The glint of sunlight through the branches
Melodies of birds peeping through bracken
My feet caressed by the Earth
The Divine warms my heart
The glint of sunlight through the branches
Melodies of birds peeping through bracken
My feet caressed by the Earth
The Divine warms my heart
This is a weighted question for me. I would say, overall, I am good at being honest with myself, but that has a flip side. I am very self-aware, which is mainly a good thing, but without some discernment it is easy to fall into the trap of becoming too intimate with my faults. Seeing and learning from my faults is a good thing. Judging and criticising them is not. In fact, when I criticise myself I have succumed to the past conditioning which created an image of myself as worthless and a failure. The thoughts quickly turn into the familiar narrative of how it’s pointless trying because I’m so useless and before I know it I’m back there again – hurting.
But I can see it. And this is my gift.
As a child, I saw how people’s minds and emotions worked. I wrote stories about them. I had not developed a full self image at that point. I was in touch with my intuition. I wrote to God and made characters express the feelings that I was unable to. I didn’t think about or analyse anything, it just flowed from me like a river from Source. It was only after I was forced to change schools at age ten that it all went wrong. And of course, age ten is pretty pivotal in terms of ego development. I’m talking here of healthy ego or personality development, when we learn who we are in the world, what we like, what we want.
I started the new school a shell of the child I had been previously. I was scared due to what was happening at home and school was no longer a refuge. I was socially anxious and had been removed from everyone I knew. The kids didn’t know what to make of me. In typical kid-style, they took the mickey. A year later I started secondary school, still friendless. The bullying started. I had always been an introvert but now I was completely withdrawn and scared of people. So rather than developing a healthy personality, I saw myself as an idiot who nobody liked.
I have already written about the sadness around my writing when I started university so I won’t repeat it again. Suffice to say, I suffered a lot through school but writing became an outlet for my emotions and something I considered myself to be good at, until I lost faith in that too. But now, as an adult in my forties, I see and understand that writing was not something that belonged to me; instead it flowed from me, and it’s not something that can be lost, just like the essence of who I was as a child cannot be lost. In a way I have become full circle; I am integrating what the child in me knew with the maturity of age and the challenges I have faced, and realising that what I believed about myself at school was an illusion.
Self-awareness is a gift. Writing is my offering. It is my joy, my passion, and I still like to believe I am ‘good’ at it because that is something that matters to me. In writing, I understand my story, discern my faults, see where I am caught. In writing, I allow the beauty of Divine love to channel through me, remind me I am okay as I am. There is a balance. There is always a balance.
The above quote is my absolute favourite. No matter how many times I’ve seen and heard it, it still brings tears to my eyes. My soul resonates so strongly with its meaning that the mere words are literally sunshine to my heart. I am a summer person in every way possible and to me everything good is associated with summer. I appreciate my perspective may not be shared with those who feel happiest in winter, but either way I hope you can change the words to your preference and take something beautiful from its meaning.
The other day I was sitting out in the – relatively rare! – hot UK Sun feeling the heat on my skin and sensing the golden rays behind my closed eyelids. I felt like I was bathed in the glorious beauty of Love itself. Joy radiated from me. I felt like the Sun was washing away all my sadness and pain and I was emerging into a new version of myself. As is the wisdom of the seasons, if we take time to tune into them and really understand – not with the mind, but with the heart. Nature speaks an eternal truth: we are reborn in Love, every millisecond of every day; our Divinity shines with the Sun and the clouds of despair, horror and illusion will pass by. Only what remains is real – the invincible summer of the soul.
That night I woke up with this beautiful song in my head. With gratitude I played it several times the following day:
Echkart Tolle explained how his spiritual awakening to his true nature beyond the mind occurred when his mental suffering became intolerable. He was severely depressed, suicidal, in total despair unable to see a way out and until he uttered the words ‘Who is this ‘I’ that I cannot live with?’ Then he paused, reflecting on the profound meaning of his words. He had discovered the inner witness that some may call the soul, who lies beyond the mind, aware of every experience, thought and emotion, yet untouched by it all. This realisation changed Tolle’s life. He woke up from the dream of identifying with his mental state and went on to (eventually) write several books and become a spiritual teacher. As far as I know he has never fallen back into unconsciousness.
