Love and Loss

 

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Today is my birthday, a time for celebration, happiness and being showered with love by those around me. It’s beautiful. As I have experienced more years on this planet and more of the interwoven tapestry of life I have realised how closely happiness and sadness live to each other. How love and loss are two sides of the same coin. On the happiest of days, like a birthday, wedding or new baby being born, we cannot help but be reminded of those we wish were still near.

This is not meant to be morbid, quite the opposite; being utterly present with what is, it is undeniable how love does not exist without loss from a human perspective. Any and everything we love will be at some point lost to our human selves, in the most extreme sense one or other will eventually die, with so many other types of loss in between.

From a universal perspective there is no loss, and love is unlimited; we are all love and whether our relationships change or one of us dies, our love continues infinitely. But our sweet human selves struggle deeply with loss and grief, my understanding is that grief is love with no where to go. As we travel through this life, love and loss are going to be our carriage mates, without doubt. So how do we move through and integrate these experiences?

The only piece of advice I am going to share is this; FEEL YOUR EMOTIONS. Feel them all, let them exist in you, let them move through you, let them devastate you when you are devastated, let them lift you higher than you could ever imagine when you are joyful. I know how scary and painful it can be, and how much we might want to escape those feelings by abandoning and numbing ourselves. Brene Brown, excellent author and researcher, did a Ted Talk in which she talked about the extreme version of any emotion, good or bad, is what triggers addicts to fall off the wagon. Isn’t that interesting? That really feeling the depth of our love AND loss feels just as uncomfortable to us. Which is why we see alcohol as the societal norm for all happy and sad occasions; why people get so drunk at weddings and at funerals. Different sides of the same coin.

There is no judgement for numbing, we have all done it in some way or another, at times it may even be essential. However I have learnt that when we allow our hard feelings to truly be felt, at an appropriate time, it hurts but there is hope and connection, and when we suppress and numb our feelings there is despair and disconnection.

This subject is on my mind as I have lost a most beloved soul in my life recently. At his memorial I adapted a poem, of unknown origin, which I would like to share with you in the hope these words may soothe you too in times of grief….

Am always with you

When I am gone, release me, let me go. I am safe and happy, I want you to know. You mustn’t tie yourself to me with too many tears, but be thankful we had such wonderful years. I gave you my love and you can only guess, how much you gave to me in happiness. I thank you for the love that you have shown, but now it’s time I travelled on alone. So grieve for me a while if grieve you must, then let your grief be comforted by trust, that it is only for a while that we must part, so treasure our memories within your heart. I won’t be far away for life goes on, and if you need me call and I will come. Though you can’t see or touch me I will be near, and if you listen with your heart you’ll hear, all my love around you soft and clear. And when the perfect time comes for us to meet again, our hearts will whisper ‘I know you’ once again.

Be brave and have difficult conversations

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As I was planning to write this blog I was watching an IG live video from the one and only Brene Brown – what a superstar she is! (The quote above is hers). She was talking about her new book, called Dare to Lead. She was showing us the different elements of what it takes to be an exceptional leader, and they are; brave work, tough conversations and whole hearts – how perfect!

Now being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean being a leader of a country or a company, it also means being a leader in your life – leading yourself – being the one who designs your life, rather than allowing life to happen to you.

I’m so pleased Brene agrees that having difficult conversations is a key part of being a leader in your life. The difficult conversations we usually need to have are with our partners, our family, our friends and our work colleagues – not all at once hopefully! They are difficult because we care about the other person and sometimes it feels like there’s a lot at stake, e.g. having a difficult conversation with your boss could make you feel like your job is on the line, as you’re not just ‘towing the line’ and being a ‘yes (wo)man’.

Why is it so important to have these conversations? And to practice and be good at them? Because relationships are central to our lives, our sense of fulfilment and can lead us to feel wonderful, and terrible. It is important that we communicate our boundaries, our needs and our feelings in order for our relationships to be healthy and supportive.

I’m sure you’ve had the experience of not having a difficult conversation with someone close to you, putting it off because it’s awkward or uncomfortable, or both. As time passes your mind is chattering about ‘the thing’ and you start to build up a little resentment. Your mental and emotional space and energy is being taken up by all this noise, when it could be filled with possibility, imagination and inspired creation. Which would you rather?

So having the conversations clears that space for you, and it honours the other person by allowing them to take the part in the monologue that otherwise only happens in your head, or worse it becomes gossipy and judgey when you talk to other people about it. None of that makes you or the other person feel good, because just because you’re not saying it, don’t think they aren’t feeling the vibes you’re putting out.

