“The Shadow describes the part of the psyche that an individual would rather not acknowledge. It contains the denied parts of the self. Since the self contains these aspects, they surface in one way or another. Bringing Shadow material into consciousness drains its dark power, and can even recover valuable resources from it. The greatest power, however, comes from having accepted your shadow parts and integrated them as components of your Self.” -Jung
I realise it’s been a while since I’ve blogged – about six weeks in fact since I last put pen to paper in any meaningful way to craft a new post. The ideas have been coming, but they have been jumbled and confused, refusing to flow into a stream of prose. Something has been stopping them and it’s taken me a while to figure out what.
Well I think now I understand. In order for me to write on here I have to feel that what I am sharing is truthful, meaningful and from the heart. But since coming back to London about a month ago now I have felt somewhat disconnected from my heart and from my Self – living too much as I did in the past in my head – which in turn has led to old patterns of over-analysing, self-criticism, anxiety and doubt resurfacing.
I’ll be blunt. Coming home has been effing hard! After a life-altering experience of globetrotting, soul-searching and healing, to come back again to the place I left (or fled, you could say) seven months ago, has been a challenge to say the least. At times actually it’s felt akin to a slap around the face with the wet fish that we in the West like to call ‘reality’.
After tasting for the first time in my life a kind of authentic happiness, freedom and joy that I had before thought unimaginable; so much so that this state of bliss didn’t even exist in the realms of my imagination, nor in my dreams… to find myself once again in my old room at my mum’s house where I’d not so long ago been regularly prone to bouts of anxiety, fits of tears, and pretty dark thoughts, has left me in a mild state of inner turmoil.
I hadn’t prepared myself for the knocks I would face coming back (on an emotional, mental, spiritual, and even physical level), somewhat naively viewing this as just a stopover in my journey, a time to reconnect with family and friends, after which I’d hop on a plane back to my beloved India (to where I’ll be returning at the end of this month). After feeling so positive and strong in myself for what seemed like so long I hadn’t banked on being so affected when confronted by difficult relationships, situations and even physical realities that I had left behind when setting off on my journey back in March.
There have been times in the past few weeks when I’ve felt really low, struggling to keep up the brave, happy face that I felt everyone here expected of me. As friends and family remarked on how well I looked, the lightness of my demeanour and the positive energy I had brought home, I felt a sense of obligation to keep up that facade even when the darkness started to creep back in, when in fact I didn’t feel like a ball of glowing light at all, but rather wanted to curl up in a ball in my bed all day and cry.
What I realise I have been going through is a process of confronting my ‘shadows’, which if you are not familiar with the term are those parts of ourselves we like to keep hidden, but are there always, and will negatively affect us and those around us until we bring them into light (into our consciousness) and face them. That’s not to say I was living in denial for the past seven months while on my journey in India, Thailand and the US, ending on an out-of-this-world high at Burning Man. I wasn’t. I was very conscious of addressing the causes of my breakdown that preluded my trip away, and furthermore did a lot of work on myself to identify and deal with traumas, old and recent, that have played a part in making me the person I am today. I did a hell of a lot of growing, healing and awakening in those months (for which I should be proud!) But the work doesn’t stop here. If these past few weeks have shown me anything it’s that healing is an ongoing process. Life doesn’t stop giving us knocks and as we begin to unravel the layers of the onion – the layers of the Self – we realise that some traumas reside deep within, in places we wouldn’t even have known to look when we began the very brave process of discovering who we really are.
So, what about coming home was so hard?
Silly as it may sound, for one thing, the weather! The lack of sunshine and the cold was a real shock to my system after seven months in 30 degree tropical heat. I’ve always been a summer girl, the winter months perpetually sending me into a depression, although I admit I hadn’t expected to have found it quite this hard. There were other ‘environmental’ factors too that caused me some distress. At first I felt physically oppressed by the polluted London streets, having been luxuriously breathing in heavenly Himalayan mountain air and fresh ocean breezes. Even when doing my yoga practice at home I felt the quality of the prana was different. I didn’t feel as energised and nourished as I had become accustomed to.
On top of those external physical factors I was battling jet-lag coming back from Los Angeles, which I had no idea would be so difficult to overcome. It took me three weeks to really settle back into a good sleeping pattern, before which I was waking at all hours of the night, only adding to my anxiety as sleep is so important to my wellbeing. Oh and I could hardly walk as my foot was still badly injured. And it hurt, a lot.
