It’s winter and the days are getting shorter and shorter as the sun creeps across the southern horizon. The bears have joined the trees in their long winters rest from the outer world, moving into a place beyond our waking reality. As they dream their body’s wounds will wash away with barely a scar left behind, just traces of evidence that they were ever even there.
Soon it will be solstice, the longest night of the year, and a time when I feel compelled to light candles and curl inward. I feel like dreaming too. Dreaming away the past year and letting all the mistakes I made wash away, leaving my lessons behind. It’s a time of quiet reflection. Of resting in the spaces between words. Of listening to the whispering hums and rhythms of nature. Of appreciating non-doing, just being.
It’s when I want to sink into the mysterious world of dreams. A place where I can imagine new destinations for my doing self to plot a map. It’s the time of the feminine, yin energy to sink, process, restore, and dream so that when it’s time for the masculine, yang energy to rise and take action I will know where to let the current take me.
In a world sometimes caught up in doing, I intend to sink into and appreciate this time of non-doing; of dreaming. And when my mind feels guilty for not doing, I’ll remind it of the important work that happens in the spaces between words. I’ll remind it to honour the great power of the yin, the feminine, and the dark. For it’s the dark which forges us into who we’re meant to be.
I hope you find time to be with your dreams this winter. May they guide you home.
Welcome! I’m excited to share with you a very simple yet powerful tool to free yourself from suffering, just by saying hello. As with all things here, I draw on my own experiences, sharing only that which I can personally attest to working and understand on an experiential level. Now, let’s dive in…
You know those times when everything seems so infuriating for no particular reason? Endless stories start streaming through your mind about how frustratingly wrong things are with a kind of ferocity that is almost debilitating. Well, I have. On some mornings, for no obvious reason, a wave of agitation grips me with such intensity that my first impulse is to cancel any plans I have and sit in fiery solitude. One such wave hit me the morning of writing this story. I was angry and my mind wanted to find all kinds of reasons for why it was everyone else’s fault, which funnily enough only made me feel worse. I’ve already gone down the road of blaming everyone else over and over again and I know where it leads me, to more frustration and more suffering. So I decided to try a new strategy. Feeling unable to really do much else, I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. My mind’s angry stories could play out all they liked, but for the time being, I was going to close my eyes and breath deeply. The world may be entirely unmanageable but for right now I could inhale, and exhale. Inhale, exhale. After a bit of time breathing, I was ready to tackle another step. What does this agitation feel like in my body? Where does my body feel not like itself? My attention was drawn to a coursing, hot, intense energy in my chest. Actually, now that I was looking for the discomfort in my body it was impossible to miss. Now that I’ve found it, I might as well greet it. “Hello, agitation. I see you there.” As I said these words in my head, it was like space was created between me and the agitation. There was me, and then there was it. While I was watching it, it couldn’t manipulate me like a marionette attached to strings of thought. It was suddenly, entirely manageable to observe the sensation. It had been overwhelmingly unbearable to BE the sensation. Identifying it allowed me to realize that I wasn’t it. I HAD an agitation, but I wasn’t the agitation. And what a powerful thing it was to feel that shift as it happened.
I’ve become very familiar with the idea of observing rather than identifying with my thoughts and feelings, it’s something you’ll hear regularly from meditation and mindfulness teachers. It can be easy to do when you’ve planned your nice, calm meditation space and everything is rosy, but this practice really tests you when instead of roses it feels like you’re working with a steaming hot pile of poo. But while it may be hard, what good is it to have these tools if you don’t actually use them, especially when you need them most?
So next time you feel like punching a wall, you might want to try this instead:
Breath deeply, it can also help to close your eyes. All you have to think about is inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Only move on when you feel ready to try another step. And if that doesn’t happen, simply breathing deeply will allow the emotion to move through your body. Try it again next time this happens. Eventually, you’ll be ready for the next step.
Bring your awareness into your body. Where do you feel the agitation (or whatever your personal pile of poo happens to be)?
Say hello to it. Acknowledge it.
Realize you are not the agitation. You HAVE an agitation.
Sit with it. Accept that it’s there without trying to argue with it or change it. See what it does. Keep breathing deeply.
Let it run its course. By allowing and observing it you may just find that it becomes much more manageable. The more you acknowledge it as separate from you, the more it will shift.
It may or may not have a message for you. If it does, observe any insights or inspiration that may come to you afterward. For me, it was gratitude for learning how to more deeply integrate tools I’ve learned, followed by inspiration to write this post.
It took me about 15 minutes to work through my process and feel like myself again. In times when I haven’t done this, I’ve let agitation ruin my whole day. In those times, I wasn’t ready to let go of my stories about why I felt the way I felt, I needed more time to work through my process. It was painful, but it was my reality at that time. Maybe you feel that way too, in which case, cool. I respect your process. But If you don’t want to do that anymore, here’s something else you can try. If you do try it, I’d love to hear how it goes for you! Write to me in the comment box below or message me through my contact form.
