Embracing Change, Embracing Fear

 

Black-man-Crying

I think I just had a little epiphany. I have been fighting this part of my pregnancy,… the part where I need to slow down and rest more and my emotions are so intense… and I think I know why… it reminds me of when I went off of medications for anxiety and depression years ago. And god it was scary, to feel such a loss of control, so vulnerable, so uncertain about the next part of my life… That whole part of my life was traumatic and frightening. Especially since doctors, family, friends, everyone I knew was concerned for me, trying to help in the ways the could, but truthfully, … they were sometimes making it worse. People were so worried about me, and that was stressing me out more, I didn’t want to be a burden. And a lot of people were trying to solve problems for me, yet they had not walked in my shoes and didn’t really know what I needed.

There are a lot of similarities between that time in my life and this time. I just left my job recently and that makes me a bit more vulnerable financially. I am extremely sensitive right now and my emotions are a bit all over the place, and everyone around me is wanting to help, but sometimes not quite hitting the mark… and sometimes, when you are vulnerable and getting the help that someone thinks you need, rather than the help you have requested… its actually just adding a lot more stress. And when you are more emotional than usual and more tired than usual it can be hard to tell others what you want and need as clearly as you might like too…

So this is all going on, and I wonder if I had not been through the terror of another experience that was similar to this in some ways, would I be fighting this experience so much? I don’t know that I would…

I am grateful to have a bit of time to revisit some of these emotions from my past that are rising up powerfully inside me as I prepare for birth, because I think it’s important for me to be very aware of these shadow feelings of fear, anger and despair that are obviously still hanging over me. If I have learned one thing from the many years of healing I have done, it’s that anything unsolved from your past that is not dealt with, can and will show up in uncomfortable and unconscious ways until you fully face it. And when you really face it, the most amazing thing will happen. If you stare your ugly fears in the face and manage to witness them honestly enough to see the truth at the centre, you can find a lesson that heals your heart right where all that fear was tearing it apart.

That is what I just witnessed today during my little epiphany. And I will explain but first I want to share what happened yesterday to lead up to this.

Yesterday was one of those, ‘i am so tired but I just need to do one more thing’ days. It would have felt nice to rest but I was restless inside and so I was keeping busy or distracted. Watching Netflix, trying to garden (we’ll see how that went, good luck little plants), cleaning cooking… etc

That evening Mike (my husband) and I were supposed do a baby ritual to welcome our little one into the world and say ‘hey its cool if you want to be born now, everything is finally ready.’ Well instead we had a big fight, and I freaked out… like freaked out big time. I have splotches on my face and neck from blood vessels breaking a bit, that is how upset I was. I was a mess and slightly insane for a bit as I hit a wall of fear that is hard for me to even describe. And even as I was getting all worked up, I could hear the little voice of reason and compassion inside me trying to bring perspective, but I just couldn’t calm down. It honesty felt like an emotional purge. I just had to get some of the emotions out of me that had been building up. I think I had been distracting myself and staying busy so long that so much had built up and I couldn’t relax until I got some of them out as ugly and crazy as that experience turned out to be.So that happened.(FYI this is why preventative approaches to emotional health are just as important as preventative approaches to physical health. If you don’t let stress and negative emotions build up, you can prevent violent reactions from toxicity.)  As intense as it was, it did feel better to get some emotions out of my system. And having cleared some of the stress and fear from my system, which I couldn’t fully find the roots of yesterday I believe I paved the way for my little epiphany… which I will be going to reflect more on as I rest after this post. Here it is: As intense as it was, it did feel better to get some emotions out of my system. And having cleared some of the stress and fear from my system, which I couldn’t fully find the roots of yesterday I believe I paved the way for my little epiphany… which I will be going to reflect more on as I rest after this post. Here it is:

As intense as it was, it did feel better to get some emotions out of my system. And having cleared some of the stress and fear from my system, which  I believe I paved the way for my little epiphany…

Here it is: As intense as it was, it did feel better to get some emotions out of my system. And having cleared some of the stress and fear from my system, which I couldn’t fully find the roots of yesterday I believe I paved the way for my little epiphany… which I will be going to reflect more on as I rest after this post. Here it is:

I was fighting too hard back when I went off my medications too. And I don’t know if I could have done any better. And I may need to grieve that again now… I may just need sometime now, in the shadows of that experience to love the hell out of the brave young woman who left everything she was building in her life, and all the security she thought she had, and her very ability to function cognitively…in order to take a chance on life. She took a chance in believing that she would get better without medications, even if it was hell getting off of them. And it sucked. Big time. And the place she was in at that difficult and delicate time wasn’t clean, wasn’t very secure, or emotionally supportive in all the ways she needed so she had to leave with little to no money and try to function when her brain chemistry and her health were still extremely delicate. It was a scary, scary time. And she was alone in many ways, in most ways as she travelled first across the country, then across the world, to learn the things she needed to learn so that she could take care of herself.

