Do you ever become mildly obsessed with a song because it resonates with you or something you’re going through? I had been listening to Salt and Shadow by Thrice over and over again after hearing it for the first time the other day. I kept trying to understand what it was about it that was moving something within me because it didn’t really apply to my current situation or how I feel, other than being a beautiful, soulful song. Then it hit me, it’s because for the first time in my life I do NOT relate to this feeling and that needed to be acknowledged.
The song’s lyrics are beautiful and they express how someone can be physically present but just be ‘salt and shadow’ always so far away. I have lived most of my life as salt and shadow. Wherever I was I wasn’t really there, I wanted to be somewhere else and even if I got to be in the place I imagined, with the person or person(s) I thought I wanted to be with I wasn’t really there either. Where was I? I was ‘half a world away’ always. I wanted to love but never felt safe to do so, not truly. Even when I was loved, I could feel the other person holding back, projecting, hiding, or they simply just loved differently than I did so I stayed far away. This didn’t help any relationship issues obviously; tensions grew and I grew further and further away before physically removing myself.
This is all something I knew was happening. I spent so much time and energy protecting myself, keeping my guard up, I had no energy to invest in myself or anyone I loved including my son. I had never truly known myself and therefore had nothing to offer anyone else and the more someone tried to reach me the further I would pull back. Only recently have I been given the opportunity to shift this pattern. I spent almost 4 years alone to do the work I needed to do on myself so that I would never allow myself to be in a relationship again where I felt like I would be remotely tempted to pull away. In this new relationship I would witness those old patterns creep up and with his support I had to force myself to look at the pattern and step back to look at the entire situation objectively. I needed to see if my desire to pull away was necessary as it had been in the past. It wasn’t. I knew that logically, even in my heart, but my body… my body hadn’t caught up with my mind, heart and spirit.
Each time I was triggered by something that reminded my body of something from the past I would pull away, in a sense abandoning the man that just wanted to love me in that moment. Each time though, I would open up just a little more as he continued to prove his genuine, pure, honest and very real intentions. Part of me needed to see how he would respond to me when I’m triggered or experiencing a PTSD moment before I would open up. I went from shutting him out completely the first time this happened to most recently, feeling what was happening in my body and being with it instead of trying to escape it. Then I needed to tell him what was happening in my mind and body, no matter how ridiculous it sounded so that he could be part of my experience, being allowed to love me and not being shut out. This last time was the most powerful, I cried and he just held me and then it was over. It was as though I had always had chains around me and in that moment of acknowledgment and embrace I realized the chains were made of mist and they faded just as easily and mysteriously as they appeared.
This song haunted me because I needed to acknowledge how far I’ve come and that there are still moments when a part of me, usually my body, is triggered by something from the past and I can feel myself fade into just ‘salt and shadow’ ‘half a world away’ and I don’t need to do that now. What I need now is to completely show up and remain present, especially when it’s most difficult because now I am loved and supported as well as always accepted for who I am regardless of how that may change from moment to moment. I am able to feel empowered in my vulnerability, not taken advantage of, taken for granted, exploited, belittled or abused. Remembering when I needed to escape and knowing that I don’t need to feel that again is one of the most divine feelings you can imagine, it continues to leave me in awe.
We are often told that once your heart has been neglected, abandoned or broken that it will carry scars but what they don't tell you is how comfortable you can become with those scars. In the journey of healing, you become aware of your scars and through healthy self-love, you learn to stretch your heart around them. People come into your life, bursting your heart open in ways you never dreamed and you remember what love can feel like. Tears fall as the scars are stretched because you feel something you had forgotten you were worthy to feel. The simplest, sincere act of compassion and love can expose how terribly vulnerable you still are and you feel it in those scars. You begin to accept that this is part of what makes you who you are and it helps you connect to others in a more meaningful way so you treat your embarrassingly vulnerable expressions with the compassion you know you deserve.
