Just Breathe – It’s a Magical Superpower

“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

the next time you want to scream
the next time you want to cry
the next time you feel all alone
the next time the pain is unbearable
the next time life is squeezing you so hard it hurts
the next time you have no idea what to say, what to do, what to feel
the next time you are ready to give up

take a breath

there is space within that breath
there is room to move
time to think
and the way you tap into that is to slow down and
take a conscious breath
and let that breath be your entire focus

take another if you need it

feel it calm you and return you to your centre
let the energy of your breath gather all your scattered pieces back together
let it gather your strength

while there is breath in your body there is power
to overcome, to go on, to find your way

I love you. Don’t give up.
Nicole ❤ xx

Start Again In June!

Image from consciouslifestylemag.com

“Today is the perfect day for a fresh start. Stop delaying, stop making excuses, stop putting it off. Now. Today is the perfect moment. You can change things, you can try. Don’t give up.” 
Akiroq Brost

I had so many messages yesterday from readers and students and clients all asking me if they could start their year over again now it is June.

Well, of course, they can!

And so can you.

My lovely friends, let me reassure you. If this year hasn’t gone to plan for you it’s not too late. Start over again in June.

Start with small steps. Take one step and then another. Aim only to keep moving, no matter how slowly.

Don’t aim for perfection. Perfection will drag you down until you are stuck, exhausted and utterly unable to put one foot in front of the other or to make any useful decision.

Instead, aim to just start.

Don’t know what to do? Feel overwhelmed at the idea of committing to anything? That’s okay. Just start somewhere. Anywhere. Anything you begin and stick at will help to build momentum, and once you have momentum it will be easier to move in a new direction if that’s what you decide to do. But for now, just start. Or start over. Little step by little step.

June is a month where you can turn anything around, where you can reinvent yourself, where you can pick up the pieces and keep going. Start small, but start.

You’ve got this.

Cheering you on, Nicole ❤ xoxo

Is this life of mine my fault?

“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Lovelies, I received a very thought-provoking question recently in regard to the quote from Rainer Maria Rilke at the top of this post, and I wanted to address it here on my blog. Like many things in life there is no simple answer, and as it is a question I have asked myself over and over again in this lifetime I wanted to share my response.

Here’s the excellent question:

Good morning,
Mine is a question Nicole that troubles me.
I always love the captions/snippets from other writers under your lovely images and this morning’s starts with ” if your daily life seems poor don’t blame it” 
My question is how does this fit with all the poor souls born into or find themselves in shocking conditions they have no control over such as absolute poverty, war, famine, abusive families?
How have they created this? How can it possibly be their fault?
These questions have troubled me because they don’t seem to fit into the positive thinking or “ask and it shall be given” brackets. Can your guides help with some clarity here ?
Thank you for your blogs, they have been part of my day for years now.
Elle xx

As many of you know my life has had its share of troubles, pain and obstacles. When I was young and idealistic I thought that this suffering was unfair. Why did I have these problems when friends of mine seemed to be floating along on a cloud of joy, love, support and happiness?

But looking into the window of the life of another never truly tells you what is going on. I have found, through life experience and in my decades of working as a psychic and mentor, that all of us have troubles and many of these are invisible to those around us.

Throughout my life, in an attempt to heal, I have also explored every possible avenue including much time spent in trying to undo, rectify or heal any wrong-doing, thought or action I may have taken that may have led to my suffering.

Goodness, how mean I have been to myself – blaming myself for my circumstances and believing that this suffering was all my fault.

War, famine, drought, accidents, random acts of violence and horror, abusive relationships, terrible illnesses. Did we sign up for these? Much of the New Age movement would have us think so. Works such as the book ‘You can heal your life’ and the philosophy of the Law of Attraction make it easy to buy into the concept that any problems or suffering in our lives are a direct result of our karma, our thoughts and our attitudes. Perhaps we even chose suffering as part of our ‘contract’ in coming here to this life.

I have seen the dramatic recent rise of shaming of people who actually need our empathy and support – people with issues as diverse as addictions, autistic children, staying in a marriage with a partner who has mental health issues, cancer, chronic illness, depression, or displacement from their country due to war. Human kindness is too often replaced by judgement from those fortunate enough to not be in the same circumstances. Rise up, they say. Change your thoughts. Juice vegetables. Go vegan. Wear a crystal. Parent better. Use less chemicals. Make different choices. Have more discipline. Heal your past lives!

