Ever noticed how the word NEED gets a bit of a bad wrap in spiritual circles, under the guise of Non Attachment? I’ve had friends & partners talk to me endlessly about their NEED for freedom and their repulsion to feeling needed. And I’ve struggled to marry that with my intuition that needs are a valuable and essential part of human existence. Oh the great irony of the masculine’s need for FREEDOM (fear of loss of Self) and the feminine’s need for SAFETY (fear of abandonment).
I hold both of these pieces within my self and believe that what true union or love is – is a balance between these 2 seemingly contradictory needs. As someone who has a dominant feminine essence my wounding has been predominantly around fear of abandonment, ie my need for SAFETY. A wounding magnified as a result of loss and trauma experienced when I was young and still developing emotionally and then exacerbated during my healing journey when I decided to join a high control group (aka cult) that did it’s very best to reinforce old beliefs that I must comply in order to stay safe/belong.
Thankfully my stay with the high control group was short lived – turns out I didn’t take too well to being dictated to on how to live my life. But my time with them and the self harm I experienced during this time became a catalyst for massive growth and healing. In my attempt to understand why I would abandon myself so dramatically to be with this group I began working with a therapist and together we uncovered the very young part of me who had developed a belief that if I reached out to have my needs met – no one would be there to reach back.
Through gentle exploration I discovered that over time the pain of having those needs go unmet as a young girl became too great and I decided it was safer to just stop reaching. And in time I just eventually stopped knowing I had needs because I’d gotten so good at doing it all myself, or going without. It however didn’t make those needs go away – it just pushed them further into the unconscious and had me unconsciously attempt to have them met by others.
Recently I did some intensive training around touch and consent with Betty Martin (founder of Wheel of Consent) and over 5 days our group explored the HOWs and WHYs of not asking for what we want. We looked at how humanity ends up in shadow behaviours because we’re not able to ask for what we want.
At a very simple level I see this all relating back to our ability to know our needs, AND our believing that we’re worthy of having our needs met. And it all starts with how grounded we are in our body – can we actually feel what it is that I actually want and need in this moment?
The more present we are with our own experience the more trust comes from know what I’m feeling, and from what I’m feeling I know what I need, and from knowing what I need I can use my voice to ask for what I want and to truly own my YES and my No.
So what’s the difference between Needs vs Needinesss?
NEEDS are a natural & necessary part of our human existence. They are present in everyone, they motivate us to take action when they’re not met and help us to feel content when they are. Needs are necessary to survive and thrive. In Maslow’s theory there is a basic hierarchy of needs – we’re really familiar with what we call ‘basic needs’ but there is a whole plethora of other needs that are normal and natural and a part of our evolution, growth and thriving. Our emotional needs are where we tend to struggle more with knowing our needs and having constructive, responsible ways to having them met.
If we struggle to know what our emotional needs are then the chance of us asking for what we want is pretty low. And still these needs will exist and will attempt to be met, but now they’re unconscious so we may slip into manipulation, projection, coercion.
Rather than taking responsibility and initiative for having your needs met and asking for what you want, have you ever hoped the other person would just know, or tried to convince them that they wanted the very thing you do, or maybe you actually didn’t even know what you wanted so you asked them what they wanted instead. Any of this sound familiar?
Fear of rejection, fear of being judged and not knowing what we want are huge factors in why we don’t just ask for what we want. And the sad part is when we don’t ask and our emotional needs go unmet, there is a sense of deficit or lack and we go about trying to unconsciously fill the void.
And if we don’t even know what it is that we’re trying to have met we become like a hungry ghost, where the needs become endless…enter NEEDINESS.
NEEDINESS comes from a place of lack, a sieve that tends to be empty no matter how much you put into it. Neediness is born from expectations and not leaving room for someone to say no. Neediness is when someone else is unable to voice what they want and instead demands attention in an unconscious attempt to fulfil their needs. Neediness is when I am unable to know my own needs or ask for what I want. Neediness is a contrast to having needs. Neediness often creates a sense of repulsion.