And as her mind cleared bit by bit, she realized that she was not broken, she was not inadequate, she was not sick really either, she was simply a wonderfully sensitive soul in a broken world who had many unmet needs. She didn’t even grow up realizing what her true needs were but as she started to learn them, and started to learn how to meet those needs, she started to become, happy, joyful, powerful and at peace. And she developed compassion in her heart as she recognized that this world around her was not a conscious world where most people were in touch with their needs, so of course they couldn’t recognize or support hers. She had to work hard to make the changes she needed and develop the new habits to support her beautiful sensitive nature and rebuild a healthy mind and body. But, she did it.. :)

I have been fighting this part of my pregnancy, because I think I have forgotten the truth about one that most difficult chapter of my life… that I didn’t do anything wrong and I wasn’t broken. I was just worn out from years and years of stress and trauma. Society generally didn’t understand or support me when I went off medications, I had to guard myself, believe in myself and step outside my (and most people’s) comfort zones to learn alternative approaches to wellness.

And truthfully, in someways, as far as I have come I am still just finding my grounding and footing. After all the healing I had to start building a life again, and the past few years I have been giving life all I have got to build my dreams. Now I finally have a beautiful husband and a peaceful lovely home and a baby on the way. And though some things about this next juncture of my life are a lot like what I went through when I left work and school and got off my medications,… this time is different. This time, I know my needs and how to meet them. I have a partner by my side who will support me and love me through each step of the way, I have a beautiful baby inside me reminding me that my body is a divine miracle and that life is always evolving in powerful ways in and around me. I have a safe, peaceful, healthy home and I have come to recognize my role as part of a global wave of awakening consciousness. I witness how every day I and others like me are helping more and more people to realize their precious human needs and making our world a better place for all of us to grow and thrive.

So I think it’s time that I change my lens of the past. Stop pushing, and start embracing. Remember all the courage and faith that got me to this point, and remember all the miracles along the way. And REST, in peace, love, forgiveness and most of all deep, deep compassion :) What I went through was hard, and I pray that my learning will make it easier for others, and easier for my child to grow up in and conscious and compassionate world; A world where, it’s okay to be human, and to have human needs; A world where we don’t have to fight or fear. I will be meditating on that as I prepare for baby now. As I embrace this birth and the new life, I will be embracing a vision of a healed world. A better world for all of us. Amen. Shanti. Aho.

 

Love is the Answer

Well, the new year is coming and all kinds of interesting things are unfolding. I have been taking some time to rest a bit more and relax as Michael (my partner) and I navigate some challenging and stressful circumstances. I keep thinking of how just a few weeks ago I was feeling so WONDERFUL…and this week  I feel like it’s a struggle just to keep going. It’s interesting how things can change and fluctuate so quickly and dramatically.

I’ve been working at non-judgment and accepting circumstances and my own feelings as a way of getting through some of the challenges at hand. I don’t want to excuse poor behaviour of mine or others (sometimes you have to call a spade a spade) but I also don’t want to have a limited view of circumstances which draw unenlightened  perspectives.  It is actually easier for me to look at myself and others through a lens which only sees the negative and only registers that pain and suffering are not enjoyable, and therefore any situation which includes those things is bad. Luckily, I seem to have a need for truth and compassion because those limited and skewed perspectives  rarely stick for long and always seem to leave me feeling unsettled.I think, I hope, I pray, that I am learning to see and understand the world from a place that is not limited to dichotomies and right vs wrong.  That kind of over-simplification of life just never seems to satisfy me or help me achieve my goals. Maybe because I believe that ultimately love is what holds this whole world together and helps us to become all that we aspire to be… And love is not linear, nor is it black and white, nor is it based in what is right or wrong. It’s complicated, yet beautiful, it’s strange yet wonderful, it’s peaceful and sweet, yet catalytic .Love includes everything, it even includes fear and loneliness. There is room for every feeling, every state, and every life form in love. It’s just that sometimes we don’t see it or recognize it because we are looking through a fear-based perspective rather than a love based perspective.I think it takes a lot more brainpower to consider the world through a love-based perspective than a fear based one. Fear is more simple. Fear likes to divide circumstances into right and wrong, fear is judgment based and fear always looks out for its own best interests in exclusion of the needs of others.  Whereas a love based perspective is one which recognizes the interdependency of all people, all life and all things. A love based perspective does not try to operate in exclusion from its connection to others, or from the needs and happiness of others. It has no hierarchy and it doesn’t not condemn or limit anyone or anything.The hardest thing about staying in a state of love and love-based perspective  is continually trusting. Trust can be so delicate and it is the foundation of love. It is the wings we fly with, our magical pixie dust which lifts us out of the darkness and into the light.

