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“That which we do not bring to consciousness appears in our lives as fate.” – Carl Jung
Hello Shadow, it’s me. I have met you before but we never really connected. Though most of the time I have lacked the awareness to recognize you. I must confess. I am pretty tired of you sneaking into my life uninvited.
I am ready to play this out with you.
I have traveled far and wide and shed many layers. This last instar is going to be uncomfortable. But I can take it. Go ahead. Bring it on. We are going to go through this together. I am ready to earn my butterfly wings and set flight.
As I have been exploring more and more the dark side of my mental moon. I came across an interesting take on the story of Persephone as explained by the author of “The Existential Kink” Carolyn Elliot. She proposes the idea that Persephone, wanting to explore her duality and humanness decided, unconsciously. To create a reality where she could explore these desires. The story of her origin as queen of the underworld is a bit more complex. But it is not the first time I’ve read about this theory. Author and activist Rebecca Solnit also described Persephone’s journey as one of discovery and experimentation with the dark side of herself. Huh? Interesting… I feel this is one of those moments the universe is giggling over in the corner. Enjoying my realization at the synchronicity of it all.
So here I am. Eating the delicious pomegranate seeds (metaphorically, of course) that will transport me and my shadow to the dark, weird and dare I say existentially kinky underworld of the subconscious. Don’t worry, I’ll explain why below.
For the past nine months I have dabbled in everything from positive, manifestation practice. Wholeheartedness living to positive psychology. Yes, I know. I sound like a self-help junkie. And now “The Existential Kink” practice has shown up in my life. All of these ways of understanding myself, THE self. Have become a magical chest of pure pleasure and pain I can access at any point in time. The EK method though, has obligated me to dive deep into the motivations and repressions that eventually show themselves in patterns of behavior. Patterns, I have been trying to change for a very long time! With the EK techniques you do deepest fear inventories (among other exercises) everyday. Tear them up and release them. This has been one of my favorite tasks. Like I have mentioned in other blog posts. CATHARSIS feels amazing to me. Accepting, enjoying and laughing at how silly my shadow likes to be in order to get its way.
It has helped me open up even more about the not so nice things that have happened in my life. In what feels like a more organic way of releasing, fear, pain and mental blocks. Thinking good feeling thoughts is not bad. But they are a bit fleeting and sometimes unreliable.You can think great positive feelings. Thoughts your ego will enjoy. But your shadow, a.k.a your subconscious will enjoy tearing them down even more. I will still practice positive thinking only with a stronger dose of realism. The EK technique has given me the opportunity to explore ALL parts of myself. Including the most important to me and the one I have kept hidden the longest. My green witchy side. I have been enjoying my magical, herbal medicine, kitchen spells, crystals and nature loving self for some time now. Only I’ve been shy about it. Almost ashamed of it. For fear of being judged. Not anymore. With all that is happening in the world? FUCK IT ALL!! I am going to be the healer, teacher, traveler I was meant to be. Consider this not only, a review of all the self help methods I have used to feel a little bit more whole. But also my coming out of the witchy broom closet confession.
Aiming to understand your shadow is not easy work. And I expect more days like today. As I was completing the deepest fear exercise I broke down in a deep primal sob that felt so good I couldn’t even believe it myself. Letting go. Then I continued watching Kittisaurus videos on youtube feeling lighter and more refreshed. I know it’s a long road ahead but my shadow feels somewhat brighter.
I hope you will try this for yourself. See how it goes. I’ll leave you with a quote from “The Existential Kink” book I think perhaps explains it better.
“Landing fully, right here, right now, in incarnation, opens up the horizon of what philosopher Jacques Derrida called “the absolute future,” the future unconditioned by past patterns. It is through the absolute future that magic comes in. Turn off the spotlight. Turn on the luminous dark. Open to the absolute future.”
Sitting by my window during the April 8th full moon traversing through the sign of Libra. An inspired thought came to mind. The image of the mysterious lady holding up the scales in the heavens. Balance, justice. As if the stars were also asking, how will I react to this moment in time. On the one side of the scale (as I interpret it for myself). Libra holds anxiety, fear and panic. On the other, equanimity, love and patience. Like a pendulum in full swing I have been flapping around from one side to another trying to find balance. I was going to use the word “oscillating” instead of flapping because it sounded a little bit more graceful. But let’s face it, my brain is a fucking mess. I am flapping around like a bird with no sense of direction. Hoping to find some understanding and clarity regarding mine and our uncertain future. Desperately trying to relocate the flight path I was on a couple of months ago. All of the meditation I have practiced up until this moment has felt a bit useless. It has been very hard for my mind to remain still and calm.