So let’s get a little more clear with the words we’re using – are we talking about NEEDS or NEEDINESS. The more we slow down long enough to identify what we’re feeling the more we’ll come into contact with what we need, and the more honest and transparent we can be in asking for what we want. And in asking for what we want we need to practice being OK with receiving a NO, to stop taking it personally and to realise our world’s don’t end when someone says no. Don’t believe me, give it a shot, it’s an amazing experiment to play with.
In my journey of self discovery and self love the first step of reclaiming my power was to first acknowledge & embrace there was a hungry little ghost/little girl in me who had a lifetime of unmet emotional needs and they were insatiable – because I was so unconscious to their existence.
Slowing down long enough to feel this, see this and viscerally experience the grief in my body of these unmet needs was something I avoided pretty intently. Until I was away on vacation in Bali taking time alone to do some creative writing…when my body realised oh finally we have space to do this…and it all began to unravel, I unravelled. The woman who in the past had travelled the world solo and needed no one felt the weight of all those unmet needs and desperately wanted to come home to be with loved ones.
I came home knowing I didn’t want to be an ‘island’ anymore, I didn’t want to be this aloof woman who practiced non attachment aka who pretended she had everything under control and could do it all herself. I wanted secure functioning relationships in my life and I wanted to offer that same security to others.
Armed with a new found commitment to knowing my needs and reaching out to others meant I now needed to practice asking for what I wanted. I knew it wasn’t graceful, I knew it was clunky, I knew I had absolutely no idea how to ask for the simplest of things. But I thought at least I’m in touch with what my needs are. Hilarious to look back and realise how little I knew at that point, and how scared I was of allowing myself to own my own needs but grateful for the unravelling that has continued over the past couple of years.
It’s a work in progress for me, but one I’m committed to in my own relationships and in offering support and guidance for the women I work with.
If you’ve had your own journey with embracing Needs or growing out of Neediness I’d love to hear from you, comment below or send me a message. Together we learn. Together we grow.
Sometimes I look around this world and a great and ancient sadness moves through me.
Everything is so damn fast here.
I feel like an alien, often.
A slow, mindful, present alien.
I watch people rushing from experience to experience, barely stopping to contemplate the fucking miracle of their existence. Hardly ever taking time to let the wonder in.
Going for days and days without ever telling the truth or feeling their feelings.
Running from themselves. Running towards imaginary futures. So mesmerised by the ‘there’ that they forget the miracle of here. So identified with the ‘doing’ that the most precious thing is lost. Being. Life itself.
Comfortable. Popular. Fabulous and successful, perhaps. On the path towards a better and exciting tomorrow. Yet so afraid to slow down. Afraid to rest deeply. Afraid to stop and invite in whatever lurks in the deep. The repressed terrors. The anxieties.
Loving the light yet afraid to touch the darkness.
Abandoning the cosmic love that was pushed down in order to survive.
Forgetting the natural joy that was squashed so we could become ‘grown ups’.
Neglecting the playful aliveness that had to be numbed in order to ‘fit in’.
And now, content with surface pleasures. Success. Popularity. Looks. Achievements. The things that matter but don’t truly matter in the end.
Satisfied with a limited, conditional version of happiness. The kind you can post on Instagram. The kind that you can buy and sell. The kind that has an opposite.
The kind that looks good.
It’s sad to see our great potential forgotten.
Nothing ‘wrong’ with any of this unconscious activity, of course. I do not sit in judgement. I love our vulnerable humanity, and understand the mechanism of running, and we are all only doing our best, given our conditioning.
I used to run. But I had to break down. For the love I sought could never be found in the future. It was always here, buried in my own Heart, closer than breathing.
I only wish that everyone could truly find the courage to stop. Rest. Break, if they need to. Cry, if they need to. And finally feel the abandonment, the grief, the shame that was unconsciously running the show. Finally stop pretending. Finally sacrifice the addictive surfaces for the living truth – the scary, disorienting, thrilling truth.