Without trust fear comes in and takes over and passes it’s self off, very convincingly as truth. Truth and love can never be separated so you would think that anytime our minds or actions were out of accord with the qualities of love, that we would be able to quickly recognize it.. yet it is not to simple. When trust is damaged, missing or broken, all of a sudden love seems to be unrecognizable.  It’s qualities and form become difficult to ascertain and the wolf in sheep’s clothing can look so very real.

When trust is missing we may very well be in a deficit of love. We may need to be shown and reminded of the qualities of love in order to find our way back to it. And so we must call on a higher power and find help from friends and loved ones to bring us back to truth. When we can experience love again, our trust can be restored. What ever distortion broke trust and made us wander away from the ways of love, will be seen for what it is, a lie.

Love can illuminate the darkness and deceit of fear. We can identify fear by examining its limitations. Fear is always limited. Love is not. If we believe something that carries with it a weight of limitations, it cannot be love. Love will always free us, uplift us and move us out of darkness and shackles of pain.

And then finally for trust to truly be restored we must be willing to look upon our own misguidedness, illusions and whatever  actions have come from them, with compassionate love. We must do this for ourselves and forgive and in that choice beable to experience just how great and merciful true love really is. And then we must allow that compassion and mercy to be the way we experience the world around us and grant that blessing to every other life and soul as well. For in love no one is greater or lesser. No one is more right or more wrong. Only some have a found a little bit more love and some have found a little bit less, but we all need it and we all have the chance to access it, grow in it, be healed by it and find peace in it.

And so for each of us to survive, to truly live and be sustained we must first seek this above all other things.  Every other goal in life will pass it’s self off as higher and mightier and make this pursuit look shameful and meaningless, but our hearts will always tell a different story. Because in fact the greatest lie of all has been the one which keeps us from finding true meaning and happiness in our lives; the lie that says ‘love is not enough.’ It is. Love is enough for all of us and it can sustain us, rebirth us, heal us, resurrect us, transform us, connect us and free us. Love is enough. Love is all there really is. It is what we come from, how we came to be and what we will all return to. It is who we are, where we are going and why we are here. Love is the answer.

Vulnerability

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I gave myself a challenge several years ago to start writing on facebook about anxiety, depression and issues related to mental health. At the time I was feeling really isolated, I was struggling so much with the pain I was in, and I figured the worst thing I could do would be to close off to the people I cared about by not being honest about how I felt.

It was about 2007 when I made that challenge for myself. I had kept journals and blogs before but never really shared them publicly and it was big step (and a scary one) to start being really vulnerable in a huge public forum. It was a good life choice though. I noticed right away that many people were in the same boat as me and wanted more honest communication, and were struggling with isolation and shame in their own ways. It made me question in a very healthy way the sanity of our culture.

What is so bad about being in emotional pain once and a while, or even for a long time? What is this fixation our culture seems to have on being a constant role model of success? How has that ever been a realistic manifestation of being a human? Or is it that we live in a culture where so many of us are so broken that we can’t seem to connect with our brokenness and humanity much at all? Is it so overwhelming at this point to be in touch with our anger, sadness or even our joy, that the only way we have of dealing with it is to ignore it, shut it down, medicate it or repress it? And if that is the case what happens when some people say “Yeah I can’t do that, I need to feel and express all this.” Hmmm those people might seem kind of scary and threatening since they become a living contrast to the dishonesty of the rest of the culture.

The truth of the matter is that human beings were never meant to fit into any kind of cookie cutter mold and life is not meant to be lived in shades of gray and limited spectrums of colours that make everyone feel comfortable. We were created as unique and vibrant and varying as the flowers, birds, seasons and tides all around us. And we feel things. It is one of the most beautiful gifts we have and one of the ways that we connect with everyone and everything around us.

And… in a world with a lot of pain in it… if we really let ourselves be in touch with our feelings there’s a good chance we are going to notice the pain all around us. It’s not easy.

But being in touch with pain can be beautiful, it can even bring people together and it teaches us how to be compassionate. It can help us to care about each other.

It is not the same as suffering.

What creates tremendous suffering is when there is pain in the world and people have to struggle through it in isolation, thinking they must be the only ones feeling that way, feeling hopeless and overwhelmed.  That mentality creates both suffering and confusion because it is not a reflection of the truth. The truth is that we are all in this together. All of us. Just as the earth is one large ecosystem, each person on this planet is part of a eco system of relationships. And just as pillaging the earth’s ecosystems for individual gain is environmentally unsustainable, individualistic mindsets which cling to self-preserving isolation are emotionally unsustainable. We are all connected and we need each other.