Then there were the people. Getting on the Tube at rush hour for the first time almost gave me a panic attack. I felt claustrophobic in the overcrowded carriage and physically assaulted while being pushed and shoved from all directions by suited businessmen, their heads in their newspapers and their elbows jabbing around them to protect their ‘personal space’. And as I looked around at all those people doing their daily commute to jobs which their eyes told me they didn’t want to go to in the first place, I was instantly reminded of one of the very reasons I left London in the first place. That cold, distanced gaze of the majority of passers-by reminded me of the loneliness I not so long ago felt on a daily basis by being ‘trapped’ in a system where I didn’t feel understood or valued, which suppressed my freedom and my true nature as I tried to fit into the mould of a model citizen and worker prescribed to me by authority.
If it wasn’t bad enough to observe the loneliness and misery in my near vicinity, then I watched the news. I hadn’t done that in months (in fact I don’t do that in general – but I’ll talk about that in another post). It flawed me, really, leaving me feeling so low that I could barely talk for hours afterwards, utterly distraught about the state of affairs our world is in.
And finally, there was money: the evil of all evils. I had too optimistically hoped I could come back to London and survive on a budget not too disimilar to what I was spending in the East. How wrong could I be. Just to get on the Tube to see a friend set me back £8 – my daily budget in India, including accommodation, food, water and a yoga class. And I have a lot of friends to see, as well as business contacts, and well, I need to live, don’t I?! Money began to occupy my mind daily, even hourly, to the point I was having anxiety dreams and on a couple of occasions even started to doubt whether my new life plan of sharing healing was a good one at all. Would I end up on the street? I didn’t want to be a burden on my parents. Should I get a (dare I say it) ‘real’ job?
That’s when I had to have a word with myself! Hell no! I have not done all this incredible work on myself only to go back to square one – to become victim again to self-doubt and to a manipulative socioeconomic system that breeds fear in order to keep us in check. No, I am sure of who I am and of my path and none of the above is going to stand in my way. I decided to pull myself out of the funk I was in and take some positive steps to getting back that beautiful light that I know is inside me, and around me, wherever I may be.
First of all I determined to give myself a break – to stop beating myself up about all the things that I was thinking and feeling and worrying about all the things I was or wasn’t doing or accomplishing. On reflection it is only natural that coming back to such a different set of realities, many of which have caused me trauma in the past, should shake me up a little. Also, given all the healing work I’ve been doing for the past few months, which has opened me up and raised my energetic vibrations, it follows that I am more sensitive now to external energies than I was before. Moreover, it is ok to feel sad, worried, anxious and even depressed. These dark emotions are an important part of the human spirit and they exist whether we like it or not or whether we choose to face them or not. (Although once you face them, they have a magical way of going away again.)
I also realised that other people are not expecting me to be any such way, and even if they are, who cares? I am who I am. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone and I certainly don’t need to conceal a part of myself (the doubtful, worried part for example) just to keep others happy. That is certainly one of my shadows and something I still need to work on – my need to please people, often at the extent of my own wellbeing – which actually is neither fair on myself nor helpful to others.
It was also important to remind myself that I don’t need to rush. Being in London has the effect of drawing me into the hectic, frenzied, high-speed chaos that this and other big cosmopolitan cities emanate. But I don’t have to fall victim to that; I can go at my own pace, as this is, after all, my life and no one else’s. Letting go of others’ expectations of me is one shadow I certainly need to keep my ‘eye’ on as I have a habit of comparing myself to others, whether it be my friends, my mother or my peers, fearing I am not doing as much as them, as quickly as them or as well as them. Thus feeling guilty and even ashamed as a consequence.
Once I realised all the difficulties I was facing (by bringing them into my consciousness) and allowed myself to feel the associated emotions, it has been much easier to move forward, while remembering to look after myself. After all I had a foot that needed healing, a mind that needed calming and emotions that needed paying attention to. So I rested a lot, slept a lot, ate good food, went to yoga, hula hooped, had a massage, meditated, and surrounded myself with wonderful friends, all of which has been slowly bringing me back to my centre.
The journey isn’t over though (and it never will be!) I am still facing shadows every day and I need to continually pay attention to my needs and my emotions to get me through this transition phase. Old habits die hard, as the expression goes, and being back in the place I grew up in and went through a very bad time of my life in is difficult. But that is OK. Everything is a lesson. Everything is an opportunity to heal and to grow. And when you address the darkest parts of your soul – when you acknowledge your shadows and face them head on – then your light can shine brighter than ever before.
Namaste y’all. It’s good to be back x