There is no shame in the breaking and in breathing through the mess.
To be slow and empathic in a fast world, it is a challenge for sure. To be sensitive in a world that has gone mad with ‘things’. To be a lover in a world that has reduced love to a commodity and a passing feeling. To be awake in a world that tries to numb you.
“So run, my friends, run fast and furious from all false solutions. Let divine passion triumph, and rebirth you in yourself.
For the past week I’ve discovered such a joy in simply saying the word passion outloud – to myself and to others….⠀
P A S S I O N… P A S S I O N … P A S S I O N!⠀
What does this word evoke in you? For me it’s like a fire has been lit in my belly and my heart. And it brings a big fat smile to my face! ⠀
‘With passion pray. With passion make love. With passion eat and drink and dance and play. Why look like a dead fish in this ocean of God?’ ~ Rumi⠀
To me this doesn’t mean I ‘should’ always be smiling but it does mean that when life delivers it’s challenges, when loss and grief knock on my door passion helps me to remember a deeper knowing of who I am. To see every part of life as a gift. To move towards the fire and be grateful for the gifts in every experience. Like a moth to a flame, give me the burning of the heart any day.
P A S S I O N <3
“So run, my friends, run fast and furious from all false solutions. Let divine passion triumph, and rebirth you in yourself.
Passion burns down every branch of exhaustion.
Passion is the supreme alchemical elixir, and renews all things.
No-one can grow exhausted when passion is born,
so don’t sigh heavily, your brows bleak with boredom and cynicism and despair—
look for passion! passion! passion! passion!
Futile solutions deceive the force of passion.
They are banded to extort money through lies.
Marshy and stagnant water is no cure for thirst.
No matter how limpid and delicious it might look,
it will only stop and prevent you from looking for fresh rivers
that could feed and make flourish a hundred gardens,
just as each piece of false gold prevents you
from recognizing real gold and where to find it.
False gold will only cut your feet and bind your wings,
saying “I will remove your difficulties”
when in fact it is only dregs and defeat in the robes of victory.
So run, my friends, run fast and furious from all false solutions.
Let divine passion triumph, and rebirth you in yourself.
Photography by: Lani Noble, Thong Nai Pan Yai Beach, Koh Phanang Thailand, 2015
APOLOGIES TO THE DIVINE FEMININE (from a warrior in transition)
~ by Jeff Brown
I apologize for my inability to distinguish the benevolent warrior from the heartless warrior, a reflection of my own confusion dealing with the battlefields of yore. When I opened my heart too wide, I was vulnerable to attack from warring factions. I was conditioned to believe that I had to stay rigid, focused, prepared for any eventuality, in the desire to protect myself and others from attack. But I went too far, and closed too tight, and eradicated the bridge between our hearts. I am seeing this now and I am sorry.
I apologize for my perpetual absence, a reflection of my own inner absence, my inability to connect from a heart jammed tight by unresolved emotions that I did not have the tools to work through. I still lack many of these tools, but I am open to their emergence.
I apologize for my inability to distinguish relationship from war. Like a warrior in enemy territory, I would sneak in and out of your life in the night, plundering and selfishly taking what I needed, then crawling back to the other side of the abyss with the spoils. I gave little back for fear that I would become vulnerable to attack. I had war on the brain and I could not see the river of love waiting on the other side of the battlefield. I now recognize that love is the antidote for the armoured warrior, but I could not drink the antidote in my driven state.
I apologize for not seeing you, my eyes blinded by congealed rage and unshed tears. If it is any consolation, and I imagine it is not, I could not see myself either. I saw only that which served my hyper-vigilance, my warrior focus. My mirror was a battlefield.
I apologize for my ungrounded materialism, my power driven tyrannies, my obsession with accumulation. Somehow I imagined that accumulation would protect me and those close to me, but I failed to recognize that it just perpetuated the madness. I also apologize for my egoic abuses, a reflection of my own misguided ego, pumped up to deal with an inherently competitive world. I couldn’t distinguish the healthy, confident ego from the cocky, unhealthy ego. I went much too far in the wrong direction.