So it seems to me that at this critical juncture in human history true honesty and vulnerability are the things we need to focus on first in order to move forward in any direction. And there is nothing more scary for most people. So it would be easier to shift the focus and say we need more bridges, more income, more nutrition or more of any other type of solution. But first and foremost, I believe we need more love. Love comes from open hearts. Love comes from trust. Love comes from real relationships. So first and foremost, let’s all start taking down the walls with each other. Lets make it cool to be real and to feel. Lets learn how to treat that with respect and give time and space to hear each other and care about each other. Let’s get vulnerable.

Being Sexy

Photo on 2014-05-27 at 01.53 #4

Note: This post was originally written and shared in 2013 before I got engaged and married to my lovely husband who you see with me in the picture above. At the time that I wrote this article I was hoping and praying I had learned the lessons necessary to be able to finally have a lasting romantic relationship that would lead to a happy marriage and life time partnership. I am happy to say it the lessons I learned did make a difference! Mike and I are just a few days away from our one year wedding anniversary and we have a little baby girl who is 6 weeks old. Life is sweet! (July 2nd 2015)

Over the past three years I have been contemplating this questions: What is necessary for healthy intimacy to occur? I have been thinking a lot about my past and all of the heart ache I have been through from breakups and relationships which were emotionally and spiritually unfulfilling. I found it helpful to make a list of some of the things I have noticed were missing from my relationships.  I hope it will help others to explore the concepts of romance, sexuality and intimacy from a new perspective.

A Loving and Committed Relationship with God 

I believe God is Love and that if we have a committed loving relationship with God it can help us to have committed and loving relationships with others.  People are not perfect and relationships are not perfect. We can’t be dependant on another person to be a source of perfect love for us. Only God can be that. And God is the one who can give us the love and strength we need to forgive and offer support in a relationship. This is important because relationships are always about both giving and receiving. When we know how to fill up with God’s Love we can be full enough to give generously in our relationships. And learning to be comfortable accepting God’s Love can prepare us to trust and receive love in our relationships. Our relationship with God can teach us how to Love.

Community

Healthy relationships happen within a healthy community. It is hard for a single person to be strong in isolation. We all need people to help us up when we fall down and this is true of a couple as well. When a couple is struggling or in conflict they need people around them who they trust and who love them to help them sort things out, to keep them accountable to each other and to lift them up. Men also tend to need communities of men to meet certain needs for bonding and women tend to need communities of women for bonding. We can treat each other as equals but we also need to recognize that we are innately, biologically different in many ways. We need healthy connections with those of our gender who we can identify with, learn from and grow with to help us be healthy and strong.

Communication and Emotional Connection 

Emotional intimacy is important. Is at the centre of our ability to feel connected with the people around us. It keeps us from feeling lonely, it allows us to share compassion and care and it helps us experience meaning and love in our relationships. When emotional connection and honest communication are not present people may start looking for love and fulfillment in unhealthy ways. They may end up seeking intimacy outside of their relationship, may end up in cycles of meaningless conflict, or they may get caught up in sexual addiction as a way of trying to connect more physically to make up for what is lacking emotionally and spiritually.

Many people struggle with being emotionally vulnerable because it takes a lot of trust. For many people it may be easier to connect physically and sexually then to connect emotionally, however I believe it is well worth the effort.

Its amazing how fulfilled people can be just by having an honest conversation. Conflicts can be resolved peacefully and relationships can be strengthened and deepened profoundly when people are able to be emotionally present and honest with each other. It’s a beautiful thing.

Purpose

Couples who want to have a strong, healthy, sustainable connection can benefit from having a clear purpose in their lives, both as individuals and as a couple. When each person knows what their dreams are and what their calling is in life it can help them see how they fit together and to make decisions about the direction of their life as a couple. It is helpful for each person to have a sense of who they are as an individual and to be able to bring the strength of who they are into their relationship. If they have not had a chance to discover that yet, it may be hard to build a life with another person. When a couple comes together and they are both secure in who they are and what their purpose is they can be an amazing team working together and lifting each other up.

Commitment 

An intimate, romantic relationship is one of the dearest investments you can make in your life. It is profound. It is a greater investment than any amount of money or treasure could ever be. When we connect with someone intimately and sexually we share our spiritual essence with them, as well as some of our most vulnerable feelings and the most sensitive parts of who we are. Intimate connection is also a way of bonding two souls together. That’s where we get the saying “when two become one.”

With that said, if we are going to share so much of our hearts and souls with someone, I think it makes sense to consider whether that person is someone we are willing to trust with our whole heart and our deepest feelings of love for the rest of our lives. And we may want to make sure we have the courage to ask the other person how they feel about entrusting us with their love in return.