As an Intuitive Life Coach I teach my clients a set of principles and steps to follow when preparing for a difficult conversation. Doing the preparation may seem laborious, however it will set you up in the best possible way to: a) get a good outcome from the conversation and b) have you both feeling loved and creating deeper connection, rather than separation.

The 2 main principles of having good, difficult conversations are:

  1. Vulnerability (another Brene favourite!)
  2. Honesty

As you are the leader of your life showing up to your difficult conversations being vulnerable is essential, it allows the other person to connect with you and a heart level which means they will much more likely hear you and not immediately jump to defensiveness. Honesty is crucial too because there is no point in skirting around the issue, or sugar coating it, as the message will not get through and the outcome will not be effective.

The steps to prepare your difficult conversation well – these steps are to be written out to get yourself very clear on what you’re saying and ensuring there’s no blame or shame:

  1.  Ask the other person for their permission to have the conversation, if now is not good, set up a time.
  2. Be vulnerable – how are you feeling about it? Are you feeling nervous or scared of the outcome? Embarrassed or upset?
  3. Say what you want to say – be kind and loving, no blame and shame, but also be clear and honest – don’t soften it so much the message is not received.
  4. Ask the other person if it made sense to them? Do they need you to explain anything.
  5. Allow them to talk – ask them how they feel? What their thoughts are and really listen…
  6. Repeat back their points and feelings – this is called active listening and it shows the other person that you have really listened and care about their side of the story.
  7. Ask for the outcome you would like and together negotiate a solution or plan going forward.
  8. Thank them for having the conversation.

Below is an example of how a difficult conversation plan might go:

Hey Sam, there’s something I’d really like to talk to you about, is now a good time?

I’ve been feeling very nervous about bringing this up with you because I feel silly and I’m worried about what you might think about me or how you might react. 

When we spend time together, or go on dates, it upsets me when you spend so much time on your phone. It makes me feel like you’re not having such a good time with me and maybe even find me boring. I feel like you’d rather be somewhere else, with someone else and that makes me feel sad and bad about myself. 

Does that make sense? 

(Sam talks…)

So you have got into the habit of checking your phone regularly at work because you need to respond quickly when issues come up, and you sometimes don’t even realise you’re doing it. You didn’t know it made me feel like that and don’t want me to feel bad. Is that right?

Would you be open to switching your phone off, or keeping it in your bag/ pocket, when are out together? I would really appreciate that.

Thank you so much for your openness in having this conversation with me, I feel so much better.  

Once you’ve prepared it’s time to be brave and go have the conversation, it will feel scary, so feel the fear and do it anyway. You don’t need to follow your plan word for word, none of us are perfect and there is no need to even try to be. Your unique way of expressing yourself, with vulnerability and honesty, is perfect and this tool will deepen your connections with those close to you, freeing up your energy and cultivating relationships to enable you to be a fabulous leader in your life.

If I can get through it, you can too…

In this video I share a little bit of my story, some of the darker times, because I think it’s healing for us to hear how others have suffered and come out the other side an even brighter version of themselves.

This is super vulnerable, so I am very nervous about posting!! It feels like cutting a hole in my chest and revealing my beating heart. (OK, slightly dramatic!!)

It’s my intention that you will feel my belief in you and know that you can overcome whatever obstacle is in your path, and I am here cheering you on, my love.

How to Heal from Emotional Trauma

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Trauma is a big and loaded word. In this post I am writing from my own experience of emotional trauma, and my healing journey, as experienced as an adult.

We often think of trauma in the frame of PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder) which occurs when an individual experiences a terrifying and earth shattering event, such a war zone. However we all experience trauma to a greater or lesser extent in our lives through our relationships, life choices and painful events. It’s also worth mentioning that what is traumatic to some, may not be to others, we have different nervous systems and different ways of perceiving the world and what happens to us.

My most extreme experience of trauma was in my relationship with a long term partner. During the relationship there were toxic and destructive dynamics which led to the end of the relationship, by which time I was utterly depleted. The somewhat messy ending and aftermath was additionally traumatic, resulting in an emotional breakdown and eventually the onset of an autoimmune disorder; physical breakdown. My life ground to an abrupt halt in many ways and I was forced to focus on my healing.

Looking back now I can make sense of what happened and how the breakdown was inevitable, although at the time I was spinning trying to understand and hold myself together. My body getting sick was perfect because I absolutely needed to take a big time-out to heal and learn crucial lessons.