As you become more adept at the process of transmutation, no longer seeing yourself as something that needs to be healed but instead someone with gifts to offer others, you will be sent people and circumstances to push your development further so you can step further into your truest potential. It's easy to become comfortable in our aloneness where it's safe and constant. Solitude predicates transcendence and transcendence can become addictive but once it is an addiction it's no longer transcendence. One of the many paradoxes of spiritual pursuits. The continued need to transcend can become a way to avoid what we are on Earth at this particular time to do. It can lead to disconnection when not in balance. When something happens to make you feel uncomfortable, to test your resolve, that is your lesson to unite heaven and earth within yourself and demonstrate it in all you do.
What we aren't told is that sometimes, the deeper the love that comes along, the more uncomfortable it can be but in the best possible way. The best kind of love shows you the atrophied pieces of your heart buried in adhesions and brings it to life again. There's a pain that comes with this, a pain that reminds you of how these wounds came to be, simultaneously showing you how the past can still, ever-so-subtly affect you. If you want to keep growing you will have to let your heart stretch through and around everything that has kept it restricted. You will begin to forget why the adhesions came to be and only care about lovingly working through the pain of massaging and stretching them, knowing that doing this is to expand who you are and what you are capable of.
This kind of love doesn't feel like falling, it feels like a mindful, intentional surrender to each of your greater good. This kind of love comes along to challenge you to decide if you want to remain comfortable and settled in how things are or if you are ready for an adventure that will change you and those you influence for the better if you allow it. Honor the past with reverence in all it had to offer you and release what is no longer helping your (or anyone else's) greater good. Trust yourself and trust the process as you explore love in a wise and profound way. Feel your heart guide you, your body doesn't lie. Learn the difference between your body warning you and your body ready to embrace something wonderful if you allow it to.
Photographer: Ted Scanon of TedScanon Photography from a project we did together titled 'Becoming'
With one brush of his hand, the past falls away like a silk slip delicately tumbling to the floor. You have asked for this moment in a thousand little specific and non-specific ways. You have asked to be confronted with all the work you have done, with how far you have come. You have asked to be faced with your progress and your limitations. You have asked for a safe space to witness every experience that has shaped you up to this moment, to have it reflected back to you and then to witness it leave you, no longer adding value to your life. You are completely reborn in this new moment, the past integrated and now nothing more than a tired dream you can choose to forget or recall on a whim.
In this moment you are fully present and aware because you promised yourself that much. You promised to embrace an opportunity like this as the gift that it would be. You have learned what unconditional love is and promised yourself that to be in that state you would need to be fully present, free of expectations, open to learn, to raise a new awareness, to go deeper into your self and to share that experience with just the right person; someone that would allow you to be safe and completely vulnerable without compromising themselves but instead stepping more fully within themselves along with you. Boundaries and needs are understood and honored so that unrealistic expectations can’t accidentally slip in. There is no past and there is no future, just this moment. Intention is a powerful thing and when two people create an agreed upon, mutual intention, magic happens.
Moments like these show you that the deeper the love is that you have for yourself, the more you can trust yourself and your judgement. You can be patient because you know your worth. You can release expectations because you are already fulfilled. The right people will ask to be invited into that space and will command the same for themselves. You can both experience freedom and vulnerability because your faith is that strong, in yourself and how you connect to all things. This moment will shape you, bringing you closer to who you are striving to become if you simply allow it.
Never before have I completely surrendered. My mind always clouded with impressions of past pain or fear of an agenda but this time would be different. This would be my first time completely present and vulnerable. An intimate dance played out energetically, physically and spiritually as we were able to explore our selves and each other in new ways. I witnessed my own fear-based impulse for control, explanations, or any other form of power and realized that I no longer need to get caught up in power plays and those impulses evaporated before they could even become. This wasn’t about a power struggle based on lack, an over-compensation or an escape. This was an empowering and healing dance between two people exploring the ultimate, healthy, divine masculine and ultimate, healthy, divine feminine and what that meant for our selves and for each other. There was nothing to prove. Our egos were laid to rest, if even for the moments we shared and that was our ascension.
