Gardening my Soul

I don’t know about you, but this pandemic has created a shit storm of messiness inside me. But what feels messy is usually needed. When things remain too prim and proper for too long, we miss the beauty. We miss the innuendos and small saplings trying to grow. We miss our growth opportunities. 

For me, this time has been a huge growth opportunity – and it’s scary as fuck. I don’t have all the usual distractions of daily life as I knew it, before this ‘social distancing’ began (work, social gatherings, family visits, appointments etc.) What I am left with is My Self. I do enjoy my own company and I am not afraid to be with my own thoughts and feelings. The trouble is trusting the time and the process it will take to unravel these difficult emotions. 

I was out in my backyard gardening yesterday, feeling pretty out of it. I am also weaning myself off of my anti-depressants (which is a whole other post). So the feelings coming up are more alive, more tangible than before. They refuse to be ignored. They refused to be flatlined. So – I was “spring cleaning” my backyard with the help of my partner. To be honest, neither of us have done any gardening in our lives so it is kind of like the blind leading the blind. But we did our best and I think a lot of it is instinctual. Example: “this looks like a weed, lets rip it out”! 

Here I am, using my big gardening shears and cutting and pulling out big thorny, un-belonging branches. The weeds had become intertwined with the flowering trees and bushes; stifling their beauty. It felt really good hacking away at these monstrous thorny weeds. They were so persistent in continuing along their path of growing in, around and through whatever was in their way. Destructive little devils. Their thorns hurt like hell when you touched them. 

These weeds are like my childhood wounds. Persistently there, willing to cloud the beauty of life. They are there, making things messy and hard to decipher. Left unattended, they will continue to grow and be there; taking over more beauty. BUT – I gardened. I took a step at clearing these weeds. I got a lot of them out and now as I look at my garden of shrubs and bushes and flowering trees, I can see clearer. I can make out a little bit better what is what and where each one ends and begins. 

Today I took a walk down a short pathway through the overgrowth in one corner of my backyard, to a viewpoint where I can see the creek below. Something called me there. I squatted there near the dirt and looked at all the giant overgrowth and weeds that are too much for me to take out at this point. This is a whole other hidden section of our backyard that will be cleared at some point (possibly by a professional). I realized that there, right there are my wounds. Hiding in plain sight. Even as I admire our hard work yesterday, I can see there is more work to be done. I can see things that need more clearing and more openness.

Still hovering there close to the dirt, I gazed down at the ever-flowing creek below. “This is the goal”, I thought. This is where I want to be. This creek is Peace. It’s steady, rhythmic flow – everyday different and yet it sounds the same. Peace may always be with me in different ways, but it will sound the same to my Soul. Clearing the overgrowth of my pain will lead me to this creek, this Peace. This Love. The work won’t be easy, but I promise Myself it will be worth it. 

I can recall so many times before, when I have had to do brilliantly difficult things. I recall how I made it though, even when it seemed impossible. Even when I thought it would kill me – it didn’t. I am still here. Am I Afraid? Yes. Is it Impossible? No. Can I get through hard things and clear more space for my Soul to be known and Loved? Absolutely. I’m not expecting it to be easy – that I know for sure. People have been marching and protesting and fighting for Peace since…since a long ass time. I feel this message in my Body as I think “maybe Peace isn’t in the fight, but the surrender”.

Surrendering to Love. ffV7WV2OQrmXdXLSMoNPpg

Shadowy Pieces

All of this “stuff” is coming up. Coming to a heated momentum. What courageous next step is being asked of me? What next move is ready for my making? What dark shadows are being brought to light? Abandonment pieces, anger pieces, shadowy solemn pieces. Sadness, pain, real deep pain. Layers uncovered, scars exposed, energy unstuck. What is too real to reveal? These wounds remain unclaimed and untamed.

Here the hungry wolf feeds. So she may breathe another breath, breed another Life. Transgress the darkness inside and leap over the pond of gloom and doom, into the vast depths of Herself. To find Herself, awaiting her own arrival. My own best friend of mine.

These wounds don’t make sense – not in the literal way. They are raw, unedited, scathed and unbathed. Nor are they here to be made sense of. They are here to be felt – witnessed and passed through. Like a city you are just visiting. A tourist into your own pain. Not to stay forever, but to stay long enough to get the feeling and sightsee the important landmarks. Write a postcard home so you may, one day, lovingly ponder a memory of that place – as if to look upon an old photograph. Not forgotten, not lost, just…a time that has passed. It was real, but it is no longer here today. A distant, somewhat neutral, memory of lands yonder and darker days.

