It's funny how I teach something from my experience and how life reminds me again the lesson through another experience, as if to ask "Do you really get it, Phoebe? Really?"
Earlier this spring, I was invited to do a TEDx talk on the idea of the space in between, in other words, being present in those moments of challenging times, breakdowns, or what I prefer to call, break throughs. In the talk, I shared through my story how we can use those times as a catalyst for change and surrender to the flow of the divine dance that is within us and around us, calling us to flow with it, not against it. (you can see the TEDx talk here)
During that period of preparing for the TEDx and immediately after, I was in the midst of my own break through. It was all on the heels of a year of intense work; I completed two teacher training manuals/curriculums, taught 4 teacher trainings within 8 months, assisted in the opening of a yoga studio, on top of my regular teaching schedule, and moved my apartment. I was logging in 70 hour weeks some weeks. All while I was swimming against the current of my emotions to avoid my broken heart. In May, I finally had a moment to pause and the waves of my feelings all came rushing at me like a levy breaking. I wasn't sleeping well most nights from the influx of anxiety, bouts of anger, and tears as I reflected back on the recent choices I had made for my personal life. My body was showing me signs of stress for months with a persistent health issue that I was also not really dealing with efficiently.
In the space in between, I was invited to really look at how I was treating myself and my past relationships through a different lens. I began to peel away the layers of fear and anger that were still getting in the way from trusting myself and my past partner. I kept asking myself, why am I here again? Why do I keep pushing away someone who really loves me and that I really love?
To make up for the time of avoiding the pain, I plunged myself deep in to the web of emotions and began to untangle them. I held myself accountable for everything. I began to torture myself with obsessive thoughts by replaying each conversation, every email, every text, and all the things I didn't say or do. It went against the grain of my own teaching and practice of everything is as it should be. It didn't hit me until I was writing one night that I was recreating a pattern of feeling shameful. I didn't understand why or where it was coming from. So I looked far back at every moment I could remember this feeling...
It started when I was 14, I left my father because he was abusing drugs and neglecting me with no sign that our quality of life would get better. For years I blamed myself and felt responsible for his own mental health. Yes, a 14 year old girl who just wanted a healthy family life , left to protect herself, then carried the burden of her father of whether he would live or die based on that choice. It wasn't until I was 32, when he showed up in my life again that I realized he needed me to leave and hit his rock bottom so he could recover for himself, not for his daughter.
That shame carried over to all other relationships with men. There was a night when I drank too much in college when I was mad at a boyfriend for neglecting me and my friends left me behind at a party because I passed out. I have a faint memory of telling someone to at least use a condom. I woke up the next day in someone's bed, a boy I had never met, both of us naked. Deeply ashamed, I never told anyone until I admitted it reluctantly to my therapist a couple of years ago. It was the first time I heard the words that I was raped. Before that, I never once thought that. I always carried the weight that I was the one who made the mistake and needed to suffer for it.
The pattern continued with romantic partners throughout my adult life in various ways. When I would later share the scenarios with people I trust and love, they would always say, "But you didn't do anything wrong! You made the right decision."
Even after I recognized this pattern, I subtly put myself in positions where I was made to feel shameful (with the mask of being open and honest) even with choices I believed were with good intentions (but unconsciously were probably some self sabotage) and would defend them. To the outer world I would say, "I didn't do anything wrong!" but secretly I allowed myself to feel the shame and pain because that was what felt normal. This would lead to a spiral downward of emotions that led to the fear of rejection and I would push the person away before he could. (sound familiar for anyone out there??)
Then I remembered the Native American proverb (again) the one that I shared last year, about the wolf you feed. I needed to feed the wolf of love, compassion, and forgiveness.
It has been a really interesting summer of reflection while being even more honest and vulnerable with myself and with others. These past few months I have taken a lot of time being alone to look deep within. I am learning how to shed away the years of shame, fears, and anger through my own self dis-covering and healing. I wake up every day with a fresh perspective and ask, what do I need to do for myself today so that I can be my most authentic self in a way that will sustain a reciprocal love within all of my relationships so I don't perpetuate shame?
I want to be in a healthy romantic relationship and now I understand how I need to practice self-love and acceptance of all of me within it. By doing this practice, the thoughts and feelings of shame will no longer be reflected back at me in relationships.
In recent years, I have come to realize that everyone is your mirror. Whatever they are making you feel is actually coming from within yourself. This is why you it is necessary to find the courage to understand the relationship within yourself first. If you don't, then blame, anger, resentment, fears towards the other will always show up again and again and you will never fully understand that what they are actually reflecting back at you, is the shadow side of YOU!
And it goes in all directions bouncing off each other. The beauty you see in them, also lies within yourself while you reflect back at them all their light and shadows too. It continues to ping pong back and forth.
When I was younger, I used to sit in my bathroom with a mirror in front of me and a mirror behind me. I would try to see all the versions of myself from all the angles as they replicated endless images of me, like in a fun house. Our partners can be that too, they show us all the possible versions of ourselves.
This is not only true of your most intimate relationships but also your foes. What you see in them that stirs something inside of you, is actually inside of you! What are you afraid to look at? What are they unconsciously asking you to look at? What wolf do you choose to feed when they challenge you?
My hope for you is that from sharing about my space in between I have be able to shed some light on how negative patterns might be lurking in the dark corners for you too. Look deep into the eyes of someone you love and see what they reflect back at you. Invite them into the space and flow with them. See what they have to teach you...trust that they want to free you...