There are black and white checkered pieces of fabric wrapped around the trees here. Big swaths of textiles looped around the ancient banyans- limbs like octopus legs reaching out in all directions. The same checkered fabric is wrapped around the alters and carved stone statues. Even the curbs are painted in black and white stripes – a reminder of the light and the dark always being present.
“They’re not afraid of the dark here,” Juna told us that first night. We nodded our heads respectfully. “They hold both with reverence. They don’t suppress the dark or push it away like we do in our culture. They let it live in the light as well. Don’t be surprised if shadow stuff comes up for you here. It means it’s up for healing.”
Maybe it’s because it’s so hot in Bali and we weren’t wearing many clothes, but the old shadowy voices arrived quickly. You’re too fat. You’re getting old. You’re not pretty anymore…. Body shame kicked into high gear. Your face looks puffy. Your thighs are rubbing together. Why were you so confident back home? The truth is that you are ugly, you’ve let yourself go, you’re not disciplined enough.
It’s embarrassing to write these words. I want to suppress this voice, this pain, and leap to the positive. I want to bypass this ugliness. I don’t want you to know this voice is alive in me. They’re not afraid of the shadow energy. They hold it in the light as well.
I admitted to Juna that these voices were coming up, hoping that naming them would help. I stared at her adorable washboard tummy and all her delicious beauty as the words poured out of my mouth. Shame washed over me. I should be over this. I teach classes in personal growth. People see me as confident. I shouldn’t be talking about self-loathing.
This is how we layer shame on top of shame.
“If the shadow pieces are arising for you, that part of you is emerging for healing.”
That’s the word I chose for the week – healing. I chanted to myself softly: Shine a light on this. Hold it with compassion. There is more to heal here. But how? I thought. I don’t want to give more weight to these thoughts. I don’t want to fortify them. Am I created a deeper neuro-pathway? I don’t want to create a deeper groove! Again, it’s tempting to turn away from them and find better thoughts. Am I supposed to do affirmations or something?
My friend Susan traveled with me the following week. We had found a luxurious place to stay in Amed, Bali – one with real air conditioning! and a private pool just for us. I told Susan about the shadow voices and how they weren’t going away. She asked if I had tried to talk to that part, ask it what it wanted to tell me?
Usually this feels corny to me, but I decided to try. I closed my eyes and imagined that part of me, the part that felt ugly and unworthy. “What do you want to tell me?” I asked.
I could see immediately that this part was old and small… and compassion welled in my heart. The answer came quickly: “I’m the part that feels unlovable. I’m the part that’s trying really hard to do everything right and look good so that I’ll be loved. I’m afraid.”
Ohhhhh! I responded. You have it all wrong! Your love-ability has nothing to do with your beauty. It’s about your spirit- not about the lines on your face or how good you look in a swimsuit! I remember you… I know how hard you try. There is nothing wrong with you and you are totally lovable.
It seemed so obvious in that moment. This very young part of me that had collapsed being lovable with being perfect. It seemed like a reasonable coping strategy at the time – do it all right and be adorable and everyone will love you.
Healing happens in spirals and layers… that’s what my friend and mentor SARK says in one of her books. Because I feel better now, it’s tempting to believe that voice is gone, that I’ve somehow conquered it, that it will finally be quiet. I wish that were true!
What is different, is how I relate to that voice. We have befriended each other somehow. By shining the light of attention on it, by trying to understand it, I have offered it a kind of love. I have offered myself a kind of love. The healing is real even if it isn’t linear. I will come back to this moment again and again and again… but I will be somewhere else on the spiral. A layer away.
Thanks for writing this! Super helpful tip to remember that the voices are there because they are up for healing.
Thank you for writing so beautifully and transparently about it all, and for being the you of you~
I agree — it took a lot of bravery to write this. I appreciate that so, so much about you, that you know it’s hard to share it but you believe in the value of sharing so much that you do anyway. So much resonates here. I needed to hear that affirmation today. Thank you, Andrea.
Glorious Bali !! Such love & honesty there it is physically tangible in the air. Love the truth of what SARK states & you reiterated (hi SARK!) about the cyclical nature of experiences & mind-talk, and how we revisit them again & again through life, yet we are at a different place each time. The lessons become more engrained.
Bless you for sharing the light & the dark, & the WHOLEness within each of us – it’s yin-yang, the male & female, and we are all BOTH.
Peace to you Andrea for your brave soul!
Love.This.And your bravery.
I used to think I walked the edge between light and dark. Once in a while I slipped into the shadow side. However I love your spirals and layers offering of love to the shadow. With each layer more healing.
Oh Andrea, I love this. Thank you for sharing your gorgeous, brave, and humble self.
Thank you for a vulnerable authentic story. I loved learning about shining a light on the shadow. And I happen to be wearing checkered black and white shoes today!
Tears welled in my eyes when I read about the part that tries so hard. She is very familiar to me so I checked in with her and noticed a shift. She has started trying hard just because she wants to, not because she has to. That feels more spacious than before. Thank you for precipitating that awareness.
interesting. I enjoyed reading this.
How interesting! I enjoyed reading this.
Your tender moment when a part of you waiting and wanting forever to tell you something you were finely able to ask and hear, brings tears to my eyss.
When I returned from Bali, I was finally able to be late. Such a premium was placed on being on time and being perfect in my world. It took me weeks to get up to speed again. I hope it takes you months, even years.
not that this will help, I guess – but I always laugh and imagine myself in the future, saying – jesus, look at how gorgeous you are! just as I now look back at myself in my 20s… why WHY!? did I not think I was beautiful. know I was beautiful. I am now nearly 50. its this year. I am changing. I still so very much want to stand up straight, and continue to do so, and I am dieting. because I just dont want to lose the use of my favourite cashmere coat!! I read that you should eat like a 90 year old with diabetes and a heart condition, so that you dont become one. so . am doing my best to look after me. it is hard to know that whatever happens I will die anyway. and be an old person, god willing. I want to do my best to be a happy old person with shiny eyes. guess I just needed to say all that. namaste
I’ve been shocked this past year (at 42) as some very old body dismorphia has reared its head, and how much shame I still have around it. Like, wow.
Reading this was like a trip through my own head. xo
Thank you for sharing. You courage permeates the souls of all of us reading because it is in your vulnerability that we find comfort to confront our own healing. Our own layers. Thank you for the light and the dark 🙂
Yesterday I was having those same thoughts & feelings about my aging self. Thank you for your courage to share your journey, it re-opened my compassion for myself this morning. Synchronicities & wonder!
Spirals and layers… beautiful.. thank you for sharing your experiences and insights. Take good care of yourself.
I just found you through an internet rabbit hole. I clicked on a link from Stargazer Li in my FB feed and ended up seeing that she had participated in a course of yours. Cool! So now I’m here reading and digging it.
I love what you say here:
“She asked if I had tried to talk to that part, ask it what it wanted to tell me?”
I’m leading an online group on a 30-day manifesting challenge. While I have a process for manifesting, for the daily practices I’m tuning in and seeing what the group needs. It’s been a lot of shadow side work! They are like, WHOA WHAT IS THIS?! lol…. so many epiphanies and transmuted beliefs. I’ll share this post with them, I think they’ll benefit from the story and inspiration. <3 🙂
Lucky for them, things took a turn today. It seems they've cleared so much that they're ready to see how high they fly with all the shedded emotional weight!
I have not checked in here for some time because I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are good quality so I guess I¦ll add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