Since the very beginning of Horizon Inspired I have always tried to ensure I bring true authenticity to my work. Gone are the days of feeling obliged to don a ‘Joanna Hulin’ mask and present different versions of myself to my work, friendships, romantic or family relationships.
Despite being a genuinely positive person naturally, I did also used to play a role of someone who was perpetually ‘fine’, happy go lucky and capable, and I played that role well. I remember when I handed my notice in on a job I had been in for a few years – because I was at breaking point – a few colleagues who knew me well reached out to say ‘I had no idea’.
I played that role so well, in fact, I started to believe it myself. Convincing myself that feeling deeply, processing, healing was indulgent and unnecessary. Sweeping it all under the carpet, slapping on a smile and carrying on felt so much more productive.
Avoidance, denial, ignorance; it just seemed easier… but the body never forgets.
Back then, I didn’t have a meditation practice – “my mind and I were far too busy to meditate”. But the truth was, I just wasn’t able to take responsibility (to be response able) for my feelings, emotions, thoughts or actions, let alone process them. I felt a victim to life’s circumstances instead.
It took reaching a breaking point and a total upheaval of my life to gain perspective. It doesn’t always have to involve this, but for me, at the time, it was what was necessary.
I packed my bags, followed a inner calling, trusted life and went on an adventure of a lifetime to Mexico and Costa Rica, with the intention of getting to know myself properly, for the first time in my life.
During that experience I learned how to feel comfortable and safe in the the present moment. I learned how to feel comfortable and safe with the person I was and who I was becoming; and I fell in love with life.
There was one moment in Mexico, that is vividly clear in my mind; It was sunset. I was wearing a long ankle length dress. My sandals and feet we light brown from the dust. My hair was long and curly. My body was tired from a days hard labour on the ranch and my skin was still warm from the sun. I had climbed up a few large smooth rocks to find a comfortable seat and watched the sun melt into the horizon. A rescue dog, Sammy, who arrived to the ranch just a few days after me, was in his welcome spot by my side.
Silently, peacefully, I watched the sky change colour as the sun disappeared. It was in that very moment that I felt as if I had woken up from a dream. It was the first time in my life I realised how different the world looks when you choose to see it differently.
By removing myself physically from my life as I knew it, I was able to gain clarity and perspective. I was able to see the outside world, and my place in it, with a fresh and completely altered perspective.
The reality I have created for myself since, and the way I feel in my own skin today, is vastly different to before, yet the learning is never ending.
The personal lessons I’ve experienced over this last year of lockdown, feel paradoxically similar to my Mexican adventure. Mexico was about an external shift – outward change; which then manifested as internal shifts. Yet, this last year has been about deep, introspective, internal change which I know will eventually manifest in the external, when the time is right.
This year of restricted travel, limited physical contact and participation in the outside world, could not have been more different to a wild adventure trip to Baja California, Mexico. Yet, somehow, the learnings from both have been equally as significant and impactful.
Experiencing lockdowns (physically) alone meant there was nowhere to run, and nowhere hide from the reflection in the mirror.
My ability to hold it all together, to carry on, to not face what was gently tugging for my attention, to be seen, heard and healed, could not be ignored for much longer. This year has made me realise on the deepest level, that what is not faced can not be freed.
Over the darkest winter months I was pulled into visiting the darkness within me too; to feel, to heal and to take my time with the process. Reliving trauma buried deep in my subconscious, as memories surfaced in my dreams, truth poured out onto the page, echoed in meditation and were shared with few trusted ears and hearts who held space for my healing. I cried so many tears, tears that felt like they were from the very bottom of the barrel; and I welcomed them all.
I heard the old voice, at times, whispering her stories; how indulgent – drama queen – nobody wants to hear your whinge – get on with it. And I have learned to love that voice too, when it arrives. It is my frightened little ego just trying to protect me from the pain, after all.
I called guilt, shame, unworthiness, grief and regret closer, into the light of awareness. And as I did I realised each had a face – most often of my inner child. I realised that by keeping what is laying dormant in my unconscious – that gunky stuff we don’t want to face but my body remembered – buried and ignored, I was shutting out those parts of me that needed to be seen and heard in order to be healed. My unconscious attempt to protect myself was in fact keeping me prisoner and not moving forward.
The reason I find myself here on the page today, telling you all this, is because someone who only knows me through Instagram shared with me that they thought I had not struggled this year and have skipped and hopped my way through the pandemic.
I bring myself authentically to every post, meditation and event but it struck me that those snap shots may be misinterpreted as the whole movie. I intentionally choose to share what might be helpful, useful or reassuring on my social media accounts. I don’t have any personal social media accounts and I choose not to share most of what goes on in my personal life. But I realise in doing this, it might be perceived and misinterpreted as a new version of that old, well worn mask of “perpetually ‘fine’, happy go lucky and capable”.
The truth is we are all human. We are all dealing with our own challenges, and the unique variations of this pandemic experience, which we are facing in our own ways. We are all on our own path of learning and awakening, even when we don’t realise we are.
This deep internal work that has been part of my experience was and is necessary – so so so necessary for me and my own journey – and I am grateful for it. I wrote a poem about facing the darkness the other day. I have experienced two dark nights of the soul in my life now and if another comes knocking, I will gladly welcome it. Because I know, with every fibre of my being, the freedom and sense of rebirth that awaits on the other side. The darkness is not to be feared or resisted, nor is it a place to dwell in self-sabotage. Facing your shadows doesn’t mean you are broken, it means you are courageous; it means you are human.
I was reminded of that sobering Mexican sunset moment the other day, as I sat in my hammock in the garden of my new house, wrapped in a blanket, my own dog this time at my side. I realised, I felt that same waking essence, that newness, hope and fresh perspective but this time as a sunrise deep inside of me.
I’m learning now to really listen to, soothe and reprogram my nervous system, to really be in my body, probably for the first time in my life. I am learning not to rush, to go slow and slower still. I’m learning to allow myself to want what I want, and to know I am worthy of it. To keep opening when it feels safer to close and hide away. I am learning to ground into living more deeply, to sink into the love and support that already surrounds me. And I am learning to receive.
Meditation has taught me to feel safe and find home in the present moment. And it has also given me a solid foundation from which to turn and face my shadows, dive deeper into vulnerability, witness the parts of myself I wish were different and to fall in love with the perfectly imperfect messiness of being human. Shadow work has taught me, it’s ok – I’m ok, we are safe, seen and loved in the darkness, as well as the light.
If this blog resonated with you or if you’d like me to expand on any aspect of it in another post, do get in touch [email protected]
For now, therapies/modalities to explore, alongside meditation and journaling, are: EFT, TRE, Somatic Healing, Talk therapies – psychotherapy or trauma informed counselling, Matrix reimprinting, Inner Child Work, Energy Healing.