His dramatic awakening is unusual in its completeness; a clear boundary between ‘before’ and ‘after.’ For most people it doesn’t work like that. The path to becoming more conscious tends to follow a rugged trajectory of peaks and troughs, consisting of periods of heightened awareness before falling back into the grip of identifying with one’s conditioned self and then, at some point, emerges the realisation of being lost in the dream of mind. Ideally, the conscious periods will lengthen and the tendency to get lost will lessen over time. However, sometimes the unconscious periods intensify as the conditioned self/ego senses it is losing its hold and will hang on to whatever it can to save itself. Eventually, for those destined to awaken in this lifetime, the ego can no longer resist the force of the soul’s desire to know itself, and it begins to dissolve. Far from being a wonderful process, it is often completely horrible. This is what is known as the ‘dark night of the soul’
My own journey has definitely followed the latter trajectory. Looking back, my awakening journey probably first started when I walked away from my marriage with an narcissist, struggling with a relapse of my physical health condition, and a profoundly disabled child in tow. Until that point I was living out my life in a state of trauma as the result of my childhood and becoming seriously unwell at university. I had improved, gone to work and had a baby, only to fall very ill again. I was sensitive, empathetic, but highly insecure and lacking in self esteem, so it was not surprising I found myself attracted to my ex’s highly magnetic stage personality. After several years of mental cruelty, I finally realised that I was worth more. I don’t know how I found the courage to leave under the circumstances, but the little girl inside me had not lost her connection to the Divine despite everything. She reminded me that I was strong and would be okay, like she had been.
And so my journey really started. I sought therapy, tried alternative treatments, focused on my life with my son. Of course it was far from easy. In many ways my life actually worsened. Like Tolle, I fell into a bad depression. I remember sitting on my back doorstep, staring at the horse chestnut tree in my then-garden, tears slipping down my face, not even having the energy to wipe them away. Someone knocked at the door wanting access to the drain in my garden, can’t remember why, but I just remember the desperation I felt for them to see me, notice my pain, take away the desperate loneliness in my heart. The overriding theme of my life and particularly at that time was loneliness. I had lost my spiritual connection. I was barely surviving. My son’s behaviour was so challenging that it took everything I had. I had little support from family and no compassion or understanding from my ex. I had carers to help with my son, and emotional support from a therapist, but I still felt very alone.
A few years later, when my son was 9, I started reading a lot of spiritual books and meditating intensely. I had dipped in and out of this over the years, but not with any serious intent. This really kickstarted the next stage of my journey. It is hard to explain exactly what happened, but I ‘opened up.’ I suddenly felt more connected to spirit than I ever had before. My dreams became more intense, often containing Christian or Buddhist imagery. I saw and felt things during meditation – lights, sensations. I no longer felt alone. This was a relief because my life was spiralling further out of control. I ended up in hospital with my illness and my son’s dad started to have our son more. It took a few more years and a court case before my son went to his dad’s full time but at that point I could finally breathe. I could find myself.
My journey has been one of coming home to myself. I realise now that there was no other way things could have gone. I could not have ‘awoken’ IN the situation I was in, but THROUGH it. I was lost in the grip of trying so hard to do the impossible – be a superhuman parent to a challenging child, while I was sick. I made a difficult decision, had to overcome a lot of hatred thrown in my direction, in order to realise that who I am goes beyond the roles that I play. I began to realise that there is something within me – in all of us – that is stronger and more real than anything in this life. Moreover, I understood the true meaning of Love: I loved my son deeply; I disliked his behaviour a lot of the time, but I loved him, and I wanted him to be where he would be cared for and safe. To love him meant making sure of that, even though many people could not understand. Also, Love meant recognising my own limits and trusting my intuition, not society’s view on what I should or shouldn’t be doing.