During the height of the breakdown my nervous system was high alert 24/7, I had panic attacks when I left the house, I was anxious all the time, I was medicated…I was a mess. Here are some of the tools I used to facilitate my healing:

Journaling

Now when I say journaling, this was no ordinary journaling, I was desperately trying to make sense of my life and hold onto any shred of hope and positivity I could. I would write down positive experiences I had, nice things people said to me and affirmations. I would also write down what I was learning; how this situation had happened and revelations from work with healers and coaches. I took my journal with me everywhere and the most important part was re-reading what I had written. I used it to remind myself that there was hope, there was goodness and there were people and a universe who loved me.

Healing professionals

A huge part of my healing process was working with healers and teachers, such as reiki practitioners, massage therapists, doctors, psychotherapists, hypnotherapists and intuitive coaches. In my opinion, deep healing requires some external support and guidance. The time and money spent on these experts was invaluable to my health and wellbeing and to learning the soul lessons, which are offered to us in abundance during the darkest of times.

Connecting with and receiving support from the people in my life 

When we are at our most vulnerable, we are also at our most open. I had a number of incredibly touching and healing experiences with family members, neighbours and even total strangers. For example I went to have tea with a neighbour who I didn’t know very well, but I knew she was a kind and spiritual person. She offered to talk me through a type of meditation to receive clear guidance from God, which I readily accepted. It was so vivid and so meaningful, it gave me hope and love and gratitude.

Surrendering to the greater, loving power

I had my fair share of ‘come to Jesus’ or ‘on my knees on the bathroom floor’ moments. Those times in the dark night of the soul when you are utterly at a loss as what to do, how to cope and how to bear this pain. It’s in these times that we realise we cannot do this alone, that living life from our very limited ego self (or mind self) is futile, exhausting and impossible. When we have tried everything and we have nothing left, we throw our hands up to God/ the Universe/ our angels (or whatever you call the divine power of creation) and surrender control, asking for help and healing. This was hands down the most healing and life altering experience of my healing process. To learn that I wasn’t in this alone, that there is a loving force that is guiding me and holding me, even when it feels like all is lost.

It is my most heartfelt hope that some of these suggestions, and sharing a little of my story, will help and encourage you if you are going through pain and trauma. Please do feel free to reach out and tell me your story or ask questions about mine – I want to serve and support you.

Sending so much love x

Image credit: Pottercounceling.com

Valentine’s Day – Self Love

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Firstly – Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Secondly I wanted to write you a little note about all this ‘use Valentine’s Day to love yourself’ chat that’s flying around social media. Don’t get me wrong, I 100% agree with this message and support self love everyday as a priority. However not all of us find it easy to really love ourselves, in fact for me it has been a long and painful journey of discovery to learn how essential it really is. My concern is that the self development tribe, while expressing an incredibly worthwhile sentiment, might be causing some people to feel inadequate because they find it hard love themselves. Potentially adding another reason for us to doubt ourselves…you see where I’m going with this…?

I am here to tell you if you find it hard and icky and weird to show yourself love and tell yourself that you love yourself, you are not alone, you are not weird and you are not missing something!

When one of my mentors first suggested to me, years ago, that I stand in front of a mirror and tell myself I loved myself I literally couldn’t do it! I tried, I really did, the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth, and when I forced them I didn’t believe them in the slightest, I found it embarrassing (even though it was only me in the room) and it actually made me feel worse because I was ‘failing’ at something that seemed so simple.

What I’m saying is often, especially for us ladies, the process of learning to really love ourselves, and allowing ourselves to put ME first, is a journey. At times it can be a painful journey because in starting the practice of self love all the parts of us that we don’t love, or all the aspects that block that love, come right up to the surface and stare us in the face.

My experience in the mirror all those years ago was actually a real turning point for me, I realised I really didn’t love myself and I needed to delve deeper into what was going on there and do some course correcting. My personal experience of learning to love myself was incredibly painful and involved huge life changes, perhaps because I only really learned the lesson when there was absolutely no other option. I’m in no way saying this needs to be the case for you, or anyone. But I do feel it’s important to say this is not a subject to ‘pour pink paint over’ as Marianne Williamson says, that is to gloss over and make it look pretty with insta posts about rose petal baths and heart shaped cakes. Haha – I’m sounding like the Valentine’s Day scrooge 🙂 Which is funny because I actually really like Valentine’s Day!

My point is, yes, please do love yourself as much as you can, especially on Valentine’s Day when many people feel left out if they are single or hurting. However please don’t be down on yourself if you find it difficult to love yourself today, it’s normal and it’s OK. You’re absolutely OK and wonderful and we’re all in this together.

