Posts tagged ‘darkness’

December 30, 2010

The gap between the sofa cushions

When I came to my notebook to write today, I was feeling rather scattered and depleted.  So I decided meditate briefly, to quiet the buzz of my scattered thoughts, refill my well of peace, and to see what would rise to the surface.  The phrase that popped into my head was “the space between desire and action”.  I think of this space like the gap between sofa cushions.  It’s where we tend to lose the small bits that make up the whole of our selves, where we lose our dreams.  Everyone has dreams and desires, but how many of us fall into that gap where we see only the darkness, think it’s too hard to get out and never take action towards what we want our lives to be?

 In that gap between desire and action we are living among thoughts and ideas that we’ve come to believe- but are the ones that limit us and create feelings of hopelessness.  These beliefs tell us how much safer we are to not take action, and how likely we are to fail if we do.  What we forget is that the world outside this little hidden place isn’t as scary and unfamiliar as it seems when you can only see a small slice of it.  That big place outside is nothing more or less than where life takes place.  It takes action to get there. But those thoughts and beliefs swirl and make noise and keep you distracted so you can’t think of what your first step could be.  They say “It’s too hard”, “Don’t bother”, “You’re not good enough” and “But you’re safe here!”  Luckily there are some things we can do to get out of that gap.

 The first is to take action anyway.  Stop thinking, just do it.  I love this most when it’s the action I can’t not take, but it does also work to say to those thoughts, with determination, “Yep, I hear you.  But I’m doing this anyway”.   I admire the people who seem to only need this approach.  I’m not one of them.  The second way out is to look at and listen to the cacophony of thoughts and beliefs and pick out just one.  Then look at it.  Ask it why.  Ask yourself if it’s true.  Step outside of it and see if it’s serving you or if it’s holding you back.  One thought at a time you can turn them into the rungs of a ladder into action. 

 There are so many approaches to this practice of examining our thoughts, this process of inquiry.  I’ve written about some of them before- The Work of Byron Katie and Self-coaching 101- but one thing I’ve learned over this past year is the value of reaching out and getting the help of someone well versed with these processes and with working on thoughts.  For me this was a life coach.  A life coach, from my experiences acting as both a client and a coach, can help you pick a single thought from the swirl of many that are creating the distracting background noise in your life.  A coach can walk you through your inquiry process- figuratively holding your hand as you look into the impact this thought has on your life and gently keeping your focus within the process.  My own tendency is to distract myself, particularly when I’m looking at a thought that has a strong hold on me, and turn to the nearest shiny object or fall back into a loop of my story so that I remain stuck.  A coach can gently, or sometimes firmly and lovingly, say “let’s set that aside for now and come back to it later after you’ve finished exploring THIS thought”. 

 The results of this process have varied from instantaneous “WOW!  I never thought of it that way!” to getting only tiny, almost unrecognizable shifts, that with continued exploration of a thought and it’s many companions and shape-shifter forms, looking from many angles, lead to the experience of a larger shift.  Those are the ones I find most life changing- when I can’t see movement from one day to the next, but over time find there’s been a complete change.  It’s like a force of nature. 

 Honestly, I didn’t know when I started writing this that it would end up being about coaching, but it’s wonderful that it did.  Tomorrow’s post will be more about coaching and I will be making a very limited offer to my readers, friends and family.  But it will not be entirely about coaching.  It is also about some shifts I am making in my writing focus, and changes to make your experience as a reader more enjoyable and valuable, regardless of your interest in life coaching.

 With love to you all,

Lesley

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December 29, 2010

Respecting darkness

Some poor choices today brought me a bit closer to this subject than I like, however most fortunately  I wrote this a few days ago.  I’m making this post late for that reason, but also because I was busy making up for lost sleep, cooking delicious belgian waffles, helping look up hints for Lego Harry Potter, and making sure we had toilet paper.  And, well, eating too much leftover candy…

Enjoy, comment, share, subscribe… another post tomorrow, but especially don’t forget to check in on Friday!