It’s also wise to consider a few important questions before bonding so deeply such as: Is there a foundation of trust in the relationship to support both people sharing love and intimacy with each other? Have there been bumps in the road, arguments and challenges, which both people have faced and come through to show that they won’t just give up when things get rough? How much time has there been to get to know each other? Is there a foundation of friendship? Do both people enjoy each other’s company enough to want to be with each other even when passion is not aflame?

If we don’t know or haven’t even thought about the answers to those questions it could be pretty risky to bond sexually with someone.

It can take a long time to reopen the heart and heal spiritually and emotionally from the pain and heartache which comes from opening up deeply in a relationship that isn’t healthy or secure enough to last. We are all deeply precious, sensitive and beautiful beings and we need to treat ourselves that way and reflect from that perspective when we are making decisions about investing our hearts and souls into a relationship.

Understanding Sex as Sacred 

When sexuality is understood as sacred it’s easy to understand being happy about waiting to share it with someone. It becomes easy to understand wanting to enjoy getting to know someone slowly, learning to love them and taking time to think about committing to them before getting sexual- Because when we understand sexuality as sacred we know that it’s not just about physical pleasure it is about the deep love that is exchanged between two people, and that deep love comes from deep trust. And that trust comes from devotion and commitment. Those things take time to develop and they allow love to grow. They create a foundation for a deep meaningful sexual exchange between two people. Good things take time and are worth waiting for.

These are some of the conclusions I have drawn after many years of approaching intimacy, romance and sexuality in ways which caused me quite a bit of pain. From my conversations with many other young people, it seems I am definitely not the only one who has struggled with this topic. So my question is, if so many people are struggling to connect, relationships are breaking down and people are having sex but not happy or fulfilled what is missing?

I believe the answer is that people are searching for deeper fulfillment spiritually and emotionally and the only way I see for people to find more of that kind of fulfillment in intimacy is through understanding the sacredness and innocence of our sexuality. We are precious. Our sexuality is precious. It was never meant to be cheap, quick or easy. It is meant to be divine.

Start With “It’s Ok”

 

When life seems overwhelming and hopeless and circumstances around you seem like too much too handle, and it seems like there is no end insight to struggles, pain and challenges… here is a starting point “It’s ok.” It might not seem ok. Everything around you may point to the opposite conclusion, but guess what… no matter what is going on, no matter how bad it seems, if you decide “it’s ok” then it is. Your outer circumstances may continue to be chaotic and you don’t always have much control over that, but in your inner world you get to choose what beliefs are going to guide you through the challenges you face. The way I see it, you are facing issues anyway, and despair doesn’t make it any easier, so you might as well give the statement and belief “it’s ok” a try and see how it feels.

Our mind can play tricks on us and make problems bigger than they really are. “It’s ok.” Is a way of centering and deflating blown up and exaggerated thoughts and feelings. If we’re going through a crisis and our thoughts are focused on everything that is going wrong, and how it’s never going to get better,  what kind of solutions and ideas will we come up with to help ourselves get through? Maybe none. We might feel so hopeless that we don’t even take any time to think about possibilities for change or strategies to help us more forward in a positive way. Our minds become closed when we are in despair, it’s a downward spiral which leads no where. But what if we are focusing on the thought “it’s ok.” All of a sudden the emotional baggage attached to whatever situation is going on can be drastically diminshed. Because it’s never the situation its self that drags us into the gutter of hopelessness and despair, it is always our emotional response to a situation which brings us down into a pit. When we anchor our mind in the belief “It’s ok” we come back to a centre point, a stable point and a place where we can access some truth. Because, maybe just maybe, challenges and pain, even when they are really intense, are not the end of the world. In fact, they may be the beginnings of something new and if we detach from our emotional reactivity for a moment or two by allowing the idea “it’s ok”, a whole  world of possibilities can open up because we are not chained to hopelessness and despair anymore.

Let’s look at a some real life examples.

I am working on a nutrition cookbook and brainstorming how to help people with regenerative  health. Around me many people are sick and in pain, some are dying, some are at serious risk of death and very few have much money to spend on nutrition, even if I can help them with it. In a lot of ways the negativity seems much stronger and more influential then the positivism in this scenario. However,… it’s ok. The truth is that people have been getting sick and dying long before I came into this world, and they will be also long after I leave. It’s painful to know that people are suffering and that not everyone can be helped…. But some can be helped. It’s hard to face the fact that I can’t do more to help others, but there is a lot I can do, even if I am just one person to help others. And it’s frustrating that a lot of people who deserve help and better nutritional foods can’t always afford them, but there are ways to generate funds and create solutions for those who are willing to work to make it happen. The bottom line is, the world is not perfect and the only way to make a difference in the world is to start with accepting, yes there is pain, yes there is struggle and injustice and chaos, and illness and all kinds of other harsh realities. And it’s ok. It is possible to accept that those realities exist and be open to the possibilities for change and possitivity which exist even in the darkest of circumstances.