I apologize for a sexuality that was objectifying and disconnected from the heart. I know you longed for real intimacy, a merging of our souls along the heart-genital highway. But there were too many defences around my heart, and no bridge could form between our souls. There were moments when your loving ways freed me from my body masks, but I had no template to stand in that heart-fire. I am sorry for this, for I know that the path you longed for was the path to God.
I apologize for my horrifying acts of violence, a reflection of my own congealed rage, my own inability to distinguish real enemies from friends. There are no words that can undo what I have done in those moments of madness. I know this, I do. I would hide my face in shame, but that won’t make things better. I need to own my misdeeds, and then find a way to believe in my capacity to move from a more loving place. I call out to other male warriors to be accountable for the actions of our gender, not in a way that is self-hating, but in a way that is courageously self-honest and genuinely compassionate. The heartfelt warrior acknowledges the error of his ways, and has the courage to do all he can to make amends over time.
I apologize for my inability to develop a conscious relationship. You were right there with your beautiful heart on your sleeve but I was too attached to my individualism and afraid of this unknown terrain. I know the forests, the marketplace and the ways of the outer world so well, but my inner geography is foreign to me. You called me to a place I was ill-prepared to go, although I sensed, below the surface of my bravado, that you called me home.
I am grateful for your willingness to believe that who I was in those rare moments of vulnerability was the real me. You were right- the real me lives inside of my heart- but a few moments now and then was the most I could handle. I saw you as dangerous, for in your presence I began to taste a surrendered way of being. Nonetheless, your faith in my goodness kept me going through many a battle, and restored my faith in life when I most needed it. You were the light at the end of a barbaric tunnel, and I am blessed.
I am grateful that you stuck with me through thick and thin, and I also understand those times you had to give up and let go. I now recognize that there is meaningful difference between a love-ship and a relationship. Love alone is not enough. Without a shared willingness to become conscious, there can only be frustration. I was so often impossible, clinging to my unconsciousness like a soldier clings to his weapons. I recognize the courage it took for you to keep your heart open in the presence of my resistance. You had every right to seek an authentic relationship, as your spirit was ignited in its presence. Your beautiful heart had every right to be met in its openness and willingness. I am grateful for the time you gave me, a moments respite from the hiding places I mistakenly called home.
I am grateful for Grandmother, for no one saw my tenderness more clearly. I am grateful for Mother, for choosing to bring me into being and for nourishing my body until I could find my feet. I am grateful for Mother Earth, for grounding my expansion and enlivening my spirit. I am grateful for the Divine Mother, the real Mother of us all. I now feel her divine presence, so close. Fiercely compassionate, she was always right here, breathing life into me, holding me safe. I sit in her lap as she breathes me.
I look forward to the day when the only thing that ignites relationship is two souls calling out to one another, two soul-hearts beating in the same direction, a whisper of longing that bridges one essence to another. I want to want you not because it gratifies my ego, not because you are outwardly beautiful, but because your very presence invites my Godself out of hiding. I want to touch you with my heart on my sleeve, to know chemistry between us that is not gender identified, but that is essence sourced, loves liquid lava flowing from the heart to the genitals to the great beyond. In this love-struck world, relationship will always be experienced as spiritual practice, a devotional expression of our God-self.
I had always believed that sensitivity is impossible to hold to in a harsh world. Yet in this moment, I feel sensitive, but without the fragility. I am still wearing armor but there is a shift in the direction of my intensity. I can linger in the heart-space a little longer than I once could, I am softening in places. After so many lifetimes with weapon in hand, a tenderling warrior is being birthed in the core of my being. He is confused, but he intuitively knows that this is the way home.
