves with beauty and nurture.  This is most essential for our soul thrives on these things. So for today this is my go to thought which I am sharing hoping it touches others too.

 

Love After Love

I want to share something today that is not my own writing, but expresses a comforting truth I so needed to hear today and which brought me to tears.  It is taken from an anthology : Poems to Make A Grown Man Cry and the initial paragraphs are written by the English actor Tom Hiddleson, who chose this poem for inclusion in the anthology for the reasons below:

In the madness and mayhem of modern life, where every man seems committed to an endless search for the approval and esteem of his fellows and peers, no matter what the cost this poem reminds me of a basic truth : that we are, as we are, ‘enough’.  Most of us are motivated deep down by a sense of insufficiency, a need to be better, stronger, faster; to work harder; to be more committed, more kind, more self sufficient, more successful.  We are driven by a sense that we are not as we are ‘enough’.

But this short poem by Derek Walcott is like a declaration of unconditional love.  It’s like the embrace of an old friend.  We are each of us whole, perfectly imperfect, enough.  ‘Feast on your life’ feels like permission, as though Walcott is calling time on all the madness, the mayhem, the insecurity, the neuroses, the drama, and with a big, broad, kind smile, he brings us to an awareness of the present moment, calm and peaceful, and to a feeling of gratitude for everything that we have.  I read it to my dearest friends after dinner once, and to my family at Christmas and they started crying.  Which always, unfailingly, make me cry.

Love After Love

The time will come

when, with elation,

you will great yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the others welcome.

and say, sit here.  Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

Feeling good enough

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Here is a question for you.  Do you believe you are “good enough”?  My thoughtful self balks at even writing those two words, which invite another couple of questions, good enough for whom or what? This post is provoked both by reading the daily meditation for 19 September in my daily reader, One Foot in Front of the Other,  on perfectionism and also by the remorselessly critical inner voice that lays me to siege from time to time and most especially on the days when I am not travelling as well.

In this reading Tian Dayton, the author writes :

Dark forecasting was a residue of a childhood dysfunction and trauma. I experienced a loss of trust and faith that the world was a predictable, safe place, that my needs were meet-able and not too much, that relationships could be fulfilling rather than disappointing.

As the reading goes on Tian talks of how a sense of seeking perfection of ourselves and others and looking for the worst can begin to prevail in our lives and alter the way we think about people, life, experiences and relationships. It can also affect the way we think about ourselves, most especially if how we were or expressed ourselves was deemed to be bad or an inconvenience for others, our true feelings and needs, ignored, punished, misunderstood, denigrated or shamed, leading us to internalise this treatment. The healing path is to recognise the impact of our past and the role it plays in our thinking.

Today my inner critic began one of its familiar rants :  what a waste of space I am, growing less attractive, as I age, just not measuring up at all. Today was the first time I’ve told the voice full throttle to Fuck the hell Off. I was aware that my body was being pulled into the downward spiral of post traumatic stress. As I yelled back at the voice and allowed my self to get really angry at it (this dear reader is a first for me!!!) I did some powerful; resistance stretching, got dressed and moved out into the brisk cold windswept day to walk, my dog Jasper by the lake. I then went to our local fruit and veg markets, read my book and had a cup of coffee.

While I was smack bang in the middle of this experience I looked down and noticed the complex textures and colours in my denim jeans, flecked cardigan and scarf.  I felt the wind on my face and as well as feeling with my fingers the texture of the page. At that moment I felt joy in just being present.  I had the awareness that I was actually grounded in my body rather than stuck in a world of thoughts. I also had a very strong experience of how full and complete the present moment is.

I’ve been having some bodywork lately to deal with the impact of my post traumatic stress. I needed to call the therapist today as I was getting overwhelmed. In my state of overwhelm, she drew attention to the fact I wasn’t breathing, when the breath slowed down there was a deep sadness and a lot of tears, I had not been able to feel before our contact.  This experience made me question :

How often am I actually split off from my body, from what I am actually feeling?

How often am I trapped in thoughts instead of just noticing where I am presently in the room?

And how much of my thoughts related to memories of the past experiences that hurt me and keep me trapped, in the car or flung flat on my back with a massive head trauma which made me feel disoriented, nauseated and overpowered by trauma?

Also :  how much does that experience entrap me now if I don’t keep track of the present moment and make the differentiation between the past and present?

