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Longing For Love

By Sumitra Burton.  

While looking back over my life recently to see what kind of “credentials” I had gathered along the way, I recognized a core thread that has permeated my experience from the very beginning: a passionate longing for love.  Somehow I had never been aware of it in quite this way before.

As a little girl, I was deeply moved by a picture in our church’s entryway of Jesus in his long robe with children around his feet.  Jesus was looking at the children with deep love.  I can feel now the sense of longing that arose in my heart to experience that kind of love in my life.

Early on I somehow got the idea that pleasing others was the best way to find the love I so dearly wanted.  I tried to make them happy, so that they would love me.  My mother once said to me that I was selfish, which struck me deeply as I took this to mean that “I” was selfish, rather than simply my behavior in that moment.  The desire to not be selfish translated in my young mind to mean that my own personal needs and desires must be subdued in deference to others.

I married very young (19) and was excited to feel loved by my young husband and the support of a dream that we would somehow live happily ever after, loving each other unconditionally (those were the vows we took when we married – through sickness and health, joy and sorrow, etc. – right?).

It wasn’t long, though, before this dream started falling apart as I often experienced a lack of love in our relationship.  We were both so young, and my husband had had a traumatic childhood and needed lots of support.  Neither of us had the skills to communicate our feelings and work through the difficulties that arose.  Over the years we had four children together, were separated many times, and actually married and divorced twice.

By the time of the second divorce, I was totally devastated – confused, grieving and alone.  I had tried so hard to love him, and had failed, and my longing for love (still very strong) seemed to have reached a dead end.  The harder I tried, the worse things became.  I had given my all, and it wasn’t good enough.  Something was deeply wrong, and I was convinced there was something deeply wrong with meI must be unlovable!

I stayed alone for the next 30 years after the second divorce, practiced yoga and meditation as best I could while being a single mother, eventually living and working in an ashram retreat center for many years.  I found a sense of peace while I would sit to meditate, but in my daily life there was still much confusion and even desperation as I tried to make others happy so that I would feel loved in return.

One day I remember so clearly, a spiritual teacher remarked, “We have to love everyone, including ourselves.” I was shocked to hear the part about “including ourselves.”  Of course, this made perfect sense, and why had it taken so long for me to realize this?

From that moment I began wondering what it would mean to love myself – and very gradually began to explore how to do this. There wasn’t much support in those days for this kind of endeavor. I found myself eventually gravitating towards a philosophy of relaxing more into who I already am, rather than the old paradigm of disciplining myself to become a better person.  I began to have glimpses of being okay as I was.

When I finally discovered the Living Inquiries and the tools of resting and inquiry, the old beliefs of “unlovable” and “not good enough” arose dramatically to be explored, and slowly began to unwind.  It’s been a dynamic process over the past seven years of working to unravel these old beliefs and learning to relax into my natural sense of being-ness.  A main component of this quest has been the gradual shift from looking outside myself to looking inside for the love that I long for.

While there is a sense that the inquiry process will always be needed (no end in sight!), there is also a deepening awareness that innately I am okay and lovable.  Any time I notice I am looking for love outside, I recognize the old feelings of unworthiness creeping in.  Deep inside there’s a growing understanding that not only am I lovable, but that I am actually Love Itself. No separation.

This morning I am taking time to simply allow the longing to be felt.  The intensity of the longing is immense, filling my whole inner torso like a vacuum in a cavern.  It feels like I will be engulfed by it if I allow it to be fully felt.  Go ahead, I say.  Let me be consumed by that longing!  As I sit with the sensations, an image of a gate appears.  And as it opens, Love is Here.  Love is calling me Home.

To read more about Sumitra Burton, click here.

Unravelling The Gods Of Childhood

By Lisa Meuser.  

I have a story to share

This story starts with a Facebook post I made after finishing a session with a client.

“When our parents aren’t safe, available, loving gods, we become vigilant and over responsible gods, thinking it’s all up to us, with wounds in our hearts.”

It’s been a long time coming, sharing this publicly. I’d experienced it in myself, and had been seeing it with my clients for years. It has been such a pivotal part of my embodiment journey that I’m currently writing a book about it – yet never blogged about it.

