Do you know how you can feel stunted by pure hatred and ignorance. What does ignorance taste like? Bile, of yellow and beige, I think. The same vibe as jealousy. Well, being stunted is not like being in shock, but more like losing all of your senses, but feeing. No matter what you do, you can not stop feeling and you cannot get other senses back.
This happened in 2022. However, as I have discovered over the course of my life, in every tricky situation there is a blessing, a learning and even a transformation. And here I am, having spent the whole year stuck in a place of intense feeling, yet frozen and devoid of imagination and creative sparkle and that freeing sense of flow, I am claiming it all back. What I have felt through the emptiness and the ugliness of the physical and human was the beauty of the spirit. It’s defiance, strength, unwavering loyalty and an unshakable sense of purpose. This year will always stay with me as a year marking my homecoming in the most profound way. There might be and will be, no doubt, more of these periods coming, yet for today, I am here, sitting fully back with myself, writing again with all my senses back together in perfect partnership.
Life is ugly and stunningly beautiful. It is cruel and violent yet filled with tenderness and grace. It is challenging and complex yet profoundly simple. As one great writer once said ‘do not look closely at life’ meaning the beauty is in simplicity, life itself, day-to-day sparks of joy and just being alive. From tragedy come revelations. A brush with death can release and propel us into living harder.
Let us all remember to appreciate the journey and trust ourselves to know the right way forward even though quite often it is simply one day at a time, one step at a time, and when one day an expansive landscape opens up in front of us and we know we belong and feel that God within us like it’s our own heart, that’s what we all thrive for.
Grab that joy with both hands and run with it until our legs are exhausted in satisfaction of being able to feel the earth underneath us and our face hurts from smiling too much and all that light within is a feeling one can never explain only that it tastes sweet and it is pure like heaven on earth.
What we are experiencing is a crisis on many levels and what’s at the centre of it is a breakdown of the ‘whole’, a psycho-spiritual crisis of individual and collective. We are facing a long and dark night of the soul. When things no longer make sense, our minds race uncontrollably and feelings overwhelm our every day, fear-based behaviours flare out of control and our safety is compromised. When personal and collective fall away what and how transpersonal can help us get back to ourselves, get back ‘home’.
What are we left with? What else is there?
Transpersonal approach to psycho-spiritual work deals with the idea of human innate potential and bears witness to personal transformations through engaging with or experiencing something beyond ‘self’ when in crisis. Hope reawakens, inner potential begins to shine through and strength previously seemingly inaccessible comes back. As a therapist I have been privileged to be a witness to profound shifts in individuals when working in a transpersonal way. Working with life transitions and crisis is one of my favourite areas due to an openness and beauty of experience that can be had once transformation occurs through awareness, reflection and application. The beauty and resilience of the human spirit is profound. Transpersonal way of working for me, first and foremost, is an interconnectedness and the quality of being with another that holds the key to an effective recovery of all that matters.
When we are faced with crisis we can look at losing something as a way of gaining something else; an opportunity, a ‘welcomed’ surrender without resistance. In breaking down we break through. The crisis becomes a golden opportunity to self-actualise, a path towards what one always wanted to be. Crisis becomes a road ‘home’ towards inner wholeness.
How can transpersonal view help in a time of crisis? Transpersonal psychology ideas were birthed out of humanistic movement of the 1960s and have been widely used in psycho-spiritual work and incorporated in a field of psychotherapy. The actual term ‘transpersonal’ was first used by C Jung in 1917. I see transpersonal approach to healing and life in general as an active, purposeful engagement with ideas such as, hope, meaningful life, human innate potential, divine nature within us all – all of which create a ‘whole’ of life experience. It includes interconnectedness between earthly and spiritual, cognitive and emotional, physical and sensory, person and interpersonal, inner and outer, individual and collective. We have an opportunity to start with ourselves and extend our essential life-force and divine energy outwards. We can do so through nourishing thoughts and meaningful actions, emotional intelligence and awareness, intentional creative life, honouring of the body, practicing enchantment of life and spiritual awareness in a way that makes the most sense to us.
When all structures around us collapse, pillars that held our earthly lives in place, where do we turn for help and containment? What happens to our identity and personal concerns? Through history we have seen individuals, as well as, nations collectively ‘rising from the ashes’ when a surge in consciousness comes forth and personal diminishes. We access our strength, hope and potential in a place beyond personal. We can call it faith, spiritual awareness, experience that has no words, yet its power cannot be denied and transformations are inevitable.
Better knowing your nature one can be more effective in the world and seeing that we are not just one or the other, thoughts or feelings we are the whole experience of life in all its spectrums. In dropping into the dark we discover the light and with light taken away darkness serves as a lesson towards change.
As a result of a crisis what we ultimately look for is:
A path to consciousness through harnessing the unconscious
Inner and outer transformation (individual and collective)
Coming to awareness of the interconnected reality
Joining back in with the individual and collective ‘whole’
Spiritual connection to the divine
What we can do:
Turn within with love, compassion and trust
Have faith in knowing that our potential is limitless. Potential within us all is a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered. When all the external noise, defences, unconscious actions no longer dominate we can clearly see what really is available to us from within.