I am not entirely sure how this relates to feelings of not being good enough only to mention that I recently read that one of the impacts of trauma is to blame ourselves, even when we are not at fault.  Also add to this that our trauma in affecting others may lead them to blame us for it too.

On the difficult days I feel I am not very far along in my life and have been in a kind of prison for the 10 years since that last major trauma on the first anniversary of my marriage ending. My attitude then shifts to the negative when I focus on that too much, instead of seeing all the ways in which I have coped and continued to front up on the tough days when I can. Considering the number of times I have felt extremely suicidal, just being alive is a miracle for me.

Being discarded by someone can leave us feeling we did not measure up in some way. It’s a painful legacy to deal with. I was watching a show about a person who had been discarded in such a way last night and she was crying about feeling like in some way she had failed to “measure up” and wasn’t good enough. I could really empathise with her pain. I know it well.   But whose standard was it she was failing to measure up to? Was it realistic for her? Should her feelings for herself be tied to this person’s lack of approval?

It’s a journey to move away from that kind of pain. It takes a real mental effort, not one that is about denying reality but about accepting it. I have to watch also when my own inner standard it too high for who I really am in this life and turns toward the negative, when the expectations I have internalised are not mine but someone else’s.

Tian writes

My mind can be my greatest enemy or my greatest ally. It depends on how I use it. When my day goes sour rather than try to manipulate others (by trying to be what they want) or complain about my fate I will step back and observe what is going through my mind.

What is going through my mind may not be about the reality and promise of the present moment which holds all kinds of simple pleasures and gifts but about past things or circumstances I cannot change, such as someone not loving me as I am or my past trauma which I also cannot change.  But I do have power on this day.  I do have the choice to love and care for myself in this moment by thinking in a way which frees me rather than locking me deeper in an inner prison of trauma and dark forecasting which endlessly repeats.

Setting Fire to the Soul

Don’t say a word

But just come over and lie here with me

Cause I’m just about to

Set fire to everything I see

I want you so bad

I go back on the things I believe

There I just said it

I’m scared you’ll forget about me.  

I fall in love with songs, not just the words but the entire soundscape wave melody undulating inward gripping soul engaging power of another’s emotional territory put into words which echoes my own experience, past or present.

I am deeply enthralled at the moment with this lyric and the soul of John Mayer’s song Edge of Desire, most especially the line “I want you so bad I go back on the things I believe”…..echoing a strong theme my tangled Venus square Neptune ruling Pisces in the 7th house of relationships.

Born into a much older family already well established when I arrived, by accident in the early 60s I learned to observe and orient myself around others but also felt a deep disconnect.  There were not many safe places to go, to be seen, to be heard, to be understood, to be nurtured, everyone was so busy working and my sister and I got left alone.  She took her frustrations out on me at times, probably feeling frustrated at having to look after her younger sister who was full of energy and fire.  I had a wild, expressive streak.

Anyway this theme of confusion and pain in relationships, of trying to connect and yet not quiet being able to manage it, of bringing to relationships a powerful backlog of unexpressed needs, difficulties and issues was highlighted yesterday when I caught up with a very old friend.

Quite a long time ago the man she loved chose not to follow her when she decided to return to her home town.  They had both been living and working away and the relationship had hit problems, he was shutting down, not communicating and the tensions between their two very different ways of being introverted (him) and extroverted (her) were beginning to develop a void too dark to cross. I think also from what I can gather her partner had suffered, was suffering depression, or was it just a deep introversion?

Initially he said he wouldn’t make the move but later he changed his mind, just after she got used to the idea that she would be facing a move and a new life alone.  Turns out a few months later he changed his mind and said he would be taking a job in a far away town instead of moving to be with her, but could he keep calling her every Tuesday? Needless to say she drew a boundary saying it was over, angry at being messed around and deeply confused by his behaviour.

Whenever she would relate this story to me in the past, I empathised with her but I also empathised with her partner and his need for introversion, whilst feeling how frustrating it was for her.  Her needs were obviously different and she did not know how to meet him in his dark spaces.  I have had a similar experience in being depressed (deeply introverted) with a partner who did not want to understand, called me agoraphobic and was hostile towards sadness, confusion and pain.