I remember many conversations with my sister when the two of us were struggling through self harm and depression. We would joke and make fun of ourselves for it. I imagine if most people heard the way we were joking around about such morbid topics they might be somewhat confused, offended or shocked… but for us it was a way of deflating the drama we were experiencing, and taking the stress and seriousness of our situations off our shoulders for a little while.

I also remember one time in highschool when I was having a panic attack in the girl’s washroom and only had one male friend that I would allow to come and help me. He came into the washroom in the wheelchair stall and helped me calm down, but while we were in the stall a number of people came into go to the washroom. We didn’t want to disturb anyone by having them aware that a male was in the washroom, so we just silently counted how long it took them to go pee to pass the time… it was a strange and funny experience right smack dab in the middle of a crisis.

Even in the middle of what can feel like the end of your life…. things happens, friendships develop, a bad situation can suddenly shift into laughter, a new idea or some kind of life change can be brainstormed and actually birthed out of the tragedy you are facing. There are no limitations to where life can take us, or how it can take us there. It might feel like a stretch to accept your painful situation or challenges in life, but try opening up to the idea that somehow in the grand scheme of things… it might just be okay. You never know where that state of mind might take you, perhaps towards your next breakthrough, a deeper insight about your life and relationship or your next big adventure.

Sensitivity is a Strength

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When I have a hard time breathing in the air because it is polluted, I realize that it is the pollution and not I that is the problem.

I do not say, I must be ill since I cannot handle swallowing  poison.

I look for clean air.

When I see violence on television and when I see people treating each other badly, putting each other down, bullying each other and creating fights, I feel sad and I know that it is the violence and not me that is the problem.

I do not say, I must be ill because I become upset when I see cruelness in the world.

I search for kind people.

When I do not want to go to bars or be around lots of people who are high and drunk for fun, I know that it is the over use of drugs, addictions and perpetual need for escapism, and not me that is the problem.

I do not say, there must be something wrong with me because I do not want to participate.

I find other ways to enjoy myself.

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In a world that has become increasingly de-sensitized to life there have been many changes to the quality of our environment and social relationships. Many of these changes, like those listed above, have made it very hard to for people to stay touch with their humanity and sensitivity.

When the dominant culture is heavily engaged in pollution, addictions and inequitable distribution of resources and finances, many people’s basic needs become marginalized.  The point I wish to draw from this is that we have a wounded culture which has come to classify people  who suffer from having their needs marginalized as ‘ill.’ Their physical or social forms of suffering are being considered indicative of individual weaknesses or inadequacies. This is hardly the case.

I see many mental, emotional, and degenerative  illnesses being diagnosed more and more frequently. I shake my head and I am greatly saddened because I see, these illnesses stem from environmental and societal problems, much more then from individual circumstances.  I also realize that because many of  these problems come from our ways of living as a society, there is often no real help for someone in a diagnosis. The onus is being misplaced and not only does that keep the person labeled with the illness stuck in a cycle of suffering, it keeps our society and culture stuck in those cycles as well.

We have to start looking at our collective situation honestly.

Degenerative diseases have been on the rise right along side the degeneration of our environment.

We need healthier food, less chemicals, cleaner air and good water.

Depression, addictions and all sorts of mental and emotional disorders have been skyrocketing.

We need to learn how to love, understand, support and reach out to each other.

Economic hardship has been hitting many people.

We need to learn to cooperate and work together.

I believe our society could make leaps and bounds of progress by being willing to embrace new perspectives  to help us create better solutions to our problems. We can learn a lot from the illnesses and the suffering that are occurring in our world, If we allow ourselves to be open to what that suffering has to teach us. If we shift our mentality, we may find ways of approaching the societal challenges we are facing with some wisdom.

However, when we say ‘something is wrong with those people because they are hurting’ rather then understanding ‘something is wrong with our world because so many people are hurting” we are stuck.

There’s another ways of seeing our reality. We could start to focus on our humanity and what we want to see thrive in our world, rather then continuing to diagnose and condemn the things that are painful and uncomfortable.

I like to look at some of the pain that we are experiencing collectively as ‘symptoms’ of us being sensitive to life and simply not having our needs met. And sensitivity is not an illness. If we would pay attention to the cries of our hearts and our bodies we might realize where we are off track and get clues as to where we need to make changes. The suffering that is happening in our world is a sign of our sensitivity and humanity struggling to stay alive in us. People are in pain because we have lost connection with each other, we have lost healthy and sustainable ways of living and we have lost compassion and understanding.

Our sensitivity is connected to our suffering and it is what can help us revive and heal this world.