Then I remembered a passage from one of my favorite books “A Field Guide to Getting Lost” by Rebecca Solnit. In where she talks about Justice and how she stood by the gates of Hades deciding who would go in. Wait, you mean that I can be chosen to go through hell? Yes. She wrote :“You can only be chosen for refinement through suffering, adventure and transformation…. Go to hell, but keep moving once you get there, come out the other side.” She added, “Justice is helping each other on the journey.” We all have been chosen to go through this moment of refinement and transformation. How will we get to the other side? How will we end up transforming ourselves? Will we take this opportunity to re think the way we live and treat the Earth? This all remains to be experienced and seen. I stand in front of Hades’ gates waiting for my turn. I attempt to prepare myself with curiosity, acceptance and hope. Trying to find moments in the day where I can see the way forwards. Breathing slowly and deeply. Or just sobbing uncontrollably, that’s ok too. If I keep swinging from side to side between anxiety and equanimity. So be it. But I am sure as hell gonna keep trying to reach the other side. Something tells me it will all be worth it in the end.
Today is April 23rd a new moon in Taurus after Earth Day. Embodiment, roots, connection and regeneration are some words that filter through my mind. The ban to walk in the forest has been lifted. I rush out to play through the enchanted forest hoping for some inspiration, motivation and fresh air. Thinking about my new intentions for this new lunar cycle. Embodying patience. Rooting myself in the connection I have with friends. Regenerating mental and physical strength. May it be so. As it is above so below.
P.S. Dear incredible special man friend, who has been there for me. When I have been unable to see clearly and have succumbed to the harshness of being quarantined by myself. Danke very much! Thank you for listening and making me laugh over the phone. I hope to repay you someday soon with an endless amounts of Nutella and hugs.
P.P.S. To every person helping us with keeping the shops open, transportation going and hospitals running. May the universe shower you with the energy of a thousand suns. I (we) will always be eternally grateful for your service.
I am not afraid anymore were the words I heard during meditation two days ago. Huh? What have I been afraid of? Given the situation I was meditating on. It all clicked together as if I was placing down the last piece of a big puzzle I’ve been trying to solve. An entire repertoire of mistakes, denials, fears and attachments became clearer. I wonder? Why don’t I just do magic mushrooms at least once? Get a full download of all this subconscious bullshit that blocks my inner peace. I guess that would take the joy out of experiencing A-HA moments like this from time to time (sigh). After the meditation I felt this rush of lightness, forgiveness and understanding. It felt really good to finally be able to say to myself, “I am no longer afraid to forgive you”. Forgiving myself first, for all those times I’ve been irresponsible towards others and towards my physical and mental body. Forgiving the people who hurt me. Being able to see that afraid little girl inside me still thinking she’s not good enough and tell her: “You are enough, you are loved, forgive them.” Letting go of a little bit more of the past (For reals this time!) and moving along the path of living a full wholehearted life.
In solitude I have found the journey to wholeheartedness quite enjoyable. Though I talk to myself aloud. A LOT. That’s normal, right? I ask questions and wait for my intuition to guide me towards the answers. Am I really happy here? Am I afraid of being completely vulnerable again? Should I say yes to that date? Do I really live by the philosophies I study and often talk about? Am I living my truth? What is my truth? See. This is why you need magic hallucinogens. Regardless, it has been a very interesting and eye opening experience. Things that would heavily trigger me before, now surface but with less intensity. I can recognize the triggers faster and I am able to soothe myself quicker with a breathing technique I have learned. Interrupting the mind and diverting my thinking towards a good feeling thought instead. For example: Feelings of unworthiness show up. Deep Breath…think of blue butterflies. Deep Breath…snoring hummingbirds (really, it’s a thing: https://youtu.be/_uEfmQt34Nc ). Deep Breath… handsome, tall, German man. Oh, whoopsie. Wrong mantra. I couple this breathing exercise with forgiving myself for the negative thought. We all have our wobbly moments, it’s natural. The ego becomes afraid you won’t have any use for his shenanigans anymore. He has to come and trip you over so you fall and get hurt.