(Want to read more on this theme? My Sad Unicorns post covers this ‘dangerous magical thinking’ problem in detail.)

I’ve seen mothers told that their young children’s illness is the result of past-life religious transgressions. I’ve listened as people have judged someone with cancer for having caused it by not having a clean lifestyle. Yes, it’s true that there are lifestyle factors involved with many illnesses, including cancer. But that’s not the whole picture. I’ve watched friends who are vegans, vegetarians, yoga instructors – every possible thing that you could consider the epitome of a healthy, anti-cancer chemical-free loving and natural lifestyle be struck down and taken by cancers, savagely and fast.

Dear Elle, yours is an excellent question, and this is what I believe. Life is difficult and wonderful and dangerous and fraught with risk. Things happen for which we will never find a reason. People in power make decisions that affect millions. Accidents and mistakes happen. Weather patterns change. Our genetics hands us a bad card or wild one. Illnesses occur and we don’t yet have the science to interpret and understand them fully. And none of that is our fault. If we look wider we see that this is also true for plants and animals and places. No-one and nothing is immune to suffering, desecration, destruction or death.

So what does that have to do with Rainer Maria Rilke’s quote? I think this quote is more about how we cope with life’s suffering than our thoughts as a causative agent of that suffering. I believe that there is one thing we do have control over. We can choose how we feel, how we react, what we think. In even the most difficult of lives we can find tiny windows of calm, of nurture, of beauty, and small moments of grace and gratitude. That is one of the gifts of suffering – it can promote mindfulness and with mindfulness comes an opportunity to mentally lift ourselves out of impossible pain and hardship for a short while. It gifts us resilience, and meaning and a way to endure.

I hope that helps,

Much love, Nicole xx

Coping Strategy #73

“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.” 
~  Michael Pollan

 

Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed.

It might be a health problem, or a pain issue.

Sometimes it’s the state of the world, the environment, politics…

Or the suffering of a loved one, friend or client.

Occasionally I get sideswiped by a psychic happening.

Or maybe it’s a knot in my writing that won’t untangle.

But in my arsenal of coping strategies I have one that works magic each time I employ it. In my big book of Coping Strategies (I could write a doctorate on this one topic!) number seventy three is solid gold.

Let me share it with you:

#73 – Hose the garden

With my garden hose in hand I stand barefoot on the ground if the season allows it. My other choices are gumboots if it’s cold, or a worn-out pair of Birkenstocks if there are prickles in the lawn.

I point the stream of water at my vegetable beds, my tubs of herbs, my fruit trees and my flowers.

No matter how cranky, sad, fraught, disconnected or pained I am, within a few minutes I begin to unwind.

I watch the water falling on the leaves and soil. I note the progress of my plants. I might pop a small ripe tomato or snow pea into my mouth, or a sprig of herb. I allow the aromas of moisture and garden to nourish me. I open myself to the sky above my head and the earth beneath my feet. My ears take in the birdsong and hum of insects, the rustle of breeze in the trees, the sounds of the farm beyond my fence. I drink in the sun on my face, or the beginning or close of day.

As I stand with the hose in my hand I become reconnected to myself and to nature. Clouds ripple across the sky. The light changes as the world slowly spins. Each day there is something new, and a few old constants to reassure me of my place in the world. I am filled up with calm and all that other burdensome energy slips away.

What about you? What are your favourite coping strategies? I’d love to know.

Sending big love and hugs to you from all of us here at the farm, Nicole  xx

Small Steps and A Pep Talk For Hard Days

“Small steps may appear unimpressive, but don’t be deceived. They are the means by which perspectives are subtly altered, mountains are gradually scaled, and lives are drastically changed.” 
~  Richelle E. Goodrich

 

As most of you know, I am recovering from illness right now.

I’ve just finished two months of bed rest and am slowly easing myself back into life again. Luckily I’ve found my sweet spot. About three hours of work a day right now is all I can manage. Three hours gives me enough left in the tank for a walk on the beach, for cooking healthy meals, for meaningful connection with my loved ones and for self-care.

Any more than three hours and exhaustion creeps in. If I overdo it and go crazy at my desk I am useless for the next two or three days. Pacing myself is essential. And it is for you too, my friends.

The first six months of this year have been intense. They have required so much from us as we unstick ourselves from the mud, face what needs to be faced, heal what needs to be healed, and attend to all the things that have been holding us back. Because that’s what growth is all about. Sometimes we have to clean up the mess first before we can really start on new things on earnest. The only way you can do that is to put one foot in front of the other.

