Monday, July 11, 2011

Embracing the Shadow

I came across this blog post today, which is serendipitous in puzzling out a significant quandry I am facing:

"What would happen if we looked at our lives right now – every one of us – with all the things we love about them and all the things we know we want to change, all our strengths and our neuroses, all the places of confidence and the fears and stresses and what-ifs that we carry, and trusted that the unfolding of all of it is good?

What if we trusted this to be true for other people, too? Even, yes, the person on skid row. Even the addict, the terminally ill, the suicidally depressed?

Could it still apply? (I feel shy and audacious even asking!)

What if we trusted that the exact pace we’re all going is right, and that if any of us were inspired to speed up or slow down, that would be right, too?

What if we trusted that our screw-ups fit into the big picture well?

What if we knew that nothing has been or is being or will ever be wasted or lost, and that even where we could talk about waste and loss on one level, the feelings that get evoked by such things – grief, despair, embarrassment, shame – and the actions these inspire, are important parts of our story, and are working their own magic to take us to important next chapters?

Could it be true? In the face of horrendous loss? Natural disasters? War?"
Kirstin Noelle

I am in the midst of a big lesson in acceptance and trust.

As an empath, I can feel the emotional experiences of others. This means that I can experience someone else's joy and their heartache.

Another aspect of my intuition is the ability to see the shape of light and shadow in people. I can see people's gifts, the unique combination of qualities that they shine into other people's lives. I can also see the corresponding darkness, the unique challenges that lie in the shadows of their gifts (there is a direct correlation between our gifts and our shadows) and their past (our life experiences shape our wounded stories). I can often feel the motivation in people's choices, whether they are expressing their light, a choice from love, or shadow, a choice from fear.

I can also feel potentials, which sometimes are experienced as precise premonitions (they have always come true to the exact detail). I can sometimes see and/or feel what will happen if someone chooses to express their light, or if they choose to express their shadow.

These are all gifts I have to offer as a counselor/coach. But here is the quandry - I am attached to the choices people make. I desire for people to choose the light and the deepening of love and joy that will come into their lives when they do. I have a difficult time when people choose the shadow and I know I will witness - and possibly feel - the painful consequences.

The closer I am to someone, the more I can see and feel in them. The pattern that I'm recognizing is that when I've had an intimate relationship with someone and it ends at least partially because they choose their shadow, and I can feel the potential of where they are headed if they continue making fearful choices with painful consequences, I want to withdraw so that I don't have to see or feel their pain, and the pain of others impacted by their choices. I want to shut them out of my heart, not because they've hurt me, but because I don't want to experience them continuing to hurt themselves and possibly others.

And here's why - I watched my mom die from living in her shadow. I watched my mom struggle with addiction most of my life - from age 11 when I was putting her to bed because she couldn't walk straight till age 35 when she died of an accidental narcotic overdose. I watched my mom suffer from severe depression because she would not transform her wounded child stories of abandonment and worthlessness to experience her own empowerment. I've witnessed firsthand what happens when someone keeps choosing shadow and their sense of worthlessness till the day it kills them. I don't want to ever have to witness that again. I don't want anyone in the world to experience that. I want everyone to truly know how bright they shine and how deeply loved they are before they die.

And yet I have to admit that I see the beauty and meaning in my mom's life and death. I see it in how she inspired me to claim my own mental health and be a good mother to my children. I see it in how she inspired my sister to work in art therapy with juvenile offenders. I saw it in the friends from one of my mother's churches who attended her funeral and expressed how they were impacted by her capacity for love and service. Although my mom let shadow drive most of her life, she also brought light and love into the world.

I wonder if I can find the trust that Kristin speaks of. I wonder if I can learn to the see the beauty and meaning in other people's shadow stories the same way I have my own. I know that every painful experience I've had has led me deeper into myself, into a deeper relationship with Life, and into a deeper experience of love.

I can see how powerfully we shape each other, but not always in love. The shadows shape us in ways the light can't.