As Prince said ‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today, to get through this thing called life’. Whether we are feeling loving to ourselves, or not, loving to others, or not, lets hold hands and do this thing together.

With all my love xxx

Image from movemequotes.tumblr.com

 

Loosening your grip…

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I have been noticing an interesting fact recently – we can hold more in our hands if they loosely open than when they are gripping tightly. In a practical sense, this is true. I noticed it when I was preparing my epsom salt bath, I tend to add epsom salts to my bath almost every day, I find it clears away the stagnant and cluttered energy and soothes my body – I love it! So I bought a HUGE tub of epsom salts which is a couple of feet from the bath, so to add the salt to the bath I pick it up in my hands. To start with I grabbed a handful closed my fist around it to carry it to the bath. After doing this a couple of times I realised I wasn’t being effective (I like a lot of epsom salt in my bath!). So I tried to hold my hand in the gesture of receiving, as you can see in the picture, and pick up the salt this way. I could hold so much more and was much more efficient! Hallelujah!

I know what you’re thinking..wtf is she talking about?! And why do I care about her ‘salt tub to bath’ life issues? Well because it struck me that it was such a good lesson for our lives as a whole; when we grab at the things we want, when we try to hold onto them very tightly, the amount (abundance) we can hold is much more limited than when we open our hands to receive in an open and relaxed way.

We can apply this to so many areas of our lives, when we hold on super tight in a relationship for example we often experience the other person moving away a little as the energy we are putting out is a little grasping. If we are in sales and we are hounding people to commit to a call or a purchase, as if our lives depended on it, they tend to back off because the vibe we are giving out is off-putting and annoying.

Similarly if we are working on manifesting and creating what our heart’s desire in our lives the more we hold on tight to the specific outcome we want, the more the universe backs away because our energy is pushing it away. However if we keep our intention strong and our vision consistently clear AND allow our energetic hands to be open, we receive even more abundance than we had imagined.

This is a lesson for me, as much as it for you. It seems counter to so much of what we are taught and what’s in the media in the West ‘hustle, hustle, hustle’ and ‘chase after what you want’. But it’s such an important lesson to learn and practice in order to allow our dreams to be made manifest through us.

The magic is in setting your intention, clearing the space to receive it (e.g. getting rid of old negative beliefs and thought patterns), taking inspired action and letting go of your attachment to the outcome; holding your hands out to the universe in a gesture of receiving, having faith that what you seek is seeking you, rather than grasping at what you want and squeezing the life out of it.

Photo credit: Dollar Photo Club

Your heart knows the way…

Your heart knows the way. Run in that direction. – Rumi

I remember my aunt telling me how beautiful and raw I was very soon after my marriage ended. I felt like I was on fire and like a total mess; sleep walking through each day and at times being in so much pain that I felt like I could spontaneously combust or break apart into little pieces. I had an inkling of what she meant then and now it’s much clearer; she was talking about the inescapable open woundedness that leaves ones heart completely bare and undefended during a very painful experience. Quite simply a heart and a soul that is open and raw allows a level of connection that is usually not available. It is beautiful and also magnetising.

It is this that people are referring to when they talk of the most exquisite beauty being found in the midst of the most unbearable pain. We are cracked open and the depth to which experiences are allowed to penetrate us is far greater than when we have our day-to-day, must get things done, ‘everything’s fine’ armour on.

I’ve recently been very busy and caught up in the day-to-day, I have been aware that my current day-to-day feels like it requires relatively hefty armour. By armour I mean the layers we feel we need to protect ourselves with in order to remain upright, functioning and achieving. Today I took some time to lay my armour down, to allow what usually must stay under wraps to have the floor. It didn’t feel comfortable and it didn’t feel good in the moment, because what I feel I must hide behind my armour is my pain and sensitivity and suffering.

However what I’ve noticed is that when we armour up to hide the parts of us we feel are not pleasant or acceptable to the wider world, we also shut out what could touch us deeply. The armour hides our dark shadowy aspects, but also blocks the exquisite beauty of deep connection to our hearts. It’s only when we put the armour down and allow all of ourselves to be seen and felt, that we are fully able to see and feel the majesty that surrounds us.

In this armourless state I read the Rumi quote above and my breath was caught by the simple beauty and meaning of these two lines; Your heart knows the way. Run in that direction. I was touched in a way that most other days I wouldn’t have been, I would have scrolled on past without much thought or presence. It felt good.