On January 1 this year I chose a tarot card as guidance for the year ahead. The card was Prince of Disks. The wisdom of this card is all about how taking small steps matters, even though small steps may seem decidedly unsexy and unimpressive when viewed in isolation. But of course, over time small steps add up to big shifts forward. (You can read more about my forecast for 2017 here. )

The energies of the second half of this year are much less intense, much more expansive and creative and allowing. But the small steps rule still applies.

You may feel like you’ve done nothing this year. Perhaps in relation to your bigger goals, dreams and projects that’s true. I can guarantee you though that you’ve been working anyway. Clearing the mess. Dealing with life’s dramas. Sorting out the priorities life has put in front of you. So don’t despair and don’t give up. Use July as your fresh start. Start over. Begin your plans again. Pick up whatever you had to put down when it all got too much. Keep making small steps. Small steps are all you will ever need. (more on July energies here)

As to pacing yourself?

If your life is so crazy that you have no time for yourself, if you are exhausted all the time, if you are resentful of any more demands being made of you – even by loved ones, then it’s time to pace yourself. Work out your sweet spot and stick to what you can manage. It’s always a diminishing return anyway once you move past happily productive and into exhaustion.

If there’s no way to slow down then seriously consider getting off that particular merry-go-round. Life is too short, and you are too precious to work yourself into an early grave for no good reason.

Above all, lovelies, be gentle with yourselves. You’re recovering from a great intensity too. Kindness and self care are magical medicines for care-worn souls.

Much love to you from my little sanctuary here at the farm, Nicole <3 xoxo

Find Your Grit

“I learned a lesson I’d never forget. The lesson was that, when you have setbacks and failures, you can’t overreact to them.”
~ Angela Duckworth

I’m off to the doctor today. And tomorrow. And Monday. And more after that.

Many different specialists, all with their own opinions.

I know I’m not going to like some of what I hear.

Lyme doctors. Urologists. Immunologists. Opthamologists. Gynecologists.

So, why am I telling you this?

Because, you might not be facing medical challenges but your situation may be similar to mine. You might be living a total crapfest right now. Maybe yours is bad news. Poor results. No support. No money. Failure. Experts telling you it can’t be done. Well-meaning friends and family giving you sympathy and telling you to become resigned to your circumstances.

Don’t believe them.

Dig hard til you find your own truth. Your own strength. Your own answers. Know that it is never over until you reach the end.

Keep walking your road, or find a new road. Rest if you must. But most importantly, hold a vision of what you want in your heart and use your grit to push your way through to a better outcome.

How do you find your grit? Dig your toes in. Push against your circumstances. Keep pushing. Even as you cry and sigh and wonder what the heck you’re doing. Keep looking for answers. For better ways. For alternatives. For new perspectives. Trust that help will come.

Don’t give up on yourself.

Don’t give up on your dreams.

Don’t take it personally if not a single person stands shoulder to shoulder with you right now.

Just keep going.

Because most often that’s how miracles happen. That’s how dreams come true. That’s how everything transforms. That’s how you find the strength to change what can be changed and the grace to accept what will be.

I believe in you. I know that grit and strength is in you. Dig deeper. You’ll find it. And it will transform you when you do.

Sending you so much love and encouragement, Nicole

Sometimes You Don’t Need Solutions, You Just Need To Be Heard

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
~  Leo Buscaglia

 

Ben and I met a close girlfriend for coffee yesterday. We’re each going through quite a lot with our families right now. We have family members confronting serious illness, and our friend has elderly parents in poor health – her Dad’s had a series of strokes and is in care, and her mum’s across town in another hospital after a hip replacement failure and major surgery to repair it.

Life is like this sometimes. It all happens at once. Big things, small things, out-of-the-blue things all raining down upon us.

Our friend cried as she told us of her dad’s worsening dementia and how heart-breaking it is for her to see him in this place of loss and confusion. I cried a little too as we updated her on our family, and on some of the other heart-breaking issues I’m helping a few of my clients through.

None of us had answers for each other and we didn’t even try. What mattered was that we could talk about our feelings, we could be honest about all the things raining down upon us, and the things we’d stuffed up as well as the things we’d handled well.

i-LOVE-coffee-coffee

We didn’t just talk about the hard stuff. We laughed a lot. We reminisced. We held space together as friends. We held each other’s hands. We sat in silence when silence was called for.