Please don’t give up on me or my fellow warriors. Forgive us our misdeeds, or, at the least, be open to the possibility that we will change as the trail expands to meet our shifting intentionality. The day will come when our warrior spirit loses its harsh edge, and comes into alignment with benevolent action. Some of us are already there, and many more of us will follow. The road to transformation is dependent on a bridge between genders, a benevolent bridge that celebrates our differences with respect and kindness. That work must begin with healing the rifts along the gender continuum, working hard to heal the collective heart until one day we can stand on a bridge across forever, hands held together, hearts open and alight, embracing the sacred masculine and divine feminine living at the heart of us all. I will meet you there.
May you feel the love of the Divine Mother crashing down on your heartfelt shores, graciously lifting you up above the madness of the world, nestling you in the grateful arms of those you have nurtured. Those of us who have received your blessings may not always acknowledge it, but your acts of love have landed within us, growing us stronger and infusing us with love’s light. Thank you.
When was the last time you sent your mind out on a little mission to observe all the things you love and appreciate about yourself..this life…this world?
Maybe some days are harder than others to find things to be grateful for…but if we’re open to looking we’re likely to find just one little thing to be grateful for…our breath…our heart beat, our ability to feel, the fact we can get out of bed…a friend, a family member, a bright yellow car, a tree, a hug, a flower, a sunset, a star…or maybe its just the fact that we’re open to being grateful.
When we evoke this energy of gratitude at first we associate with the memory or thought of something – but actually when you let the memory or thought fall away, the energy of gratitude remains – because it’s not actually connected to any one thing.
At a personal level the feeling we observe is the release of dopamine, activating our pleasure or reward centre in the brain. It’s the pleasure sensation that the brain receives when dopamine levels are elevated that motivates us to proactively take action. So simply put, we do something that makes us feel good, we are motivated to repeat this action, so that there is more feel good.
The tricky thing is that when we place our dependence on things outside of ourselves to trigger that reward centre – relying entirely on the outer world to feel good…we forget so much about ourselves and leave ourself open to crazy highs and lows.
But neuroscience is now showing that actually just the act of looking for something to be grateful for…is enough to trigger the neurotransmitters in our reward centre…giving us a little boost of dopamine. And the amazing science of neuroplasticity shows that when we repeat the activation of these neurons…new pathways are formed…effectively changing our brain chemistry. So the more we evoke the energy of gratitude, or look for gratitude – the more we support this change in chemistry – and the more gratitude we observe…and this gratitude has absolutely nothing to do with anything in our outer world.
Reality is I’m no neuroscientist and maybe my rational mind hasn’t fully wrapped it’s head around the scientific part of this all yet…but I know how I feel and I know that when I take 30 seconds to tune in to the energy of gratitude…I feel abundant and it’s as if my entire world shifts with the blink of an eye….and the more often I tune in…the more abundant I feel and the more aware I am of how the universe is conspiring WITH ME every single step of the way.
…sound like woo woo…give it a try and see how you feel…go on I dare you 😉
Today I’m especially grateful for words…and music…and the combination of the two together – amazing lyrics and sacred sounds….brings an instant awareness to the sacred tremor of the Heart.
I’m loving on this beautiful artist right now. Infinite love and gratitude <3
“They say that I should follow my bliss
I don’t know where it’s going, and I don’t know where it is
Would you believe me if I told you there is a ridiculous amount of freedom to be revealed in the acceptance of our emotions? And a scary amount of suffering in the resistance of them! What would you think if I shared with you it’s really OK to not be OK? And that it’s also OK to be OK…what if I were to tell you that both OK and not OK were perfectly OK? What if wherever we’re at, is OK..exactly where we are. OK..or not OK..what exactly does OK mean anyway? And where and when did we start to become so obsessed with one way being the right way?
How often do you get asked are you OK? And even if you’re not feeling ‘good’ you feel the pressure to say yeah I’m OK! Well I’ve been having a bit of a ride lately with the labelling of emotions & experiences as positive or negative. It feels like collectively we’re stuck in the polarity of right & wrong, good & bad…and if you’re experiencing emotions that are not joy and happiness – you’re not OK and that’s probably not OK.