I’d like to leave you with my favourite Rumi quote, one that has been my constant mantra in very difficult times:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.

The third way…

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I have been thinking a lot about ‘the third way’ recently. I was listening to a podcast a few months ago and the subject was about complex loss, such as when a loved one goes missing and there are no answers as to what happened to them. Dealing with these traumatic emotions and grief is somewhat different to more clearly defined loss, like a death from natural causes. During the conversation they discussed closure, whether it can be achieved after a complex loss, they said closure is not necessarily the aim or the end result, that there is a third way. The third way in this instance was rather than be swallowed by the grief and stay in the obsession of the loss, or shut it out in an attempt to reach ‘closure’, there is a messy, uncomfortable, but more authentic, third way. This third way is acknowledging the suffering and feeling the painful emotions, along with reaching for and moving towards the future without necessarily having a sense of closure. Can you feel in that description the third way feels vulnerable and messy, and yet honest and real?

In so many cases the third way is the way of healing and most true way to move through challenging times. In my case I have been trying to reconcile, in my mind and heart, a failed marriage; it was toxic and painful, but there was deep love and connection. The first way to process it could be; it was toxic therefore it was bad and unhealthy so chalk it up to a negative experience – put it in the ‘bad’ box. The second way could be; the love was so deep that I may never get over it, or feel that way again, the love of my life is lost, wallowing in the loss. And then there’s the much messier, but more authentic third way; there were parts that were unhealthy and toxic, they were bad. There were parts that were magical and loving, they were good. There is no box to put it in, it moves between the two extremes. This means there is no closure per se, it’s an ongoing organic process; there are happy memories which can hurt because it’s over, and there are painful, angry memories which can bring relief that the situation isn’t current anymore.

The third way runs between the first and second ways, which are both the more extreme options. The third way combines the two, it’s therefore a meandering path that traverses both sides without a pre-planned route or destination. This is what makes the third way so uncomfortable for us humans; we like to know exactly where we’re going and how to get there. I feel it’s so important to honour both the beauty and the pain, to feel the full spectrum of the feelings and flow with the third way.

This concept of the third way is applicable in so many facets of life; politics, health, the environment, day-to-day experience. For example when it comes to drinking alcohol, we have a growing binge drinking problem in the UK; large numbers of people don’t drink during the week then drink as much as they can at the weekend. Both of these are extremes; no alcohol and all the alcohol. The third way is the way of moderation, in this case it might be having a few drinks a couple of times a week. You often hear people say they find it possible to either not drink at all, or binge drink, that the discipline of moderation is the most difficult. You see the same when it comes to food; people yo-yoing between eating whatever they want, often to excess, then going on very restrictive diets in an attempt to counter balance the excess. When in actual fact the balanced approach of listening to your body and eating what you need, with some treats thrown in for fun, is the healthiest approach.

In Buddhism it is called the middle way; The Middle Way refers to the Buddha’s enlightened view of life and also the actions or attitudes that will create happiness for oneself and others. It is the rejection of extremes, which is depicted in the story of Shakyamuni; he first lathered himself in luxury, then deprived himself of everything, he realised neither extreme would take him any closer to spiritual enlightenment. ‘In his rejection of both self-mortification and self-indulgence, Shakyamuni awakened to the true nature of life—its eternity, its deep wellspring of unbounded vitality and wisdom.’

The Cambridge English Dictionary explains ‘the third way’ as a political movement in which the development of business is balanced with the needs of society. It is proposed to be the third way between capitalism and socialism. Taking the example of American politics at the moment, in some ways its easier for people dehumanise President Trump and his followers, and even hate them, than it is for them to have their own opinions and at the same time have compassion for, and see the humanness in, the opposition.

The tricky thing is choosing either extreme can often feel more exhilarating; there is usually adrenaline associated with the high of excess, and there may even be a sense of accomplishment in the extreme of denial. Taking the third way can feel unstimulating, boring and overly measured. There are of course circumstances which require an extreme response; a high level of adrenaline and life or death commitment to a cause. For example it took a World War to neutralise the threat and horrifying atrocities committed on behalf of Hitler.

I’m sure you can think of many circumstances, in your own life and globally, where navigating a third way between the extremes would bring more peace and healing. However as we have seen it’s not necessarily the easy option for us, in most cases it takes discipline, vulnerability and radical honesty. Cultivating this third way in our own lives, in our own struggles, and on a global scale, is a worthy practice. It will feel messy and uncomfortable, the path may not be clear, but it is where we find wisdom, acceptance and true healing.