Sometimes that’s all we need. Just a safe space where we feel heard – where we can unbottle all of the things we’ve held inside.

If you have a friend or family member going through a tough time right now, don’t feel that you need to have a solution for them. One of the most precious gifts you can give them is time, friendship and a non-judgemental space where they can talk about what they are going through.

Know that they may also prefer to talk about every other thing than their cancer, their husband’s depression, or the terrible thing that happened/is happening.

Life will give all of us hardship or difficulty at one turn or another. Friendship, a shoulder to cry one, someone to make you laugh, someone to remind you that you are not your illness, someone who truly listens – that’s what helps us to get through the hard bits.

Wishing you smooth sailing or good friends today.

Know that you are ever in my thoughts and prayers,

Much love, Nicole <3 xoxo

Image from quote addicts

Image from quote addicts

 

Three Key Strategies for Dealing with Life’s Hardships

Image of ship in a storm from Vintage Everyday

Image of ship in a storm from Vintage Everyday

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
~ Haruki Murakami

A friend of mine is doing it tough right now. She’s lost her home and is relying on the kindness and largesse of her friends until she gets back on her feet. In the middle of all of that, thinking that she should be counting the blessings still evident in her life, she instead felt momentarily overwhelmed by her situation.

A client of mine  is nursing an adult child who has been reduced to the functionality of an infant through a violent head injury. Her husband died in that same car accident. This all happened right at a time when their last child had left home, and when she and her husband were about to travel. Now she’s grieving and working out where to go next as she cares for a son who will forever be dependent. The strains upon her are enormous.

Both these women are strong and good, and they’re facing really big challenges.

So the last thing they need is to guilt themselves out about not feeling happy and grateful enough in their lives.

Life is hard sometimes. Fact is, no matter how kind others may be, and how much you know you can be grateful for, and how many blessings are in your life – where you are can still suck.

It’s okay for things to not really be okay. If life’s hard, well, that’s just where you are.

If you’re homeless and wanting your own nest, if you now have a child who’ll be forever dependent on you… Who doesn’t get weary when they have no true solitude for themselves, no respite, no retreat that is theirs alone?

If things aren’t going so well for you, I have some advice.

Your job, and mine (as I heal from chronic Lyme), is to accept what is, to do our best to get through any way we can, be honest about the moments when it gets on top of us, to seek help when we need it, and to keep focused on the outcomes we want for ourselves.

Image by Penkdix Palme

Image by Penkdix Palme

Gratitude is an important coping mechanism and life skill. It helps us to focus on the things in life that ARE still good and worthwhile, no matter how hard life may be. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know how much I advocate an attitude of gratitude.

The other thing that helps us to cope, and which gives us power is action. For me, as I fight to recover from this wretched illness, it’s to keep on writing, to have enforced rest, to stay in contact through facebook, to keep planning retreats and workshops, to keep taking my drugs, and to constantly remind myself WHY I am doing this.

If your life is not going to plan right now, here’s a three point plan for coping:

  1. Work out an end goal, or at least something to strive for that will get you past the place where you are now. Then keep your eyes firmly on that place instead on the mess you’re in. For me, it’s an end goal of being well, with my Lyme Disease in total remission. For my girlfriend, it’s meaningful work and a home of her own. My client is looking to get a compensation payout to help support her son’s ongoing needs, to employ some help, and eventually to find a home that can accommodate her son for that time when she will no longer be able to meet the demands of caring for him. If you don’t know what you want, this might help you get focused: Making My Life Work For Me
  2. Let yourself honour the feelings of frustration, pain, misery, grief, anger or whatever else comes up for you. You don’t need to dwell in them but you do need to be honest with yourself. Life is what it is. Don’t let yourself feel guilty or weak for acknowledging the difficulties you face, and that this might get you down sometimes. It’s not natural to be 100% positive all the time! You might also find this post helpful: Sad Unicorns – OR Is your New-Age Thinking Positively Unhelpful?
  3. Practice gratitude, even in the place of this current hardship. Life is still filled with everyday kindness, moments of beauty and wonder. When we look for these energies, no matter how small or fleeting, we are tuning ourselves in to an energy that can fill us back up when we’re empty. More on this here: Embracing the Small Things – An Antidote to Despair

Everything changes. That is the only constant in this world. When life gets hard, hold on and do what you’ve got to do to get through. Most importantly, be kind to yourself.