My spiritual journey continues. Last year was particularly tough with my son. I notice when I’m lost in thoughts about being a bad mother or even just wishing things were different. I’m only human. Spiritual perfectionism is definitely a thing, but the key is to notice – notice what’s happening, notice the resistance to what is. Tolle talks about acceptance because it’s the only thing we can do but it’s often the hardest thing to do because part of us wants to fight against what we don’t want, instinctively so. I believe I have gone through my ‘dark night of the soul’ because so much has been stripped away, yet what is real remains: the connection to my soul or to the Divine, whichever way you want to look at it, which has always existed. I may not have had an ‘eureka’ moment but in my own way I understand what Tolle was experiencing with ‘Who is this ‘I’?’ Who, indeed? All I know is that I am on my way home.
I had a beautiful dream during the night in which I awoke from a bed in a little cabin somewhere in the woods. I thought to myself that I have ‘let go.’ I went outside and put my hand into a hole inside a tree trunk and found it full of crystals and other beautiful things. I saw a tiny blue heart and realised it was a sign from Spirit. However, I was searching for two things in particular: clear quartz and celestial quartz. It did not take long before I found them. At this point the dream changed and I was in a room walking towards a large mirror carrying the crystals. I could feel immense spiritual power around me and I knew that the crystals were magnifying my connection to the Divine. I also knew that I needed to start working with crystals. The dream then ended.
I love the fact I ‘woke up’ within the dream itself. This is always highly symbolic and can be a common feature in lucid dreams (when one becomes aware that they are dreaming) although this dream was not lucid. It shows that I am, indeed, ‘waking up’ akas becoming more conscious in my daily life and no longer falling so readily into unconscious thoughts and emotions. The wood is deeply indicative of a myth, played out in fairy tales, whereby representing the journey into the unknown that every soul must take in this life. There are fears and challenges to be faced, as seen in stories such as ‘Hansel and Gretel’ and ‘Red Riding Hood’ to name but two. Thankfully, my dream carried an atmosphere of safety, so I was free to explore without anxiety. The hole in the tree truck may point to the tree of life; connected to Mother Earth, yet reaching for the Heavens. I found the treasure within it; namely the little blue heart, symbolising communication with Spirit in the name of Love, which is always within me. And then I searched for the quartz.
I found this fascinating because while I own some crystals, I don’t really use them, or think about them especially. I have a large rose quartz and citrine on my window sill and plenty of smaller crystals in a bag, but I don’t often handle them. The fact I was searching for the two types of quartz in my dream led me to look into the properties of both, and I found that they support greater clarity of mind, healing/cleansing, and increased connection to the Divine. This dream follows the post I made yesterday about intending to avoid checking my emails until after I have meditated in the morning. It is a message from my unconscious reinforcing the decision I have made and – perhaps – giving it greater power and manifestation. The mirror shows that I am aware of myself and what I am perceiving, as well as what I am projecting in the world – the illusions.
On waking this morning I immediately had in mind to hunt for a clear quartz and celestial quartz and carry them around with me. Now I’m not particularly knowledgeable about crystals, so I may be wrong, but I picked out from my bag what I believed were the two. You can see them in the photo. It feels good to hold them and connect them to my dream. And this morning started on a good note; taking my dog out, eating breakfast, meditating, reading inspiring works, and only then checking my emails! I will start as I (hopefully!) mean to go on.
