woman, underground

 
butterflycouch

Oh man. It’s been forever, sweet blog reader. I’ve missed you. I never imagined I’d go this long without writing, but after my last post I went into a deep hibernation and stayed there. I know it’s not really good form to abandon one’s blog, but despite my efforts to write, nothing flowed. I just felt like a wilted flower—unable to create, never mind articulate what I was going through. But none of that matters now. I just want to connect with you in this moment, like two soul friends who always feel close even after years apart. Will you meet me in the intimate space of our shared humanity, without posturing or pretense? Will you journey with me into the secret places that we usually keep hidden? That is my desire and I hope you’ll come along. Tell me, sweet blog reader, has your heart ever shattered? Have you ever experienced the unrequited or longed fiercely for your own love? Have you ever felt an ache in your chest for something unknown, yet strangely familiar? Have you ever suffered the sharp sting of betrayal or spun your wheels in stuckness? I have. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past year.

Yes, last year was one of relentless heartbreak for me. So many things fell away—relationships, self-concepts, support—and I tumbled to the very basement of my being. Just when I felt like I couldn’t bear another goodbye, something else was swept from the shore of my life.

On top of that, as you probably know, I’ve been working on an album for the past two-and-a-half years. It’s been a brutal process in far more ways than I can ever express. When I started the project I was absolutely burnt out and somewhat freaked about the path my life was taking. I never, ever expected music to ravish my soul, but it did... and like any good lover it flipped my universe upside down and shined a light on all of my stuff. For this reason, when I went back into the studio to start my second CD, I was a bit shell-shocked. I knew I had a vision, but I wasn’t sure how to convey it and that ignited a primal anxiety inside that rippled out into every corner of my world.

The truth is, I got scared. Without any warning life dropped me in a wild jungle of creative energy and it was beautiful and magical and dark and terrifying... and I was completely, utterly alone. No matter which direction I turned, no one was there. Sure I had engineers and musicians in my sphere, but my project was a job for them, not an investment of the heart. I had no real collaborators to consult, no producer, and no partner. I just had a song, a prayer, and a heavy sack of fear. Nothing was there to guide me but my own mistakes and no one was there to hold me but space.

Unfortunately, as the months rolled by with no end in sight, an upsetting thing happened: I built a fort around my heart so I wouldn’t feel so vulnerable. It wasn’t conscious, but by the time I noticed the degree of contraction and overwhelm in my being, the damage had been done. All I wanted was to be strong and push through the obstacles like a tough little warrior, but as each day passed I felt weaker and more worried. People kept asking when the album would be out and I had no idea how to respond. There was simply no easy way to explain that my old self was in the process of being deconstructed and reconstructed through the creative fire. How could I answer any questions about the album when it seemed like the album was nothing but a divine hammer smashing away at my ego? I was afraid that if I let down my guard all of my fragile efforts would disperse in a million directions, so I shut down and retreated into a dark cave of isolation.

But there was no way to go on like that forever. Being the compassionate force that it is, life began to tear down my walls. Little by little, things started to shake and crumble around me. Long-held beliefs and structures suddenly had no meaning. People that I cared for turned their backs and walked away. Confusion stalked me. And all sorts of painful emotions that I had never embraced burst out of my depths like a geyser of black mud. I met shame. I met insecurity. I met failure. And I wondered if I’d ever make it through that moonless night.

Still, I didn’t turn away. I kept reminding myself of the words a wise medicine man once shared during a sweatlodge. It was pitch black in the tiny hut and I kept squinting my eyes shut and pressing my sweaty palms into the dirt. Just when I couldn’t handle another moment, he spoke in my direction: “Open your eyes, Carrie. You have to look into the darkness.”

Look into the darkness. Those words changed my life. I realized in that instant that transformation comes from meeting the shadow, from seeing it without resistance. And that is what I have tried to do during this grueling artistic odyssey. After so many months of unearthing my depths, of feeling humiliated, pathetic, unsupported, and afraid, I finally hit a place inside that ripped my guts out. It happened this past January when I was in India, sitting with a French Tarot card reader who shattered my protective shell.

“What are you doing?” he asked when I sat down. I had no idea what he was talking about, but something deep within me trembled at his question. “What are you doing?” His words hovered in the air. “Do you really think you can survive if you just exhale all the time? You have to inhale too, otherwise you’ll die.” I tried to explain myself, but he wasn’t interested.

“When are you going to open up and receive love?” he continued. “You want love, don’t you? Then why do you keep pushing it away? You’ve barricaded yourself from nurturing and support, and veiled your true desires under a cloak of self-judgment. How do you expect to complete a huge creative project when you’re so imbalanced? If you don’t honor your feminine nature and let love in, life will keep drilling you into the ground until you get the message.”

Whoa.

In an instant his words lit a match right next to my diesel-doused heart. I wanted to run, but the session had just begun so I knew I had to stay in the room and burn. And that's what happened. For the next hour, the Tarot dude looked in my eyes without wavering and spoke about my struggles with perfect perception. He explained that over the past year my whole foundation unraveled because it was time for change. He talked about the importance of forgiveness and letting go. He pointed out my ego strategies and defense patterns. And by the time he finished I couldn’t see a damn thing because my face was soaked with a year’s worth of unshed tears.