I don’t think it’s a big secret that as a race, the human race, we are obsessed with feeling good, the seeking of pleasure and avoidance of pain..but in the seeking for feeling good, collectively we seem to have embraced a belief that anything that doesn’t fit within our idea of what that little bucket of goodness looks or feels like needs to be suppressed or denied.
While the suppression might initially appear to be a success in the avoidance of pain – it is for sure just a temporary avoidance as whatever we suppress will reappear again and again and again until it is given space to be be seen, felt & heard. More than that we’re definitely not helping ourselves on the path to feeling good by blocking energy or denying the innate intelligence of our human constitution. All we’re successfully doing is creating more separation, making boxes to put ourself in, self imposed prison cells of how we must look and feel in order to be a successful, happy, feel good human being….and we become weighted down by these ideas, closing ourself off to the full potential of being an alive, fully feeling human BEING.
“Label me and you negate me” ~ Søren Kierkegaard
When I first began teaching yoga I was told by a student they were shocked to hear me swear, ‘but you’re so spiritual…how can you swear?’ they said, and it was the first time I realised maybe I had just stepped out of one box (my corporate career) into a brand new ‘spiritual box’ where I was still expected to behave a certain way in order to belong? Triggered massively I launched into a stream of swear words to express my individuality…maybe not the most eloquent, but in the moment it was my authentic response. What I was feeling was
‘Don’t label me and box me into your ideas of what spiritual is, I never asked to be ‘spiritual’, all I asked was to be free to FEEL, and live life from the Heart.’
Really this sweet student just showed me my inner idea of what spiritual ‘should’ look like – so I could make a conscious decision to step out of that box…and into my authentic expression & still today I find myself continuously bringing down the walls of that box. But lately it’s the permission to not be OK I’m journeying with. A few months ago I found myself again feeling really boxed in this time by the belief that the experiencing & expression of so called ‘negative’ emotions such as sadness, anger or confusion means I’m not doing my ‘spiritual job’ well enough, that I’m not OK and even worse than that ….it’s NOT OK to not be OK.
When you think about what the word OK means…it means to say something is acceptable…so when we’re feeling something – and we think it’s not acceptable to feel that something – we’re actually not OK…literally speaking…not OK..because we don’t accept the feeling that is arising and we want it to go away. But what would happen if we accepted the feeling as it arose…would we then be turning our not OK, into an OK?…and maybe just maybe would that feeling feel seen, heard, loved…and no longer need to fight for it’s right to exist…and maybe just maybe could we receive the wisdom of that feeling, rest and enjoy life…and heaven forbid feel good?
Who knows…the mind could entertain itself for lifetimes upon lifetimes with the semantics of the english language and infinite possibilities. What I’m more interested in is looking at this toxic belief that we must always be OK..whatever that might mean?! The consequence of this belief is that many people are struggling with what they’re feeling, or more to the point desperately trying to bury the feelings trying to be felt.
Rather than embracing where we’re at, we’re being told by ourselves or others, that we’re not OK, that we’re depressed and so we’re medicating. We’re medicating either to 1) stop feeling the feelings that are arising…numbing out or 2) to try and stimulate ourselves out of the numbness we previously created to avoid feeling our feelings because when we shut our feelings down we disconnected ourselves…and now we want to feel connected again but don’t know how.
We medicate – to numb or to un-numb – with antidepressants, or alcohol, drugs, sex, social media, relationships, shopping, gambling, food, even sports, yoga, meditation & other spiritual practices can be used as a medication…to disconnect further and further from what’s really moving inside of us. If the opposite of addiction is not sobriety but actually connection as one researcher suggested…how crazy is it that we’re actually doing things to further disconnect ourselves from others and from our Self?
So is it possible instead of medicating we just start to get real with ourselves and each other about what we’re really feeling? I’ve been using the word ‘we’ but I’m not hiding behind the collective on this one. I’m choosing to share my personal experience because the only commitment I want to make is to authenticity…and that doesn’t always look like the perfect ‘spiritual’ package I once imagined it might.
