“The process of identifying a self inevitably involves loss as well as gain. We discover our boundaries, and those boundaries separate us from our fellows. As we clarify our perceptions, we lose our misconceptions. As we eliminate ambiguity, we lose illusion as well. We arrive at clarity, and clarity creates change.”
-Julia Cameron “The Artist’s Way”
A quote from writer and artist Julia Cameron that personifies the notion of creating space for ourselves in the present moment.
My good friend Deb has given me some space here to talk about a few things. Over the past 6 years I have experienced a transformation on all levels-emotionally, financially, spiritually, and creatively. Transformation cannot happen without a connection to something higher than ourselves. So, we are going to talk a little bit about the process of being authentic and how for me, the creative process and meditation were the keys to moving forward into authenticity.
I realized recently that I’ve been retracing the same footsteps for several years. I’ve been telling the same story; a story of healing, strength and overcoming, but I am only just now arriving at a level of authenticity. By authenticity, I don’t mean a girl with long hair in a flowing dress with light around her. By authenticity I mean the ability to hold myself in love even when I am at my worst. Being able to say, I love myself when I’m disappointed, grouchy, sick, tired, incorrect, or unkind. It means that the opinions of others come second to the opinion I hold of myself.
When you begin to recognize your edges, you know that you are starting to make a transformation. When you can hold the tension of your triggers, then you can reframe your behavior towards them. Two years after my divorce from a 14-year marriage, I started a meditation practice. I practiced in the evenings after having been invited to a class by Ken Lidden of ABT Yoga in Topsfield. In the beginning, I set an alarm to make sure I sat for at least 15 minutes. I created a small space for myself in the bedroom where I sat against the wall next to a few favorite chachkas. I would simply breathe…no trying to empty my mind, no trying to picture a sandy beach. I just breathed, felt it and acknowledged it. I started to recognize after several weeks, maybe months, that small sections of harmony were developing in my living space—I was becoming mindful of my space. I was also becoming less ruled by my emotions. I had always been a bit reactionary throughout my younger days and now I was noticing I had a choice in how I could react to things. I noticed a calmness driving my 45-minute traffic ridden commute.
Anything you resist…will persist. When you don’t acknowledge a fear or strong emotion, it gets stronger. If you keep finding yourself back in the same place with the same result…give the thing that scares you your full attention. I am a creative digital photographer. My creative process gave me an opportunity to process all the grief I was experiencing. I do close up work and the process of having to slow down, pause and focus allowed me to be still with myself. It gave me the chance to express emotion without words. It brought my emotions to the surface, without fear. It was unconscious, but I was learning to trust the process.
I always pictured transformation as a girl wearing ballet slippers gently flitting over rocks in a stream. For me, transformation is messy, dark, itchy, and scary. It is in that space of transformation, where you let everything bubble up, that you learn to love your shadow. Shadow work is something I began to focus on as my meditation practice grew. As I began to start a new life on my own, I became present to all the things that scared me. I became aware of the beliefs I was living from and began to peel back layers of long held misconceptions. I had been living from a place of scarcity, especially where finances were concerned. Having lived with a disability since the age of 6, I grew up with the notion that I could never make it “on my own’ and could never make enough money to support myself. It was a true theory of lack. Meditation practice allowed me to acknowledge this belief—one that was certainly a limiting one. My practice gave me the courage to ask for help, to learn to manage my finances, to ask for raises and appropriate compensation. A squelched voice can’t be heard. You must have the courage to ask for what you need. Meditation practice doesn’t make you calm and weak, it makes you focused and confident in your beliefs about yourself. You develop the power to speak up and speak your truth.
The practice of meditation will bring your awareness to your darkness, your shadow. This requires courage. As I began to acknowledge and sit with the things I didn’t like about myself, my photography grew. I started to create a body of work that was unique and developed a signature style. All the beliefs I held, all the things I didn’t like where slowly getting acknowledged in my creative process. In turn, viewers could resonate with the images. In meditation practice we use the term “just like me” (a term I believe originally coined by Pema Chodron). Viewers could identify with the emotions and themes present in my photographs. I was honored to speak at a national photography conference which gave my story a wider audience. Yet, there was so much work still to be done.
Working with your shadow requires you to create a new structure for yourself. To truly change and transform, you must step into that new structure with courage. Change is uncomfortable and there is a temptation of wanting to run back and cling to the old structure/story. Working with my shadow illuminated the behaviors which were limiting me from being authentic. Inevitably, this process is a process of loss. The old story is being released and there is grief. When you are working with the darkness, you must be prepared to feel sorrow.
The new structure for me includes morning meditation and teaching one class a week at the studio I learned it. It includes daily gratitude work-either verbal or in writing. It includes not tolerating any behavior that isn’t kind either from myself or someone else. There are people who will drop off your path during transformation. Let them go. In your new structure you will recognize quickly who supports you. My new structure includes connecting spiritually to something outside me (for me it is Buddhism). My new structure means I love myself regardless of what I’m feeling, and knowing I am worthy of the deepest love and kindness.
Arriving at authenticity means I say what I mean, and I am truthful. This differs greatly from my emotional maneuvering or people-pleasing. The connections and friendships I have are deep. My relationship with my family is also much deeper. I am not trying to live up to any standard or role projected on me. Arriving at authenticity means I acknowledge emotions when they arrive but make a conscious choice of how to express them. I practice a pause. If I am angry, I sit with anger. If I am sad, I sit with sadness. The practice of meditation is the core from which I operate. It allows me to stand in my truth and be courageous.
As a reminder, Cinde is offering the Circle Magica community a special Wild Magic Woman package of cards. 5 cards w/envelopes for $15. Click here to order yours.
To view more of Cinde's work and learn more about upcoming events or to contact her directly:
Blessings of the Green & Wild