This is my abbreviated story of how I learned of my own religious wounding, and how it set me free.

 

Our relationship to the world

Religious wounding is not talked a lot about in spiritual circles, and yet I think it is imperative that this territory be explored on our journey of becoming deeply intimate with ourselves, because so much of how we view the world, ourselves, and our place in the world can be impacted by religious belief systems.

From an early age I had been aware of “something wiser” than my own personal self, but I didn’t know what that meant or how to talk about it. Jesus was sometimes part of that, but I didn’t really understand that either. It felt significant and important, and confusing at the same time. Being part of a “do as you’re told household”, I didn’t feel any space to talk about things that confused me, or that were “different” than what the authorities in my life were talking about. My religious upbringing (Lutheran) was linear, practical and doctrine-oriented, and, well, that just didn’t fit in with the rather mystical and supernatural experiences I was having. I suppressed and disconnected from most of those experiences, rendering them meaningless in my mind, forgotten to my heart.

I left Christianity midway through my years at a Lutheran Missouri Synod University (oh, the irony). Being from a white, republican, middle-income family I hadn’t explored racism, classism or entitlement, but from an early age something in me knew that the Christian doctrine I was being taught was deeply unjust. When I discovered that the chapel of the University didn’t allow women pastors at the same time I was starting to learn about the oppression of women (thank you Professor Jody), I was livid. That my church did not allow a female pastor was the last draw. I could no longer believe in “God the Father”, or his violent and oppressive rules. I was sickened by how this god judged and decided who was worthy of his love. This god was just as bad as my parents, with their republican and conservative pronouncements. I wanted no part of it. I became adamantly anti-Christian, and anti “God.”

It was a profound and huge step in my personal evolution to step away from the tradition in which I was raised. I didn’t consider what rejecting Christianity meant for me, I just knew that the beliefs of heaven and hell, sin, and rejection of certain people based on geography and gender didn’t make sense to me and never had. It felt too hypercritical for me to do anything else but walk away. I was glad to “get rid of” the label.

“That’s that!” I thought. I assumed that consciously recognizing that I didn’t align with the tenants of Christianity was me working through my religious upbringing. “I’m not that,” was the subtext. Time to move on.

Move on I did. I didn’t have anything to “replace” Christianity until a few years later when I found a spiritual practice that became an intrinsic part of my being. It was a bhakti and heart practice that nurtured the connection with god/awareness/spirit/love, etc that I’d felt when I was young. I moved on with new practices and perspectives, but what I didn’t realize was that I had not cleaned out the old before moving into the new.

 

Me and god, god and my parents

If I had been paying closer attention I might have slowed down a bit. I might have considered what giving up Christianity meant for me, or what was so infuriating for me. I might have considered that my bitterness for Christianity (and god and my parents) had some rich territory to explore, i.e. that I had some unhealed wounds. I’m in awe of the young people who make it to my door to connect to their wounds, because that was the last thing I would have considered back then.

Instead, lost in unseen self-righteousness and anger, while unable to connect to the extremely painful truth, I shut off from my feeling self and turned towards self-reliance. I thought all the problems existed outside of me “in those people” and in those beliefs, and that all I needed to do was walk away and find better ways of thinking. (This is such a common theme in our culture: we think harder, so as to feel less.)

I didn’t understand the psyche, how belief systems work, how much pain I was in, how strong my use of mind over spirit had become, or how dysfunctional my relationship with the ideas of love had become[1]. As many seemingly invincible teenagers and early 20 year olds feel, I thought I was “just fine.” And even better, thought that I was more in control and safer now that I’d moved further away from my beliefs of my family.

I didn’t realize that underneath my intellectualizing I’d felt rejected by god, and by my parents, and that the pain of that was too much to feel, so I rejected them first.

And, since I’d rejected him, I hadn’t considered for a moment that my relationship with god was anything but “just fine.”

 

When denial no longer works

I don’t know about you, but I was full-on in pretend mode when I was young. It was a way of life, and it seemingly kept me pretty safe in some crazy situations. As I woke up, lots of that pretending fell away. But then the real journey began – that of embodiment. In my reality tunnel, embodiment cleans one out, until only truth remains. But it’s not an easy process. There can be lots of sacred cows, and for me, my relationship with god was one of them[2].