On this morning’s walk with my dog I was delighted when a dragonfly flew in my path. It reminded me of the last time I saw one down that road, around 4 and a half years ago: I was returning from taking my dead guinea pig’s body to the vet to be cremated and was immersed in sadness. Melody had lived an amazingly long life despite considerable struggles – an open infected wound, a limp, brain seizures. A vet even advised me to have her put to sleep as the wound was so deep. But while I didn’t want her suffering, I believed she deserved one chance. Melody took it and ran with it. Her wound healed with treatment and she stayed strong for another two years until seizures began to weaken her resolve and soon afterwards she developed cheyne stokes breathing and passed away. She was 7 years old.
The dragonfly’s appearance that day reminded me that we are never alone in how we feel, even when we most feel it, in fact especially when we most feel it. I was travelling on my scooter down the street when out of nowhere it flew alongside me, kept up for a good few metres, then disappeared as quickly as it came. In Native American culture, dragonflies are a sign of deceased loved ones, so maybe Melody had been paying me a visit in a new form? I will never know. It was enough to recognise its significance and feel intense gratitude that I had a sign from spirit that day.
This morning’s dragonfly flew directly at me, went in a semi-circle, then headed for a brick wall where it flew over and disappeared. Once again I am grateful and awed by its beauty and timing. I was awake for quite a while during the night thinking about my mother and her ailing health, saddened by the thought that one day in the not too distant future she’ll be gone, at least from this physical form. And then there’s my dog, who is doing well on an increased dose of phenobarbital for her epilepsy, but is getting older and the thought of not having her around is deeply distressing. The fragility and impermanence of this life is playing heavily on my mind at this time.
However, this is where dragonfly symbolism provides immense comfort to me beyond any ideas about what form each dragonfly may or may not be assuming. Dragonflies are bringers of light. They represent Spirit and higher consciousness. Ultimately, they are a reminder that everyone is on a journey of transformation, change and rebirth, whether that happens in this lifetime or in some other way. They are translucent, showing that this physical form is ultimately illusionary because everything dissolves and goes back to its source, which is Divine love. While it’s natural to become attached to various physical forms, they are temporary; they get sick, old and die, but what is real never dies.
The message of the dragonfly is that all is well. Nothing is to be feared, including death. Each of us is on a journey and that journey does not end.
I had a very interesting experience early this morning. I woke up and randomly thought ‘It is 5.11a.m.’ Then I went to the bathroom, returned, checked the time on my phone and it was indeed 5.11a.m! I don’t tend to wake up at that time so I had no reason to believe it would be 5.11a.m. I was so exhausted that I didn’t ponder it, got straight back into bed and fell asleep for another couple of hours. Then this morning I thought ‘Hmm, 5.11a.m?!’ So I’ve taken it as a synchronicity, or ‘meaningful co-incidence,’ as coined by Carl Jung, and used numerology to decipher what my subconscious may have been telling me.
Five is the number of the senses, through which I experience the world. It is also the number of Divine grace. Therefore, it is grace made manifest in daily life, a reminder that the Divine is all around us and within us. Interestingly, in the tarot five is the number of challenge and conflict, showing that the path to our true nature does not come easy. Moreover, ’11’ is the number of empowerment and manifestation. In China, it is a sign of the Tao, meaning ‘the path.’ In the tarot ’11’ is the Justice card but also, interchangeably, the Strength card. There is a higher order despite appearances to the contrary. And it takes strength to keep moving forward, but I am heading in the right direction.
Basically, as with all synchroncities, it is a sign that I am on the right path.
As I was growing up I knew I was going to be someone great. I felt it deep in my heart. I was going to be a world famous Tv actress, or a writer. For a small child I had some pretty big plans. I was going to audition for RADA. I was going to journalism college. I was going to write a novel. I had no one to encourage me but I felt it deep in my being. I wrote pages upon pages of stories. Creativity was my lifeblood. I was determined to express myself doing what I loved.