Over time, the deepest part of my self that I had to face was being challenged in a new way of what unconditional love truly means. Agape seems easier to come by when someone hurts you because you can relate to their pain on some level and sometimes empathy can be a bit of a crutch, but unconditional love also applies to the most exquisite interactions as well. Allowing something or someone to remain undefined so you can witness the unfolding is, in itself, a sacred act and an act of unconditional love not just for someone else but especially for you. Fear tries to make us think… well, think! Dissecting or defining something doesn't always make it more beautiful... manageable perhaps (and necessary at certain times) but not more beautiful.
You allow the levels of and types of love you believe you're worth so as your self-worth grows in your own mind and heart, when you can make your own spirit soar, the various forms of love that enters your life is almost unfathomable. You have to step back in awe as you witness the expansiveness of true, soul-filled love and acceptance of people. Of course, the reality that perhaps no one can love you the way you can love you may be jarring, but the great thing is, that love is reflected back to you by the people you begin to align with. People rise up to meet you. They see and honor their own ability to love and accept another person as well. What if all love was simply a reflection of your own love? If everything is connected and everyone is a reflection, the love you're capable of offering is also the love you're capable of receiving... why shouldn't that begin with you?
This image captured for me, that moment of deep, sacred reverence for the honor of being invited to share the space and the most intimate types of experiences that two people can share and all that it has done for me.
Some choices and certain decisions can be tricky. You question yourself because when you look outside of yourself you hear other people's opinions as well as their fears and it clouds your judgement; you lose yourself in other people and become unknowingly obsessed with what they see in you and how your actions may change their perception of you. This vicious cycle never really satisfies anyone, especially if you're living a lie, because it doesn't actually satisfy those you want to make happy because if your decisions had that much bearing on their love for you... well, that isn't love at all. That's their fear and you being a victim, a pawn of someone else's fear, thus perpetuating fear and not love.
I look back on some of the major decisions I've made in my life, when I was influenced by others and when I stood firm in what I knew to be true and best for me in that moment; knowing that as circumstances change and I grow and evolve my decision may be different but in this moment, this is what is best... when I trusted my gut things worked out for the best. When I feel fear creeping in, I check in with that fear, is it a valid fear? Is this fear because I could be putting myself in real danger? Or is this fear based on someone else's perception of "right" and "wrong", "good" or "bad". One thing I've learned is that sometimes we are put in situations that compel us to demonstrate love in a way that others may question. Perhaps it's necessary for a karmic cycle, maybe we are reaping what we have sown, or maybe we are just being challenged to love unconditionally and demonstrate that, to prove it.
When I'm faced with a difficult decision I ask myself questions to get clear. Am I really afraid or am I feeling what I imagine someone else would feel or think of me and my choice? If I were to die tomorrow or the next day, what would I regret more? Therein lies my best choice. All we have is each moment, nothing beyond that is guaranteed and if I'm coming from a deep space of love and inner knowing, of what I know to be true and I have no attachment to any particular outcome, no agenda, then I dive in. Sometimes these choices feel like sacrifices but in the long run, when you trust your decision they make you feel more alive and you radiate that love you demonstrated, even if it was just a courageous act of self-love, others still feel it; maybe not the people that are determined to condemn you if it doesn't fit what "they" would have done but it changes them for the better over time. Trust yourself and trust the process of your unfolding.
2018 was a potent year for inner reflection and opportunities to raise our awareness, move our blocks, own our mistakes and decide what to do with the lessons. Here are the biggest lessons I learned over this past year. I'm curious what you learned and would like to share too!