I have to make one thing clear though. The point is not to go from negative to 100% positive. It doesn’t work that way. Think of it as going up the stairs. Every step you take is less negative than the previous one. Once at the top you’ll feel a little bit better. We have to be realistic. There is no fucking way we can remain positive all the goddamn time. Some days are better than others. Though the breathing technique is more of an Abraham Hicks exercise. This way of introspection would be; according to Brené Brown’s 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living, Guide post # 8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness and Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle. Utilizing the breath as a tool to acknowledge the anxiety and the patterns that lead us there.
The second component I have been simultaneously working on, is Guidepost # 2: Cultivating Self-Compassion and Letting Go of Perfectionism. Practicing self compassion allows me to go a bit deeper into my past. Exploring the misconceptions I have held about myself for a long time. Some part of me has always secretly thought I wasn’t good enough to deserve…(fill in the blanks). That I was imperfect or damaged in some way. Who do I think I am traveling the world, when my parents are still struggling? Who do I think I am not having a full time job and children? Isn’t that what I am supposed to be doing? I have to credit Oprah for helping me understand how I can switch this narrative. Discussing her “who do you think you are” shame trigger. She said in an interview with Brené Brown: “Now I work at being full. I want to be so full I am overflowing. So when you see me coming. It ought to make you proud….And what you see is a woman so full. I’m overflowing with enough to share with everybody.” (MIND BLOWN)
The road towards a wholehearted life is never ending. It is lifetime commitment I am making to seeking my truth with every fiber of my being. Allowing myself to feel full, worthy, loved, important to someone, important to me. Not afraid of forgiving and letting go. Not afraid of the shadows. Not afraid of moving forward. The lyrics to one of my favorite songs (Crystals by Monsters and Men) comes to mind. “But I’m ok. In see-through skin. I forgive what is within. Because I’m in this house. I’m in this home. All my time.” Time. I will try to make the most of it. As I walk up to open the doors and take the stairs to the English school I now work at. I noticed the sign for the school: “Progress”. Yes. Progress, Universe. Thank you.
Brené Brown’s 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living (An Actionable Guide): https://mindfulambition.net/wholehearted-living/
Full Interview: Living Brave with Brené Brown and Oprah Winfrey
My Short (Cathartic) Playlist:
There I was, standing in front of a house supported by chicken legs and surrounded with human skulls with bright fiery eyes lighting up the night. Was it a dream? An old woman slowly creeps out of the door. They call her Baba Yaga. A deformed powerful woman with origins in Slavic folklore and fairy tales. A woman so terrifying and foul no one would dare go near her. She’s known to be ruthless and to eat unruly lost children. She can also be kind, wise and help you if you are seeking the truth. On the condition you complete the incredibly difficult tasks she gives you. She is also representative of the Earth and it’s cycles. She can destroy and create. Be good or bad.
She is born from the rhythm of germinating crops in the spring and then later, the withering harvests preparing for the darkness of winter. It is quite serendipitous that I find myself drawn to this myth once more as I am also exploring the wildness of women in folk tales through the Slavic and Germanic songs and tales. The women who ran with the wolves. Healers, witches, shapeshifters. Magical natural women and how I am influenced and guided by them. I was exposed to women like this when I was a small child. Curanderas, they call them back home on the island of Puerto Rico. I have long been fascinated by these archetypal healers. Their teachings. A part of me has always felt a calling to pursue a path similar to the one these women decided to give themselves to. Though only allowing myself to dip my toes in this notion of wild, natural, freedom. Refusing for some reason or another to immerse myself in their undomesticated ways. I am reminded of one example. Maybe a decade ago. When I was beginning to explore yoga and practicing daily at Yoga to the people NY in the East Village.Trying to find answers as to what the fuck to do with my life. Of course, leave it to the universe to provide you with clues. The teacher grabbed a book and as we were laying down in the last posture, Shavasana. She said: “And now a quote by Isadora Duncan: (the mother of modern dance and all around bad ass female, she didn’t say this. But you should look her up) You were once wild here. Don’t let them tame you.” I began to cry as quietly as possible. I remember that moment as if it were yesterday. Yet, I refused it’s bidding. I continued to live a life of a different kind of wildness. One not controlled by my true inner healer, witch, wise woman. But by my shadows. What are our shadows? How do we recognize them? And how can we co-exist with these character traits we all have suppressed deep inside?