It wasn’t until I was in crisis, recovering from an addictive relationship, that I stumbled upon my unhealed relationship with god. I literally collapsed into a sobbing pile of goo as a realization clunked into recognition: I still believed in a punishing god, a god that did not love me, a god that I had failed, 20 years after thinking I had given up that belief system and moved past “all that bullshit”.

It’s not rational, but those hidden beliefs had subtly kept me from feeling truly safe and at home in the world, and it kept me more in my head than in my body. How could I possibly feel safe in the world, and at home in myself, if I believed I was inherently faulty?

This can be earth-shattering territory to journey into, which is why many people never do. After all, if we don’t have to, why would we consciously look for or go into uncomfortable core wounding? Quite to the contrary, we generally hide from it at all costs. Our psyches are constructed to protect us from this wounding. And anyway, where do we even start? It can all be very overwhelming.

Yet there I was. It had became clear that there was something under the hood, as it were, that was not just being explored, but was having a tremendous influence over how I felt about myself and how I felt being in the world. It was my shame and self-loathing, wrapped up with god.

 

God, the thorn in my side

This stuff doesn’t have a road map so, using somatic inquiry, somatic therapy and a few other tools, I just kept on **slowly and gently** exploring deep into my being. Trauma has its own timeline, and said simply, we are not in charge of how it works itself through. Loving support from others and myself was vital.

Almost always tendrils would lead to wounds connected with an early childhood medical event (which also involved my parents) that were still integrating. I had been exploring this territory on and off for years, but something was different this time. As I kept exploring, something deeper finally started to emerge that didn’t seem to be about my parents. I then deeply recognized that my wounds with god, as I knew god, had hidden behind, and were often interwoven with, the wounding I’d experienced with my parents.

What had initially been experienced as feeling rejected by my parents revealed a belief that I had been rejected by god. Where as previously it felt like my parents had abandoned me, it now felt like I’d been abandoned by god. What that left me feeling was not just rejected and abandoned, but bad and wrong to be someone who would be rejected and abandoned.

Oh the shame! And self-loathing. And creation of self-reliance and an inflated sense of responsibility to cover it all up.

 

Me and god, god and my parents: deeper in

Some of you may be asking, “How was it that god came into all of this? How was this all made about god?”

Recall back to where I referred to God as a father:

I could no longer believe in “God the Father”, or his violent rules. I was sickened by how this god judged and decided who was worthy of his love. This god was just as bad as my parents, with their republican and conservative pronouncements. I wanted no part of it. I became adamantly anti-Christian, and anti “God.”

In my innocence I thought all I had to do “see the truth” and walk away. This is a common mistake amongst those who have spiritual awakenings as well. We see something, clarity comes, and we think we are “finished.” And then comes the process of embodiment, where we find the energies of those beliefs. My system had “taken in” all those beliefs about good and bad, right and wrong, sin and salvation. My body, mind and spirit had been infused with linking love and god the father. If god rejected me, I’d be unloved. There is nothing more shameful to a human being than being unlovable. These early teachings, as simple as they were, had woven into my system, and were desperately looking for reconciliation.

 

But it’s richer than that

What I’ve discovered in my own journey but also with hundreds of clients is that our parents often act as our first gods. Obviously this isn’t conscious, but it’s in the subconscious stratosphere of the psyche. My friend explained it well: “My parents were gods to me. I depended on them to live.”

Our parents give us life and we are at their mercy for safety, love, food, and nurturance – on every level. They also reprimand and punish us. And so they become synonymous with how our culture often portrays god – the life-giver, the disciplinary, the mother, and the father. My friend continues, “From that I learned that god was loving, and joyous, and terrifying, and confusing. God was everything. God also dies.”

This isn’t rational, and quite frankly is too much for our child self to make sense of, but our beings pick up this information and make make conscious and subconscious beliefs based upon these ideas. It is only later in life that we can journey back through the layers of our conditioning to see the formation of deficiency stories that have influenced our whole life.