These days and nights that crafted You – made you the resilient being YOU ARE. Transformed you into this wealth of wisdom and valuable knowledge. You and I, together we have turned our pain into practice – the practice of a better life. Turned wounds into water so that they flow through us and continue evolving into a sparkly circle of misty fluid confidence. Our own crystal glow. We are Home.

A Home no one can take down, ever. No one can touch this new Home or us here. We have come back to ourselves – our greatest challenge and greatest reward here on Earth. Once we find ourselves amidst the fire and the cold grey loss, we never lose sight of ourselves again. Now we know the real truth and it is impossible to un-know it. Our ignorance has blissfully escaped us. We may miss it at first. Until we realize that WE are the ones who will save the others. We have evolved further than some were ready for. We, sweet angel darlings, we are the lucky ones. We were born special with the ability to go through these things. To be tried and tested and re-tested again. To be SURE, that when the time comes, We will be ready. Ready for our Big Purpose.

Trust the unfolding.

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Healing from Trauma

50-Positive-Energy-Quotes-for-HealingWhen I first began my journey of healing my trauma, I didn’t really understand what was happening to me. I had never experienced anything like this before, nor had I been aware of anyone else going through such things. When I talked to people about what I was experiencing I would usually just tell them that I was experiencing anxiety – which was true. But that wasn’t the full experience. It was just easier to say. Easier for some people to understand that way. Anxiety has been a huge symptom of my recovery, but it doesn’t all boil down to an “anxiety disorder”. These terms help people to understand what the symptoms are and what they feel like and they organize and group symptoms together which is helpful. But what mental health labels like “OCD” or “Anxiety Disorder” don’t do is describe the entirety of a person’s experience.

Healing has been a journey of peaks and valleys – my healing crisis began with anxiety and panic attacks. But there has been depression, flashbacks, PTSD, panic, worry, fear, overwhelm, great joy, freedom, opening, softening, boundary-setting, love, deep sadness, loss, grief, immense growth and strength. Anxiety is a symptom, not a “disorder”. What lies underneath the anxiety, what are the root causes and contributing factors? Those are the things we need to be addressing in order to heal. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t also treat your anxiety or OCD in healthy ways – you certainly should. But you need to be treating not only the symptoms but their causes as well. Otherwise you are just throwing a cloak over a bear. Finding ways to resource yourself is so important. Self Care has been one of my biggest lessons – and learning to trust my intuition, my body, my instincts. Learning to forgive Myself and love Myself more deeply and truly than ever.

Resourcing yourself while simultaneously addressing the healing of your trauma and inner wounds is the real key.

 

For me, resourcing Myself can look like any of the following:

–Going for a walk in nature or by the seawall

–sitting in a park and feeling the grass underneath me, connecting with the support of the Earth

–cuddling with my partner or pet

–meditation

–epsom salts or aromatherapy baths

–soothing music (spa or light acoustic)

–massage from someone you trust (partner, parent, friend, RMT, bodyworker)

–just sitting with yourself and being quiet, allowing time and space to be

–journalling, making lists, organizing

–de-cluttering an area of my home

–talking/sharing in a meaningful way with a friend/parent/partner

–cooking a nice, comforting meal for yourself and/or others

–spending quality time with family, friends, loved ones

–engaging in grounding activities like cooking, cleaning

–simply knowing that being in My human Body and having my experience of the world is enough

 

Doing the healing work around my trauma can be any of the following:

–going to regular therapy sessions with a trusted, professional therapist who is trained in trauma

–cranial sacral therapy

–accupuncture or energy healing sessions

–being in a supportive, loving and safe relationship

–developing close friendships with supportive people

–speaking up for myself when I’ve been hurt

–setting healthy boundaries in all areas of my life

–being kind to myself

–being an example to others, so they may begin or continue along their healing paths

–mending relationships with parents or family (when possible)

–sharing my experience and letting go of shame through sharing in a safe space

–working on owning my feelings, understanding my emotions

–being able to own and apologize when I have hurt someone else (this can be tough for me in some situations and I am still working on this one!)   **also important to note: I may not have intended to hurt someone, but that’s not the point. I can still be curious about their feelings and take ownership if my BEHAVIOUR was hurtful. This doesn’t mean I am “wrong” or “bad”. It simply means that my words or actions had an impact on someone else, knowingly or unknowingly. It is my responsibility to recognize that.

Trust

Trust is something we all crave. We all truly want to trust, and we want to be trusted. To be trusted is to be believed, and everyone wants their story to be believed. Because when you are believed you are important – you matter. Your part and your presence in the Universe matters.