On the third stage of this metamorphosis I wanted to explore this dark outline of the subconscious and my true feminine wildness a bit more. Curious as to what Baba Yaga would task me with in order for me to find the truth.
Our shadows as we call them. Is a term Carl Jung came up with, to describe those aspects of us we keep hidden. Our dark side if you will. It is important that we recognize these shadows in order to truly live a balanced fulfilled life. I omitted happiness from this statement because being only happily fulfilled, in my opinion is not realistic. We have to live in balance with happiness and sadness. Hello, shadow one. I sometimes default to unicorns and rainbows, suppressing the sadness. Thinking that this will help the one who is discouraged, instead of just connecting with and accepting their (mine) state of being. I am still working on this as a highly sensitive em-path. Sometimes I think that by allowing myself to deeply connect with their struggles and mine. I will mistakenly absorb the negativity and be consumed by it. I sit and think about what this shadow really means to me. Very soon, in comes Baba Yaga saying with a low growl “go on and separate all the poppy seeds from that mound of dirt. You foolish woman.” Schize. Fine!
After completing the metaphorical task I was assigned to, I continue with my journey. This time to the small seaside town of Gdansk. The close proximity to the water helps me flow in thought. I visited the archaeological museum in order to take a closer look at the women who lived in this area thousands of years ago. I asked them. How did you connect with your wild, instinctual, feminine side? Of course I get no verbal answer because they are mannequins. I think I know what they would say. “Listen to your shadows. Remember that the wolf you feed is the one who wins.” Baba Yaga agrees. Shadow work is a very interesting process. A never ending one, I think. An inquisitive journey you have to take your time with. I am in no hurry. As I keep working on transforming my physical body. My emotional, mental and psychic body have come along too. Looking back at all of the (sometimes hard) lessons I’ve had this past year. The time has come to fully embrace my wildness. I choose to feed my wolf mother. The caring, inquisitive, connected to the cycles of nature side of me I have rarely explored. I am more free and focused than ever before. I feel a palpable excitement about learning more. To use what I learn to keep traveling the world and sharing these lessons with others. Not only personal lessons. Also, lessons about how to work together with our Mother Earth and our oceans to help protect and revitalize them. It is not an easy commitment to make but I would feel very disappointed in myself if I didn’t try. The money hungry patriarchy is destroying our planet. I believe the key to balancing this struggle is going back to our natural selves. Understanding what our ancestors knew. Ancestors that were not afraid of the shadows wherein lied the chaos of transformation. Both their own as well as that of their surroundings. A cyclical disorder, balanced by respecting the Earth. And other natural environments that renewed themselves, without any regards towards who was in their path of destruction and revivification.
Can this be applied to working with our shadows? The subconscious has absolutely no interest in whether we understand it or not. We have to study it. Understand it’s cycles, it’s patterns. To then be able to sit quietly within the confusion and balance everything out. Could we look at climate change as a chaotic shadow needing balance? Could we reinstate the natural balance between humans and Earth which existed thousands of years ago? Instead of only thinking of sustainability and technological adaptation to this massive crisis. I sure hope so.
If you ever run into Baba Yaga, say hello for me.
Now. Which of your wolves will you feed?
What is my life’s purpose? This question surfaced again after some time. You know those moments. When you are sitting, reflecting. Looking at the flame of a candle in deep thought. Then the flame flickers and you hear the questions. Or in this case a question. Do you have those magical instances too? Or do I sound like a crazy witch? It could very well be the latter..
What was I put on this world to do? For several years I have intertwined passions with a partially clear vision on what my main purpose is. Trying out different things. A true multipotentialite, a term used by author and artist, Emilie Wapnick (I highly recommend her TEDTalk. You can find the link below). Being a multipotentialite means embracing your plurality. And I have, but with one key component flowing in and out. My dharma, if you will. Dharma is our duty as individuals. The basic principle of our existence. Sometimes I felt like I had it, then it withered away. This was followed by a period of doubt, layered with overthinking and anxiety. This time, the question came to me in a different form. Instead of asking what is my purpose here? I asked myself. What if I do everything I want to do but with purpose? I often thought I should only do one thing. And some people do have one passion and that’s great. But I am different. I would not be honoring my true self if I said I only had one passion in life. Suddenly, it all made sense. I can work on the many passions I have, so long as I do it with and on purpose. If I add purpose to what I believe my dharma to be, which is to teach. The equation is complete. Regardless of the medium. Yoga, English, acting. All I had to do was re-frame the question to see the answer. Fuck, gotta love grammar.