 

Deeper still

As I felt safe to journey into the medical trauma and prior traumas, and the imagined roles god (and my parents) played in those traumas, I was able to connect to various debilitating belief systems. I had believed that I was bad, and that I had been abandoned and rejected by my god (and my parents) because I was bad. Said another way, and more from the perspective of a child: god had let me down, I wasn’t good enough for god, and so ultimately I wasn’t good enough or worthy of god’s love. That meant I had to become my own god, so to speak. It was up to me to keep myself safe, because god and my parents had failed due to my badness.

The level of shame, self-loathing, and self-reliance (what we commonly see as a false sense of responsibility) that was under all of that was immense and had been following me around for… my whole life. Although I was not consciously aware of it, a sense of shame that seemed synonymous with my being was living under the surface and was wreaking havoc in my life.

Although my life was basically “fine”, I was making unhealthy and debilitating choices in intimate relationships. As I courageously worked through my self-reliance patterning, I innocently made a wrong turn: I trusted others unworthy of that trust instead of trusting that which was worthy. I did this because ultimately I didn’t have a safe and loving relationship with myself, or a healthy relationship with Love. This pattern dramatically revealed itself when I found myself in a narcissistically abusive relationship. The creation of a perfect storm destroyed my sails and crashed me into rocky territory I had been trying to avoid all my life. It literally took me to the darkest and most hidden places within myself that I had never felt safe enough to explore.

Eventually it took me to my unfinished business with god. After that torturous terrain was faced, I found myself experiencing a level of safety I didn’t know was possible, and a Love I had never known. My world had changed.

 

The rest of the story

There is more to say. Healing religious, parental and attachment wounding takes commitment, time, love, compassion and support. The rest of the story includes sharing practices I have developed with myself and others that help us let go of old beliefs, and in their absence fall into the experience of a safe body (and life) to reside in.

Life fundamentally changed for me as I cleaned up my past but it wasn’t an overnight change – it has been slow, steady, and eventually sustainable. Not having to be a vigilant and over-responsible god has relieved me of a burden that was not mine to carry. Groking the benevolence of Love has altered my way of being in a world that I do not have the power to control, but feel safe residing in nevertheless.

I have shared only parts of my journey here, and look forward to sharing more. I’d love to hear from you. What was particularly helpful? What was confusing? What do you want to know to know more of? I look forward to journeying together.

[1] See my Deepening Course starting in February, “Discovering the Embodiment of Love,” to learn more about that!

[2] After working with hundreds of clients, I now see that one’s relationship with “god”, however that is perceived/experienced/named, is most sacred (this goes for atheists too, although the language is going to be quite different)- even more sacred than that of one’s parents. And, it is also often very hidden within the psyche. For various reasons it can be one of the last places one “wants to go” when inwardly journeying. There is good reason for this, which I explore in my book.

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

Wisdom Is Waiting For You

By Lisa Meuser.

“I realized that it wasn’t my fault that my mother was emotionally unavailable to me.”

“I have been putting on a happy face to cover up my unhappiness for years.”

“I know I am connected to the Cosmos – I’m not alone.”

“I met a reservoir of grief in me that I didn’t know I’d been carrying around.”

“I experienced a Universe that is good.”

 

These are all personal accounts of amazing insight shared with me by clients and friends.

Mostly experienced in safe settings with a safe person, or in retreats where they were out of the usual daily grind, these moments of clarity were profound. The world appears “changed” in these moments, as if cobwebs have cleared, and it often seems as though the newfound clarity will be everlasting because of how radical it feels.

But what happens is usually quite different… unless there is continued connection with the clarity or insight.  If there isn’t a continued exploration, the clarity and insight will lose its potency and not have a sustainable positive impact.  At best, it will a memory fondly remembered. At worst, it will be forgotten, doubted and disbelieved, or it will reinforce/exasperate the initial patterning.

I knew someone who went on retreat and came back with mind- and behavior-altering revelations.

He’d realized that he’d been mistreating others – a friend of mine being one of them – because of his own shame and deficiency stories. He made many amends for the pain he’d caused, and explained that he wanted to live another way. He wanted to be the person he knew he could be when he wasn’t tangled up in fear and shame.

And then… he went on a two-month vacation.

