The Importance of Authenticity in Wellbeing and Healing

Updated: Aug 10, 2020

"I drew aside the curtains and looked out into the darkness, and it seemed to my troubled fancy that all those little points of light filling the sky were the furnaces of innumerable divine alchemists, who labour continually, turning lead into gold, weariness into ecstasy, bodies into souls, the darkness into God."

-William Butler Yeats


The last 2-3 weeks were really a struggle for me personally to stay emotionally balanced. I am sure I'm not alone. The natural waxing and waning of emotional tides and experiencing the borders of our capacity for resilience and responsiveness (rather than reactivity) has been amplified for many people right now because of all the change and uncertainty we are facing globally and personally. I'd been pretty steady up until a few weeks ago, at which point a lot of things converged which pushed me past the edge of my limits. I'm wondering if any of you are experiencing something like that AND what you did/are doing to help yourself find center again.


MINDFULNESS & YOU

I'm sharing my personal experience here for a number of reasons. The first is that this discussion is really quite relevant to our explorations of Chapter 2 on Mindfulness, for those of you who are participating in the Virtual Book Club on Resilience. A long practice in Mindfulness has now gotten me to the point that I can usually recognize "situation critical" and intervene more quickly to find my center than I used to be able to do. I'm not perfect, but I'm better than I used to be because I have made a concerted effort over the past 17 years.


I hope that you will all begin to realize the benefits of developing an effective Mindfulness practice. It is so simple, really. All it takes is a little willpower motivated by the understanding that all those little moments of joyful effort ripple out to create positive changes in not only our lives but the lives of those around us.

GROWTH & RESILIENCE

It's so interesting to consider how life is constantly providing opportunities for us to grow in deeper and deeper ways. It is interesting to consider how we frame these experiences and challenges and whether we are creating a story about our life that empowers us. It is also interesting to be mindful of whether we have a tendency to recognize and utilize these opportunities or whether we, rather, allow ourselves to get dragged into the undertow of the collective emotional atmosphere or the intensity of our own experiences and give up our power.


Mindfulness opens up a well of resources to help us live in a state of greater self-awareness. Greater self-awareness is the primary foundation for developing greater resilience. Remember, resilience is "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties". Resilience is NOT "never experiencing difficulties." It is important to remember that and to develop some compassion for ourselves, which was the topic for Chapter 1.




THE WEATHER

"You are the sky. Everything else - it's just the weather." -Pema Chodron


This is one of my favorite quotes and is one that is coming up for us later in the "Resilient" book.


Two weeks ago I had what could rightfully be called a complete emotional breakdown. It didn't last long. But it did happen, nonetheless. And it was impressive, let me tell you! When I do things, I do them well! I was in full out meltdown mode, feeling a deep unremitting sadness that eventually, over the course of a week, turned into crying jags and a deep feeling of hopelessness. Now, I have been through enough of life and done enough personal exploration and self-knowing work to know that this is NOT me...and believe me I have experienced depression, severe anxiety, and emotional abuse. These kinds of thoughts and feelings are no longer something I identify with. They really have not been a part of my experience of "Erin" in a very long time. So, when this escalated, I knew there was something else going on here. Something I needed to dive into, look at deeply, and address.


SILENCE & HEALING

For me to get quiet enough to hear myself and to tune-in to what I need to adjust, I need solitude. Everyone, I would argue, needs solitude for that process, at least at the beginning: a few days of silence - no TV, no telephone, no social media, no talking. I am still surprised how many people are deeply fearful of being with themselves that way. It's so common, when I bring up the idea, for people to say "Oh! I could never do that!" This apprehension stems from a habit of avoiding "what's in there" by watching TV, spending every minute of the day distracting ourselves with "busy-ness" or gossiping or alcohol or reading books or even doing Good deeds....name your distraction. However, it is also so wonderful to see how many people face that apprehension bravely, create some time for silence and then report how rejuvenating and healing it really was. More often than not actually.


Many of you have heard me talk about doing silent retreats or short solitary retreats. This is an important part of my self-care which has been neglected recently. I can say it is because of the changes in our circumstances; because of alterations in work schedules and travel restrictions due to this coronavirus pandemic. That is an excuse, but it is also true. It re-enforces the importance of those self-care practices, both daily and quarterly, that I have put in place even more strongly.


I do believe that the changes in my usual self-care routines probably played into my recent episode of emotional decompensation. I also have a newfound deep appreciation for the benefit of all the effort I have put into my personal and spiritual practices over the years; how that helped me navigate this more quickly and gracefully than I would have before. My experience being alone with myself in solitude and silent retreats, mindfulness, regular meditation, and other personal work I have done are what allowed me to surrender to what was happening for me and swiftly navigate this recent pool of emotions to find the healing and growth that was waiting for me within the experience.

