Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness.
It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.” It’s going to bed at night thinking, “Yes I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.”
Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
I have a confession to make. For the last year or so I’ve been stuck. I’ve felt disconnected from my feelings and this in turn has led to a strong sense of feeling disconnected from something much bigger than myself, “spirit” or “soul”, acknowledging that I only have the merest glimmer of understanding of what these things are, if they’re the same thing or if they’re different. My intuition tells me that they’re two sides of the same coin.
I’ve panicked. I’ve felt lost and lonely and confused as I’ve struggled to understand what was going on. When I started work on this blog two years ago I was brimming over with excitement and enthusiasm, in the middle of a period which had blessed me with some of the most profound spirit/soul encounters of my life. Somewhere along the way all that energy drained away and I was left, shocked and confused, exploring a strange and unfamiliar internal realm which was fast becoming a desert through lack of rain. And I was thirsty.
Reflecting on the style in which much of the content of this website has been written, I’m reminded of something that Fritz Perls, the originator of Gestalt Therapy, and a man who had a gift for getting right to the heart of the matter, once said: “Intellectualising is bullshitting”. What he meant was, intellectualising is always a way of avoiding real, authentic contact with others, a way of withdrawing into our heads. My intellect has always been my safe place. I love to rationalise, I find it hard to get out of my head and into my body, and difficult to know what it is that I’m feeling, deep down, beneath the layers of obfuscation and suppression I’ve created over the years in my attempt to avoid experiencing “bad” feelings.
My counselling training gave me the skills and the self compassion to start tuning into these deeper feelings, and this in turn enabled me to deepen my spirituality and my soulcraft. It’s been a tough time recently and so, understandably, I’ve retreated to my safe intellectual place. I battened down the hatches, hung up a sign which read: “Don’t disturb me until the spring” and locked the door. In the warm cave of my intellect I began to lose my connection with my deeper, feeling self. I returned to familiar patterns of behaviour, ones I thought I’d outgrown. I began to once again act out the life script I had chosen for myself as a child: “I must sacrifice my needs for the greater good”.
Growing up with five younger brothers and sisters, all with a seemingly greater claim on the limited attention of my parents, I decided not to make a fuss, and so I navigated years of bullying and isolation at school with emotional support from others in extremely short supply. I became my own best friend, and the only thing I thought I had going for me was my academic success; my “A” grades set me apart from the bullies and told my parents the story that I was doing well and did not need to be worried about.
Not surprising then, that thinking feels safe and feeling feels dangerous to me.
Thankfully springtime has arrived once again, and with it an awareness of what’s been going on in my head and a sense of relief which has slowly begun to dissolve through me like ice melting on a sunny day. I’m no longer a child. I can take control of my life. I do not have to endure being cornered by the bullies in the playground or the classroom. I do not have to pretend that their behaviour is not hurting me. I do not have to try to appease them. I feel like I’ve been sleepwalking. Accepting my limitations, accepting that I am not strong enough to endure everything life throws at me, has been the gateway to acknowledging the deeper feelings of fear, overwhelm and abandonment which I have been suppressing. In turn, my ability to access these feelings has re-opened the door to a spiritual and soulful experience of being in the world which is filling me with joy, peacefulness and new purpose.
Is it possible that a journey towards spirit/soul – towards ecological consciousness – is one which must include a journey into my deeper feelings, into the frightening places of my childhood traumas, into my shadow self? To embrace my shadow is to embrace my whole self, including my vulnerability. Perhaps it is only in those fleeting moments when I fully feel my wholeness, when I experience what Brené Brown calls “living wholeheartedly”, that I am able to have an encounter with the wholeness of the cosmos, and in time perhaps begin to develop a relationship and an appreciation of my interconnectedness with it.
Watch Brené Brown’s famous TED Talk on the power of vulnerability.