Fast forward to 12 years later after much confusion and heartbreak a mutual friend who introduced them had a stroke and my friend knew her past lover may be unlikely to find out in any other way. Through another mutual friend she got in touch to let him know.  He asked to meet her for a coffee. What followed was a dramatic outpouring of grief and regret on his behalf as well as declarations of all the plans he had lately been making (unbeknownst to her) centred around being with her. Although they had been apart for over 12 years she had been constantly in his mind.  This was confusing to her.  How could he now profess all this, her idea of what was reality for him, was not hers?  Although I know she had been secretly hoping for this for many years.

Additionally he revealed that over the past few years he had been prospecting and he laid out before her some jewels to select he wanted to get made into jewellery for her.  At this point I started crying.  It all struck me as so very human and deeply sad, the tangled vagaries of the human heart. All the fears, tears, confusion and defences dismantling.  Tangled hopes, dreams, disappointment, frustration and thwarted desire thrown into the mix.

The telling of the entire story went for well over 40 minutes and I while it was going on I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster. It was not only the emergence of the buried emotion that he had not allowed to express before that resonated for me but also the deep confusion she was experiencing in the face of long ago given up hopes being re-awakened and questions around his state of emotional health.

My friend is currently in a really secure and relatively happy position, but the return of this person to her life has now upset the apple cart.  Which way should she turn?  Should she hold out hope?  Could he be trusted?  So many questions and underneath it all a tender heart.

Her dilemma really got me to thinking about my own push pull dynamics in relationships in the past, push pulls dynamics evoked by extreme outbursts of emotion on both sides and in response too to lack of empathy shown at critical times by past partners.

In my own life the prospect of hoping to be loved again has at times opened up deep, powerful and complex emotions, emotions that would flood the landscape often triggered by some perceived abandonment or lack of attention or misunderstanding, emotions that were difficult to regulate and articulate.  These would cause confusion for others and sometimes the severing of ties.  I have also been on the receiving end of the same.

At many times in my life I have been exiled or made to feel bad for expressing very real, raw human emotion.  As a person who developed addictions as a way of coping with a lack of emotional understanding and support, it took a long time in sobriety to sort out all that had been  suppressed and so lay unmatured deep within my psyche.  Only relationship could bring those wounds to the surface in order to feel, to heal, to become aware and to grow.

Over the past few years I have begun to realise how difficult and confusing my own emotions and those of others in response have been especially where there is minimal awareness of the history of past pain carried.  I carried a huge backlog of emotions and then 7 years ago I entered into a relationship with someone who was carrying a huge backlog of their own.  Sadly they were invested in not exploring any pain, only projecting it, so I was made to carry the burden of being the one “with the problem”.  The realisation of all of this has made me very wary of relationships.  The fact is I have opened my heart and been bruised again, but the bruising had a gift and lesson within it.  It was the fuel for understanding.

After having lunch with my friend today and contemplating the echoes and synchronicities I went to visit my Mum. Despite all challenges we have had over years I am still in a process of trying to meet, engage with my Mum and find some understanding.  Over the past few months it seems Mum has had an interest in reaching out and exploring the hurts between us. I have been taking the risk of opening up about hurts and we have been talking about past issues : anger, frustration, thwarted need, miscommunication and difficulty with empathy.

Today she opened up to me about the impact my addiction had upon her in the years following my father’s death when I was 23. At this stage I was yet to find sobriety and I had a back ground of much emotional hurt, betrayal and abandonment.

Some of the background which I have shared about here online in the past was that at 23 I was already struggling in a pretty dysfunctional relationship in which I had fallen pregnant twice, two pregnancies which I had decided to terminate due to the fact that my then partner had addiction issues and I was aware the ground that I was standing on was precarious, unstable and could easily give way, no where enough support to bring in another life dependent on us.

As more background my then partner had been in love deeply before meeting me and his past girlfriend left him as her parents did not think he was good enough….according to them he came from the wrong side of the tracks. (And he was a fairly frequent dope smoker.)

Throughout the relationship I was aware things were off but I didn’t have the strong sense of self that would allow me to leave, the emotional vacancy of my own childhood had left me vulnerable, emotionally illiterate and oh so hungry.

My ex ended up abandoning me twice.  We had made plans to travel overseas.  I had been working two jobs for a year to save the money.  He left before me.  I was to meet him.  Around this time my father was diagnosed with operable stomach cancer.  He died within two months. I had to delay my departure.  A few days after his death I received a 4 am phone call.  It was my boyfriend.   “I don’t love you, please don’t come,” he said,  “I’ve met someone else”.