Thinking of you, and sending love ♥ Nicole xx

photo-3

The Art of Surrender

Image from Lucie Chen

Image from Lucie Chen

“Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? what could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”
~ Eckhart Tolle

We’ve all surrendered before. To music, to love, to pleasure. It’s something we welcome – losing ourselves in the moment, merging ourselves with the emotion, the sensation, the grand scheme and the minutia. We give in, we let go, we surrender to the flow.

But what about when life isn’t going so well?

How often do we fight against where we are at?

How often do we resist the space we find ourselves in?

No. I will not be sick. NO. I will not be upset.  I will not be helpless. I will not be weary. I will not be uncertain or directionless. I will not be devoid of inspiration. I will not be apathetic or depressed, exhausted or miserable. No. NO. NO!

Immerse by J Derek Howard

Immerse by J Derek Howard

Oh, sweetheart. You are where you are…

Stop fighting.

Because life, you see, is what it is. You are where you are.

Why resist the truth of this moment? Why keep swimming upstream?

You are where you are.

Surrender to what is. Surrendering is not condoning this space. It is not you saying to the Universe YES, I WANT THIS AWFUL PAIN. I WANT THIS FAILURE. Or even, I DESERVE THIS TERRIBLE THING.

Surrender is simply letting go.

Right now I am sick. Right now I am hurting. Right now I am lonely. Right now things aren’t going so well…

Drop back into that river. Let the river carry you.

And it will.

When you stop fighting and let go, it becomes easier. The river carries you. You can merge with the fullness of the moment. You own the feelings. You own the truth of what is.

As you stop the struggle, be it an emotional, physical or spiritual one, you may find that you sink like a stone. Don’t panic. Haven’t you ever sunk deep into love? Didn’t you do that with reckless abandon?

At the bottom of the river it’s so quiet and still. There’s room for your frightened soul to expand again.

And as you do, you’ll rise up. Soon you’ll be floating, and the current will take you.

One morning you’ll find yourself washed up on a new shore, bathed in sunlight, caressed by a gentle breeze scented with the sweet fragrance of new possibilities.

Stop fighting.

Let go.

Surrender to what is.

And know that you are beautiful, magnificent, courageous, loved…

Sad Unicorns OR Is your New-Age Thinking Positively Unhelpful?

Sad Unicorn by theGREENER on flickr

Sad Unicorn by theGREENER on flickr

“Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their greatness goes unnoticed. It is all part of the fairy tale.” 
~ Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

“People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that’s bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.” ~ Jim Morrison, The Doors

*Warning – The following post is not all puppies, rainbows and unicorns…

1uni

If you are a regular reader of my blog you’ll know I’m all for cultivating an optimistic outlook, for practicing gratitude, kindness and counting blessings. I also believe that thoughts are things, and that what we focus on and attach strong emotion to tends to manifest in our lives. Positive thinking and self-love bring many benefits.

So what I’m going to say next might sound like a contradiction, or even come as a shock…

I think that some of this Positive-Thinking Law-of-Attraction stuff is getting dangerously out of hand!

Emotions just are. They are human and useful, and part of the scenery as we journey through life.  No point in being too attached to them – they change all the time, based on how much sleep we’ve had, our current health and relationship status and a myriad of other factors.  Emotions are mostly transient, but haven’t you noticed that there is a big push lately for us to be enlightened enough to somehow stay happy and calm and in a permanent space of unconditional love, which we then beam out from us to others to help them feel happy, calm and loved too?

This same train of thought suggests that all those ‘lesser’ emotions, those ‘negative’ ones, are there merely for us to transcend, and it is a sign of our awareness (and for some, spiritual superiority!) to no longer entertain negative thoughts or emotions in any situation.

'Angel Melodies' by Josephine Wall

‘Angel Melodies’ by Josephine Wall

I disagree! It is NORMAL as a human to experience anger, pain, sadness, depression, guilt, shame, fear and regret at different times.  It is APPROPRIATE to feel these emotions in response to certain situations. I also believe that it is unrealistic in these circumstances to expect ourselves to easily and readily ‘snap out of it’ and be all Love and Light.

There is also a New-Age belief that by feeling negative emotions or thinking negative thoughts we are then creating further negative energy in our lives.

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You’re thinking people, so I’ll ask you to draw your own conclusions about the following scenarios:

A beautiful young woman rang me yesterday, utterly distraught.  She has a four-year-old son, and an eight-month-old daughter, whom she is still breast feeding.  Both children were conceived through IVF, and shortly after she became pregnant with her daughter, this woman’s husband of ten years left her, and began a new relationship.

