Last Friday was my birthday which is a day that has historically been a source of sadness, longing and other painful emotions, as well as gratitude for the people who cared and wanted to spend some of the day with me. This year is the first where I have experienced no painful emotions at all, only happiness and gratitude for those many people who thought of me and made it special by sending cards, gifts or, in the case of one good friend, met up with me despite having no money! I am so grateful for them all.
I am also more aware than ever that that day merely marks the incarnation of me in this particular lifetime and I am so much more than that. It doesn’t mean diminishing the importance of my birthday to the part of me who needs it, but remembering it is only one facet of my existence. My soul exists beyond this lifetime: it is part of the Divine and thus has always existed and always will exist. This life, this personality, my experiences in this lifetime, are one colour in a spectrum of many. When I lose sight of this for too long and attach to my personal history as being the totality of who I am, I will suffer. When I embrace my history as part of my soul’s many journeys through many lifetimes, I am free.
This said, my birthday has enabled me to take stock of this lifetime and what wish to experience (within the bounds of what is possible). I’ve decided to join the dating scene again for the first time since before the pandemic and put myself out there, even though it terrifies me. I still fear rejection on an emotional level, despite all I know spiritually. This is because my inner child still longs to belong and be accepted, as much as I am working on accepting myself and belonging to my own sense of being. I have enough self awareness to give myself to a relationship without becoming enmeshed or wanting to back away. At least, that is the hope. I’m an HSP and empath, so relationships have historically been hard, leaving me needing to back away to get some space. Maybe I will find someone who functions on a similar wavelength so we understand each other. That is my birthday message to the Universe: I will experience a healthy, connected, loving relationship where we both understand the wholeness of love that is in our hearts and share it freely. So be it.
Gratitude helps me stop and take stock of what’s positive and working in my life on days when it’s hard to see past what is far from ideal or I wish was different in some way.
It’s too easy to fall into lamenting what seems wrong or feeling jealous of what others have that I wish I had.
Being grateful for my lot doesn’t mean pretending my feelings are any different than they are or denying they even exist; the last thing anyone needs is to feel bad for having feelings that simply ARE.
Acceptance is the key. In accepting where I am right now, I let the feelings flow, allowing my heart to open and space for new perspectives and experiences to emerge. This is when gratitude can take shape within us as we realise we’re always guided by the Divine to be the best we can be, even when life is unbearably tough. We’re never alone.
In the words of the serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
When your childhood wounds seem to have you in a tight grip, squeezing the air out of your lungs, closing their fingers around your heart, desperate for another temporary release from a lifetime of pain, you have a choice.
When you can stop, feel the longing, the anger, the desperate need to escape from this pain into what you think you need, or what some part of you thinks it needs, you have a choice.
Even when you feel the tightness, the agony, and know you have a choice, but you act out anyway, you have a choice.
In awareness there is always choice. Even when the desire pulls you this way or that, you remain aware, the compassionate witness, understanding that there is space between the ‘you’ that you think you are who is gripped by a need for something out there to relieve fear and feel safe, and the witness which is ever present, eternal and loving.
The witness, the soul, higher self, Divine spark or whatever else we may call it, does not need to judge the child who is consumed by painful emotions and desires. The child is simply reaching for whatever seems to provide the relief from pain and the security it needs. Until the child learns there is another way, the witness can love the child – not the behaviour, but the child – and let the child know that love is found here, in this moment.
Even when the child does not believe you, or refuses to listen, maybe because the messages from the past are too entrenched, the fear too great, the desires too tantalising, and the witness totally disappears, all is not lost because the witness has not really gone away, it is always there; the sky within which everything else passes. And once again, there is a choice.
You can choose to reach out to the higher power to which all of us are connected, to pray, ask for guidance, ask for the courage to choose love.
I’m staying at my mother’s house for a few days. She lives near a wooded area and welcomes many squirrels into her garden with treats to tide them over the winter months. They are friendly and don’t mind being watched through the glass door- even my mother’s cat watches them- but they will jump onto the fence if approached.
But what about the condensed and very intense experience of falling in love with another person? What does this mean in context with perfect universal love? As I’m experiencing something akin to this at the moment, I’ll share my thoughts with you.
Every so often, or several times over a lifetime if you’re lucky, you meet someone, regardless of label, who lights a spark in you. Hence the saying goes ‘sparks fly’ or ‘they have so much chemistry.’ There are many psychological processes that probably go into this, too many to mention here, but suffice to say, our relationships with primary caregivers, previous partners, buried emotions and personality traits influence who we are drawn to and find attractive. There might also be spiritual influences such as karma, past lives, soul mates and destiny. We can only guess.
For whatever reason, you meet someone and maybe instantly or maybe over many months or years, you find yourself falling deeply in love until pretty much all you can think about is that person. You love everything about them, even their flaws, even when you get frustrated or irritated sometimes. You share a connection that is so intensely powerful that it’s like a drug – you can’t get enough of it. In fact, science has proven that falling in love IS a drug; it has the same effect on the brain. You are bonded to that person, you miss them desperately when they are not there, you fear that something will happen to take them away from you.
