I believe that one of that one of the most significant, untapped resources in healing the past and creating the future we want, is our capacity to feel ~ with loving awareness.
We’re living in a fragmented world or, at least, so it seems when we slow down enough to witness the suffering on our planet.
We see it in our wars, our governments, our social systems, our mental and physical health, our families and intimate relationships, and in our climate changing home.
Most of us also have times when we experience that sense of fragmentation within ourselves. It might manifest as an underlying pervasion of stress, fear or even numb joylessness that keeps us somehow separate from feeling relaxed and present in our own bodies. Some suffer relentless pain from this experience of separation from their own hearts and from their sense of belonging to life. Some even choose to leave this world because the pain of that isolation is simply too much to bear.
OK… I know this is not a cheery start to a blog. But please don’t leave just yet because, although it may be tempting to turn to something more upbeat, leaving is the habit we are being invited to change.
[Slow down and breathe with me for a moment before reading on… pay attention to your body, notice how you’re feeling and make a little more space to be with yourself. Whatever you notice (fear, anger, sadness, tension, shame, joy, love, tiredness, numbness, hunger) welcome and acknowledge it with tenderness.]
The recognition of how tragically this fragmentation can play out, was brought home to me, quite literally, in August 2017.
During a weekend that I was holding a significant Women’s Circle at my home here in Scotland, a beautiful young man, named Aamir, surrendered his life here on our land, only feet from The Women’s Fire where we were gathered. (I wrote a beginning story about this that you may remember if you read my blog from earlier this year.)
This incredible story has unfolded in extraordinary ways (as I sensed it would) and in August this year, I had the profound honour of meeting and holding space for Aamir’s Mother, Sister and best friend here, at The Women’s Fire, on the anniversary of his death. Later (and with permission from his family) I hope to share more about the depth and Grace of this whole encounter and what emerged as a deeply healing ceremony not just for those of us involved, but for the land here and the collective field beyond.
The story of Aamir’s death has also touched others in tender and rousing ways, as if the healing roots of the oak tree where he lay his body to rest, extended intently though the earth, touching those ready to feel the resonance of his story with their own.
One of those people is a dear friend of mine, Eleanor Brown, who was with me at the Women’s Circle at the time Aamir took his life and who’s journey has been interweaving with mine for some time, as if a vast tapestry is gradually revealing itself. If you know Eleanor, you probably also know that she is a very gifted singer-songwriter and that many of her songs are profoundly Soulful, healing rituals in and of themselves.
Moved by the impact of Aamir’s death and what unfolded in her world afterwards, Eleanor wrote one of those Sacred Songs. It’s called ‘We Will Not Be Lost To These Times’.
She has just released this song, along with her own story, to honour Aamir and a close friend of hers Jayne who sadly took her life in this Summer, and to let them and others know that their lives and deaths will not be lost. You can read her story and listen to or download her song here.
We know that Aamir and Jayne are not alone in their journey. For an alarmingly rising number of people, leaving feels easier than staying in the flesh on our beautiful planet.
Although many of us find it hard to imagine how the choice to die could be less daunting, the ‘leaving‘ problem is not limited to those who struggle with extreme depression or anxiety. It has become an enculturated way of relating to life.
Perhaps it’s not ironic, that a deeper, more nuanced understanding of this ‘leaving pattern’ was part of the huge gift that Aamir’s choice offered me, both personally and in relation to my deepening Circle work with women.
In essence what this experience brought home to me was the value of my capacity to more fully feel my vulnerability… to be with myself in a warmer, more finely attuned and loving way than I had before.
I’m aware that at the time this happened, I could have found a way to shrug it off, shut down my sensate awareness and make it ‘none of my business.’ However there were signs that showed me something else was needed; the timing of his death as the women were gathering in ceremony; the focus of our ceremony to heal and integrate the feminine and masculine; and the extraordinary tree he chose, right on the perimeter of the Women’s Fire in the North West direction of ‘Relatedness’.
Instead of riding rough shod over these finer perceptions in an attempt to numb the shock and stay busy preparing for my imminent Tedx Talk, I chose to slow right down and allow myself to be fully present with the impact of the experience.
At first it was just the initial fear and shock that moved through me. But then, I began to feel the devastation that I sensed had ricocheted into his family, along with some of the side-lined grief of my own losses. And revealing itself through all of this, was a growing sense of the acute collective suffering of so many men who struggle to find their place in our patriarchal culture. For once it wasn’t the suffering of women that was foremost in my heart.
[Ok, it’s time to pause again… to breath…. to feel what’s there…to notice what’s happening in your body as you read this.
How are you feeling? Stay with yourself for a moment or two before you resume reading. Give yourself space and time to honour what you sense in your body.
Here’s how I am…
As I write this, I notice a little fear rising in my heart, and with it the thought; ‘You might judge me as being pessimistic’. So part of me wants to abandon this and do something else. But I won’t because I don’t want to abandon myself. I want to stay in relationship with the fear in my body. I take a conscious breath and get still. I allow myself to feel the visceral sensation of fear ~ with compassion. It feels more bearable to be with that fear now and to see the thought without making it true. I sense my heart opening more to myself. I still sense the fear but there is also love. So I ‘hold’ the fear with more loving, spacious acceptance and give myself permission to continue…]
This is the practice of staying.
Opening myself to feel the many emotional layers of impact around Aamir’s death also opened me to the wider collective field related to it. It helped me to realise that choosing to let this event move and expand me was a choice to grow from it. And that this choice to grow is in every encounter I face. If I walk through life only feeling the things that make me feel good then I will never touch the deeper, more subtle emotional layers of conditioning from my past that are ready to be felt, deconstructed and integrated.
If I don’t touch those deeper layers in myself, I will remain stagnant in my capacity to hold space for others in a way that truly meets and honours their authenticity.
I learned from Aamir’s choice to leave, that allowing life to touch me is a beautiful thing.
Asking myself ‘how does this situation relate to and show up in me?’ and staying open to feel the answer gave me access to a deeper truth beyond the circumstances and facts that presented themselves in view.
I could feel and trust the beauty and Sacredness in what had happened; in the profound interconnectedness between those whose lives were intertwined by this story.
And I could hear the call of the unravelling mystery that lay beyond.
Thank you for reading this far… for staying with me.
I wonder what in your life might be calling you to open to feel ~ to expand into more of who you really are?
In part 2 of this blog, I’ll share more of what I’ve learned about how and why the habit of leaving is one of our greatest challenges and how we can begin to feel our way home to wholeness.
Love and gratitude to … Eleanor Brown for her Sacred song – ‘We Will Not Be Lost To These Times‘ and to Lucy Pearce for her beautiful artwork for the song cover (of the Oak Tree) that we have used as our featured image.