Acting was the first thing I lost. I enrolled on an A-level in Theatre Studies at sixth form college. Not long after starting the course I realised that I wasn’t really very good. I suffered from severe social anxiety as a result of my home and school lives. My dramatic monologues paled in comparison to others. The teacher didn’t seem to like me and gave me no suggestions on how to improve. I started dropping out and eventually spoke to my personal tutor about giving up the course. I told him that I wasn’t doing very well. Even as I spoke the words I hoped he would say ‘That’s no reason to give up’ or ‘We can work on that’ but he agreed and I left the course.
When I started university two years later someone set up a drama society and I went along to the first meeting despite myself. I still had the spark of longing. But I couldn’t bring myself to join. All I could feel was the terror of making an idiot of myself. I feared everyone laughing at me, as kids had through school. Until Theatre Studies, I’d clung onto my love of drama and writing, my passion for creativity, believing that would see me through everything. Until it didn’t work anymore.
Things got worse. I took a creative writing module as part of my English degree and suddenly my writing was torn apart and criticised. I know this is par the course, but I didn’t have the resilience to manage it. Even worse, the students in my group showed far greater ability and got higher grades than I did. And truly, writing at that time was terrible. I was trying to come to terms with my childhood and being away from home and my heart was in darkness. Writing was no longer a refuge. Like acting, it seemed to prove that everything I had loved as a child was built on a lie, that in fact I was NOT GOOD ENOUGH. It was my deepest fear confirmed: I was actually a stupid girl who once thought she was great. What an idiot I had been!
Those beliefs sent me into a deep depression for many years. I still battle with them sometimes, especially when starting something new. I attempted a creative writing workshop a few years ago but almost immediately I realised I couldn’t match the level of those in the group. I was too scared to read anything out. It’s still a real source of sadness to me that something I loved so much when I was a child produces so much fear. I feel grief at not being encouraged as a child. I wish someone had seen the spark I possessed and nurtured it. But no one had cared. My family didn’t read anything I’d written. I think they feared my openness and vulnerability.
However, maybe in all that loss there is a gift. Acting and writing are wonderful talents to have, but they emerge from what we ARE, which is a spark of the Divine. As a child I was completely tapped into that wisdom and desired its creative expression despite the dysfunction that surrounded me. I didn’t compare myself to anyone else because I had no concept of doing so; all I knew was how to BE. Fear wasn’t even on my radar. My heart knew the way. I was walking the path of Divine love and OF COURSE I was – and am – someone great. How could I not be? The mistake I made was looking for fulfilment in someone else’s opinion and believing their judgements as well as my own. I got lost in my head. We are individual souls with our own way of seeing and experiencing the world. While comparison and constructive criticisms have their place, what’s more important is remembering our true nature which is creative expression itself, no matter which particular form it happens to take. Our souls are like trees -we express in our unique ways, but we are all beautiful. As a child I knew this in my heart. My lifelong task is to remember, and keep remembering that despite what I seem to have lost on the outside, I am always good enough.
Yesterday I was reading one of my journals from 2008, in which I wrote:
“Everything is like an endless struggle -wanting happiness but never really getting there “
I believed that happiness was waiting for me ‘out there’ in some distant place or state of being. It made complete sense given the fact I was caring for my severely disabled and very challenging 7 year old son while being extremely unwell myself. The situation was unbearable. While social services had thrown all the help they could at us, I was barely surviving. I wanted my life – as I knew it – to be over. Whilst I did go into some very dark places, I had enough presence of mind to know that I didn’t actually want to die. I didn’t want to leave my child. I wanted to be happy, I just didn’t know what it was or where to find it.
I didn’t realise then that happiness does not exist in some other place or even necessarily in the present moment because – if we’re honest – many people’s present moments are absolutely horrible. And while they may help, quite often no amount of shifting perceptions or affirmations or prayers change the realities that some people are unfortunate enough to have to endure. I tried all of them. I thought if I was spiritual enough my situation would improve: I’d recover, my son’s behaviour would become manageable, and I’d finally be happy. What I now realise is that it was never really happiness I was after in the first place; it was inner peace.