We must begin to cherish it, support it, and allow it to guide us forward. So let’s do away with all the labels. We are not illnesses; we are humans with unrecognized and unsupported needs. Let’s find ways to change that and be complete and be well.

Not your Sterotypical Christian

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I am not your stereotypical Christian. I never touched a bible until about three years ago and for most of my life, a bible and a church would rank about as high as you can get on my list of things I wanted nothing to do with, had no interest in and would quickly walk in the other direction of if I caught sight of either in my path.

And there were good reasons for this. My father was disowned from his family for breaking the rules of their faith. His relationship with my mother was part of what he was condemned for. I always figured, if that was what religion had to offer, good riddance, I was so lucky not to have been roped into any of the brainwashing that makes people behave in such uncaring and inhumane ways. It just seemed like a bunch of nonsense rules and notions to help people feel more comfortable with the hard realities of life, and I thought it was fake and oppressive.

I have however, always been extremely spiritual and when I was a teenager (If you could have pried this intimate information out of my shy mouth) I would have said that nature was my sanctuary and my church.  I wasn’t big on the word God, but I would have said that when I went into certain places in the forest, sat myself beside a river, or watched the sun go down at dusk, I could feel something much bigger than me and my little mind, and I was overtaken by a magnanimous beauty which I could not find any name for other than, inspiration.

As I aged into my early twenties a few things happened which shook me up pretty badly. I broke up with my boyfriend and best friend of two years (the only person I really trusted and confided in completely at that point in my life) and a very dear uncle of mine died suddenly and unexpectedly of cancer. These two life-transforming tragedies happened within a month of each other.  I also happened to be about 2000 miles from my immediate family when it all happened, was in my first year of university studies, and was fumbling through psychiatric counseling. My counselling included a trail and error process of being medicated for social phobia, general anxiety and depression which was adding to my emotional instability. The whole situation was a living nightmare in so many ways.

Around the time my uncle died I felt my whole world fall apart. I felt like the ground had dropped out from beneath me and that the foundation of my world had cracked. I felt like I was free falling into some kind of abyss and that nothing was ever going to be the same. And I was right. Nothing was ever the same.

For the next two and a half years I went though many nervous breakdowns. I was continually just barely holding myself together and self-harm, drugs, drinking, one night stands, shoplifting and all kinds of other debauchery and addictions, somehow quietly played out in my life while I continued through my school work, jobs and activities with a big smile. The truth however, was that I was constantly screaming and dying inside.

By the time I was entering my third year of university I couldn’t keep up with my studies anymore. My physical health was starting to deteriorate and the medications and treatment I was receiving through my psychiatrist clearly weren’t working.

Despite the years I had spent in counseling, I felt I was getting worse and I was suffering through more and more intense side effects from the medications I was taking. The worst of all of them were constant night terrors and panic attacks during my sleep which left me worn out all the time and terrified to rest.

I was at a dead end. I couldn’t continue on living the way that I was and I was awakening to the sobering reality that the only option I had to change my situation would be to leave university and move back to a home and family that I had fled from in my teens.

My doctor at that time didn’t have much help to offer except suggesting more and more medications. I was told I couldn’t be well without them. I decided he was wrong.

I needed to see if could make some sense of my life and myself without them… and truly heal somehow.

I wanted to be optimistic, but standing at that crossroads was terrifying. I had been through short periods of withdrawal from my medications before and there was no worse feeling. I couldn’t function without them. I couldn’t walk down a street, couldn’t think, couldn’t read a book, and could barely talk when I was in withdrawal from them. I knew that it was going to be a long journey through hell to get off of the medications I had become dependant on and that I wouldn’t really be in control of my own mind while I went through the withdrawal process.

I was in too much pain to continue living as I had been so I knew I had to make a drastic change. I was either going to end my life, because of the hopelessness of what I was facing, or I was going to have to find something to turn to for help that was bigger than me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to guide myself though the insanity, pain and complete mental and emotional chaos I knew I was going to be facing. I couldn’t do it on my own and I knew no other person could go with me through the terrifying places I was about to face.  All of a sudden I had a most desperate need for some kind of faith I had never had and didn’t know how to start to have at such a dark time in my life.

I felt like I needed to talk to God, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t even know what I believed in or if I believed in anything. And I was sacred of what might happen. I was sacred that nothing would happen, or that something terrifying would come over me. Worst of all, I was afraid that I would be judged and condemned.

I felt like I wanted to run out the door of my room to anywhere and do anything to escape from the prison of my own despair and fear, but I didn’t want to run from myself this time.

Then, somehow despite all of my worries, I managed to squeak out some kind of prayer. On a cold rainy, dark and lonely Vancouver night, I finally decided to stand in the mists of the raging storm of my emotions and mental anguish and speak to an unknown, possibly non-existent God. And my prayer was as simple as this: “God help me, I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know what to do. Please help me.”

