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What Can I Add to My Life, by Subtracting from It?
How a dark night of the soul revealed the root of my stress, anxiety, depression and feelings of unworthiness.
Have you ever found yourself in unfamiliar and uncomfortable stillness? The kind of stillness you typically only find in the aftermath of a loss like death, illness, injury or separation? The kind of silent stillness that leaves you naked because it forced you to shed everything you thought you knew, valued and desired?
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A few years ago when my shadows finally showed up, I scrambled to stay busy both physically and mentally so I could avoid the emotional turmoil that was at the root of my anxiety, depression and feelings of not enoughness. When that didn’t work, I escaped into the corners on Netflix, Instagram and any other person, group and distraction I could find, that reinforced and validated that I was not the source of my problems.
If you’ve not had the privilege of slowing down long enough to confront your shadows, this is the kind of stillness that will drown you in waves of shame, guilt, resentment, judgment and fear. It will show you the depths of your lack and scarcity programming and trick you into dwelling on all that you’ve lost, instead of being grateful for what remains.
I’ve been through this shedding process many times, so I’m here to share one of my experiences and a few nuggets that have helped me in more uncertain times. The following is an article I wrote in 2019.
After abruptly quitting my job in 2017 at the height of my burnout, I didn't know how to be still. I only knew chaos and crash - there was no middle ground. Little did I know that I was only in the beginning of a 5 month sabbatical from society that would forever change my life.
During my first few weeks off, I scrambled to fill my days with tasks to keep my body and mind in motion. I was soaked in shame around why I had to leave my job. My inner critic left me feeling weak, small and like a fraud for not being able to 'handle the pressure' of 80-100 hour weeks, so I began to overcompensate by doing what I believed I knew how to do well.
I painted my entire condo, constantly re-arranged furniture, obsessively cleaned and scrubbed everything, exercised 4 hours a day and cooked more than we could eat...because when I stopped I had to face why;
Why couldn't I handle the pressure?
Why didn't I leave sooner?
Why did things go so wrong?
Why did this pattern of chaos and crash appear again?
Why couldn’t anyone hear my cries for help?
Why didn’t anyone else seem to care?
So many questions that could only be answered in the stillness I was desperately trying to avoid. But unfortunately, “wherever you go, there you are”...and the crash inevitably followed the chaos only this time, I crashed hard.
You Are the Only Common Denominator of your Life
I was forced into stillness, and for the very first time I became aware of my shit. It was the first time I got sick of my own shit, instead of everyone else's and face to face with the very hard truth that I am the only common denominator of my life. I finally heard my own cry for help and knew that if I didn’t listen, neither would anyone else and nothing was ever going to change.
I hit my rock bottom and life went dark.
This darkness scared the hell out of me. I descended into it like the setting sun, without knowing if it would rise again in the morning. Life experiences up to that point taught me that darkness was a life sentence I could learn to live with, but never fully escape.
I vividly remember googling every symptom I had like a mad-woman, looking for any answer that proved I had not inherited this darkness that lurks throughout my family tree. That I was not a victim of my genetics and this was only temporary. I desperately wanted to avoid modern medical intervention having been traumatized by conventional treatments that appeared to harm more than they helped. Then I stumbled across 5 words that profoundly changed my life.
Dark Night of the Soul
By definition, a dark night of the soul is a spiritual depression. A kind of existential crisis that resembles what is conventionally called depression, that collapses your entire sense of self.
During a period of darkness, nothing makes sense anymore and you feel a deep lack of purpose. It is typically triggered by an external event, and in my case, that was workplace burnout. Reality as I knew it had completely collapsed and I felt so disconnected from myself, my purpose and the life I thought I was building. I was a stranger in my own body and this concept was my key to unlocking how this came to be.
The world needed to go dark for a minute, so I could find my light.
I moved through this particular dark season for close to a year. During the first 4 months I found a lot of comfort in self-imposed isolation. I spent a lot of time journaling, meditating and consuming as much knowledge as possible through teachers like Ekhart Tolle, Brene Brown, Gabor Maté, Danielle LaPorte and Michael Singer. I asked questions that only I could answer. I practiced how to get still enough to hear the answers, even if they only whispered...
Learning about a dark night of the soul gave me the courage and faith to reframe what it meant to hit rock-bottom. Instead of the depths of hell, rock-bottom became my brand new foundation. A solid, sturdy place to build and grow. So I decided to plant myself there and wait to see what happens.
Breakdowns lead to Breakthroughs
Balance eventually started to appear when I actively stopped feeding my ego and starving my soul. I had an ah-ha moment that challenged my embodied beliefs that kept me in scarcity and survival and therefore self-harming. I was now open to the possibility that operating with less is how you attract more.
In practice, this looks like:
A lighter workload leaves room for other opportunities and directions to be considered.
Fewer people demanding my attention, means I have space to decide where I place my focus.
Less brain clutter leaves room for new ways of thinking and therefore being. Less resentment naturally cultivates empathy and compassion.
Less anger allows for more joy.
Being present creates less pressure to fulfill a perception of who I should be, allowing me to just be who I am.
Fast forward to 2022
If you’re like me and grew up in an environment that feared not having enough, the global climate right now is going to trigger very deep, unconscious, Ancestral wounds. Fear of scarcity and lack is a hot commodity and many are acting out their wounds, but can you spot it?
How and where are you being attracted to this energy? Tapping into the source of this question can reveal a lot about your Ancestral, Birth and Earth stories and I promise you, no one is immune to its magnetic pull. If you were, marketing would not exist.
A few closing thoughts from a recent interview I heard with Paul Selig:
“The ideas of who you are is what is being altered right now. You are all in participation to this, whether or not you believe it. What you believe is always so.
The idea of who you have been, informed by an old status quo, is about to be altered in a strategic way. You need to question who you have been as the new road is appearing before you. This is a requirement for humanity at this time. You cannot go on as you have been, and ignore what is before you.
All change must be seen as productive. Humanity has said yes to a new way of being. It is under way.
Don’t listen to fear. Fear is a poor teacher. Don’t navigate your landscape through fear, you will fall off the cliff. That is the action of fear. The action of fear is to claim more fear. Do not enact upon it”.
I believe that we are in a time to shift and subtract, not add.
Pay attention to what you are clinging to and critically ask if it cultivates peace for you and others.
What if you just Let go and Let God?
Being grateful for less is a conscious choice you can make every minute of every day and it will profoundly affect the reality you are cultivating at this moment and therefore the future you are always creating.
Sharing is Caring
Share this article and/or drop a like or comment below if you have, or are currently releasing people, placing or things from your life to create more ease and flow. What triggered it, how are you feeling, how are people around you responding to it? I want to know all of the things and your story could also help or empower others.