As I was laying in bed this morning, cuddled up next to my little dog, I started thinking about trust. Her little face was close to mine, so close I could feel her breath on my skin. She was half asleep and very content. Tiny little sighs and her soft little exhales made me feel comforted, and let me know she felt safe beside me. I started then thinking about how she was so close that she had the capability to harm me…she could bite my nose or scratch me if she wanted to. But I knew that she wouldn’t. I trust her. And vice versa, if I wanted I had the capability to harm her – I am much bigger than her. But I would never harm her or want to cause her any harm. So, my little dog was laying comfortably on the pillow next to me, belly exposed and in total dream-state bliss. She trusts me. How is this level of trust established? We do it with other humans, too. We innately want to trust. We want to believe that people and animals are good. And I believe that we are all born good.

Trust is built over time, layer by layer. You cannot have a healthy relationship without trust. But sometimes, trust gets broken along the way. Trust can be broken in various ways, not only by the obvious ones such as infidelity or physical harm. Trust can be diminished through a slow decline of acknowledgement or unkind words said. It may happen so slowly that you don’t even notice for awhile. But after some times passes, you don’t quite feel like yourself anymore. You become more fearful and more easily triggered. This is the state I find Myself in. But I know that I don’t have to stay in this space. I can choose to do something about it. I can set some healthy boundaries and pursue the best way to take care of myself.

To gain that trust back it requires repair. Repair in the form of active listening, of ownership and sincere apology. I believe it is possible to forgive someone without apology, but it is not possible to fully trust them again without one. That is why apology is so important in relationship. Apology is the acceptance that your actions or behaviours (intentionally or unintentionally) have hurt someone else. I think it is safe to say that we have all hurt and been hurt. Some of us at deeper levels than others. Everyone has their own time needed for repair. I believe that repair is possible, but it takes both parties being open and willing. Observe the situation with an eagle-eye perspective. The ability to look beyond ourselves and our own pain means the letting go of one’s ego…stepping into a clearer awareness. However we must first be able to recognize our own hurt and where it comes from, before we can fully accept someone else’s. This is the path to repair. This is the path back to love.

A penny for your thoughts, a nickel for your wisdom

Come you all, lost ones

Come find me

Bathe in these shallow waters with me

Seal your gaping, heart aching wounds

Consolidate that overflowing flesh

Lean into me – I feel you

I feel the agony of time

The time it has taken us to get here

Misery threaded through our veins

Craving, salivating for a distraction from ourselves.

 

Uncage our sorrows, set them free

For there, I find your beauty and mine

Free in heart, mind and deep divine

Show me your scars, your deepest pain

That is where we reside

Therein lies our free – that Soulful part of you and me

Forever longing to be seen.

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Adaptability & Resiliency

It’s crazy how adaptable we are as humans. I’ve been considering this a lot lately, particularly so because of all the changes in my life recently. I moved from a densely populated central-urban area to a more sub-urban part of the city. Moving in itself can be anxiety-provoking and stressful. My partner and I have been in the process of selling his condo and buying our first house for the past 10 months. Now we have finally moved into our lovely new home and I feel so happy here. But it was a big change nonetheless, and much effort went into making this dream a reality for us.

Amongst all this change (and at times it felt very chaotic), I managed to adapt through it all. I have zero doubt that part of what got me through it is my commitment to Self-Love and Self-Care, the support of my mom, fiancé, therapists, family and friends. Utilizing the tools I have learned and resourcing Myself continuously is what got me through. There was so much going on and it seemed like it was all happening at once, including many ups, downs and uncertainties with the salon I work at. I am slowly adapting to my new home environment, surroundings and my more peaceful life here in our pleasant sanctuary. We also decided to go on a vacation right after our move to celebrate recent milestone birthdays for both of us (Me 30 and my Fiancé 40). While this sounds amazing and full of adventure, for someone who needs a fair bit of time to process and integrate change, travelling so soon after a move was challenging. I am a nervous flyer (I hate turbulence) and even the thought of going on this trip was giving me pretty major anxiety before we left. It took me a few days after arriving in Mexico to settle into “vacation mode” – whatever that means. It wasn’t until day 6 into our vacation that I started to fully feel relaxed…and our vacation was coming to a close the next day!

In a very roundabout way what I’m trying to say is that through all of this, and considering my anxiety and OCD – I find Myself to be quite adaptable through it all. I am so much more resilient than I realize sometimes. Life has a way of testing us and it’s not until the aftermath that I can see Myself more clearly. I can see my strength, my courage and the progress I’ve made. I can appreciate how much I’ve grown. I can drink in the significance of these changes in my life – the way they test me, the way that I am always given exactly what I am ready for. It’s not comfortable along the way – expansion and growth is a stretch. There’s a new edge to be found. A new way of managing situations, a new perspective to be had. New feelings to be felt, new things surfacing to be released and making themselves visible for healing. It’s all in our evolution during this beautiful, crazy, indescribable, wondrous, incredible gift of Life.

