I couldn’t sleep. I was feeling frustrated and unable to express my thoughts clearly on the written page. I’ve been observing processes and patterns in my clinical work with clients, consultations with colleagues, and in my personal life.
I’ve felt called to share these patterns with you, my community. But I was stuck and unable to find words to express my observations. I know that this too is a common thread, a through line between all of us who are experiencing and seeing great transformation but just can’t find the words to describe it all.
The thing is, when you are stuck, when you are in the messy murky ick of feeling not good enough, you can’t go around it. You can’t distract yourself away from it. You must go through it.
And, until you do move through your “not good enough” territory, you’re going to keep stumbling every time you try to skip over a certain line in your story. It’s a pattern that will keep showing up like a constant shadow until you find a way to heal.
So here I was, up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, quiet literally afraid of the shadow, of my own shadow. I couldn’t even turn off the Himalayan salt lamp that sits next to my bed. Its soft warm glow soothed me. And when my husband awoke and looked at me and asked me to turn off the lamp and cuddle in with him, I did and then I gave myself permission to cry.
This mess, this ick...this was me finding my through line. I had to feel my way into the shadow while I was wrapped in the darkness of an October night.
But after the darkest night, there’s always a morning
The next morning my friend and I met for a walk at Gatehouse Road. Hudson Valley locals will surely know this path with its canopy of trees and the tremendous views of the Mohonk tower that sits atop the Ridge. I parked my car at the head of the trail and as my dog Tova and I waited for my friend and her daughter to arrive, magic unfolded.
I have to back up a bit. The process of training Tova has become a touchstone for me, I’m still quite a novice. She’s an amazing teacher but it’s taking awhile to understand what she needs of me. I’m learning, for example, that part of my role is to anticipate the approach of other dogs and read her body language well enough to step between them when needed. Some dogs will stop her in her tracks from 100 feet away. She’ll nose right up to some dogs in hopes of getting a good sniff. She drops directly into a play bow for some. And others will make her toss her ears back and raises her hackles. I’m learning what her body language means. I’m a good but slow study. That’s how I learn.
As Tova and I were waiting we came in contact with a few other dogs in a range of temperaments and it was good practice for us to rehearse our roles. We started to get good at her stepping behind and I in front. And during our dance rehearsal we happened to meet Joseph.
I say happened, but it’s quite literally like he was planted there for us to meet.
Joseph and I shared a connection. At first, it was over his painting and my dog, over the beauty of the day and the history of the gatehouse, and then, it went deeper. We talked about creativity and making and how he’d been a painter forever. We talked about my nearly forgotten art school background. He gave me permission to photograph his work and asked me to snap a few shots with his camera as well.
I thought I was just killing some time while waiting for a friend, but, something magical had just transpired. And I was so in the moment that I hadn’t noticed. A sleeping piece of me was waking up.
Waking up your flow, getting unstuck
I’ve been experiencing a lot of waking up lately. This seems to be how my creativity works: I don’t even realize I’d been sleeping until I experience a rather painful awakening. First I feel stuck and I stumble, I trip over the through line of feeling that shows me there’s something I need to learn, I need to pay attention to. As part of this cycle, I can see that “stuckness” is actually a natural ebb, a space for integration.
I didn’t know it yet, but Joseph was standing at the portal of my next awakening.
My friend and her daughter arrive. It’s time to say goodbye to the man with the brushes and the canvas. It’s time to pass through to something new.
My friend is a writer, a storyteller, a truth seeker. We cut through the fluff and dives fully into the infinite enoughness as we walk and talk and process together. We pause according to the needs of my dog and her toddler. Little mirrors, they take turns reflecting our energy in their antics.
We’re talking about a piece she’s editing for me. It’s the piece that haunted my sleepless night. All the feelings rush back: I’m stuck again. I’m not enough. I can’t write like she does and I can’t find my story. I’m just sharing my raw, unfiltered process and we know that the process alone won’t be enough to draw you in. And though the piece isn’t in front of us as we walk, we can still discuss it because it isn’t about anything I’ve written. It’s about this moment we’re having. It’s us feeling our way into something greater.
And then we step out of the shadows of the trees and into the pasture with the pigs dressed as cows --that’s what her daughter decided they were-- and the tears that shadowed the day dissolve into laughter. We get it. We live in this AWE-FULL place with these god AWE-FULL views and this AWE-FULL company and… We’re seeing the joke and the light in the midst of the negativity loop and we --no me-- this is my process. My friend has kindly stepped on board to keep me company, keep it flowing now simply to exaggerate it and make it more laughable. More of a punctuation mark on this moment.
In this moment I’m waking up. I’m seeing my friend as a companion who helps me see myself and Joseph as a magical mentor whose presence helped initiate a space for me to think and see a new way of being.
My friend is holding space, as if she too knows we are standing at this important juncture, she’s watching me wake up and she knows that what I need more than anything in this moment in time is to really show up and connect. And she knows that as I am feeling my connection to all these less secure parts of me, her presence grounds me. That's what relationships do. They allow us opportunities to see our own reflection --mess and all-- in another’s eyes. They hold us when we need holding.
As we return to our cars, Joseph is no longer there. I recognize how our brief interaction helped me slow down and tune in, to find my connection point. I had been so busy trying to write that I stopped feeling the message I was trying to share.
And here’s the magical turn of this story, you know that piece that kept me up at night, the one I couldn’t find the words for? It was exactly this: when we slow down and drop into the feelings and share our experiences with our trusted and dearest, the magic unfolds. The story reshapes itself.
You have to slow down and sit with yourself to feel.
Slowing down is what feeling the feelings is all about. Slowing down. Sitting with. Simply being. I know this, but I too get stuck. This process can’t be rushed or swept away in the flood of all the things you have to do.
Feelings aren’t something you do. They are what you are.
You have to make space to hold and feel. It will take time and attention. It’s a multi layered sensory experience. It’s all about seeing yourself. As you are. About accepting yourself and loving yourself. It’s about attending to and holding yourself. And in all that tending to, you uncover the medicine you need. Because without this self directed layer of attention you can’t take in love and attention from another.
You too can create a practice of slowing down, tuning in, sitting with and simply observing being you. And from the cultivation of that practice over time you create an inner dynamic that ripples out and creates an influx of Connectfulness in your life and relationships.
This topic is my emerging focus and it’s what we’re exploring on The Practice of Being Seen podcast that we are launching later this year. I hope you’ll tune in and keep the discussion going with us!