With the darkest part of the year just behind us, I want to reflect on loving and accepting the darkness within ourselves.  I’m surprised to see how little this is addressed, seeing how even the most optimistic among us at least occasionally have a rough day, or an experience that challenges our positive outlook.  And even more so, seeing how many people seem to go through life with a distinct desire, or a persistent habit, of focusing on the negative- to always find what is wrong, rather than what is right.  There was a time in my life when I actually felt pride in being a pessimist.  I thought “I might not be happy, but at least I’m aware”.  It surely wasn’t the happiest period of my life, but it also wasn’t the worst. 

 I’ve always respected darkness, and for a long period of my life I respected the dark and heavy places within myself.  This was during my pessimist period, but it was also partially during a time when darkness seemed inevitable to me.  I was a minor and didn’t yet have the freedom to fully choose my direction or my everyday activities (which are what move us in a direction).  I accepted what came out of that- I was angry and I expressed it in what I hoped were creative and productive ways.  I developed a place within myself where I honored the anger and lack of freedom- my own and that of others.  Being highly empathic, I picked up on others’ frustrations- and believe me, many of theirs were much more difficult to bear than my own- and I held them, saw them, and recognized their rightness and their beauty.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I recognized the rightness and beauty of the dark places within us where there is pain and anger and fear.

 Fast forward fifteen years or so to a life where I was no longer denied the freedom of self-determination simply for being young.  This was a life that was nearly everything I’d ever dreamed; an incredibly supportive and loving husband, 3 beautiful, healthy, unique, wonderful children, and the financial resources to allow us to live a bit more than modestly while I stayed home with the kids to support their curiosity, empowerment and freedom.   Here I was with everything I always wanted, yet struggling against my dark places- mostly pain and fear, but also some anger.  Most of it was old, some of it newer, and almost all of it aimed at myself.  What right did I have- a woman of freedom, intelligence, good fortune and privilege- to be entertaining any of these dark feelings, or to even possess dark places within myself?  My life should have been all positive energy, gratitude, light and love, right?  I had no right to darkness in my world full of freedom, love and comfort.

 But there it was, all the same.  *This* was the worst time in my life.  So I did what I could to make it go away.  I numbed- with food, with distractions (Zuma, anyone?), even with complaints and blame- reaching outside myself to look for the solution to make the darkness go away.  It didn’t work.  As I came to learn from my experience, and recently found words for in the brilliant work of Brene Brown, a shame researcher, numbing can’t be done selectively.  When we numb our pain, fear and shame we also numb our delight, excitement, interest and gratefulness.

 So, what to do with that darkness?  We all have some of it.  Some of us, at times, carry it around like a dark cloud or the weight of the world, like Atlas.  Oh boy, have I done that.  I think I was a frequent, long term visitor to that place with the t-shirts to prove it (you know, the ones that are the size of a child’s tent, covered in stains and dotted with holes?).  And we carry this weight and try to pretend we’re not standing in the cold rain being crushed to death as we smile and look for the positive.  We already know that doesn’t help.  So, alternatives?

 I suggest that we find the place I did when I was an angry teen- the place where we recognize that as much as we’d like to *not* feel those feelings, they’re there.  They won’t go away until we honor their presence and give them our love and respect.  Those dark places hold energy and power that we can use to draw ourselves out from under the clouds.

 I’m not suggesting that it’s good to repeat our stories ad nauseum- usually that’s a way of avoidance through blame (ie. complaining).  I’m also not saying we should act out these feelings and dark thoughts.  If one is feeling any serious urge to act harmfully or violently towards another living being, self included, that’s where some professional psychological help is vital.  But we can feel, honor and express our fear, our pain and our anger in ways that release the energy and free us.  I think everyone may be different here, but I’ve found much of this release through physical activity, music, art and occasionally a good hard cry.  (Any other suggestions?).Once the energy is released we can recognize the beauty and importance of our darkness- giving it the love and respect it deserves as our strongest and most effective guidance system, showing us that somewhere we are numbing or suppressing or hiding from vital parts of ourselves.  Then we can turn towards the light of what is calling us forward. 

 In both darkness and light,

Lesley

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