Much Love,

Raina Aurora

What OCD looks like…the invisible monster

I began to really struggle with OCD about 3 years ago. I didn’t realize that it was OCD right away. Because of my severe anxiety I started obsessing over things. The way things looked, how I placed things, ruminating over small details for long periods of time. In the beginning, I just did things a certain way because it made me feel less anxious. So it seemed like a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t I do something that made me feel safe enough to leave the house? Eventually, the more rituals I did, the more rituals I added in. Now for most things I do, there is a very specific way I do them. From showering, to getting dressed, to leaving the house, to counting my breaths, to checking for cars coming on the street numerous times. The more I do these “compulsions”, the more they consume me.

Not doing the compulsions can bring about varying feelings of extreme anxiety. Thoughts that the worst possible thing will happen to me. The type of OCD I deal with is health related OCD. It is the fear that something horrible might happen to me. I read on an OCD recovery blog that OCD attacks what we value most. Since I value my health so highly, this makes sense to me. Sometimes I wonder where these intrusive fearful thoughts come from (aside from Trauma), and I realize that OCD is sneaky and will go after the very thing that means the most to you. My well-being is something that I take great pride in. I have devoted a lot of energy to being my healthiest self over the past 4 years. Yes I have made mistakes, yes I have messed up. But that’s also how I’ve learned. So when I feel one of my biggest values being threatened by these scary thoughts, it only makes sense that I would try to do anything to make the thoughts go away. The funny (or not so funny) part is, that the further you try and the harder you try to make the thoughts go away, the more persistent they become. It is actually by acknowledging the thought and seeing it for what it truly is – just a thought – that it actually dissipates. By welcoming the anxiety and accepting it, allowing it to be, it holds less power. Sometimes I literally tell Myself “this is anxiety”. Or “this is a thought, and thoughts aren’t facts”. These little phrases help me observe what is going on with compassion and acceptance, rather than getting so caught up with the thoughts and entering what I call the OCD whirlpool. If I stay on the edge of the whirlpool it is much easier to avoid getting sucked in. Sometimes I do get sucked right into the middle, and it is much more difficult to get out. But I CAN STILL GET OUT. That’s the most important part to remember. I do have a choice – and so do you.

One of the worst parts about dealing with OCD is the shame. It’s something I try and hide from most people, with the exception of very close family. I think I’ve only told one friend. It’s a scary thing to tell people, I worry they might think I’m crazy, or broken, or incapable. I’m worried people will judge me. I still feel the shame. I worry people can see me doing these weird compulsions, or rituals. I’m sure people notice, and probably wonder what I am doing. Maybe they have just accepted that I’m a weird person. Which wouldn’t be the worst thing. Or maybe they are too scared to ask me. Maybe they don’t even notice at all. Whatever people think, the fear is that OCD makes me strange and unlovable. Makes me abnormal in some way. So everyday, I have to choose between the shame of someone seeing the rituals I am doing, or the intense anxiety and frustration/panic/confusion of not doing them. It can feel debilitating at times.

Luckily, I am working with an OCD specialist and together we have come up with exposures for me to do. Exposures are when you deliberately don’t perform your compulsive rituals. I didn’t start with the hardest one, but I have done some pretty difficult exposures. Gradually, as I gain success in my exposure therapy, my confidence grows. The idea is that I have to repeat the same exposure enough times for my brain to become comfortable with the discomfort or anxiety. So eventually my anxiety goes down, and it goes away much quicker than by actually doing the compulsive behaviours. My confidence is building, and it’s been very sticky here and there. I’ve been through some very rough patches, but they made me stronger.

When we are thrown off balance – as is inevitable in life, we learn to strengthen our core.   The stronger our core becomes the less we can get thrown off so easily. And the next time we get uncentered we know how to come back to homeostasis much quicker.

Trauma and “mental illness” is not an easy thing to talk about. Or write about. I just want people out there to really know that. Writing this post was hard. And scary. Know and appreciate that when someone opens up to you about their struggle – this is bravery. This is their healing. So consider it an honour to be a part of another human being’s healing. I’m not talking about people dump-truck piling their negativity on you. That is called having no boundaries. Vulnerabilty and bravery have boundaries. Be deliberate in your vulnerability. Be vulnerable with the right people, for the right reasons. And always remember that you are doing things in exactly the right time, at the right pace, for you.

 

Much Love,

Raina Aurora