Sweet blog reader, have you ever known something, but pretended you didn’t? Perhaps you were in a miserable relationship, but convinced yourself that everything was “fine”. Or perhaps you worked in a job that you hated, but made believe you were happy just to get by. So many of us betray ourselves like this, even in small ways, but no one can live in denial forever. Eventually something will happen to tear our illusion to shreds—an affair, a layoff, an illness, a habitual pattern that we can’t break through. It may seem awful in the moment, but in actuality this kind of destruction is nothing but love calling us home.

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that love is synonymous with truth. And love does not like bullshit. No. Love doesn’t want our lies. Love wants our liberation. The challenge is that in order to become free, sometimes we have to go to the places that scare us, as Pema Chodron says. We have to reclaim the parts of ourselves that we have disowned and allow the sheaths that conceal our sweet heart to be severed. Maybe that’s why Rumi once said: “Love comes with a knife, not some shy question, or with fears for its reputation.”

Sitting on the temple roof, all of the feelings I tried to ignore came flooding into consciousness; there was no escape. For the first time ever I realized my greatest fear—that if people really knew me, they wouldn’t love me. But that realization was a gift. As soon as I surrendered to the pain, something amazing happened: my heart softened so much that it completely disappeared. That may sound strange, but when I went to look for my heart there was nothing there but space. It was as if I could stick my entire arm—actually, my entire body—through the center of my chest. Yes, what was once my heart had become a gateway to the galaxy and it was the coolest magic trick the universe ever played on me.

That moment was like an initiation into something I still can’t define, but oh man it was beautiful. As soon as I met my resistance fully, it fell away. And since then so much more has come undone. It’s hurt like hell at times, but that’s alright. I’ve been shedding the skin of an old life and an old self, and that kind of renovation doesn’t always come easy or happen fast. Sometimes it’s necessary to torch the person we once were so we can more fully embody the person we’re meant to be. As Nietzche said, “You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame: how could you become new if you had not first become ashes?” While it may suck in the moment, letting go of outworn defense structures allows the soul to blaze more fully and that is an untold blessing.

Of course this process is still unfolding, but I'm at peace with that. After all, the soul’s journey of awakening may unravel for eternity since love has no beginning and no end… but that’s just part of the play. Until we pierce the veil of separation, life is but a brilliant dance of opposites: openness and closure, expansion and contraction, yum and yuck, yay and nay. Thankfully there’s a place of stillness at the center and that is where I am slowly learning to rest.

In some ways I feel like I’ve just crossed the darkest, widest ocean on a piece of driftwood. When the waves dragged me out three years ago I searched day and night for the sand, but there was nothing but sea. Exhausted from paddling so hard, I surrendered to the wind and, by grace, she guided me. Now I see the other shore and, though I haven't reached the land yet, it is in sight. This new land—it already exists within me like an unrevealed song, and when I finally I place my feet upon the earth, everything that’s happened will make sense.

For now I’m still out on the ocean where the clouds and stars are my companions. Out here my clothes are tattered and my hair is a tangled, salty mess, but my eyes are bright and clear, washed clean by the brine of my tears. Truthfully I’ve come to love this solitary sea, though I sense we’ll soon be parting ways. Why? Because I’ve finally uncovered the lesson that these dark waters have been trying to teach: Don’t fight the current, darling. Let it carry you.

While I can’t say I’ve totally let go and stopped resisting, I can say that some really old shame has been cleansed from my heart, swept out by the surf. I feel a deeper resilience and a new kind of strength—a strength that says, “Even when everything falls apart; when people misunderstand me and cruel words are fired in my direction; when all of my efforts crumble and I screw up out of ignorance... there is still a place within that remains unaffected by the drama of life. There is still a silent presence that knows my essence is pure and untainted, despite what the world—or my own mind—may say.”

Ultimately what I’m learning is how to let go of control and have faith in the invisible because sometimes the most amazing things evolve in secret, shrouded by darkness. When the seed of the Chinese bamboo plant goes into the soil, it stays underground for five years with no sign of life—no bud, no sprout, nothing. But if the seedling is tended to with loving care, eventually it will grow up to 90 feet in just five weeks. Pretty wild, eh? Well, I don’t think human beings are all that different. We may work for months or years on a project or practice with no visible signs of progress, but that doesn’t mean nothing’s happening. Perhaps during this time we are developing a strong, sturdy root system so that later we can rise up and touch the sky.

Sweet blog reader, I know this isn’t the most lighthearted entry, but it’s honest… and honesty creates intimacy, which is nutritive and healing. In my experience, a little deep sea diving is good for the soul—especially in this flyby Facebook culture we live in. You know what I mean? Real life doesn’t look like the cover of a fashion magazine and it can be helpful to remember that. Who wants to live an airbrushed existence anyway? Imperfections make us more relatable and love penetrates much deeper when there are cracks.

For so long I’ve tried to hide my mess under a guise of perfection, but this album journey has made that impossible. All of my strategies have fallen apart and my egocentric efforts have failed; it’s been mortifying at times, but that’s been the grace of it all. I finally get that it’s a waste of energy to worry about what other people think because my path has its own intelligence… and so does yours. When we honor this intelligence instead of looking to the world for approval, we become free.

Sweet blog reader, I appreciate your virtual presence so much. Thank you for bearing witness to my story. Of course there’s more, but for that we’ll have to share a cup of tea and talk all night beneath the stars. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Then I could hear your story too—I know you have one and your heart interests me. Until then, I send you my love.