“When I get back I’m going to jump right into continuing to explore all that’s come up,” he shared with her. He was very excited.  So was she. When he returned two months later, however, he was very much the person he’d been prior to his retreat but with even more walls, fear, and separation from love.  He was more violent and more disconnected from himself than ever.  My friend was crushed – she was truly hoping that this time he’d finally changed. Sometimes we still talk about what might have happened if he’d really dug in deep and stayed with what had been unearthed. We think about how much pain and suffering could be averted if only he’d continued to confront his demons instead of running further from them.

This may be an extreme example, but I have clients with somewhat similar experiences.

They will have one session, feel great, and be ready to tackle the world.  But that momentum doesn’t always stick around. The patterning of our behaviors and beliefs is a fascinating brain and neurological phenomenon. Science confirms: it takes time, attention, and a willingness to engage with one’s patternings (neural pathways) for sustainable change to occur.  In other words, the insight or clarity – that Aha! moment – is just the very first step.  Many many many follow-up steps will need to be taken for that insight to make a lasting impression both neurologically and behaviorally.

I think back to a retreat I went on. The retreat leader shared something along the lines of “Okay, you’ve all had some really great insights into your shadows, your patterning, your shame, your darkness, your trauma, as well as into your joy, your wholeness, your light, love and beauty. Now the real work begins.” And he proceeded to hand out a page or two of somatic-based resources to help with follow-up integration. It took only days for us to understand what he meant. Once back home, in our familiar lives, with our familiar people, and our familiar routines, it took dedication and discipline to not fall back into the same old patterning that we’d just had amazing insights into.

Sound familiar?

We all likely remember times when something felt so profound and real, and we knew we had to make and effort to “keep it going.” But more often than not, for whatever reason, we didn’t… and the profundity disappeared. Lots of intense Aha! moments are short-lived as we go back to what is familiar. In addition, the vulnerability that often comes with these insights can sometimes be too uncomfortable or unmanageable to stay with. We could say “The ego/separate sense of “I” wants to stay in control,” or “Egoic patterning won’t go down without a fight.” But I think it’s generally more useful to come back to brain science and neural pathways.

Insights are like newborn babies.

They must be tended to, coddled, fed and nourished. They will die if they are ignored, and require sustained attention and support as they mature and grow into adulthood (as they are embodied). Science explains this to us through the language of neural pathways: it takes anywhere for 18-200 days (with 66 being the average) for a neural pathway to change, so unless the insight is consciously explored – repeatedly – it just fades away. Conversely, if it’s actively engaged with it will become its own neural pathway, thereby forming a lasting impression and new habit or healthy behavior.

The more profound the Aha!, the more it must be tended to, because initially those are the least comfortable as the grooves of the neural pathways are most deeply formed. It isn’t always pleasant to unearth that which has been hiding in the dark, musky corners of our internal basements. We can experience shame and belief systems that have fueled our dysfunctions that we hadn’t previously seen. We can experience parts of ourselves that we’d, quite frankly, like to re-bury. Without staying with that new vulnerability, the ego or separate sense of self could easily come in and cover it back up, and sometimes even retaliate in the wake of said vulnerability. What may seem like a promising and expansive revelation can quickly turn into defensiveness and attack, as the opening may feel too threatening in its newborn baby state.

As anyone who has ever been around an infant knows, it’s not always easy to tend to a newborn. Infants thrive under stable environments, and so do the caregivers. If a person’s lifestyle and choices don’t allow for the sustainability and integration of those Aha! moments, then they will quickly fade. If a person’s sense of ego is too strong, or if there is too much fear, the commitment to follow up will be turned away from. Again, it’s the follow-up integrative work that allows the insight to “take hold” and be embodied.

What exactly is “follow-up?”

First of all, it comes down to the willingness and readiness to really meet what’s been revealed through the insight, how it relates to the everyday life of the person, and a commitment to continue looking and exploring.

Follow-up can be done many different ways, but generally speaking it takes the form of some kind of active engagement or participation that keeps the insight “alive.”  This may look like: finding and then repeating new and useful behaviors as opposed to engaging in old unhealthy habits, reading something which supports the continued exploration of the insight, and/or inquiring deeper into the insight on one’s own using meditation or other mindful body-awareness approach.