And even though it felt so strange, even though I didn’t feel like I believed in a God at all, even though I didn’t know how you are supposed to pray and I figured I was probably doing it wrong, something happened.

Nothing big and crazy. No glorious angles, unicorns or dead presidents came barging in the door to say “CHILD YOU ARE NOW DELIVERED…” (That would have been kind of cool, but also probably quite frightening, so I’m glad it didn’t happen.)

Actually, all that happened was that a very reassuring thought entered my mind, and that thought was “It’s ok, go to bed.” And so I did.

And that experience of feeling calm and safe and enough to be able to go to bed for anxious, terrified, depressed insomnia prone me, was a holy miracle.

The fact that a comforting thought showed up in my consciousness and was stronger then all the other scary anxious, bombarding torturous thoughts which seemed to assault me non stop and threaten my very life, was a miracle to me.

So I decided to keep praying. I wrote to God just about every morning and evening for a few years.  I still didn’t know if I believed anything, I just decided to keep at it. And it felt like there was a tiny flame inside me that had been kindled which I was tending to. It was just a little flame, and I still felt I was in a sea of darkness, but that little flame brought me some comfort and hope, and it was very real to me. I decided to keep focusing on it as much as I could to help me through the darkness I was facing.

Somewhere in my faith journey I started to become more comfortable with the idea of God and faith started to become a very big part of my life. I explored lots of different ideas about faith and became extremely curious about the idea of a spiritual world. I learned a lot over the span of about three years and as I grew in my faith, more and more positive feelings, people and experiences started to show up in my life. After experiencing so many years of spiritual emptiness and emotional brokenness I cherished my new positive experiences like rare treasures and I cradled them in my heart. I started to become more optimistic and hopeful about my life and the possibility of healing.

By 2011 I felt stronger spiritually then I ever had in my life, but I was still quite a mess in a lot of ways. I had explored many different groups, forms of spiritual healing and philosophies and I was disheartened because though I loved many of the groups and practices I didn’t feel that I really at home anywhere. While my love for God at that point was very strong I still felt like I was missing something. When I look back now, I know I was very lonely.

It was a big surprise to me when a young man walked up to me one day and started talking about Jesus and I actually found myself interested in what he was saying. I had gotten used to being on my own in a lot of ways and wasn’t looking for a church. I had still barely touched a bible and didn’t feel open minded towards Christianity. However, when I met this young man I was immediately struck by how honest and joyful he was as he spoke. His words and attitude resonated with me. I wasn’t sure about going to a church, but I was so touched by his honesty that during our talk tears began to run down my face. That experience led me to decide that despite my uncertainty, it would be worthwhile to visit the church he had told me about.

I had no idea I how different this church would be. The closest thing I had found to the this place of worship were shamanic groups I had attended where people were being free and joyful and really celebrating God in a liberated way. I walked in the doors of this church and I was amazed that people were so alive. I was amazed by the presence of pure Love that I felt. It felt the same to me as when I experienced God as on my own, but there was a whole group of people who seemed to be celebrating in the same way. I was a bit stunned.

The whole service was a profound experience for me. I watched people worship by dancing and singing at the top of their lungs to rock music and then they talked about honesty and how important it is for everyone to feel safe at their church. They finished the service by having everyone come together and put a hand on each other to show that the church is one community of people united in the love of God.

You could probably say I was flabbergasted. This was like no church I had ever heard of. The people were really down to earth and seemed to really love a God that is Love, and that made sense to me.

After that experience I started attending the church (Crossfire Assembly) regularly and I started to understand that when this church worshiped Christ they were worshipping a God that is Love. I started to understand Christ as a feeling of Love which has always been with me, and as the very comforting presence which reached me back in my despair when I first said a very uncertain prayer into the darkness.

As I felt more comfortable I found I could finally let go of some of the deep sadness within me. Each week I would sing, listen and cry. And for the first time in my life I finally started to know peace.

It’s funny, I know I am not in anyway a stero-typical Christian, and sometimes I struggle with my past and think I am just too outside of the box.  I spent so many years traveling around, participating in so much debauchery and so many different spiritual traditions. And somehow through all of it I experienced God’s love in often unexpected ways.

It has been a long and bumpy ride searching for faith and beginning to grow in it. And now, though the journey continues, I know where my spiritual home is. I know where to find the presence of Love I was so lost without and searching for most of my life. And I have a community of people around me to share that Love with. Not people who glorify harsh rules and regulations and not people who ask me to change who I am. Just regular, quirky down to earth people, meeting up with other regular, quirky down to earth people to celebrate a God we recognize as being more Love then we will ever truly comprehend.

And being able to know and celebrate that kind of Love, that my friends, is one great reason to shout Halleluiah.