Walking around in the beautiful and extremely crowded city of Munich during peak Christmas shopping traffic. I felt a deep sense of relief that what I have been longing for is within reach. All I have to do is change my perspective and finally accept what I really should be doing. Working on my true passions with the love and attention they deserve. Very similar to switching my perspective from feeling overwhelmed by so many people. To just looking up at the beautifully lit, giant Christmas tree in the center of the square. I laughed. Touche, universe. Touche. Now, some will say that you can’t work on different things at the same time. I disagree. Anything is possible if you have direction and intention. And where do my values come in? Are they separate from my passions?
In my opinion purpose should not only be applied to what I have been referring to as our gifts and dharma but also to the values we hold dear. Doing what you think you came here to do and aligning that with your beliefs, gives you freedom. It allows you to finally be who you are. Not what others think you should be. For me whether it is adjusting to a healthier lifestyle, helping the environment, being closer to nature or helping others. It has to have the same intention with which I work to fulfill my life’s passions. Otherwise they are not values. Just opinions that hold no weight. And I have been lazy for some time. Using the excuse, oh it’s harder when you’re traveling or I don’t have the means to do what I have to do. That is in the past. Today I am different. I feel that I am slowly growing into the person I’ve always longed to be. The metamorphosis continues. What will my butterfly wings look like when I emerge from the chrysalis? I sure hope they glitter! I think I would be a butterfly unicorn fairy. Too much? Maybe. I’ll settle for shiny rainbow glitter wings.
Here’s a short guide I used on what to do with your gifts and how to find your dharma. I extracted this from one of my favorite books: The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling by Stephen Cope.
- Trust in the gift or gifts: You can have many gifts! Not just one. And if you think you only have one. That is great too. We ALL have different things to bring forth in this world.
- Think of the small as large: Small actions you take become a collection of steps that will help you get closer to your purpose.
- Listen for the call of the times: How can you use your gift or gifts today, tomorrow?
Once you have declared your gift(s):
- Look to your dharma: Look to your own duty
- Do it full out: Do it with EVERY fiber of your being
- Let go of the fruit: Release your attachment to it
- Turn it over to the universe: Dedicate all actions to the force of love within you.
Some extra resources:
What does being happy with my body mean for me? Am I truly happy with myself? Or, is confidence a shield I am depending on. An excuse not to commit to getting in the best shape I have ever been in my life. If I am completely honest, I think it is definitely more of the latter. Sometimes confidence overshadows my potentiality and desire to cross the line from comfortable to hard earned physical endurance. This past year’s experiences have led me to take a good hard look at the beliefs I have of myself, how I relate to others, how I’ve been living my life. All of this has informed who and where I am today. Certain recent events have made me realize that complacency is an all too easy setting for me to fall back to. One thing I kept noticing is my inability to commit to some things fully. Yes, I have taken many risks and moved a lot trying to find my way. And I will keep moving. I now understand that. I accept the challenge. Being of a nomadic character takes a certain amount of commitment. Will I stay in one place? Who knows. I embrace (and quite enjoy) the unknown.
What I am referring to, is to truly dedicating my full attention and time to reshaping my body to its absolute best state. Shedding the chrysalis. The cocoon of the image I have of myself as the chubby one, always with a little something extra. I believe there is nothing wrong with that. If you love yourself the way you are, keep doing that! For me it is a different challenge. This image and feeling has always been there in the shadows. Creeping in at times when I least expect it. More so when I am feeling the most vulnerable and open. It stops me in my tracks and prevents the true sensuous, inspired, spirited being I am from expressing itself. Though today I can say, after some years of therapy and personal work that I truly love who I am; looking back now, I feel I should not have been that pleased with myself. I dare say, I lost myself in the comfort of it all. I was not doing my best to take care of my mind and body.
