A Celebration of the End

A few days after my uncle chose to end his life, he visited me in a dream.

The two of us sat together on a hillside. The surroundings were colored in a drab blend of tan, brown and grey. He wore the thick knit beanie that always adorned his head in the cooler months of the year. My memory of the dream picks up in the middle of a conversation, and as my focus sharpens to remember, he looks at me with the familiar mischievous sparkle in his eyes and says, “…but look what I can do now…”

With that, he shot up into the air; arms at his sides like a cartoon figure, and erupted into a million bright and beautiful colors that blanketed the entire landscape of my dream. I was now standing in the middle of one of his vibrant oil on canvas paintings—one of the magical pieces that he created during the very best part of his manic-depressive cycle.

When I awoke, the joyful feelings of the dream began to intertwine and mix with the reality of my loss; the still-raw, empty sadness that would rise and fall, like the ebb and flow of an angry ocean. The sadness attempted to crush the joy I had felt in the dream….yet joy is stronger than sorrow.

Fear began to mingle with hope;
Sadness danced with joy;
And confusion turned to clarity.

Over time, I started to recognize that the tragic end had opened into a new and beautiful beginning. He had been set free; free from the mood swings; the suffering, and the crazed, manic episodes that plagued his entire adult life.

And now the choice was mine to be set free, also. Free from the sorrow; free from the confusion, and free from wondering why.

And so this is how I choose to remember the end of his life—a celebration of creative expression; joy; abundance; and a reminder of the freedom that he has finally discovered now that he is outside the confines of a physical body that was never strong enough to contain or express the magic he was meant to share.

A celebration of the end, which leads to a celebration of another beginning.

Celebrate the ebb and celebrate the flow;

The dark and the light.
The joy and the sorrow.
The fear and the love.
The mystery and its answer.

Because there is joy in the end, just as there is joy in the beginning.

Truly, it is cause for celebration.

Da

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oil painting by Da

Hello, Shadow

Lately I’ve been questioning how well I know myself.

I know what’s on the surface. I know what I like and dislike. I know who I love, how to love, and how to be loved. I know what makes me feel good or bad and I know, for the most part, how to create the conditions for happiness to occur. I am willing to study my strengths so they’ll grow, and I’m willing to nurture the parts of myself that I feel might serve others, serve the planet and bring fulfillment. In general, I place a great deal of awareness on the aspects of myself that I consider my ‘light’ side.

But how well do I know my shadow side? Do I recognize its voice? Its tone? Do I recognize the way it feels in my body? When it is present, do I run away or do I face it? Do I blame other people and situations for its presence? Or do I own it, accept it and question its purpose?

Every person has a shadow side. It is the part of us that we generally choose not to explore. It’s where we hold the habitual tendencies that (sometimes unbeknownst to us) harm ourselves or those around us.  It’s where we hold weakness, fear, doubt, guilt, shame, anger or jealousy.  It’s the side of ourselves we don’t want to see, so often times we choose not to see it, fooling ourselves into believing that if we don’t look, it will go away. The problem is that our shadow  tendencies creep into our lives, making their way into conversations and life situations, causing distress and turmoil until they sink back into the dark, only to return again at some other time.

The only way to dissolve the shadow is through awareness of it. Our shadow tendencies provide an amazing opportunity for growth and understanding if we have the courage to face it. If I choose only to study and observe the light and pleasant parts of myself, then I will be missing out on the opportunity to study the real reasons behind what causes difficulty in my life.

The critical element in seeing our shadow tendencies is to remain present. As we practice present moment awareness, we become skilled in the art of paying attention–watching our thoughts and emotions come and go; seeing what makes us feel good, but also seeing what makes us feel bad. The difficult part is that we generally don’t want to accept that we’re the reason we feel bad or sad or angry, etc. That’s when we try to escape the feeling, blame others, distract ourselves, remove our awareness and ignore the shadow.

The dissolution of the shadow happens when we can remain still as it arises. Drop the story that comes with it, and hold acute observation of the feeling itself. Whenever an uncomfortable feeling or situation arises, breathe into the sensation that is manifesting in the physical body. It may feel like hardness around the heart, a lump in the throat, or discomfort in the stomach. Continue to drop whatever thoughts come up and focus on the sensation itself until the feeling dissolves. The shadow may come up several times before it is completely gone, but through this practice, we are given the opportunity to work toward awareness and ultimately, freedom.

Once held in the light of awareness, a shadow is transformed. Jealousy becomes inspiration, anger becomes activism, doubt becomes courage, guilt becomes forgiveness, shame becomes compassion, and fear becomes love.

If I want to know myself better, then part of that process means choosing to observe and accept all the parts of myself–not just the parts that I like, but also the parts that I don’t like. The next time my shadow emerges from the dark, I’ll see it, accept it, question it, change my behavior, and allow it to dissolve into the light of my awareness.

What is your shadow trying to tell you?

Next time you see it, ask.

 

This post originally appeared on my first blog, www.emilyparkinsonperry.com on February 26th, 2013

Ever Been Hurt? Shine Even Brighter

Remember when you were a kid and you were going along, perfectly content about yourself and your life, and suddenly somebody, (maybe that mean kid in grade school), pointed out that you have big ears, or a crooked nose, or a weird laugh, or…fill in the blank. And suddenly, you’re mortified to find out that you DO have big ears or a crooked nose or a weird laugh, and based on the way the information was delivered to you, you recognize that apparently it is not a good thing?