I did the dance with resistance for years before choosing to make a change I knew I needed to make (ending my unhealthy marriage and my own pattern of emotional violence) - and every one of those years brought amazing experiences into my life that wouldn't have happened if I'd been anywhere else. When I think about those whom have caused me pain or harm, I see that every single one of them also brought me profound transformation into deeper love and joy. Being raped by an abusive lover gave me my daughter, catalyzed my journey to empowerment, and inspired an art project that touched thousands of lives. Being abandoned to single parenthood gave me tremendous strength and a life shaping experience of service and unconditional love that touches every relationship I have.

Most recently, I gave my deepest vulnerability to someone who preyed on it and objectified it rather than treasured it and I experienced a lot of heartache. I also discovered my own desires, new depths of tribal and self love, a trust in my capacity to manage emotional triggers in a healthy way, an ability to communicate my needs, and so much more that I may never even be able to put into words. I needed the experience exactly as it was to learn that I am truly invincible - I can lay my heart bare to a predator and not only survive, but thrive in the revelations of my own power.

Is it possible this must be true for every woman who is preyed on? For every child who is abused? For every man who goes to war? For every person living with cancer? If my heart and spirit is invincible, doesn't that have to mean everyone else's is, too, if only they believe it is so?

Whether I am a spiritual being having a human experience or just a skinsuit capable of consciousness and emotion, I am invincible right here, right now after surviving more traumas than most people experience in one lifetime. I am not invincible because there is something special about me or I am somehow more resilient than others. There are many people like me. I am invincible because I have an unshakable faith than I can survive and thrive in anything that doesn't literally kill me. I believe the resilience of others comes from the same faith, whether it's faith in God or faith in our capacities as humans.

Instead of letting life happen to me, I consciously use my life experiences to transform my wounded stories and grow my psychological, emotional and spiritual health. And this is what I think I have to offer others. This is what I want to help others do - be empowered to transform themselves and their lives by choosing to consciously express their love and light, as well as work with and integrate their shadows so that they don't act unconsciously out of fear. Our shadows are a part of us and need to be explored and expressed, but we have the choice to do so in unconscious, self-destructive ways, or conscious, self-empowering ways.

Of course like all coaches I desire to assist people in seeing and expressing their light. However, I also desire to assist in embracing their shadow, which will give them greater capacity to hold space for and embrace the shadow in others, which is really the only way we'll ever experience peace. We need to accept our own and each others darknesses and hold space for each other express them in non-harmful ways.

"Guess what: God created beings not to act in a morality play but to experience what is unfathomable, to elicit what can become, to descend into the darkness of creation and reveal it to him, to mourn and celebrate enigma and possibility. The universe is a whirling dervish, not a hanging judge in robes." - Richard Grossinger

It's vital to both my personal relationships and my eventual practice in counseling/coaching others that I make peace with the shadows and resulting heartaches in others, even when I can feel it in my own heart. I need to extend the trust I feel in the Universe to everyone I encounter, no matter how tragic their story is or may become. I must keep my heart open (with appropriate boundaries) to the addict who chooses to stay addicted because it's easier to be continually numb and distracted rather than face the pain; to the woman who continues to take the abuse because she believes she deserves it; to the man who preys on others because he doesn't know his own true power or lovability. I have to trust that everything is unfolding exactly as it is meant to for everyone - the addict and their loved ones, the abuser and the abused, the predator and the prey.

If my heart is invincible, then I can love anyone. If my heart is invincible, then I can make myself vulnerable to anything emotionally and empathically. I know that I need to have boundaries if I desire to be conscious and healthy in the expression of my love and vulnerability with others, but I also know from experience that every story is potentially a life-changing love story, no matter how imperfectly or painfully it unfolds. I just have to live it that way.


Image Source: Kumi Yamashita

Friday, July 8, 2011

Where Everything Shines as it Disappears

Want the change.
Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines
as it disappears.


I haven't written in a long while for a couple of reasons.

The first is that my relationship with Daddy became emotionally complicated in some troubling ways and I found myself both afraid of writing vulnerably where he could see my process and too raw to share what I was experiencing. As vulnerable as I am capable of being here, I don't show you everything. I haven't shown anyone everything in regards to my experience with Daddy, it's just so deep and raw and confusing.