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about non-identification from thought you can read more about it here, here, and here.
Happy first day of the last month of 2017 everyone! We’ll go on a bit of a personal journey with this post, and if you’re feeling up for the adventure, I encourage you to give yourself a few minutes of undisturbed time to settle in and get the most out of it. That being said, let’s jump into it…
Imagine if you will, that you have a friend who has been through everything you’ve been through. Since day one, they’ve felt the same joys, sorrows, and everything else you’ve ever experienced. And those things that are sometimes too much to feel, they feel more strongly. Even the things you forget, they remember and hold onto more deeply. Not only do they remember every experience they’ve ever had, but they’re entirely incapable of hiding how they feel because they only speak the truth, which can be super annoying at times.
Sometimes you get along with this friend and sometimes you don’t, and it’s mostly when you two stop talking to each other that things begin to go south. Sometimes it feels like your friend is just sitting there being excruciatingly uncomfortable, and it takes all of your willpower to carry on with your day despite their palpable brooding.
Through all of this frustration, you take a deep breath. You begin to remember everything you two have been through, even those things you’d forgotten. You bring your awareness to the toughest memory that stands out in your mind. You let yourself feel how much that hurt. When that was happening you weren’t very good at showing up for work either, hell, just existing was hard enough then. If there was something someone could have said to you to help you through that time, what would they have said? What would you say to someone going through what you went through? Ask yourself this question now and wait for your mind to give you the answer. When you have the answer, write it down.
Read on only once you’ve done this exercise.
Now back to your friend. You ask them how is it that they’ve been through everything you’ve been through? Are they you? No. Yet they know everything about you. How? Because they’ve lived with you more intimately than anyone else in your life. The things you’ve forgotten or denied about yourself, they remember and hold onto. This is why it hurts so much when you don’t talk to them. So let’s talk to them. First, sit comfortably and bring your awareness inward. Take some deep breaths, expanding your abdomen as you inhale and sighing it out on your exhale. Feel your feet touching the floor. Feel yourself sitting.You’re going to tell your friend what you wrote down, and your going to begin by saying, “my dear body…” and then read your message.
Rest here and feel what your body feels. What does it feel like to talk to your body? What does it feel like to show your body compassion? You are made of consciousness, and you live within a conscious body. Otherwise, you’d have to remember to breathe, digest, pump blood, grow skin, and do an endless number of processes happening in every single moment. You are not your body, but like it or not, you will live together for the rest of your life. How do you want that relationship to look? Next time you think a thought about your body, make a note of it. Does that thought feel contractive or expansive? If the thought was food, would it be poison or nourishment?
So many of us, especially in the western world, are very good at living in our thoughts but not so good at living in our bodies. What is it like to feel your blood pumping? Does it feel alive? How does it feel to touch the earth with each foot when you walk? We’re not looking for the thought or idea of it, but how the actual physical sensations feel. Your body speaks through sensations and if it’s not a language you’re used to speaking, the good news is that anyone can learn it with practice.
Part of creating a healthy dialogue is feeling like our body is a nice to place live.
Your body has to process everything you consume from food and drink to thoughts and media. Is what you’re consuming poison or nourishment? Remember your body speaks through physical sensations. It could talk to you through a feeling of heaviness and agitation, or it could be a feeling of lightness and calm.
Your body needs both movement and rest to process and regenerate. Does it feel anxious or congested? It may need more movement. Does it feel depleted or sick? It may need more rest.
Your body holds onto things that at some point in your life, you chose to not feel because it was too intense at the time. Your body may have been holding to these things for so long that you no longer know how to access them, and if you did, you may not yet you have the tools to shift them on your own. When this happens, it can help to work with someone trained in helping you navigate and release these blocked energies. If there is a healing modality calling to you, I encourage you to look into it. If you’d like more information on the work I do with Medical Qigong, you can read here or book a phone consult with me to learn more.
Do what helps your body become a place worth living in. Because it’s not only your home, it the best friend you’ll ever have.
Thank you for taking the time to read this story. If you know of anyone who you think could benefit from reading this, please share it!
Welcome to part 1 of an ongoing series of personal stories. These stories are a way for you for you to get to know me and they’re a reminder for anyone who’s been through similar challenges that you’re not alone. We’re all figuring this stuff out together, and with some determination, time, and help anything can be figured out.
“You don’t belong here”.