Sometimes we need someone who is trained in embodiment/somatic practices to help us flush out the old gunk and give more room to the clarity received so that it can take up more occupancy in our being. Using the previous metaphor, this would be helping the infant insight grow into embodied maturity, until it is no longer just an insight but a fully-actualized and lived reality.

Patterning and habitual behavior are often buried for a reason.

Sometimes it’s become so routine or “normal” that we have been unable to consciously see our dysfunctional ways. Other times we’ve experienced pain or trauma in our lives that have led us to develop walls of protection which keep us from being truly available to the wholeness of life.  Someone who is trained in exploring trauma and pain body will be able to help in the integration process, enabling the insights to move into a sustained way of being.

Insights and clarity – those magnificent Aha! moments – are gifts. Filled with wisdom, they can enrich our lives, creating a life that we feel at home with and a part of.

Here are a few simple ways to extend the shelf life of your Aha! moments:

Pause: Pause what you’re doing, and take in as fully as you can what has come into your conscious attention. Before jumping to analyze it or understand it (or announce it to the world as a facebook post), just pause.  Breathe in the wisdom of the insight – not from your mind, but from your being.  As we know, god/presence/love/etc does not live in our brain or mind. It is Known experientially. So take a few moments to pause, breathe, and feel what is coming in at the level of Being.

Be curious: After you’ve sat with the insight or Aha! moment, and you’ve taken in all that subtle but profound Knowing, grab a pen and some paper.  Science tells us that the act of writing can help us somatically process and integrate information, so take some time to journal or make notes about your experience. Be curious and open to any further insights that might come from your initial Aha! moment.  All sorts of connections may be coming to you now. Learn about yourself. Learn about your habits. Learn about your strengths, and your weaknesses.  Be curious and learn. Write with abandon – don’t worry, no one is looking!

Feel: As you’re curiously connecting to the tendrils of the Aha! moment and writing about it, feel into your body so that you can write from that space of physical awareness. Feel into where it seems to be living in your body. This may feel good,  or this may feel bad. Write about what you’re feeling. Write about the emotions that you’re noticing. Try to maintain curiosity as you do this. If you don’t like writing, try to make some simple notes or just jot a few things down. This isn’t for publication, it’s for your own continued journeying. If you aren’t able to write something, or you just don’t want to, that’s fine. You may want to record a voice memo to capture it. You may even want to call someone – sharing it with yourself or with others after you’ve taken some time to take it in may help you to further connect with the Aha! moment so it can be explored more later on.

Stay with it: What good is an insight if you don’t do anything with it? There are lots of ways you can stay with insights to see where the rabbit hole goes. Keep leaning into it, and keep learning. Keep exploring. You are a vast ocean of remarkable depths. You can do this as a solitary journey, with a professional, or with a group of like-minded individuals. If you need help finding resources, contact me and I’ll do my best to hook you up with something that meets your needs and interests. There are so many resources out there these days when it comes to embodiment practices!

Get support: We’re a tribal species. We’re meant to connect with others. Again, if you’re not sure where to turn, let me know and I’ll try to help you out. Keep going!

Dive in: Keep on pausing, being curious, and feeling with regards to your Aha! moment, and your continued insights. Get intimate with yourself and your history on this planet. Ask your insight for more insight. Ask for clarity. See what comes. Keep going deeper and deeper. Don’t stop until your mind, body, and spirit feel integrated. I meet so many people who think they have to live with their fears, their grief, their lostness, their misery and discontent. There is always another way when you feel stuck. There is always something deeper, underneath pain and suffering, that is waiting to be discovered. Stay with it, and get support.

 

Remember the insights I listed at the very beginning?

Those were just the first steps in these people’s lives. They were not final resting places – they hadn’t magically found peace. Rather, a door had opened up, and the magic was found when they opted to walk through it.  Most of them dove into their Aha! moments with vigor and found a new and thrilling world waiting for them. It wasn’t always easy, or pleasant, but they were able to safely connect with and detach from belief systems that had been keeping them stuck and in suffering.

You are not alone.
Take in the wisdom that found its way to you, and always be ready for more.