Become conscious of your unconscious through paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Focus on your personal (with yourself), interpersonal (with others) and extra-personal (transpersonal, spiritual, divine) relationships.
Self-reflect with every step paying attention to words you speak
Be present through the body either through grounded visualizations or other activities that connects you to the physical. I find digging the earth, planting, gardening, walking or running very revelatory, cantering, meditative and often spiritual experiences.
Care-take your insights and implement into life as a way of practicing change, growth and transformation
Know what brings you joy and pleasure; what makes your passion burn; what actions make your life fulfilling and meaningful
“Everything living thrives for wholeness” (C. Jung) and it is wholeness we need to reclaim and rebuild following multiple fractures, isolation, disconnection and loss on a huge scale. Use the crisis to begin the work of rebuilding earthly and spiritual reality based on what matters to you. Spiritual to you might be finding meaning in life or creating a practice that allows you a space where you are most productive, loving, and compassionate. Through individual healing and awareness of the transpersonal, whichever way you choose to access it, use it as a helping hand, a reminder of ‘something more, something better’, we can weave threads of consciousness, however, small at first, as long as there is intention and inner belief in what we can truly do when we commit to healing and recovery.
When all falls apart what’s left is the extraordinary spirit that shines within us all, the innate natural capacities to do things unimaginable that often come force when we are faced with crisis. Through the light of consciousness step-by-step, piece-by-piece we pave the road ‘home’, back to ourselves, a road back to wholeness.
My experience has always been that transformation, upgrade, growth comes after a period of darkness of the soul. The darker and deeper the drop the more profound the transformation. It is, however, not easy to realise or get to the other side and comes with practice. There are often steps to follow.
The first one is awareness of light and dark within you, a true connection to both energies within your psyche. Both need to be known intimately, accepted, befriended and experienced. I frequently say that the best awareness comes from repeat lived experience and real life examples. Think of yourself in your ‘dark’ cloak. What does that look and feel like? Is there a clear image of yourself, in what voice and language that side speaks, what does it usually do, what its preferred or default way of behaving. Get to know it, notice, befriend and learn from it. The same goes for your light side of the psyche. What are you like when you are wearing your ‘light’ cloak. What’s the vibration and presentation of that energy within you? When you know both and can easily identify, recognise and connect with both you can navigate both your transformation and your dark nights better.
Another step in the process is to fully stay in the process and yes, natural reaction is to try to get out of it, change it, do something when we are in a dark place. It feels uncomfortable and painful. We resist, reject and want to strip ourselves of all that it brings with it, but even though it is natural to want to do that what if we allowed it to be? After all it is within us, it is part of us and it is there for a reason in any given moment.
Darkness and pain can also be comforting and safe to some of us and it is familiar to a point we get lost and settled into it. To me it feels like a dark cave where no one can find me. It can be soothing and reassuring. If it is so for you recognise it, explore your relationship and history with pain and dark places in general. Is there more to it?
Another opportunity when ‘in darkness’ is your unconscious will be showing itself through dreams more vividly. For me I begin to have profound, vivid, dark and nightmarish dreams. I always find those fascinating and even when unpleasant I find they keep my energies going. It is like stirring a caldron, a process of ‘cooking’ taking place in my unconscious. I get very involved with its content and open up to messages. This part of the process is valuable as much can be extracted from the dreams when in a state of darkness.
I find at this point in my practice that I know when darkness comes there will be light post-pain, post-anxiety and depression. One might say I learnt to keep the faith. In simple terms the only way is up. What’s needed here is trust and again it is another difficult point where we either give up (on ourselves) or manage to override our dark state somehow for the fear of never being able to come out. Never is a strong word, it deletes all possibility for change and it is an illusion. We all know that nothing ever stays the same and change touches absolutely everything. I strongly believe in the ‘Phoenix rising from the ashes’ transformation.
To reach the light we must be patient with the darkness. Not only we need to be with in it, allow feelings to do their thing in their own time, be graceful, soft amidst anger and desperation, be kind to yourself and your darkness. Needs that come up when you are in a dark place will be your usual needs, but amplified a lot and we need to meet those needs. Give yourself what you need in those moments through really listening to the voice of your pain and despair.
Light comes in gradually. First you begin to notice coming back into life through small things, wanting to connect again. You will feel your isolation state stretching into a need to relate. It is like a process of remembering your ‘whole’ self, the way you had been before going into darkness. You remember belonging to a group, family, your usual dynamic. You begin to want to get involved again in small ways, your voice will start coming back, healthy, balanced one. You begin to feel different, lighter, more grounded and less scared. Darkness has done its thing. It’s been and gone and by allowing it to be we allowed ourselves to feel what needed to be felt, worked through and acknowledged whatever that is for you.
I recently have gone through such period of darkness and all of the above was true for me again and when one morning I saw a big beautiful butterfly land on a bench next to me I knew the light was near. Transformation followed slowly with big insights, a strong desire for change and implementing things in a different way, adjusting behaviour and interactions. I also remained strongly aware of my needs, which through being amplified in the dark showed up more clearly in life. Through my voice returning I was able to communicate them to others more effectively. What followed was a sense of renewal, rebirth and upgrade into new ways.