Walking through the enchanted forest behind my apartment. I start thinking how Poland seems the oddest place to attempt a transformation such as this. But if not now, when? I’ve already seen my life and that of others flash before my eyes. This is what inspired the journey I began in August of 2018. So why waste more time? It’s quite funny that I say this, because for a whole year I would jokingly tell the friend I was traveling on and off with: “I’ll start my diet tomorrow”. (If he knew, I can imagine he would laugh too!) Well, tomorrow is here. The goal? To reach my dream weight and get my physical and mental body to its absolute best condition. Finally releasing my self. Shedding every pound of weight that binds me to a past that no longer serves me. Embracing the wildness and fire that has always guided me. I am an Aries after all. Taking a moment to really think about what I want my life to include from now on. Surfing trips (beginner, of course), yoga, living vegan/low waste, closer to nature, a role on Netflix’s The Witcher and doing theatre across Europe. It’s time to finally step up and show up to the plate and batter the fuck up! Have my body meet up with the lifestyle I want to have for the rest of my adult life. I mean, I will still eat and enjoy cookies, chocolate and ice cream. Just maybe not in an eating my feelings kinda way.
During the first week, counting calories sucked major D. For a second there the rebel in me whispered. Pfff, you can’t tell me what to do. I know how to eat well. Do I really, though? I’ve actually been paying more attention to how I am feeling when I am eating. And though I am back to a vegetarian, mostly vegan diet. Over eating can still be a problem, feelings can become unnecessary cravings. Counting calories has made me realize that. As far as an exercise regimen goes. (Sigh) After 15-20 minutes strength and abs workouts. It is good to know that small efforts are better for me than big compulsive ones. Small steps towards the joyful, fitter life I now have on my path . The plan, run and workout a little in the morning. Followed by a short strength workout at home after work. I am very happy to be on this journey and the friend who inspired it would be proud!
On week three I decided to test something different. For my runs I’m guiding myself by the time not the distance. It feels better to do it this way (I reached a personal best in distance and pace). My pace keeps getting better each time. I’ve also decided to use some motivational “fuck yeah, you can do this” internal monologues to keep the tiredness at bay (Thank you #NovemberProjectLAX for always being with me in spirit!). Which was a big hurdle, I had to overcome on week two. You can catch me giving high fives to the trees on the trails like a flying fairy now. I have never in my life thought of myself as a person with a mini pack on my abs but I have to say, the work is paying off. Though I end up like an exhausted star fish on the floor afterwards. I sometimes wonder how this would have affected me had I made the effort to get fit sooner while traveling in Mexico and Central America.
This is just the beginning of a complete metamorphosis. INSTAR number one. Instar is the development stages insects such as butterflies go through. There are five stages in total. Each stage shedding an old shell of what the original caterpillar used to be. The beginning stage of a transformation I have held back for a long time. I am excited to see where it goes. It is hard sometimes because the progress goes back and forth. The old belief of: “Oh, it’s ok if you don’t this. Stay comfortable” tries to take control. I shake it off. Keeping the end goal in sight is the most important. Turning off the comfort setting and turning the dial all the way up on trusting myself to do this. Growing into something new. Taking advantage of this unique opportunity to follow my own path, leading me to instar number two.
One of the biggest struggles I’ve had on this journey to mental health has been my constant battle with the limiting loud voices and negative stories sometimes swirling in my head, that I consider to be the ego. As a yoga teacher you hear a lot of instructors or even spiritual guides say, let go of the ego. Quiet your mind, free it. Allow your true self to guide you. (Sigh) True Self? Fuck! Between true self, sense of self, self love, ego, conscious mind, self esteem. How many fucking selves can there be?! I always get confused. Don’t we need the ego to create a base for the self? Can I remove the ego? Just like that. And how do I manage all the selves while trying to figure out my feelings regarding the quasi relationship I was in, on and off for a year?
Well, that answer came crashing through in what I can refer to (thanks to Brenee Brown, author and teacher on shame and vulnerability) as a full on, category 5 shame shit storm. The storm started brewing in Berlin where I met my friend for a weekend rendezvous. The moment we said hello, the story in my head began. Oh, oh. I was feeling more than I was supposed to and it wasn’t reciprocated. It’s ok, I told myself. I’m just having fun. To be fair I already knew. Even before meeting up, that I was possibly setting myself up for another fall. But I made the decision to put myself out there anyways. I’m done with living scared of failure. Fuck. It. All!
That evening I was expecting a wild, sensuous night with plenty of crazy (s)excitement. Nope. I froze. I wasn’t able to express myself fully for fear of showing too much. The limiting voice in my head whispered, he doesn’t feel the same way. He may think you are some kind of sex fiend and it’s not worth it. This was the same story that played in my head almost every night during the time we were together. Waiting for him to take the lead. (Whoopsie. I guess we both messed up in that department). I am still working on speaking up for myself when it comes to sexual pleasure. It is the biggest obstacle for me on the road to complete vulnerability. At this stage the storm was about a category 2. My brain was overthinking almost everything but still from a place of love for myself and my friend. The next afternoon, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. The howling winds in my mind got a bit stronger. I could feel the storm gaining strength. By the end of the following week, I felt confused and my brain needed an answer. The response he gave me was vague so I wrote him an email to close another chapter in our story. I received his reply, a couple of hours later. That’s when it hit.