And so it begins…your perception shifts to see yourself as ‘less than’, ‘too much,’ or ‘not enough’ and this perception makes you think you aren’t worthy of love or attention, or praise.

And so perhaps you went on thinking this way for a while; but hopefully, at some point during all of those years you started to realize that while your ears may be big, they’re really unique and beautiful, and that your nose may be crooked but it’s just like your grandmother’s, so you love it anyway; and your laughter is contagious so everyone around you finds joy in it also.

Hopefully, you have come to realize that these qualities are what make you beautiful.

Yet, sometimes it doesn’t work that way; sometimes old wounds get buried under new ones, and before you know it the wounds run so deep that it requires some real effort to heal what hurts.

You might resist a certain part of yourself or your life because it hurts, but it hurts because it needs to heal. When you have an injury your body lets you know about it through physical pain. The pain reminds you that you need to nurture the wound until it heals. It’s the same thing with emotional or psychological pain. You can’t ignore the pain and expect the wound to heal. You may even go so far as reopen the wound again and again by replaying the scenario or repeating the same cruel inner dialogue again and again. It’s pretty hard to heal when you’re constantly being reinjured.

You can’t ignore it, and you definitely can’t keep opening the wound, so what do you do?

You’ve got to nurture it back to health.

First of all, you’ve got to stop the offensive dialogue or events from invading your head space. Police your own mind. If the thought doesn’t serve you, tears you down, or makes you feel like crap, then Get.It.Out. Replace the image or the thought with something else—a song, a mantra, or a kind thought would be nice. If that doesn’t work, sit with the feeling of it. How is the thought showing up in your body? Where can you feel it? Can you sit and hold the feeling of it in your body or surround the sensation with space and light?

Old habits die hard, and acceptance doesn’t happen in one day. This is a process, so be patient with it. Especially if it’s an old wound—it may have been there for years—so give yourself time to really let it heal. Recognize that you’re going to have good days and bad days. Sometimes you’ll be strong and resilient against any negative attacks, but sometimes you’ll crumble at the slightest hint of negativity. Don’t let those days derail you. The fact that you can hold awareness of the good days and the bad days is a very powerful practice, and a sign that you’re on the right track. Being able to look at yourself and observe that you’re really feeling hurt, sensitive or raw at any given time is a sign that you’re slipping into a more expansive state of consciousness. Recognizing that you’re experiencing pain is different from being completely, unconsciously devoured by it. The difference is that you either hold the experience of pain, or it holds you.

Here’s the thing; life is full of people and experiences that will shake you up, tear you down, and break your heart. Don’t let those experiences be what defines you. Allow your response to those experiences be what defines you. Ultimately, you are in control—maybe not in control of what life throws at you—but you’re definitely in control of how you respond.

Be courageous. Nurture. Heal.

Then go out and shine even brighter.

This post originally appeared on my first blog, www.emilyparkinsonperry.com on February 18, 2015.

Awareness can change your life big time. This is how.

Sometimes life is crazy. Emotions can knock you off your feet, relationships can derail you, and thoughts can be enough to drive you mad. When this happens, a little bit of space, a touch of freedom, or even just a slight shift of perspective can change everything.

You know that friend who offers you the space you need—the one who listens without judgment, gives you room to vent, and doesn’t try to fix anything—they’re just present for you?

Awareness is that friend. Imagine what it would be like if you could offer yourself the support, the freedom, the space and the acceptance you need when you’re just being you—no matter how you’re showing up.

Awareness is about pulling yourself out of the chaos for a moment to catch your breath, readjust your vision, and take a fresh look at the current situation. All you have to do to practice awareness is observe. No judgment, no strategizing, no agenda. Just observe. Look at your thoughts, feel your emotions, and pull yourself out of the situation, even if it’s only for one conscious breath. Taking the time to do this will give you a glance at the big picture, and when you can see the big picture, you’ll see that where you’re at is only temporary. That simple realization can help you savor the moment (if it’s a good one), or know that it will pass soon (if it’s not so pleasant). Either way, awareness buys you time so that your next move is a conscious one made with clarity and poise.

The only hard part about awareness is remembering to do it. The key is practice, practice, practice. Make awareness your new healthy habit. You can practice on anything, anytime—your daily commute, washing dishes, taking a shower—select something that you do every day and make a commitment to transform that activity into a dedicated practice of awareness.

As you’re going through the motions of whatever it is you’re doing, tune into all five senses; notice how you feel, observe what thoughts pop into your head, and pay attention your body’s reaction to those thoughts. Observe whether or not you can release the thoughts that aren’t serving you, or any tension that arises in the body as a result of them. In the beginning it may seem dull to pay such close attention to yourself or to mundane activities, but over time, you’ll realize that daily activities of life can be fascinating, but more importantly you’ll come to realize that YOU are fascinating, and truly, there is nothing more worthy of your attention then the study of you.

This post originally appeared on my first blog, www.emilyparkinsonperry.com on February 10, 2015.