Darkness is a great teacher. It not only puts things in perspective, it brings us literally back to life, more fully engaged in the present. I also find there’s a serene period of contemplation and a silent observation that accompanies the process of coming back to light. That is always very pleasant and incredibly needed.
We all potentially seek light and all leads to it whatever we go through in life and the most profound ‘come backs’ are through deep darkness.
I am passionate about embracing our whole being with all parts accepted, acknowledged and loved equally good or bad. My joy lies in seeing manifestations of all parts coming together in an individual and experiencing their journey with them towards light and full actualization when all parts of themselves are welcomed back into being.
We come into this world with a set of qualities unique to us. A set of qualities that are a mixed bag across the whole spectrum of light and dark, if you like. We possess qualities that are of back and while, grey, blue, green and deep yellow, e.g. some are bigger and stronger and some are more delicate and quiet. I like to think of qualities as being alive entities that seek acknowledgement and manifestation into life.
I like to use a symbolic image of a flower. We came here as a complete, unique flower with a potential to bloom fully as ourselves. However, conditioning of a family dynamics, society and environment around us get in a way and our flowers either do not get to grow as sunshine is either not present or blocked and we remain a closed bud, or we are only partially open through life. Even when we do get to ‘open’ in one way or another our flowers change shape, colours and fragrance even as we go through life and end up missing a few or all petals. Sometimes flowers get totally plucked out of the soil with its root or broken at its stem.
If we look at the flower as symbol of our true unique self in its full actualization and bloom (as above) it is glorious, isn’t it? How many can say they have either experienced or got close to a state of being fully open and shining into the world just like this perfect flower? Most of us can probably relate to missing a few petals, perhaps, as our qualities got ‘picked at’ and we were made to feel ashamed of some of the aspects of ourselves. Petals fall off into the ‘shadow’ of our being where they are unseen and rejected. Both good and bad petals can be ridden off. It can be angry feelings, loudness, show-off nature and performing disposition, your natural expression of joy that can be vibrant and seen as overbearing, pride in your own achievements without apology, outspoken nature or super sensitivity. Sounds familiar?
How does the flower survive? There are degrees depending on whether the flower is missing roots or it is broken at the base, whether it is misshapen and missing a few petals or it only contains a centre part with all the other parts missing. The work will depend on where we start with that image of you at the time. What does your flower look like?
As we begin to outline our road ahead and get in touch with the essence of your flower we begin the process of ‘replanting’ your true essence and get you back into the shape, colour, fragrance that you were always meant to be.
When someone leaves your life forever, never to be seen, heard, experienced or felt on no level, never to walk the Earth again or breathe the air or see the sky, it feels empty to the one left behind.
Empty to a degree that nothing seem to fill that particular emptiness. It is a feeling of despair and disbelief and hopelessness about anything that can be done about it. We can’t change death, we can’t rewind the clock to stop things from happening, we are powerless at the hands of the force merciless and sudden.
It is one of the human experiences that is beyond comprehension. We can’t make sense of it with our minds and when turning to our hearts the pain is too much and unbearable when we tune into that hole, that emptiness, that nothingness that suddenly entered our lives.
Cruel – yes
Unfair – yes
Gaping emptiness – yes
No amount of reasoning, pleading, conditioning yourself to it is going to stop it in its tracks. When it is time, it is time. How does one say goodbye to that, in the emptiness, in the hole with no sunlight, just emptiness. How to be, what to do, what to feel – all and nothing at the same time. Overwhelm of ripping claws of devastation created by an empty space or frozen in that moment when nothing else exists, no longer exists and you are suspended between living and joining that emptiness.
The pain is sharp. If it was to be described in tastes it is like it suddenly goes very bitter or extremely sweet when overwhelmed with memories, e.g. it is all about extremes of either unpleasant sensations to the max or the pleasure of remembering to a degree it is also unbearable when feeling a hand of a loved one in yours like it was five minutes ago.
Emptiness, what to do? All we can do is stay in it, stay still and wear whatever masks are thrown at you whether it is sobbing creature rolling on the floor whaling and howling like it wants no longer exist or flooding in the ocean of tears till you can’t breathe or see and all sense abandon you in that moment. A road to realisation that nothing will ever fill that emptiness is a long one and it might take for the rest of your life to even begin to feel ok with the knowledge there is emptiness.
Does it transform into something remotely comforting? I think we do need to aim to transform it into something even if it is something we create with our imagination. It is powerful to feel and know that something or someone gone is gone forever. The truth is they are gone, what we are left with is a feeling, a knowing, a memory of it once existing with life and passion and blood in their veins and laughter in their belly. We hold that image where the emptiness is, we make peace with it, we carry it within us carefully hidden in a sacred space of the heart. We can always access it and eventually we will feel more love than pain, more warmth and chilled sensation of an initial emptiness. It is not impossible, but it is a long process of first and foremost of honouring all the feelings that dance around that emptiness in unison with your soul crying. The rhythm of your heart beats as one with the Earth and the lulling comfort of the Earth gives us a reassurance that within the emptiness there is a hope for growth.
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