Four words that have reverberated through my mind and body for as long as I can remember stringing sounds together. It wasn’t that “here” has been a particularly unwelcoming place. “Here” has been a peaceful country, a group of friendly people, a house, a job, a relationship. But with “here” accompanied an infinite list of stories my mind would create about whatever my current circumstances happened to be. And while the context of the story would inevitably change, four words remained unwavering: “you don’t belong here”. Each time those words rose up a ripple of pain would course through my whole being and then leave me with a paralyzing emptiness. I wanted to connect with people but it seemed impossible. I wanted someone to see me, to save me from this sea of nothingness. But how could they, when I couldn’t even see myself?
So I searched for a way out of the pain. I searched for it in liquor, in work. For moments it would mask the hurt, but I could still feel it there just below the surface, waiting for a quiet moment of reflection to attack. But I kept searching, venturing into other parts of the world. Maybe the castles of Scotland, towers of England, coral reefs of Belize, or beaches Mexico would save me? Maybe all I needed to snuff out those four words was a new “here”. And as I searched in each new place my heart would sink a little deeper, because it was never there. “I SHOULD be happy here. Why the hell aren’t I happy?!” I was unhappy and entirely pissed off about it. And with a sinking despair, I began to wonder if what I was looking for even existed. Maybe it was nowhere.
For a while, I gave up on seeking and I shifted my focus back to work, and when I wasn’t working I was with my couch and Netflix. But that time of moderate entertainment, rest and solitude somehow backfired when one I opened up a Pandora’s box of documentaries on Netflix. I learned about animal agriculture, about environmental devastation, about war, poverty, and oppression. I had already known about all of these things, having intellectually thought about how unfortunate they were. But I had never l felt them. I had never experienced them with my heart. It wasn’t until I looked deeply into the eyes of another suffering soul that I felt their suffering in my soul. And it wasn’t until I looked deeply into the body of a damaged earth I felt that damage in my own body. It was a hurt so deep and vast, and it made my heart crack wide open. The emptiness was gone, and it was replaced by a pain so unbearable that the only thing that mattered was my search for salvation. And then, as if the Universe saw me drowning, it threw me a liferaft.
I was waiting in my car outside of a store parking lot and listening to the radio when I turned to a station in mid-interview. A man was describing an image of him holding himself as a child. As he held and spoke with his inner child, he was able to hear this part of him with understanding and compassion. He was able to resolve it’s confusion and hurt and let go of a deep pain that he had been carrying for a long long time. Then he mentioned how grateful he was to have had this Ayahuasca ceremony.
Ayahuasca? What the hell was that? I began furiously googling everything I could find about Ayahuasca. There was a National Geographic article from a woman sharing her journey of overcoming her lifelong depression in an Ayahuasca ceremony. There was a mini-documentary about an artist’s journey into experiencing another world that amazed him and showed him ways that he could take better care of himself and how he now creates personal work inspired by the visions Ayahuasca shared with him. And that was it for me. I found a retreat and two weeks later I was on a plane to an Amazonian jungle in Peru. My mind didn’t have many stories as I made my way there. Instead, I felt a deep sense of peace that I was exactly where I should be.
I arrived at a retreat that felt like a little oasis, protected from the outside world with a green canopy of lush life. I found myself there with other seekers from all around the world, people who’ve come to experience this Amazonian tea and the ancient wisdom of the shamans who work with it. And whatever expectations we might have had upon arriving they would not light a candle to what unfolded. On the night of our first ceremony, my heart broke more open than I had realized possible. The seemingly infinite pain that I was holding onto began to melt into the earth. I watched memories of my life and stories from my mind come to the surface and surrender their pain. And as this happened, I started having space for something other than pain. I began to feel intense, expansive love, joy, and amazement. I could feel the moonlight washing over and nourishing me from above. I could feel myself swaying in the gentle breeze with the jungle plants. I was myself, I was the plants, and I was the moonlight. It felt profoundly and completely beautiful to be alive, to be life. I was in a world that existed beyond pain, numbness, and stories. And it was perfect.
But I couldn’t stay there forever. I had my life in Canada to come home to. And when I made it home I wanted to tell everyone about that world, about how perfect and beautiful it was. But when I tried to explain it, there wasn’t a string of relatability for anyone to grasp onto. The world I experienced there and the world here were so different, it was like explaining a dream. So I kept it to myself and over time the perfection of it faded into an echo, becoming overshadowed by the busyness of doing things and all my minds stories about things. And eventually, a faint, familiar sound started creeping back in… “you don’t belong here”. And it seemed that I had found a medicine, but not a cure.
Ayahuasca had shown me a window into what is. It was profound, beautiful and awakening. But it wasn’t my destination, not for a sustainable length of time anyway. But I realized that what I was looking for did exist. It was somewhere. And my job was to build a map to get there. A new chapter in a long journey home had begun.
Thank you for sharing in this story with me! If you’re interested in the healing practice of Chinese Energetic Medicine you can learn more about the sessions I offer HERE. If you have questions or want to reach out you can contact me HERE.