It was here. The raging, category 5 shame shit storm. He was completely honest about how he felt. I was expecting some of it. But other things took me completely by surprise and I could feel what I thought was a friendship based on trust, slowly fading into the eye of the storm. I started thinking: “ Weren’t we at least friends? I wasn’t attractive enough. Why didn’t I speak up? How did I miss all these things he wrote about!? I knew I should’ve just disappeared and left him behind first. Why did I allow myself to feel so much love!?” My chest was contracting. I could physically feel the shame, the sadness, the love, the regret. All. At. Once. This is where my Jedi training came in. First, I allowed myself the space to feel everything for a full 24 hours. Every time the feeling of sadness came up, I kept repeating the phrase: Breathe, Love, Expand. I reminded myself, I am love and are loved. Unconditional love has no limits. And I love myself and him unconditionally no matter what.
Then the A-HA moment happened. Who was feeling all of this shame? All of this fear and sadness? Was it my ego or my real self? What is the difference? I started digging in and I found two very helpful answers. One by psychotherapist, Marc Epstein. And the other by English psychotherapist and child psychologist, Donald Winnicot. (This is merely my understanding of these two short explanations. I am sure there is a lot more that I need to explore and learn about.) Marc Epstein explained that we develop the ego to identify we are real. Later on the ego gets hold of the type of conditioning we had and keeps repeating itself to reinforce its own vision. Ah! So the negative voices I keep repeating to myself are the ego.
Do I need to get rid of the ego to finally free myself? Not necessarily. I think the ego serves us to identify what is not authentic within ourselves. We just have to pay close attention and control the ego’s need for validation. It’s not easy. What about the real/true self? Donald Winnicot came up with the theory that if we were not allowed to be truly ourselves when we were children, then the true self is never fully explored or developed. And the false self we need to survive in this society will always impede our quest for true happiness and love. Got it. My conditioning was, well not so good. And my true self was never allowed to fully express itself. Therefore the ego and the false self have been in control for most of my life. The result. A shit show I call my twenties with some remainder of that still hindering me today.
Now I understood. It became so much clearer. Maybe the ego will always be there. And because today, as opposed to 10 years ago. I have a better sense of who the actual me is. I understand that when people hurt and direct not so good comments towards me, it has absolutely nothing to do with the real me. The pure love and empathetic, original me. The category 5 shame shit storm was just temporary. I successfully navigated myself out of it through the understanding that, love is really all there is. I don’t want to live small anymore. I loved big and will continue to love big. Shame, ego and the false self will always present themselves to try and knock me down. And sometimes I will fall down (hard!). One day though, like any good Jedi. I will master the force in such a way that the negative thoughts will be but a mere memory of the young padawan I used to be.
PS To my gentle voyager friend. May the force be with you, always. Remember that you are not alone. I am and always will be your friend. No conditions required.
PPS I’ve included some of the resources I used below. I hope they are helpful to anyone who needs a nudge towards a path for better mental health.
Why Your Self-Image Might Be Wrong: Ego, Buddhism, and Freud | Mark Epstein: https://youtu.be/NCBiEkHSy5k
The True and the False Self: https://youtu.be/A02Ucd6monY
Brenee Brown, a call to courage: https://www.netflix.com/title/81010166
On May of 2018 I was unexpectedly let go of my job. With plans to quit in September of that year, the new found freedom felt very much like a sign. Or more like a push unto the path I was actually meant to be taking. The first few weeks were strangely soothing. I no longer had to show up at a toxic environment ruled by narcissism and unapologetic hypocrisy. That in itself felt as though I had won a lifetime supply of Häagen-Dazs (which I didn’t, but man that would be amazing!). I had a blank canvas and could paint my life anyway I wanted to from now on.