Returning home to Perth earlier this year life didn’t play out quite the way I had planned. Life gave me everything I needed and a whole lot more, but not what I wanted and I struggled many times to feel joyful as I journeyed with a sadness and anger I’d never met before, never had the courage to stand face to face with before and I was overwhelmed by it’s intensity.
Having passed my whole life with this belief it’s NOT OK TO NOT BE OK, I buried my sadness and anger and held on tightly to the belief they burdened and hurt other people and therefore did not belong. I put on the strong independent woman mask instead and threw myself into serving others…and when that wasn’t possible I removed myself from being with people, deeming myself ‘not fit for human interaction’. Are you surprised to hear that neither were very successful in making me feel good..or avoiding my pain?!
Now let me be super frank, this wasn’t the first time I’d met sadness & anger. But over the years I’d become quite skilled at only touching the tip of the iceberg when it came to emotions. Have you ever tried to hold a ball or a balloon full of air under water?…eventually it explodes back out to the surface, unwilling to be suppressed any longer. As my ‘balls’ of emotion would eventually explode out to the surface, I’d have no choice but to acknowledge the feelings…but still desperate to make them go away again I’d acknowledge the feelings only enough for the ball to be small enough to shove back under the water. Until the ball was so full it wouldn’t go back down, and that’s where I found myself…no longer able to contain the grief and anger but unconsciously still trying to figure out what I needed to do to make it go away.
So life in it’s infinite wisdom & mysterious ways threw me all the experiences I needed to help me see I couldn’t suppress these emotions anymore. Each time I felt this overwhelming sadness and anger I found myself sitting before someone who reflected back to me their discomfort with my discomfort and the spoken or unspoken message…it’s NOT OK to not be OK. These loved ones were simply loving me the best they could and thankfully they loved me enough to help me play out my bullshit drama….until I could ignore it no more, and started to see this wasn’t about other people telling me it wasn’t OK to not be OK…it was about ME, TELLING MYSELF it’s not OK to not be OK..a message I carried deep inside my psyche.
I was uncomfortable with my own feelings, afraid of them, terrified if I really felt them and allowed myself to not be OK, they would consume me, and ‘I’ would never come back. Maybe I’d stay in bed and never be able to function in the world again?! Or maybe I’d lash out and the black jaguar inside of me would actually leap out and rip someone to shreds…or worse maybe my emotions (which trigger my behaviour) would stop people from liking me, and I would no longer be welcome in my tribe, in my community.
The truth is the idea of who I thought ‘I’ should be was continuously dying, and this version of the mind made ‘I’ was never coming back. By suppressing the emotions I didn’t make them go away…I just ended up drowning in my own pity party unconsciously pushing away those who I wanted to be closest to. With the emotions unable to be ‘energy-in-motion’, having nowhere to go they just repeated themselves again and again and again and again, begging to be witnessed, begging to be loved.
The pity party wasn’t going anywhere until I allowed myself to rest in the sadness and anger, to feel the weight of the feelings I had been buried under – and this was so different from the pity puddle I’d been wading in for weeks. This meant really allowing myself to sit still with what was arising in me. Really truly sit still. And listen to the wisdom within those feelings…all of these emotions were inviting me to enter a conversation with myself – to hear needs that had not been met and allow love to touch my pain, rather than fear.
“When your fear touches someone’s pain, it becomes pity, when your love touches someone’s pain, it becomes compassion.” ~ Stephen Levine
The absurd part is yes I had to get really quiet so I could allow the emotions to be felt, but they didn’t consume me, I didn’t need to wallow in my sorrow for weeks. The reality is, the more I practiced honouring the feelings as they arose, hearing and honouring their wisdom, the more naturally they moved through me. It turns out it wasn’t the actual feelings overwhelming me but my resistance to feeling them.
In Chinese medicine, there is a school of thought that emotions are a cause of disease. Not that having emotions causes disease, but more so when emotions are out of balance, and imbalances arise when we don’t allow the expression of energy (and emotions are energy) in the moment they arise. What begins as a pure feeling of life (energy) wanting to be expressed through you, unexpressed becomes a weighted toxic charge, an accumulation of feelings, energy in motion that has not been expressed freely. This energy becomes trapped within the body giving us physical symptoms of something that needs our loving attention.