Our relationship ended last week and I am still sorting and processing my feelings about everything that transpired. I'm pretty certain there will be future posts that address what I have learned about myself as a submissive and emotional masochist, as well as my mission in vulnerability and healthy D/s dynamics. I have been writing, I just haven't been publishing, and now I desire to filter those posts through my current perspective.

The other intimate relationships that I was nurturing all ended as well, for various reasons. I am working through experiences of rejection, misunderstanding, disappointment and other tricky relationship territory. Now I don't have any intimate relationships at all, although opportunities for sexual intimacy with friends have arisen, so that I can at least get those needs met if I desire. Experiencing the end of so many relationships in such a short period of time has been hard on my heart. It's difficult for me to write in the midst of the heartache. I usually write after I've turned the heartache into something meaningful and beautiful. I'm still in the process of making it all beautiful.

The other reason I haven't been writing is that life threw me a curveball and my big plans to move to the Bay Area and create the life of my dreams have been put on hold for another two years. I made this decision for the best interest of my daughter, which is a relatively easy sacrifice to make since I believe raising emotionally healthy children is the most important work I can do with my life.

However, I am struggling with feelings of stuckness. I couldn't write for awhile because I was striving to find the beauty in the change - or lack of change. I have been looking for answers to big questions: How can I create the life of my dreams here in this small county that can't financially sustain the sort of work I desire to transition to? How can I find my peers in mysticism, consciousness and sacred sexuality that I've hungered for so long and haven't found in the years I've lived here? How can I experience and learn what I need to in order to become a Tantrika or other sort of healer-counselor that weaves Mysticism, Tantra and BDSM into my practice? And how do I find the sort of intimate relationship that I desire with someone as committed to consciousness, emotional health and sacred sexuality as I am - and is also a dynamic Dominant (something I now know I deeply desire) - when the local pool of possible connections is so small and keeps getting smaller (especially in regards to kink)?

Of course the truth is that I can make progress towards the work-of-my-heart while remaining in Humboldt. I have decided to return as a full partner and Hostess with The Impropriety Society. Jen W has left us to pursue motherhood, and Paddle and I are working with four long-standing Imps leaders to transition to a different leadership model by the end of the year. Having more people responsible for the organization can allow me to focus my efforts in the places I most desire to - organizational culture, community relationship, cultivating conscious leadership, activism through writing, etc. All of these contribute to my growth as a sex-positive leader and community organizer.

I can also make progress towards developing myself and my work as a personal-coach/healer through self-study, traveling to workshops & conferences, writing, building a strong web presence, and starting a part-time practice.

What really frustrates me is the sense of limitation around finding spiritual community and an intimate relationship that meets my desires and needs. I've been seeking spiritual community for as long as I've been here and had one for about 2 years out of 20. I'm skeptical I'll find one now and the spiritual gatherings I facilitated didn't lead to the kind of connection I am seeking, so I'm not sure that attempting to create my own community again will be successful.

As to intimate relationship, I don't even know that I could find a Dominant locally that could inspire me to the depths of submission that Daddy did. On-going psychological and emotional edge play like his is not common in this little community. All the local Dominants I know are primarily into physical play and occasional, light D/s. Now that bitch has been awakened, it makes me incredibly sad to have to essentially put her to sleep until someone else inspires her into being again. To find someone who can be the Dominant I desire, and is also devoted to conscious evolution and relationship, seems like an impossible dream right now.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive.


Despite the changes - or lack of change - in my life, I am still the person I've always been. I will turn my circumstances into something beautiful. I will continue to empower myself to claim the life I truly desire. I will keep my heart open to the Universe and every opportunity it brings me. I will trust that I am on the right path, headed towards more love and creativity than I have ever known before.

Because that is what is true about the last few years of my life here in Humboldt - it does keep getting better. I am evolving in significant ways. I have the most amazing community and friendships. I am wrapped in love in a way that I didn't even know was possible three years ago. And I have faith that it will keep getting better as long as I'm willing to trust the journey and remain vulnerable to where the Divine leads me.