I was devastated.   Part of me broken.  I did not feel prepared to make a trip which now had to be altered.  I would be alone.  I faltered as I packed my bags crying.  “You must go”, Mum said.  “Dad would not have wanted you to change your plans.”  And so I went and found comfort in a bottle of Johnnie Walker.

I spent some months in London, living and working.  Later in 1985 in Greece while changing money at the American Express office I saw my ex again.  He drew me in (or my fear of being alone did?).  I allowed the hope of being together again.  I opened up the door to my heart and slept with him turning my back on the truth of past patterns that showed so clearly he did not love me.  My own lack of self love and understanding hooked me in again..  Only a few weeks later after meeting with the friend I met today by accident in Greece we both went out to dinner, he did not come.  Later that night when I returned to our room I found him fucking a girl he had met that night (or was it the woman he had thrown me over for who suddenly reappeared out of nowhere that night? I was so traumatised I don’t remember).

I only remember the pain of him calling me a crazy bitch for having an angry emotional reaction to his callous treatment of me. But I was the fool, hungry and lonely enough to be with him, burying the knowledge of his treatment of me over years and all the hurts.

Following this for the next 6 months I was spinning all around over there in Europe, no stable base, travelling, drinking, working.  I found a job in Switzerland in 1986 and while there I fell pregnant to a man I adored on the first anniversary of my father’s death, but he was also in love with someone else.  I had the termination I spoke of in an earlier blog.

I remember Mum calling me in the midst of this and telling me to come home.  We have been discussing this today. She sensed something was up but I could not open up to my Mum, just buried it all for the next eight years.  She had confronted me and shamed me following my father’s death when after reading my journal she found out about the two earlier terminations, so  why would I have trusted her with this information.

All these memories are so strong at present as the Sun is passing through the deep emotional territory of Cancer, inching close to my Mum’s Pluto in Cancere which trines my Neptune in Scorpio (as transiting Neptune has turned retrograde in exact opposition to my own natal Pluto in the first).

At times I have felt that my mother did not care.  I have been so angry at having no place to go and angrier still that the angry outbursts were misunderstood. Today I know she cared but it was not expressed in a way I could make sense of. While she was trying to draw me close, I was pushing her away with anger and rage at not being responded to in the way that I needed.

According to her, my anger scared the living daylights out of her.  She could not feel through it to the deep longing for love that underlay those fits of passionate anger the hurt, wounded, tend, vulnerable underbelly of my Saturn Mars Moon. So many times I needed the loving arms of my Mum wrapped around me, but all the trauma in our family that went down from the age of 18 meant that attention energy and care was directed elsewhere.

I witnessed my eldest sister being discarded by her own husband and then trying to take her life. Lots of drugs and alcohol to try and numb the pain and then a few years later my father’s shock diagnosis with terminal cancer and his death six weeks later. So much trauma, no time to process it, to feel it through.

After my father died my Mum’s grief over her own loss was so all consuming it blinded her to the pain her youngest daughter was going through. Yes I turned up hung over reeking of alcohol after an all night  bender after returning from overseas in 1987. I spent 6 more agony years in the wilderness of addiction before finding enough self love to reach for sobriety.

Mum said today she felt she could not reach me, she did not know what to do.  I understand : we struggled to reach each other in the way we both needed and wanted.  I had withdrawn from her in self protection due to times of hurt when her concern was felt as an invasion, taking place in secret behind my back, reading my personal journals and poems and making hurtful comments or at least comments that showed a lack of understanding.

All this hurt that I have held deep inside is like a tangled knot of Gordian proportions and my pain expressed evokes not only my mother’s own pain but also her own wound her deep feelings of  inadequacy in knowing deep down the way she handled things was ineffective, left me bleeding more, vulnerable to more toxic relationships but could not be better due to her  own history.  Tears and hugs between us today signal a melting of old defences, a reaching across a deep chasm filled with pain, loss and trauma.

When my friend was telling me today about her lover’s tears and al the precious jewels laid out I found myself crying. I felt the pain he must have experienced somewhere that made him withdraw or to hold back and sabotage his chance of connection as well as the pain of loving but not being able to express it in a way it could be understood due to being held prisioner by depression which can create huge barriers and walls between people.