First, I needed to come up with a new career path. Yoga had been an incredible healing tool (physically and mentally) through some very rough times. So I chose to share what yoga has taught me with others and finally decided to become a teacher and possibly travel the world while teaching. Looking up retreats, the one I found in Greece called out to me. That’s where the movie Mama Mia is based, so the decision was easy. I completed my month long training and returned home to LA. Still, with no clear idea of what to do next. To earn some extra money I rented my apartment on Airbnb. The tricky thing was, where would I stay? I had one of my best friend’s wedding coming up I had to find a way to stay in LA. Gladly I figured that out. But after the wedding, what? What came next changed my life forever.
On October 1st, I boarded a plane to Hawaii to volunteer at an Orchid Farm for two and a half weeks. All the while not knowing what I would do after my work at the farm ended. “Flying by the seat of my pants” (as my good friend Erica calls it). I landed in the big island of Hawaii, where I met some great people. Giving myself the freedom to say yes to adventure. Diving into the unknown, trusting everything would work itself out. It’s wasn’t an easy thing to do. We are taught to have a five, ten, year plan. Expected to fall in line with the rest of the world’s (patriarchal) timetable: college, job, husband, children, retirement.
It’s ok to want those things in that order. It is also ok to not. I still may or may not want some of those things, but I’ll decide that on my schedule. Choosing your own path is less accepted sometimes. Looking back at the last year of trying my best to trust the unclear and uncertain road, I wish I had done it earlier in my life. But I would have missed out on great friendships and loves I carry with me moving forward through more of this terra incognita.
The island of Hawaii helped me understand some very important things; to be myself no matter what, to let go of the fear of being vulnerable. If it rains, ok. If it’s sunny, ok. Enjoy every second with those around you regardless of the conditions.
Never did I expect any of that to happen. I got on a plane to spend two and a half weeks somewhere, expecting to come back to LA. I did come back. Only to travel through California. Accompanied by a wonderful traveling partner, who still holds a very special place in my heart. Both of us on our way to the unmapped road. A pilgrimage that would lead me to where I am today.
As I settle in my new temporary home of Poland (of all places!), I look back at what started a year ago today. The tears, laughs, panic attacks and amazing experiences and I think to myself, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Do I now know where I’m going? No clue. What I do know, is that I trust the unknown completely. The possibilities are endless and the details will color themselves in eventually.
The time has come to close one of the most exciting and memorable chapters in my life. Traveling through Central America, (a journey I didn’t think would ever happen) allowed me the opportunity to grow and open my heart in ways I never thought possible. One of the most important lessons on this trip, as cliche as it may sound, was learning to let go. Releasing. Whether a person, thing(s) or emotion. And I had to let go of all three. You can imagine how many times I’ve sang the song “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen to myself.
Somewhere along the way I read, that to love and let go can be the same thing. And letting go means diving in. But if your love has attachment, discrimination, prejudice or clinging in it, it is not true love. Ex squeeze me? Wherever it is I was supposed to be diving into with letting go, I should back away right now! It sounds way too complicated. It’s much easier to just attach yourself and cling to the idea of love. Isn’t that what we’re conditioned to do? Connect ourselves to someone. Partner, parent, friend. Looking for some sort of indication that we too are loved.
I wondered. What exactly is love? And how can it be the same as letting go? Love by definition is an intense feeling of deep affection. Mmm.. it sure feels to be more than that. I decided to explore this more.
A lot of movies, songs, art and poems talk about love as a need for possessing. As if by not having it you can’t survive. Or that by admitting to love someone you admit to having a lot to lose (as one TedTalk speaker noted). I disagree. It is the complete opposite for me. By admitting you love someone knowing you may have to let them go someday, helps you obtain an unrestricted freedom. Don’t you see. By knowing and accepting that that person may not be with you tomorrow. Allows you to cherish every moment even more. You possess nothing, and gain everything.
That’s not to say letting go can’t be a sorrowful experience. Because it is and it hurts for a bit. The first time I realized the difference between attachment and non attachment. Was the first time I decided to trust someone with my whole self, the good and the bad. Allowing them in, through the process of losing everything I owned and other very emotional moments. In addition to letting them go as well. After many cookies later, ok and pie. Maybe some ice cream too. I realized that it’s not how much you trust the other person with your love. But how much you trust yourself to love unconditionally. Letting go of every attachment, discrimination, prejudice or clinging you may have for others or oneself.
Love is not just a deep affection. It is a limitless connection to and complete acceptance of myself and others. A boundless reserve of empathy. Expanding with every new experience. I now close this chapter and eagerly await the beginning of the next. The adventure continues.