Happiness is a temporary state that usually depends on external circumstances. Inner peace goes deeper. It’s our true state, existing beyond shifting thoughts and emotions and circumstances. If the self was a lake, happiness and other temporary emotions would be the ripples that come and go, subject to disturbances such as stones and twigs and boats, whilst inner peace is its depth.
When we go deeper, we realise that the present moment truly is the holy grail because it is only when we stop and pay attention to the now that we tune into the stillness of the lake that exists within us. We are no longer being thrown around at the complete mercy of what life throws at us. Whilst outer circumstances may be dreadful and cause immense pain and apparently endless suffering, we know that the strength and magnificence that lies within us is truly endless.
Moreover, when we connect to the stillness within, we access our Divine truth. We don’t see our thoughts and perceptions as the ultimate reality because we have experienced a greater reality. We will have the wisdom to know whether we can and should change the situation we are in, or whether to walk away, or there is nothing to be done but tap into the Divine power of acceptance.
This is far from easy. In my case, it took me seven more years before I reached rock bottom and realised what Divine wisdom was asking of me. It went so against the grain of what I, my ex, and indeed society, thought a mother should be. I was brought to my knees and you know what the saying goes – if life brings you to your knees, pray. Well I was so angry at God that I neglected my spiritual path for quite a few years. I didn’t understand why I was so ill, why I had a child with such difficulties, why my life had to be so hard. I still feel the pain. I had to make a very tough decision that affected me and those around me for many years. I felt immense guilt for a long time but it was the only decision I could have made.
I’m not in the terrible situation I was back then; in fact my outer life is quite peaceful all in all, only my thoughts and emotions cause disturbance. I am not always happy but I understand that happiness was never something to gain; it is something we experience at times, if we are fortunate. Being in touch with our natural state can inform our thoughts, emotions, and experiences for the better, but sometimes circumstances just hurt. In such times I remember the calm lake that is my true Divine nature and know that whatever disturbs me in life, I am safe. I connect deeply with my inner self, and I am at peace.
Despite having a meditation practice for years, I often forget that it should still come with a health warning!
It can calm a busy mind, create a greater capacity for self-awareness, and lead to a more peaceful state of being.
But there is a disclaimer: Intense meditation is transformative. It encourages deep emotional pain to rise to the surface and be processed, even pain that you thought you’d dealt with many years ago.
For a while a meditation practice gives you enough payoff so you keep coming back for more. You feel happier, calmer, more at ease in life, more self-aware. Great.
Sooner or later you have to go deeper. In Divine timing an intense meditation practice such as Vipassana or breathwork may cause an unexpected flooding of old emotions/grief. This is normal. Meditation is communication with your soul. It is telling your soul that you are ready for the next stage of consciousness. The channel is open, ready to receive what is needed for a deep cleanse. As stated, this can arise in very unexpected ways.
You don’t have to fear this process. It can be very difficult depending on how much cleansing needs to be done. Surrender and trust. It will all be okay. Know there is a purpose, no matter how awful you feel. Resisting will make it harder than it needs to be. It may cause or lengthen the classic ‘dark night of the soul’ experience. Only deep inner wisdom will tell you whether you’re resisting out of fear, or because your soul is protecting you because you are not ready.
And indeed, in certain cases intense meditation is not recommended, such as in PTSD and C-PTSD and psychosis. There may be more. If you have suffered trauma or are a victim of abuse or feeling in any way unstable, do not embark on intense meditation without the support of a trusted therapist. If you wish to meditate, start slowly and ground yourself before and afterwards. Guided visualisations or walking meditations may be more beneficial than breath or Vipassana. If you have experienced sexual or physical abuse be wary of body scans or other body-based meditations. Sometimes any form of meditation should be avoided until enough psychological healing has taken place and forcing the process can be dangerous for some people.
In short, meditation is a wonderful spiritual tool with many benefits but it can also be very transformative and needs to be used wisely.