Wish I was ocean size
They cannot move you
No one tries
No one pulls you
Out from your hole
Like a tooth aching in a jawbone… Jane’s Addiction
Last week I was a Chakradancing shaman-priestess of the Goddess. This week I am a librarian huddled in the Romance section of the library in the midst of a nervous breakdown. Why? Heartbreak, disappointment. You know, the usual suspects.
I thought, nay, I was dead-sure, that I was training in shamanic ways in Bali in February. It was all a happening thang until work said ‘no’ to me taking leave at that time. And then, I just lost the plot. I mean emotionally, I didn’t go postal and shoot up the library or anything. My rage is within.
As such, I really haven’t wanted to publish a post until I ‘felt better.’ I’ve been procrastinating, not wanting to write what I was feeling. I was in such a positive frame of mind last week. This week, not so much.
Feeling that I’d be contradicting my “I’m not broken” statement by, well, having a breakdown, I just wanted to hide away and not write anything.
But then the clouds cleared enough for me to realise that being unbroken is not the same as being unaffected by life. Of course disappointment and heartbreak will affect me deeply. Of course I feel devastated when things I have proclaimed to love and want don’t come to fruition for me.
That’s not broken, that’s the opposite of broken. That’s real.
It ain’t easy living…
I want to be
As the ocean
Mother ocean. Jane’s Addiction
So I realised this week that I have some odd ideas about how I ‘should’ be – and how I ‘should’ react to things. Just because a relationship isn’t working doesn’t mean I’m not devastated when it ends. People, many people, told me when my marriage ended that I was “better off without him.” And perhaps I was, didn’t mean it wasn’t the most painful experience of my life.
People also tend to say “it’s not meant to be” when we miss out on opportunities that we have set our hearts on. It may be true, but it doesn’t diminish the sharp stab of disappointment.
I was made with a heart of stone
To be broken
With one hard blow
I’ve seen the ocean
Break on the shore
Come together with no harm done… Jane’s Addiction
And if, like most people, you’ve weathered your fair share of loss, grief, and disappointment in your life, that latest hurt is inevitably going to feel like one more cut, along with the other thousand you are in the process of healing from.
So after beating myself up for crying at work, crying in the shower, crying in the car, listening to Adele very loudly, and crying some more, I finally gave myself a break.
Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us. Brian Jacques
And I thought, so what if you’re overreacting? So what if it’s not meant to be? So what if it’s not the right time for you to study shamanism in Bali with a man you love dearly? So what if there’s plenty of fish in the sea?
It hurts. It really hurts. So pump up Adele and sing along as loud and with as much tears and snot as you need to get through this and honour your feelings.
And what I found when I surrendered to the feelings of loss, sadness, disappointment, rage and grief was that they were like waves. They’d come in and ‘whoah!’ Whoosh off I’d go. It would feel intense, overwhelming, literally like I was dying of pain. And then. It would subside.
It reminded me of my dear friend, G. I reached out to her in solidarity in the late stages of my pregnancy. I knew her, but not very well. But I had no friends who had had babies and I was scared. She had traversed that magical, mystical rite of passage into motherhood with such grace.
When I asked her what labour was like, I think I said. “Is it painful?” And she laughed. She said. “It helped me to see that it came in waves. So I’d ride the wave and it would get really intense and then it would break and the next wave would build.” That made the pain manageable.
I am the wind which breathes upon the sea, I am the wave of the ocean. Amergin
I’ve used that analogy a lot since then. We also rang each other everyday during our divorces. On any given day, one of us would be an absolute cot-case and the other would be doing a bit better. That’s why friendship works, don’t you know, because we are not all crazy on the same day!
We were like wounded soldiers leaning against each other for support, staggering away from the battlefield. Sometimes we’d miss each other’s calls and just a simple text “the storm has passed” to let the other know we were okay.
I find it fascinating, these analogies of storms and waves. Jung believed water, particularly the I ocean was an archetype for the subconscious.
Nature is the only place I feel sane this week. I’m practicing being in nature with all my senses. Closing my eyes. Hearing the sounds. Feeling the breeze. Smelling the earth. Tasting the air.
I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.” Sylvia Plath
Sensing removes me from thinking and brings my focus into the present moment. It’s also incredibly lovely. We miss so much when we are stuck in our heads, thinking, ruminating.
Nature is ever expansive. When we observe the horizon and the vastness beyond, when we listen to the sounds the go on infinitely beyond the audible. When the smell of flowers and leaves and salt-sea air fills our noses and mouths with scent and tastes that stir the deepest most ancient recesses within us. Everything expands. Our vision, our senses and our spirit.
In nature, our spirit pulses and resonates to this throb and thrum of life. The mental chatter becomes just a small part of a greater cacophony. Thoughts drift away. Emotions are soothed. Our bodies calm down into the steady, strong heartbeat of the earth.
The hard thing, I think. Is trying to decide what to do when my head starts hurting, and my emotions rage out of control. Take this Bali trip, for example. I was so sure it was ‘meant to be’.
There are many tangled threads of want, need and desire. I want to do shamanic training, Bali is the closest place to do the training I want to do. I’ve been wanting to go to Bali for years. I haven’t been away without children for 15 years. My ex has been to Asia at least 10 times in the last 5 years. The most recent time was for his honeymoon a few weeks ago.