Labels - Labels are something I don't really use nor think about anymore except for when they were used to define me by other people. How do you describe yourself as you are still learning to discover who you are and what you have to offer others? I've been told to listen to others describe you and allow them to do that for you but this caused triggers for me because so many of the words used were associated with 'evil' or 'demonic' influence when I was growing up and I began to feel defensive wanting to proclaim how much closer I feel to God, the divine, my Higher Self and all than ever before; how important prayer is in any ritual or practice I'm using from herbalism, intention setting or working with tools.
Witch, Shaman, Alchemist, Medicine Woman, Spiritual Advisor, Moon Goddess, Lover, Artist, Writer, Model, Mother - I had to accept that these words are simply words used to understand the archetype the person sees in me and is actually a clue as to the type of medicine that person needs and where their gifts may have been lying dormant and are ready to begin to awaken. I'm a Pisces Rising which means one of my natural abilities is to morph into whatever a person or situation calls for and this year has taught me how to use that as a tool for the greater good without getting lost in someone else's archetypal definition of me. I am all of these things. I am also fluid and in constant evolution simultaneously embodying all and none of the definitions people need to try to understand me. It's a gift and an honor to witness who someone else is by what filter they choose to see me through. It also makes it easier to accept, teach, connect and love these people exactly the way they need it.
Unconditional Love - Unconditional love was something I thought I was beginning to understand and then I was faced with things from my past I thought I had reconciled to challenge where I thought I had grown and to push me closer to understanding and accepting what unconditional love is. I was shown where my old ego still clung to fear and pain and once I allowed myself to feel the pain I had pushed down for so many years, for the sake of survival being at the forefront of my mind back then. This year is closing with me accepting that I have a love in me that will never die, no matter how much it hurts when it resurfaces. I am compassionately accepting that the pain is only because the story didn't end and begin the way I had wanted - but that was my ego and if it was for the greatest good than it would have worked out that way. I added the most important missing piece to the book I'm writing and I allow myself to feel everything as it pours out of me. As I accepted this and allowed myself to express it, my heart burst open, any remaining walls around it fell, and it felt as though it continued to bleed on the floor around me. It no longer had a hold over me though and my tears weren't made of blood; I was in love and that was ok. Love doesn't begin or end, it just is and the more we try to control it or harness it the more damage we do to ourselves and others because that isn't love at all, it's fear.
Generations - The other major take-away I have from 2018 is that we focus too much on generations assuming that every person from a certain generation is a certain way. We use the lens of fear to judge people that see the world and approach problems differently than we do when we should actually be interested in another way, to be open to having a healthy dialogue and work together towards solutions. Most humans want the same things but our collective dream has us all easily triggered and overly defensive instead of open to hearing another story, another reality, another way. When I treat generations the same but individuals as uniquely as they actually are, we connect deeply and we find much more things in common than differences. When we blame generations that follow us we only have ourselves to blame because we were responsible for offering those people a safe and loving environment to grow up in. When we blame generations before us we close ourselves off to hearing about the lessons and the wisdom those mistakes offered them. When we blame our own generation we blame ourselves. When we blame we remain victims, throwing our hands into the air, giving our power away to anything or anyone instead of taking responsibility and having the courage to learn from our own mistakes.
I make resolutions and set intentions daily and throughout each day. The ending of a year offers us the opportunity to measure our personal (and professional) growth at a macro level, just as reaching a long-term goal measures our personal (or professional) success. We have this opportunity on more micro levels with each passing day, week and month too. Keep a journal if your personal development is important to you so that you can truly see how far you've come at the end of the year. What intentions do you want to set for the year? What lessons from 2018 can you take into 2019 and build upon? Allow your inner work to be forgiving and fluid but also find a way for you that helps you measure your progress so you don't get discouraged during those really trying periods that life inevitably throws at us.
Sending you all my love and blessings for a prosperous New Year filled with more opportunities to have the courage to live life in a loving and compassionate way towards yourself and others. Together we can begin to change the collective dream.
Micah's confessions and lessons that have helped with self-forgiveness, healing and acceptance.