I thought of the times I hurt my past love by not being there to be supportive due to the fact that things he was going through evoked my own pain from past things that had never been fully processed, pain which then expressed by me brought anger and misjudgement and even the silent treatment from him.  Emotional cut off for days.

I question my own narcissism and self involvement due to the fact of having carried pain and I recognise the pain of my friend as the pain of past partners who felt alone when I was captured by deep pain of past hurts I was trying to feel, understand and heal..

Today I have a sense of the healing balm of Neptune being poured on the deep soul searing pain of that Pluto in the first of mine that forms and opposition to Chiron in the seventh house (so much early wounding in relationships) carried on and held deep inside as both touch that sore spot Mars Saturn Moon.

Such is my legacy of Mars Saturn Moon : the deep dark pain that is a bitter fruit that has healing hidden only in the recognition deep within my soul of what was its genesis : this being my ancestral karma/dharma: a life path not chosen (or was it?) that administers to my soul the necessary medicine that in hurting grows consciousness and wisdom through pain.

I think of the words of astrologer Liz Greene for Saturn Pluto(my Mars/Saturn/Moon aspects Pluto)

Wisdom through suffering…..Purification through the ordeal by fire. 

I have burned, awake at 4 am with seering nerve burn pain of post traumatic stress due to accidents I had while running to find healing.  And it seems to me that the fire that John Mayer wants to set alight in his song is the fire that he must know inwardly burns when we long for that which in hurting us most at the same time heals.  It seems to be that true soul knowing burns and in so doing reminds us of love, of what is most true, most essential to our soul.  For there is love at the heart of the flames and it takes love to suffer the burning, the burning that transforms ash to tarnished gold and purifies our spirit through anger, through longing, through frustration and even through despair.  To keep our heart open in midst of the flames that is the task so wisdom and love can grow through the pain, through the burning.

And yet the burning must also one day surely end and then is our initiation done?  We will have garnered the necessary wisdom to step aside from that which in burning hurts us.  It seems so much self knowledge is necessary for this to happen for those of us who have been raised in Neptunian confusion, where what hurts us is portrayed as something else, maybe even something we brought upon ourselves.  Until we are conscious we will not see our part in it, since it was due to earlier patterns laid down that only suffering could make us aware of, that suffering births within us compassion not only for our own pain but for the deeply unconscious pain of others, pain they did not have the strength and courage to face.

Tending the Inner Garden

Getting all bent out of shape… I was reflecting on this expression this morning after reading a wonderful blog about the impact of growing up with narcissistic parents I was reflecting on the idea of not being accepted as I am and therefore having had a difficult time accepting and loving myself.

At times there is a running commentary in my head which is comprised of a number of voices, what psychologists might call “introjects” voices of those around us in our life which did not support, accept and nurture us, but rather berated us with our inadequacies, highlighted our defects and made us feel that who we are is somehow wrong.

I have been aware of these voices for some time. In fact over 10 years ago when I chose to go into isolation as a result of a lifetime of traumatic experiences and the breakdown of my marriage I did a piece of inner dialogue writing which I called “Destruction 11/11”. It was around this time I would look at the clock at certain time to find that often the digital display showed 11:11…

A weird piece of synchronicity : later I read a piece of writing that claimed that when we on a path of inner emotional growth and spiritual development (Not a lofty spiritual aim but the quest to uncover, live and express our true spirit) we will see these numbers.

Back to my earlier train of thought. In this long piece of consciousness writing a strong voice came through that was full of hatred for me and wanted me dead. The voice told me how it had come into my life around the age of 6 to protect me but also to cut me off from peace, joy, love, connection and acceptance.

It is interesting to me that shortly after writing this piece I met a person who would personify the critical voice. In a dream I had when I met him there were a number of women around me trying to warn me that this person would betray and confuse me. Dreams are often warnings.

There was an element of mistrust anyway for me due to many difficult experiences with people who lacked understanding and empathy but also I think my experience in life with these kind of relationships was testing ground for me in which I could learn more about myself and about others what was healthy and what was not.

The relationship which I just mentioned and which brought me so much angst due to this lack of acceptance was actually a projection of my own inner sense of not being good enough. Rather than stand up to criticism and stay true to who I was in this relationship I tried to change, to twist and bend myself out of shape.