 

 

Shame

By Colm Burgoyne.

Shame is splitting me open – in a loving, beautiful, sometimes sad and painful way. It’s been here, hiding under my skin, most of my life.  I say loving and beautiful because compassion and self care arises when it is met as it is. And sad because of the sadness that surfaces when I recognise it has been a suppressed part of my being for so long.

As a child, I was shamed unintentionally and unknowingly by my parents and society. My body, my intellectual progress in school, and my sexual expression as a teenager were all shamed, with layer upon layer of it developing as I grew. Eventually I began shaming myself from within. Hiding this shame from the world around me – especially from women – became a priority. Resentment towards women developed; I blamed them for what was being masked within me. I relentlessly attempted to keep this top secret deficiency story from the prying eyes of people, especially women. As exhausting as this was, exposure was not an option. As I see it now, this pattern went on for many years.

Why, after so long, is this shame only beginning to come into awareness so unavoidably now? The death of someone I loved dearly, the Living Inquiries, the falling away of spiritual bypassing and a shit-load of radical honesty have all played their part. With radical honesty, I get to turn around and gently meet my humanness – and all the sticky stuff that comes with it – head on. This has not been easy. Much resistance has come, both in the body and in the subtle tendency to self manipulate. In saying that, I also see the resistance as an innocent attempt to protect my humanness from feeling the rawness of the shame, grief, sorrow, hurt and anger.

If all of this means that I am not on your enlightenment list, please take me off it. What a burden that also is, and a relief to be rid of it.

Shadow Dancing

By Lisa Meuser.

Both the light and shadow are the dance of love. Rumi.

In the middle of the day, a sky filled with blue and a little bit of white suddenly became dark. The insects quieted. The birds stopped singing. Day-light became day-dark.  Stars and planets became visible. The world as we knew it- our view of the world– became another world. Bang! Perception altered.

The recent eclipse gave us a firsthand view into how darkness becomes our reality when light is obscured from our vision. We’re used to this in a very specific presentation called ‘night.’ But it was like a magic trick to see day transform into night…during the day.

During this rare moment, I heard people gush about how they were blown away by the beauty. The sudden expression of lightness transitioning into darkness, then back into lightness was SO REAL and in our faces – something for all of us to see and for all of us to share. The sky was met with reverence and mystery. We took it all in: Light. Dark. Light.

A bit less novel and perhaps taken for granted, we don’t question how every evening and again every morning we move from light into dark, back into light again. It is simply part of our reality. We don’t try to change it. We adapt. We accept it. We allow it to be what it is.

Our days (and nights) are also filled with emotional eclipses, when darkness temporarily obscures light or light obscures darkness.  We call them “bad moods” or “good moods,” and a slew of other things. We slip in and out of these often, experiencing a glimmer of light amid persistent darkness, or a shadow of darkness within persistent light.  When we get caught in these eclipses, we often project these interpretative perceptions onto people, places, thing, politics… you get the gist… or onto the nature of who we are at our very core.

In this relative existence, most concepts have an opposite: good/bad, right/wrong, light/dark, and so on.  And we as human beings prefer to be “on the side of” good, right, and light.  We love to be associated with the “positive” side of these concepts. We love to be the bright shining sun, not the moon which obscures it. But, as many of us observed Monday, this obscuring has its own kind of beauty, too.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be associated with the positives. That’s natural. But the truth is that we all have our shadows and the eclipse was a glaring reminder that the shadow – the darkness – is an inevitable part of this reality.

Too often we’re so busy hiding from this side of ourselves that it quietly consume us, sometimes without us ever knowing it. We inadvertently become slaves to these shadow sides, in our ignorance or denial of them. I had a boyfriend once who, when he wasn’t getting his way, loved to call me arrogant and a hypocrite, and when I’d tell people about this they’d laugh as they considered the source. He was well known for exemplifying the classic psychological move of projecting what we don’t like about ourselves – what we’re unwilling to meet within ourselves – onto others.

