Anniversaries are powerful times and I’ve been reflecting a lot these past two months about where I was a year ago. Some of you will know that last year at this time I was on a mental health sabbatical, having spent the fall and early winter experiencing a particularly acute cycle of depression. As I could no longer contain or keep secret what I was experiencing, I was astounded by the grace and support that arose to usher me into a period of deep rest and, I know now even more so, transformation. I could not have imagined what I was being prepared for at that time.
As I reflect on it now, I breath a deep sigh of relief to not be in that cycle of darkness (even as I practice recognizing the Goddess in the Darkness); and I also feel incredible gratitude for the tools I developed as a result that I can now continue to use and share with others going through all the ups and downs of life in a body. Also, as a result, I completely trust all of us are doing our absolute best, and am ever more motivated to do what I can for others on their healing path.
In addition to my own introspection, I know winters can be long, cold and gray here in the Pacific Northwest, and so it feels relevant to share again what I wrote last winter as I began my sabbatical. My prayer is that for those of you for whom holidays aren’t “the most wonderful time of the year” or who struggle to get up and out of bed on any given day (much more so, perhaps, when the New Year’s Resolution pressure is on) might find a little space to just hold yourself with grace and kindness.
I am seeing that, for me, depression shows up to cushion the places where I’m still just raw and wounded—pointing me towards the places I’m being called to heal. I can feel, just beneath the depression, some really big mads and sads that I’m thankful to now have the space to feel, process, and integrate. This awareness, I’m finding, is allowing me to orient towards my depression in a much kinder, almost (almost!) grateful way. I can, at times, appreciate the genius of survival that is there in my own psyche’s capacity to dampen the intensity of traumatic events—those in my own person and history and ancestry, and in what I believe is sweeping through our collective consciousness.
Healing, for me, requires not hiding that this is my struggle. I’m not excited about it, but I’m not afraid for it to be known and named and seen because it is simply what is so. And this not hiding is making a difference already. In the past when I was in a place like this, I’d be so averse to the company of others—not so much because I didn’t want to be around people, but because I felt like a black hole of emptiness that sucked the life out of everyone else. I cannot express to you what a blessing it is to be able to just name the black hole, and then carry on. I can already feel the texture of the depression shifting because I am not having to pretend it isn’t there. As it shifts, I feel my Self, just there still, deep at the center, a little distant, a little fragile, but intact.
When I got down into it, I found a deep well of unattended grief that just wasn’t content to stagnate any longer. I went through an intensive self-designed retreat with the creative containment of our community's incredible healers and my dear friends. It was a powerful and humbling period of practicing receiving, the combined affect being a soul-retrieval of sorts—a recovery of fragments of myself that had grown loud and restless in my negligence of them.
During this time, I started to hear a quiet but clear inner voice that was familiar but more insistent than it has ever been. I followed that voice and it took me through joys and challenges of this past year that I truly could not have imagined (and some, at my conscious level, that I would not have wished for!)
I created the Journeying with Grief series out of what I wish I had had before/during this time, and the things I have learned and that have helped over the years. It’s not something I’m an expert in, by any means, but through which I hope to hold a nourishing space for us to walk and heal together. Now in its fourth cycle, the next 5-week series will start February 13th at Source Yoga—more info available here. I don't see this offering as a "fix-all" or magic bullet--just like that 6-week sabbatical was just one period of time over a life-long healing journey. However, my prayer is that it can be a place to have some "grieving room"--to be with however your grief is showing up for you, and not be so alone.