My ex getting married rocked me more than I had anticipated. It was not the usual kind of jealousy – I don’t want to be with him. It was just the reminder that in the five and a half years we have been separated he has travelled extensively, bought a house, and gotten married. And I, well I haven’t.
Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
My love was going to Bali with me. So it seemed like such a golden thing. Shamanism, love and Bali sunsets. So when work said no to leave, I was gutted. All these different disappointments came into play simultaneously.
I kind of lost the plot. I needed to cry and all I could do was crouch at the back of the library pretending to shelve the romance novels. And cry. Yep. Pretty pathetic.
I mean I thought, to myself, ‘you could quit your job.’ I really thought about it. I mean if this was my destiny, that would be the right thing to do. But I have a child. Taking those kind if risks seemed crazy. And what if it wasn’t my destiny? What if it was just my wilfulness?
There are no easy answers. My friend also says God’s will should be effortless. Meaning it should unfold without angst. Do I believe that? I used to. I’m not sure what I believe anymore.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on. Mary Oliver
So I didn’t get what I wanted. Instead I’m trying to get to a different shamanism course. I applied for a great role at work, and went to an interview. Because life goes on. It just does, so I may as well too.
And I’m teaching Chakradance! It is the most wonderful, nurturing experience. I really feel like I am a shaman when I lead a class.
Last night in the third eye Chakradance, where we dance our dreams into reality, I saw myself in a – fabulous feather outfit, complete with head-piece – leading a huge group of people in a dance journey, standing on a lush green hill. And I just couldn’t stop smiling. It’s okay. It’s all okay. It’s going to be okay.
Just now I received an email from the Shamanic teacher. He lives in Bali, he does courses there year-round. ‘It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay.’ Whispers the universe.
So why do I create such big waves in my life? Why can’t I just be calm? Why can’t the ocean be calm all the time? Because things need to be churned up sometimes, a good shake up allows the detritus to rise to the surface and be dumped on the shore. It’s part of the cycle.
Divinity is in it’s omniscience and omnipotence like a wheel, a circle, a whole, that can neither be understood, nor divided, nor begun nor ended. Hildegard of Bingen
It reminds me of that scene in the movie Parenthood. Steve Martin’s character has just discovered – after losing his job – that his wife is pregnant with their fourth child. He’s sitting at his kid’s school concert, which goes haywire, and he begins to feel as if he’s on a roller coaster. At first he’s panicked, but then he remembers his grandma saying “Life is like a roller coaster, just hang on and enjoy the ride.”
Surfing the waves is like being on a roller coaster, it’s out of control and terrifying but simultaneously exhilarating. A calm ocean is peaceful, but there’s no movement.
In this way, experiencing emotional suffering can be a healing opportunity. Events can trigger an emotional response, say sadness, anger and grief, these emotions may be stored in our subtle body, our energy meridians and even our physical body, and as they are stirred up by this fresh experience we can release them.
So re-feeling of the old pain of our lives is a vital opportunity to address old patterns, thinking and emotions and to let them go.
To do this we must honour the feelings, we must let go of judgement and criticism. For me this means not berating myself for being over-emotional, over-sensitive, and over-reactive.
The reality is I grew up in a home where expressing emotions was discouraged, then I spent the next twenty years suppressing my emotions in various ways, of course I have a surplus of emotion ‘stored’ in my system. I’m I the process of a massive emotional detox. The truth is, in our culture, if you have embarked on a spiritual path, most of us are.
Our culture doesn’t support emotional expression very well. We don’t have appropriate rituals and support for trauma. In traditional shamanic cultures, if someone suffered a loss or trauma, after three days the whole community would gather and the shaman would perform a healing and soul retrieval.
Can you imagine? Every car accident, assault, medical procedure, break-up, loss, grief, trauma you have suffered in your life, being acknowledged and healed at that time, so your body didn’t have to bear the accumulation of this pain.
But that’s okay. I don’t live in a shamanic culture, that doesn’t mean I can’t use their wisdom and practice to heal and release these emotional wounds.
As such I have been journeying this week, going into a state of non-ordinary reality to seek guidance on how best to work through the things that are coming up for me.
Gentle nurturing support is what I received. Guidance to take baths and ground myself in nature. The body and spirit will process this, given time and the space to do so. By honouring the work of my soul, by listening to what emerges for me in my life, I get to release off baggage and clear space for my true spirit to emerge.
This is what Frank MacEowen, in his book The Celtic Way of Seeing, calls “the conscious process of soul refinement.”
My spirit is nourished by spending time in nature
I am blessed to have the richness of nature around me.
When I commune with nature, my own blessed spirit is renewed.
Today I will spend time alone in nature.
I live naturally in all ways.
I live in harmony with all that is around me.
I am completely refreshed after communing with nature.
I accept, release, and allow space for the exchange of energy.
Natural diversity inspires wonder and awe in me.
Nature is always in flux. Waves crash on the shore. Leaves fall from trees. Nature always letting go and coming together anew. Let go. Rides the waves. It’s okay.
The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful. e.e. cummings
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