What happens to the shadows that we are in denial of? Unlike the ones created by the sun, our internal shadows don’t naturally shift away on their own.  But we’re a stubborn species and sometimes we’ll do just about anything but feel or acknowledge our shadows, and this avoidance feeds our culture’s heavily addictive personality as we try to ignore or escape them. We bury ourselves in food, social media, gambling, sex, drugs, alcohol, work, unhealthy relationships. We want to feel love- but we can’t- because our shadows are ‘harshing our mellow.’ So we numb ourselves or act out instead.

While the shadows that we desperately try to conceal may, on the surface, seem to be about things like arrogance or hypocrisy, or racism, sexism, homophobia, and other judgmental traits, underneath these ‘negative’ characteristics are deficiency stories – a sense that we’re not good enough, that we’re unlovable, that we’re broken.

We try to hide our deficiency stories, clinging to a façade of power and strength, but they come out in our anger, in our judgments, in our fears, and they fester into depression and hopelessness. We either project them onto others, or we sink into them within ourselves. These shadows shape our perceptions, our reality.  We’re a culture full of unacknowledged and processed shadows. We’re a culture full of overt and overt covert addition.

What if we didn’t have to pretend that we didn’t have shadows? What if we didn’t have to pretend that we didn’t have deficiency stories? What if we didn’t have to pretend that we’re not addicts in some form or other? What if we didn’t have to pretend that we’re not perfect?

The opposite of pretending is honesty. What if we could be honest, with ourselves and with others, about our shadows? What if we could admit that we are hurting? What if we could accept that we are having a hard time, that we are scared or sad or angry? What if we could just be our fully human selves? We all know that love is the ultimate ‘positive’ aspect, but when we have to deny a part of ourselves, it’s not love – it’s self-loathing.

Most of us have what I call inner managers –essentially the part of us that insists on controlling things – and a while back, I was battling pretty heavily with mine. I was having a rough day after a series of miscellaneous triggers, and my nervous system went from fully operational to completely freaked out. Now, when my nervous system starts to freak out, my hamster-wheel mind starts to spin…and then if that momentum isn’t neutralized, in comes the overwhelm. I have a lot of tools to attend to these various experiences, but sometimes I just get lost in it. That’s when my inner manager comes out to see what the fuck is going on. As you might have guessed, she’s not the most kind or compassionate voice that plays in my head. She’s more like, “Let’s get this shit taken care of, Lisa!”

When I spotted this inner manager, I wanted to get rid of her.  She was harsh, more like a bully than anything helpful, and I didn’t appreciate her being around. Well, guess what? My resistance to her only made her dig her heels in.

My body was tight. My nervous system continued to be amped up. Emotions were rampant.  Self-loathing was on the upswing. But I quickly realized what was going on, and took a deep breath. Why was I making my inner manager into the bad guy? Why was I trying to push down this shadow part of myself? I had this idea that she was in the way of my peace. But it turns out that my resistance to her is what kept me from experiencing peace. My denial of her – not allowing her to be as she was – was the true cause of my agitation.

Once this revealed itself, I was able to acknowledge that she was actually welcome to be here.  Thank you for revealing yourself, I told her. You’re welcome to stay. Hell, I actually love you, too! And then I let her be, as there was no reason or need for anything to be different then it was.

These shadow parts of ourselves aren’t bad – they have been created innocently, based on our childhood and our conditioning. If you want to hear about the formation of my inner manager…well, let’s have tea sometime and I’ll tell you all about her. 😉 But for now, just know that we all have shadows. We can’t have night without day, or light without dark; they are two sides of the same coin.  We all have deficiency stories and shadow states that are part of our persona, and they’re not as terrible as we make them out to be…especially when we stop demonizing them, or shaming ourselves for having them.  What began as self-loathing can transform into self-love as we allow our humanity to be here in all its variation.

We’re human. We exist within a plentitude of expressions – so explore them. Get to know your shadow sides. Get to know what makes them so loud, and why they are here in the first place. Learn their message and their lesson. Instead of projecting your shadows onto your friends, make friends with your shadows. Being honest about them and their existence will actually set them (and you) free, as well as dismantle the deficiency stories that are tied to them. When you shine light onto your shadows, something magical happens…the darkness that seems to be tied up with them shifts.  And then, just like with an eclipse, the beauty of that light will again emerge.