Recently I wrote about love being the only answer, including when we’re struggling with aspects of ourselves and other people or situations that we truly cannot love or accept. Love is the key to being at peace with life and connecting with all of creation in all its glory and suffering. Darkness disappears when the light of love shines on it. Each of us are created from and embody this perfect love, even though we often feel and act in less than perfect ways. Part of being human is trusting the light is there even when all we see and feel is darkness.
Is there anything wrong with this? Of course not. And yet, like most human experiences, it has a flip side that we all know about: it can hurt like heck. It can turn us into wounded, jealous, possessive, desperate versions of ourselves. Unrequited love and loss in whatever forms are some of the most painful human experiences.
Despite following spiritual teachings for many years, I have had such an experience recently that reminded me that I’m certainly not immune to the process of falling in love and the wonderful agony it can bring. It had made me question whether falling in love is somehow ‘unspiritual’ because it focuses on one person rather than universal love for all. Now I know that it isn’t, it’s purely another experience, but with any experience on this plane, it helps to be mindful of what’s actually going on and seek to understand it. In my case, I’ve been looking at falling in love from a spiritual perspective.
Then I found this quote:
‘Falling in love is actually a powerful experience of feeling the universe move through you. The other person has become a channel for you, a catalyst that triggers you to open up to the love, beauty and compassion within – Shakti Gawain
When we fall in love, at least to begin with, it’s all about the other person; what we see in them, often what we need from them (until we learn to feel whole: see my post on Wholeness), what we admire about them. We may place them on a pedestal and think they are God’s gift to us; which actually, they are, just not in the way we might think. Every relationship is a mirror which is showing us our very selves; our good qualities, our not so good qualities, our potential, our buried hurts, what we wish we could be. We may not be able to see those things in ourselves so we are deeply attracted to someone who possesses them or reminds us of the qualities in a loved parent or partner. We are existing in a state of love, of being ‘in’ love, since the process of falling in love can show what we carry inside ourselves, that which is revealed through our longing for connection and unity with another person. It can remind us that we have the capacity to connect to universal love within, our Divine spark which is currently activated through the other person.
A healthy adult relationship is born when two people grow together in love. The other person may still, if we’re lucky, light our fire, but they are aware of the love that exists within, their own spark of Divinity, and seek to share it with each other without trying to possess or turn into the other. They will still admire qualities in each other but without unknowingly projecting their own sense of unworthiness onto the other. Getting to this stage can take a great deal of inner work because a lot of people search for relationships to heal the emptiness in their souls, which is natural until we learn what is really going on.
In short, falling in love, and the bond that follows, is a powerful experience which is reminding us that love exists within us when we tap into it and remember who we are.
I’m passionate about all birds and living by the sea we get a lot of gulls. Today I noticed a young – perhaps adolescent – gull having a mooch around the grass near the local park. Like most gulls, it was confident and not at all fazed by me and my dog. It seemed entirely alone and happy with the fact.
I probably speak for almost everybody when I say I don’t cope well with disappointment. It’s such a crushing, sickening feeling that makes me want to scream at somebody or rage at the injustice of life itself. Quite often there’s nowhere for it to go, thus compounding feelings of helplessness and hurt. But like all emotions, it has something to teach us.
Perhaps more than any other, disappointment is an emotion that brings forth the wounded inner child and reminds me that it is still alive and kicking within me. If I listen, really listen, to that child, I can hear her pain and know that it’s valid and understandable, even though my adult self is tempted to try to escape those feelings or criticise myself for ‘being silly’ or even bypass them with spiritual teachings.
Years ago, when I was married, my ex husband proudly told me that he was starting a new healthy eating regime and was making himself a salad to take to work for his lunch. That evening I asked whether he enjoyed his lunch. My ex told me that he’d mixed the dressing with the salad while preparing it so when he opened his new lunch box it had all gone limp and horrible and he’d had to throw it away. Not a pleasant, yet very unremarkable experience, but the pain in his voice revealed the hurt and disappointed little boy who was crushed by the loss of not just his lunch but the excitement and plans for a new diet. It brought tears to my eyes as I empathised with just how upsetting that experience had been.
The disappointed child within us needs to be listened to and validated. This child carries our deepest wounds and the difficult and often painful work lies in understanding what they are. Even if it seems utterly inconsequential on the surface – such as my ex husband’s lunch – it often points to a deeper loss and sadness that needs and deserves compassion. Ironically, while I was empathic on that particular occasion, it’s only many years on that I can see how wounded my ex was – we both were – and how often we ‘triggered’ each other’s pain. Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle calls this the ‘pain body’ which I really like and resonate with.
Despite my years of intellectual spiritual study I am only recently learning how many of my childhood wounds still exist in me and how emotions such as disappointment serve to make these wounds known. As painful as the experience is, I am trying to take a small step back and notice what’s happening – remain in presence as Eckhart will say – and not resist, deny or lose myself in it. In letting every moment be my teacher, I can learn how to embrace the disappointed little girl and let her know she is seen and heard, as well as accepted and loved.