I wrote another post that was scheduled for today on gratitude. It's a good post. But it will need to wait for next week.
This morning, I woke up and knew this needed to be written. Why, you ask?
Because last night I could feel the darkness trying to suffocate me. My thoughts turned to hopelessness and worry, shame and discouragement, and most of all doubt.
Doubting my gifts, doubting my talent, doubting my dreams, doubting whether I deserved...well, anything.
It happens sometimes, doesn't it? Those doubts creeping in - about whether you're good enough, whether you'll ever be ready to pursue your dreams, whether you're lovable or desirable.
The doubt turns into anxiety, and then you're off to the races. There's no stopping it now. The inevitable anxiety spiral taking you down the rabbit hole.
I have an intimate relationship with my dark side, my shadow self. She is powerful, but she can be terribly cruel if I'm not careful.
What really gets me is that inside of all that pain is also the source of so much creativity and complex beauty. So I can't (and don't want to) completely wall myself off from these deeper, scarier experiences because they're part of what makes the light so very bright when I step back into the sunshine.
No one can be happy all of the time. The happiness police who insist you need to keep your vibrations high, your spirits up, your joyful smile plastered on your face are lying.
Not only has science shown that making yourself be happy all of the time can be damaging, but when you deny yourself those tastes of darkness you forget just how brilliant the light can be.
The only reason I know I'm a warrior is because I've danced in the deepest, darkest shadows within myself and come out stronger and wiser than before.
A warrior is not made by standing in the light all of the time. Armor is forged in the flames of shadow and pain.
But if it's not about being happy all of the time, then what it is all about?
It's about living a life ripe with meaning and love. Not the kind of love we see on TV that is all empty, wordless desire and silly romantic tropes. No.
It's the kind of love that requires vulnerability, courage, and a deep understanding of self. Love that allows you to be seen for your most profound truths and to see that same truth in others.
And meaning? Well, meaningfulness requires risk. It requires being seen. It requires failure and big dreams, which of course breed fear and doubt and more darkness.
Living a life of meaning often demands the courage to carve out your own path towards something only you can see when everyone around you trudges down the worn path of safety.
Living your way into greatness means falling down and finding the strength within yourself to get back up.
When you're overwhelmed with self-doubt, it usually means you're either following your dreams or you're contemplating a big change - something scary - and so, your doubt and anxiety is attempting to silence your truth, to keep you safe. This is especially true if the thing you're resisting means taking a leap of faith with an unknown ending.
Our inner thoughts like predictability. Our inner dialog enjoys the safety of ruts and repetition. It knows our weakest spots and pokes at them mercilessly.
It's OK to roll around in the darkness from time to time. Sometimes you need to dig deep in order to find what's really behind those fears.
But you are not the darkness.
You are not weak.
You have a choice. You always have a choice. You may not feel that way, you may hate the choices in front of you, but the choice is always there. (Except when it's not because oppression and capitalism...)
The scariest choice to make is often the one we most want. The one that will lift us up higher, or set us free, or rip us wide open.
Living unleashed from expectation isn't easy. But you do have the strength inside of you. You do deserve to be heard, feel seen, know the warmth of the sun on your face.
You just have to know how to move ahead even when you're at your most vulnerable, most terrified, most pained.
How can you create space to breathe when everything feels like it's against you?
I learned this powerful process from some mindfulness experts. So, here is how I saved myself last night from all that suffering.
First, name your feelings. Give them space to exist. Give them a chance to take up a little room. Stop resisting them by simply naming them. Anxiety. Doubt. Fear. Shame. Guilt. Anger. Sorrow.
Whatever it is that's screaming to come out, name it.
Awareness is a powerful tool of transformation. But awareness takes honesty of self, and that's where so many of us stumble.
We don't want to be sad. We don't want to be an anxious mess.
And then suffering settles in, because suffering is nothing more than a resistance of what is.
So name what is. Let it be seen and it will stop screaming for attention.
Last night, I was letting sorrow, doubt, and anxiety fall from my lips. Welcoming them into the space. Inviting them to sit with me for a moment (not too long, though).
Once you've named your feelings, the next step is to breathe.
You've made it this far. You've survived this long. You have power and wisdom within you that's deeper than you could possibly know.
So, breathe. Get present in the moment. Settle into your body.
Breathe and start to notice what is true about where you are in this moment (not the "truth" that your thoughts are screaming about). Speak in the present tense to yourself as you breathe and name everything you notice about the here and now.
"I'm lying in my bed. It is soft and warm. I hear sirens passing by outside. I am physically safe inside my home. My back is aching from all this stress. It is 9:41pm. I feel the fan above me. I am loved by my family. I am loved by my friends."
Centering yourself in the present moment and consciously breathing helps to give you some perspective - you aren't trapped in the past or living out a thousand worst-case-scenario futures that are twisting you into knots.
You are here. Now.
Third, begin to visualize something powerful that draws on your strength. I visualize myself standing in the darkness and strapping on battle-worn armor. It is thick and heavy, but it fits perfectly. A reminder that I have fought these battles before and won, so I can certainly do it again.
I imagine myself standing tall, brave, and ready to triumph. Whatever it is I need to do, even if it will hurt, even if it's scary, I know I can do it. I will do it.
I picture what I want in the distance - maybe it's success in my business, maybe it's a new home in a new city, maybe it's me loving myself - and I fill myself with the knowledge that I am the only person standing in my way of those things.
I picture my warrior self doing great things, overcoming doubts, moving in the direction of what I know I'm capable of - these aren't wild dreams of fortunes, but dreams that I know are within my grasp if I just let it be true.
And then I close the visualization with a serene, soft scene. It's a place where someone who has tremendous wisdom and trust in themselves would sit - a grassy mountain (like the Sound of Music's opening scene) or a stone temple like something the Dalai Lama might frequent.
The final step is the most important. Once your mind has gotten present and you've created a powerful story of your inner strength, then it's time to start inviting love, peace, and strength in for yourself, for your loved ones, and then for the world.
This is called a loving kindness meditation, and there are many versions of it.
Science has shown that loving-kindness meditation not only curbs self-criticism, but it strengths you physically, emotionally, and cognitively. By making yourself part of a larger whole, you start to gain new perspective that is tremendously calming and up-lifting.
Because it's not about happiness. It's about meaning.
And what is more meaningful than a life where you and everyone around you are being lifted up and healed?
Last night, I was swallowed whole by self-doubt, anxiety, and fear. I danced there for awhile, and then I found my strength and came out feeling more empowered and more ready to be the best version of myself that I could be.
I still feel tender, raw, uneasy, but grounded and ready to show up.
It is not easy. The good stuff never is.
But it is simple.
You are powerful and beautiful and valued. See it, embrace it, and own it.
What does your strongest self look like? Are you a warrior? A survivor? A god or goddess? Share down below and let's inspire each other in our moments of darkness.
I'm here for you.
Whether you need support or you're ready to find new ways to thrive in love & pleasure, check out the ways we can work together.