Despite major lessons around this I can still do this. Part of me wants to be the nice person, to be accepted, to do the right and loving thing (whatever that is… its all subject to interpretations, expectations and often projection, I have learned).

As an empath I feel the pain of others and want to ease it.  Having had so much of my own pain makes me ultra sensitive, most especially to ostracism and exclusion. I have had major lessons to learn about my limits to do this for others. At times it is hard enough loving and caring for myself.

Lately I have been in a very supportive therapeutic relationship with a person who understands me deeply, sees into to me in a way I have found it even difficult to do for myself.  Witnessing my ongoing struggle with narcissists she has been pointing out to me my tendency to let those who hurt me off the hook and to keep getting retraumatised as a result which is not really loving to myself.

Why do I do this? Because I don’t care enough for and love myself enough. I also have a running commentary going on in the mornings about how I am a failure in that I have not got a job or a relationship, and that from the outside it looks like I don’t even have a life. Part of me is traumatised by this and then another partner knows it is BS, these voices are not mine.

It was pointed out to me yesterday by my therapist I have in fact been through so much that the rest of my life should really be devoted to caring for and loving myself, the work I engaged with, have been engaged with for some years is inner work, from the outside it looks like nothing much is going on, but inwardly I am digging deep in this dark night of the soul.

The tendency to beat myself up inwardly, to see myself as less than and elevate others is well entrenched. That attitude is also an internalisation of a number of programmes from my family and catholic education.

Last week I came across a beautiful book at the library called Garden of Bliss : Cultivating the Inner Landscape for Self Discovery.  In this book the author speaks of a secret garden which we all have inside, a place where we can find peace and enter into a relationship with our deep soul, she also speaks of the Inner Gardener, that part of ourselves which is a witness to all the voices, that is connected to intuition and dreams and has an inner wisdom that does not rely on collective judgements.

As someone who has always found a connection in nature and loves gardening the idea of an Inner Garden appeals to me greatly. My happiest times lately seem to be pottering about in my garden with my lovely dog Jasper close by and connecting deeply to my inner garden through writing, listening to music, working with dreams, reading, cleaning, sorting, pottering quietly and resting peacefully within my own space. When engaged in this way I feel less alone that I do when out engaged in the busy world.

And yet I am increasingly feeling that I DO belong in this world. When I am deeply connected to myself, even when I take time to listen to the inner voices, critical as they may be, I am in touch with myself and my humanity. Through this sense of introversion and connection I feel extraversion is possible as I connect to the world. When I tend the inner garden, messy as it may be with all the challenging voices I am at home within myself and in relationship with myself and through that relationship I am connected to humanity.  For now my work seems to be in tending this garden and in seeing the deep value that comes from having a relationship with myself and in not bending myself out of shape by giving power to voices that do not speak the truth.

Love starts with loving myself

imagesCALWARIZ

We all have bad days.  When we have undergone a lot of loss or pain and sadness or if we have come out of an abusive relationship, one in which someone tried to convince us we were not lovable the bad days can be really, really bad.  I know how it is cause three years ago I came out of one of those relationships.  I have just watched a documentary on a woman who following the loss of her partner was scammed over the internet by a young Nigerian man who eventually seduced her to give away to him all of her life savings. She then gave up her life in Australia and moved to Nigeria and was dead within a short time.  This story resonated with me for following the end of my emotionally abusive relationship I too was scammed for a considerable amount of money.  At that time my head was full of many of the nasty things my ex had told me about me.  I thought finding love from someone else could erase this pain.  In the end it only led to more pain, but on a positive note, this experience did help me to turn my life around.

I look back now and the deep abandonment pain I felt  is no longer there. I realise this was a lesson I had to live through on my path towards self love and self understanding.  Lacking love and support of my true self over many years I learned to abandon myself.  I feel incredibly grateful to no longer live in that place.  It has taken a lot of work to get here and to feel good. I still have some bad days, especially following the loss of my older sister but good days do follow.  What I do know now is that my happiness rests in my own hands.  Only I have the power to give my goodness away, only I have the power to protect and nurture it.

Following on this belief I would like to share a daily meditation from Tian Dayton’s book “One Foot In Front Of The Other.”  Tian specialises in helping people affected by a loved one’s addiction or attachment to non nuturant relationships.   She has been a light on my own path of healing.