She and everyone else had thought it was a happy marriage. It was a complete shock. One day he was beside her and the next he was gone. Her husband had tied up most of his assets in protected structures, and there was no money available.  A protracted battle was entered into. The man has told his ex-wife that he wants nothing to do with her or their children (he has never seen his daughter, and has had no contact with his son since he walked out) and he says he will let the courts decide what minimum he has to pay toward their upkeep. The young mum ended up moving back in with her parents as she had no income of her own, her health was poor and she was completely devastated by the unexpected end of her marriage.

Of course this has been a stressful time for this young woman.  Her husband deserted her, she went through a difficult pregnancy entirely without him, and she was anxious about the future of her little family. On top of that she had ongoing problems with a hot, sore breast during pregnancy and, later, severe mastitis.  No matter what she tried it just didn’t get any better, and she consulted several nurses and doctors.  Finally one of them sent her for some tests.  She was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, so advanced that there are no treatment options available.  All they can do is provide palliative care. She has weeks left.

And here’s the saddest part.  In a desperate attempt to prolong her life this woman went to a respected doctor who is also an alternative medicine practitioner. One of the first things the doctor said, upon taking this woman’s recent medical and life history, was that the young woman’s anger and negative emotions towards her husband had most probably caused her cancer.

Really?

Can it be as simplistic as that? And if so, why isn’t everyone else going through great life upheaval and trauma suddenly manifesting life-terminating cancer for themselves?

So here I have this traumatised young mum sobbing into the phone, wracked with guilt that her recent pain, anger and depression have manifested a cancer that will now deprive her children of their mother.  Over and over she said to me, “I’m so sorry. I just don’t know how to fix it. I truly didn’t mean to do this.”

She wanted me to help her have a sparkly-clean mind, filled with love and rainbows and unicorns and hope.

Somehow, if she could get a mind like that, miraculously she would heal…

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Another friend has long suffered with serious depression.  It was brought about after an incident that would change anyone’s life; the death of her younger sister and brother in a car accident (not her fault! – they were slammed by a drunk driver at nine o’clock in the morning just outside their school) when she was a newly licensed driver. It left her with a legacy of physical pain and disfigurement too.  She has battled to get out of the hole, and truly it has been less than helpful when well-meaning friends and even health practitioners kept telling her to ‘get over it’, and that her happiness is a choice.

Their words implied that she was to blame for the place she was in, and she was left even more guilt-ridden and shamed over her inability to get unstuck. Truly, she was trying, but at that time she didn’t have the tools she needed to start turning things around. Every time she posted positive affirmations around the house, or repeated them endlessly, she felt more and more of a failure, as she measured the disparity between her current situation and where the affirmations told her she could be. Positive thinking made her feel even less worthy and deserving of help, change and even life itself.

This beautifully illustrated journey through depression from one of my favourite blogs, Hyperbole and a Half, explains this place so well:

Adventures in Depression

Eventually my friend found her way back to a place of balance. She is a counsellor, working with others, and her life has meaning again for her. There’s even laughter and happiness.  Sure, she still has hard days but we all do.  That’s life.

Life is a crucible that forges us through fire, and it is our trials and troubles which often truly enable us to grow and transform, more meaningfully and more lastingly, than any amount of positive thinking.

It belittles us, and it cheapens the human journey, to use trite phrases about positive thinking in the face of real struggle.  Life is wonderful, and at times heartbreakingly sad, hard and just plain awful. Sometimes we are helpless and powerless in the face of our own pain, or the suffering of another.

The magnificence is in finding something within us that enables us to keep going, even if we bumble and fumble and drag ourselves along, until we get from that place of darkness back into the light, forever changed.

Every decent book I ever read had a hero or heroine who faced disaster, betrayal and every other form of hardship. The way they travelled that difficult road is why we stuck around – so that we could be inspired, cheer them along, learn from them and eventually watch them grow into the sorts of people we desire to become ourselves.

There is a place for positive thinking, and for wanting to manifest our future by aligning ourselves with a vision of abundance that makes us feel good, and excited about what’s yet to unfold.

But there is also a place for experiencing the fullness of emotions created by being in the now. And sometimes that now will be paved with pain rather than rainbows.

The rainbows come later, after the rain. After you’ve ridden out the storm.

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