The step into this loving attention, and the move away from resistance came for me in discerning the difference between honouring and creating a safe space for my feelings to be felt and expressed AND drowning in my own pity puddle. If I stopped needing to be ‘ good’ all the time, if I allowed whatever was arising in the moment to be present, then there was actually no puddle to drown in… the emotions really could become energy in motion – their wisdom & insights could be revealed, no longer suppressed, no longer being judged, no longer being expected to be anything other than what they were in that moment.
I also needed a little help from family and friends – I needed to ask for help and I needed to really let people into my life, so that they could do what they do best..love me. But to do that I needed to allow myself to be vulnerable, to be real, to be open and express what I had been perceiving as a weakness – my emotions. I resisted this step for a long time because I didn’t want anyone’s pity, which is what I felt I received when I expressed my full range of sadness and anger. What I wanted was their love and support, their compassion, I wanted to know that all the pieces of me were loveable and welcome and that they wouldn’t leave me just because I wasn’t overflowing with magic and joy.
The irony was I couldn’t allow myself to feel that love from my loved ones, until I made space for the emotions in my self – until I was able to give myself permission to not feel ‘good’ for a moment and let that be OK. To allow myself to not be OK…and in that allowing, in the acceptance of life exactly as it was in that moment I was OK…
Sometimes we don’t feel ‘good’, sometimes there are feelings we don’t know what to do with, sometimes they overwhelm us and we can’t participate in life the way we normally would, AND THIS IS OK! Like everything in this manifested world this is temporary and it too shall pass…it’s only our resistance to what is arising that causes suffering.
If we can be present with life it has a message for us. It’s calling us back to ourselves, to be all of ourselves, to embrace all the pieces of our Self…including these feelings of sadness, grief, anger. They’re all an invitation to enter a conversation in the present moment, to let go of our previous ideas of who we thought we should be and start to rest in the truth of who we are alive and present right Now.
Practices like mindfulness, meditation, yoga, exercise, nutrition – all of these things become super important tools to help drop the mind down into the heart, to not get lost in the illusion of the pity puddle and monkey mind that believes every thought and feeling is real, but they were never intended to be used as a means of suppressing our feelings, spiritual bypassing only perpetuates the cycle of disconnection.
I’m sharing this because I know so many people who feel they are struggling with anxiety and depression – and I can tell you that those of us on the ‘spiritual path’ – including me have not been immune. It’s sometimes really tricky to distinguish between depression…and the many dark nights of the soul that we might encounter on the path.
But I like to embrace the idea of depression that Jeff Foster puts forth – as a feeling of life pressing down on me, that I am being de-pressed, by the ideas I had of who I should be or what I should be doing. As I shifted my perception to this I started to see depression as an invitation to come into a space of deep-rest, to rest deeply in whatever is moving in this moment, and a space of deep acceptance of all the pieces of me.
The truth is, as important as tribe and community are, we will walk much of this path alone, so we need to take the time to really get to know ourselves – to know who we are beyond all of these ideas of good and bad. How can we expect to really connect authentically with our tribe if we can not even be authentic with ourselves?
There is no red pill, to magically pull us out of the illusion…there is only Love…and that love equates to deep rest and acceptance. So next time you’re feeling something see if you can allow yourself to really go into that feeling, feel it all the way down into the very core of your being…and then feel it some more. Feel what happens and listen…really listen to the wisdom of the Heart waiting to be shared with you. And if you still have a little voice (your’s or another’s) telling you it’s not OK to feel what you’re feeling…see if you can offer up some love to the part of yourself that tells you it’s not OK to feel that way…or if that still doesn’t feel do-able.. love that part of you that can’t love the part of you that tells you it’s not OK to feel that way…and remember we are all in this together in this divine dance of life.