Feeling Good

I am the one who ultimately needs to sustain my own state of mind.  If I don’t keep my spirit strong, no one else will, no one else can.  My state of mind and my mood are my responsibility.  I will set the intention of feeling good, knowing that that is a way of increasing good entering my day.  My breath connects my body with my spirit so breath awareness is a time honoured way to elevate my mood. Today I will take moments throughout my day to consciously breathe out anxiety and breathe in peace and serenity.  Through breathing easily and deeply I invite spirit in.  This is a simple form of meditation that I can do when I am sitting still, lying down or walking. I can let my mood lighten as I repeat this gentle process over and over again, until I experience a subtle shift.  Meditating in this way is accessible and easy.  It gives me a way of calming my mind and body and restoring good feeling whenever I want to.

I sometimes forget to breathe deeply, or I can get so focused on a task I sometimes get caught up in my head and on a subtle level loose contact with my body.  I noticed this today and while I was gardening made a deliberate intention to focus on the breath, not in an artificial way, but in a way that opened me up to being in the present and finding everything in the moment vital, vibrant and alive. While I was eating dinner tonight I came upon this writing of Tian’s and it resonated with the experience of my day.

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Loving Self Talk, confronting the critical inner voice

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We all talk to ourselves, much of the time, whether or not we are aware of it.  We form conclusions, based on our experiences and make up stories or beliefs about what has happened to us, often based on feedback from people who may not necessarily always have our best interests at heart.  These thoughts and stories can have a powerful effect on us, for good or ill, so, to my mind travelling a path to greater self awareness and self love involves being conscious of what we are telling ourselves in response to what life deals us.

Our inner self-talk can and does effect whether we end up with a crippling and paralysing depression, or help ourselves to move forward with compassion through the centre of the difficult experiences and pain, free from the unnecessary and self-defeating additional suffering inflicted upon us by an inner critical voice.  Self blame or blame of others and despair in response to our traumas can be self imposed story lines which contort our reality, while limiting the birth of new possibilities which are formed from the process of moving through, feeling and integrating the complex and deep feelings that surround our traumas.

Robert Firestone is a therapist who has written several helpful books which outline his work in helping people to overcome destructive thought patterns, Fear of Intimacy, Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice and Combatting Destructive Thought Processes.   I was lucky to come across his work over ten years ago.

Differentiating the critical inner voice from a conscience, Robert writes:

The characteristic that most distinguishes the inner voice from a conscience is its degrading, punishing quality.  Its demeaning tone tends to increase our feeling of self hatred instead of motivating us to change undesirable actions in a constructive manner,  These destructive thoughts are contradictory; first they influence us to act in self defeating ways, and then they condemn us for those very actions.  In addition, the voice often turns our natural desires, wants and goals – the things we would like to accomplish in life – into “shoulds” – that is we “should” do this or that in order to be a good person. When we fail to live up to these “shoulds” the voice ridicules and berates us for our failure. 

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He goes on to explain how the voice keeps up a continual running commentary which selectively filters our experiences through a distorting and punishing lens.  So its not so much what happens to us in our day or lives (although life, can and does dish us out some very painful experiences), but the sense we come to make of these experinces, which ends up dictating our feelings and causing us pain.  In addition if we are not on the receiving end of the destructive critic internally, we may actually find ourselves drawn to relationships with people whose inner dialogue runs along critical lines and is then projected outside.

One of the huge problems of suffering emotional abuse as a child means that we come to believe a narrative story line about ourselves that is a result of someone else’s skewed interpretation and judgement, most likely that we are to blame and things might have worked out better if we had been more of something else other than who we were.  Perhaps we confronted a parent with qualities that they could not bear to see or had no way of handling themselves.

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In his wonderful book, Legacy of the Heart, the Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood, Wayne Muller writes:

We relentlessly judge ourselves for who we should be, and rarely accept ourselves as we are.  Whatever we are feeling in this moment is judged against some mythical idea of how we should be feeling.. If we hurt, we think we should have healed by now,; if we feel frightened, we think we should be stronger; if we feel sad, we think we should be happier. 

With such  story line running around inside us we are most likely to attract to us others who are more than willing to confirm and validate this negative self belief and have the same unwillingness to allow us our full range of self expression.  Until we can break free from the stranglehold of negative inner self talk that locks us up inside, healing can not happen.