There is a long and strange personal story about my four days of internalization and the deep healing - and expansion - that came from that time away. Many of you wouldn't find it meaningful or relatable so I won't get into the details. But after leaving to stay somewhere that I would have the personal space, physical space and emotional space I needed, I'm better. Better than I was even before the beginning of all this extraordinary "stuff" we are in right now, actually. There is still integrating that is taking place, and sometimes that leaves us feeling a little more tender than usual. That is all OK and totally normal, and something I understand now after many years of growing to understand how I process and grow and heal. The sadness and hopelessness I was feeling has gone. I was able to successfully reset and I have a clear perspective now on where that all came from.


When we go through things like I'm describing here, there is often a new foundation of steadiness that grows out of the process of breakdown and re-building. That is the blessing of learning to honor our process and being in touch with what we need, personally, to navigate "dark night of the soul" experiences. Learning what works best for us and what we really need is a process.


SHARING & HOPE

I share this in the hope it may help some of you better appreciate and respect your own processes and be gentle with yourself. I hope that it will help you feel you aren't alone, and that there is nothing "wrong" with these contracting and expanding experiences. BUT, I also hope it will encourage you to think about what your own process requires and how to help you do what you need to do in order to integrate and navigate THROUGH these experiences so you don't become stuck in them. If you haven't worked through what your process is, what you need to do, then there are many resources for you to seek help from others who can provide some perspective, suggestions and help you find yourself.


AUTHENTICITY & TRUTH

Additionally, I am acutely aware of the phenomenon of "Spiritual bypassing", and I hope this sharing also helps highlight the importance of not denying what we are experiencing. Bypassing often infiltrates spiritual communities or communities in which self-development and wellness is being enthusiastically and intensely pursued...or where people are trying to hold up a false face of perfection, or "having it all figured out", for the many reasons one might do that. The term "spiritual bypassing" was coined by the psychotherapist John Welwood to describe when people use “spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep personal, emotional ‘unfinished business,’ to shore up a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and developmental tasks” toward a claimed goal of "enlightenment" or personal perfection.


If you are interested to read more, there is a nice article here.


It is not healthy, nor admirable, to feign perfection or to try to convince ourselves that we are "perfectly fine" when we are not. There is a power and an indisputable necessity for being authentic with our experiences so that when turbulence rides up we can harness the power of the experience, look into the deeper issues unveiling themselves, and ride the wave until we have navigated that "weather" to it's healthy conclusion. In order to navigate those experiences well, we need to learn what works for us. And that might require us seeking out outside assistance, at least at first.



BEING HUMAN

As long as we are humans living a human life on a human world, we will experience emotions, change, a bit of chaos, and challenges. It is how we label and face these challenges that defines the degree of our self-awareness, resilience and personal fortitude. The goal in life isn't to transcend life to the point that you no longer are affected by your experiences. That is escapism and unhealthy detachment/disassociation, or at very least denial of the importance of your active participation in your life.


The goal is, in one sense, to connect with a deep sense of who you are - something True and authentic - so that you can fully engage with the world in all its varied scenarios in a way that brings the strength of your self-awareness and the blessing of your personal gifts and talents into this great game, this "Lila" as they say in Yoga.


In doing so, life becomes rich and full of Joy. Life becomes an enlightened discovery and fulfilling interplay between you and the other beautiful souls you are here "Becoming" alongside.

BECOMING

This process of "Becoming" is a lifelong journey. Along that journey we will thrive. Along that journey we will also sometimes take a tumble that invites us to look deeper at the darkness we might be carrying, acting subconsciously to limit us, that needs to be healed in order for us to step onto the next stone in the path. The flavor and intensity of those thrivings and tumblings will be unique to each of us as individuals. It is important to honor and engage with that process in a healthy and mindful way.

Life is a fertile ground for learning and expanding our gifts and talents. Life is a grand play of dark an light in which we are afforded the rewarding opportunity to discover the Truth of "Who am I" and allow that Truth to grow large and strong and to make the world a better place by offering the gift of our personal Truth in service to the betterment of humanity.

PERSONAL ALCHEMY

I want to end again with this quote for your contemplation and reflection:


"I drew aside the curtains and looked out into the darkness, and it seemed to my troubled fancy that all those little points of light filling the sky were the furnaces of innumerable divine alchemists, who labour continually, turning lead into gold, weariness into ecstasy, bodies into souls, the darkness into God."

-William Butler Yeats

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