Becoming aware of negative inner self talk is a great starting point for launching on a journey where we learn to re- parent and support ourselves emotionally in a way others could not.  In order to heal it is essential that we are able to confront these inner voices or introjects of judgement, criticism and mis-representation, replacing them with truer, kinder and more loving thoughts.  Instead of judging ourselves, why couldn’t we begin to learn to show ourselves mercy?

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A huge part of depression can result from stories of self blame or self negation which we tell ourselves in relation to hurtful or painful events.  Often the deeper truth is that certain things occur to us for no particular reason or due to other people’s issues, rather than from any innate personal failing of our own.  In looking to attribute some kind of blame rather than just working with the feelings of grief, powerlessness, anger, sadness or loss that such events cause we can be setting ourselves up for a great deal of paralysis and inner pain.

Freedom from a depressive life script occurs as we loose our identity as a victim of suffering and find the inner power to move through that suffering beyond stories we tell ourselves to maintain some form of control, birthing in time a deeper sense of self awareness and acceptance as well as a more balance view of life’s limitations and possibilities.

David Richo writes:

We sometimes take on a “do-it-yourself” kind of pain to the natural, unavoidable suffering of life.   At the ending of a relationship, for instance, we might say to ourselves, “No one will ever want me now”.  Stories like that are fictions, superstitions we create to explain reality with labels pasted on us by our worst fears.  They register in our bodies and make us tight and stressed, and so our body and our health often end up paying for our neurosis.”

Breaking out of the self destructive story line involves the practice of becoming mindful of our feelings in order to free ourselves from this self imposed suffering, rather than buying into the victim script which would have us believe we are trapped, powerless and defective.  Such beliefs may in fact be a way of protecting ourselves from the hurt by walling it off.   By becoming our own persecutor we come to believe that we had some kind of power in a situation where we did not.  The deeper truth which may be more painful to face, especially when a relationship ends is that no matter how hard we try we cannot make another person love and care for us in the way we wished we could.

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I am not implying here that we seek an escape from reality, if and when our behaviour may have been hurtful but rather that we accept the painful reality that something ended, despite our best attempts.  We might not like certain truths but it is only in the acceptance of them without setting up a negative story line that we can and do find freedom.  Acceptance of the reality means facing the fact of feeling the hurt and committing to moving through it without making up story lines as an escape.

Anything can be handled in that combination of feeling and common sense once the self defeating story lines are edited out.  Paradoxically we grow in self trust through such whole-hearted acceptance of the reality of others.  We learn to trust ourselves more because we let go of the need to trust that others will fulfil our needs in the ways that we demand. 

We can trust ourselves to handle people’s not wanting to be with us as much as we want to be with them without adding any story about them or us.  Self confidence is freedom from the need for a story.

 

In this vein, the practice of mindfulness is something that I have been exploring for the past year or more.  Mindfulness is a stance of open awareness and being ourselves and our feelings, a way of being with life which allows us to explore thoughts, beliefs and reactions to  experiences, both present and past without needing to argue with or push them away.

There is a lovely concept within this process called Calm Abiding which involves sitting with and feeling our way into the present experience of our inner and outer worlds with non judgemental awareness whilst being focused and fully conscious of the story lines that we are running in response to events within these two worlds.

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In my experience it offers a path of freedom from a deep experience of powerlessness and stuckness which I have experienced in response to the difficulties and traumas of my past.  Not getting too stuck in negative story lines I run surrounding events means I am more fully present to what is on a feeling sensate level.  I was amazed the other day to find myself sitting quietly while looking very deeply at an item of clothing and seeing aspects of it that I had not noticed before.

I became very aware that sometimes I am looking but not really seeing what is right in front of me, caught up as I can be in the story in my own head.  Gratefully these days that story is dissolving and I have been lucky enough to experience moments of real clarity such as the other day when I saw an old thing in such a new and vibrant way.   A whole world seemed to open up.  And more than ever within that opening was a place of peace and space, calm and stillness within which there was hidden deep within a most precious jewel:  joy.

That moment in time passed too, as all such moments inevitably do.  But the memory of it stays with me as a time where I felt myself so fully “at home”.  I am sure negative voices will still whisper to me from deep within, but these days I will be in a better position to let them float away on the breeze and answer them back with voices of acceptance and love.