“Healing doesn’t always feel like one of those sweet full moons. It’s an internal chaos, laced with darkness, with broken mirrors, with injured howling. It growls and cracks and hurts. It grabs the back of your neck and forces you to stare at the shadows inside of yourself. It strips you down until you’re whimpering and when it has you there, naked in the dirt of your own undoing and you think you’ll die at the feet of this process – it bends downs, puts its lips against your heart and kisses, until something in you sews back together.“/ Brooke Solis
Sewing the Self back together…
I have been back in the U.S. now for several weeks after one year away in the Mayan lands of Lake Atitlan Guatemala, to San Cristobal Mexico, and back to Guatemala again, running my own online business, managing a solitary and dark retreat center and all things in between.
I didn’t fully understand the story of what was actually unfolding until recently reflecting upon my time in my darkness retreats .
But before that, some context. This last year took me on a wild ride of diving deeper into the body of work I have devoted myself to the last years…
the nervous system’s ability to unlearn old trauma patterns, to learn how to hold more, receive more, open more, and honestly love more of this entire human experience. You can only take others as deep as you have gone yourself, so into the depths of Bishop I went…
This was impossible without first getting painfully honest, learning to become RADICALLY GENUINE and authentic in my own body, of what stories and experience my nervous system was playing out, urging me to remember.
My hope is that on some level you find a kind of resonance with these words or at least some curiosity for something in you that is also remembering itself. And if so, I URGE you to give it permission to do so, even if its wildly uncomfortable. Because on the other side of this there is a whole new world baby.
Summer of 2021, something was breaking inside of me (as you can tell from last year’s blog I wrote). I didn’t understand it/ couldn’t admit it to myself at the time but now I can more clearly see what it was…Heartbreak.
This heartbreak was not the kind you see in romance movies or read in novels. This heartbreak led me to grieve a self that was slipping through my fingertips, a self that was no longer working for me and therefor no longer working for someone I deeply love. This heartbreak was triggered by a breakup I thought I’d never need to go through, and this was with a close family member.
How can you break up with family? Family is family… isn’t it?
They say all anger is anger towards self, and I FULLY believe that now.
I was exhausted and outraged by all of the energy it took to push down my truth for so many years so that theirs had enough room to feel seen, heard, and loved.
I was exhausted from not letting myself take up space for fear of losing them, for the rage I had never allowed myself to feel before, the anger from all of the times I overgave, minimized my needs, betrayed myself to keep their love. I was exhausted from choosing them over me, over and over again. My life force energy was draining away and I was exhausted and pissed from not letting myself be fully me.
I am understanding a deeper truth now from this heartbreak. Turns out it wasn’t even about them or even our toxic dynamic. It was about parts of myself needing to die and to be reborn. Death is a rebirth. It is a transition. It is not a failure, and the dark has changed my relationship with that forever.
When something in you or around you dies it can transition/ evolve into new and that’s not always easy. But when we begin to play a more infinite game we realize this body, this soul came into this life to come and do something, be something, remembering something much bigger and important than what our mind/egoic self struggles to let go of, and that’s it’s own inherent God given WORTH, my body’s own love of itself.
“As the body remembers, so does the soul for the two are inextricably the same.
A body remembrance IS a soul remembrance.” / Sera Beak from her boook Redvelations
This blog is not about the details of a toxic relationship, or how trauma practically manifests in the body and plays out in our lives, although important, it’s not really the point of this particular post.
I write today with nothing but truth coursing through my veins, and cacao of course… of something I came to realize in my most recent darkness retreat at The Hermitage in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
This is a story of reclaiming lost parts of Self that are painfully, pleasurably, and finally slowly returning to me, parts I didn’t know were allowed, or could even exist within me.
When it comes to healing, trauma work, soul retrieval, personal development, however you’d like to call it, my teachers in my Trauma and Somatics training have taught me this…
Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.
Wherever you are on your journey, you are exactly where you are meant to be. There is nothing to rush…ever. So let the slow unfolding continue…
My time in the darkness…
Most people see the dark to that which is evil, or relate it to their own or others’ shadowy aspects that need solving, fixing, or transcending. With much still to discover and explore I have come to relate to darkness as something entirley different;
“That which has forgotten its own divinity”
Over the last 6 months I have ventured into darkness retreats for various lengths of time but usually around 3 days at a time, mostly out of sheer curiosity of why on Earth one would choose to put themselves into a kind of solitary confinement for days on end. Why was this even a thing?
Turns out this is an ancient spiritual practice that many have done throughout centuries.
Just so you can get a more clear visual of what this black cave actually entails, here is a link to their dark room video if you’re curious. There is absolutely no light that enters, your meals are delivered twice a day through a tiny door, and yes there is a bathroom and shower inside that eventually you learn to navigate in the pitch black. There is nothing to stimulate you. You are left with you and from there the discovery truly begins.
What would I do with myself, what would happen to me, & what would I discover in this blackness, this fantastic void of all things, would I meet God?
I have probably written an entire novel on what occured, what died, and what was reborn in my mind, body, and soul in this womb of a cave, perhaps more specifics to be shared in future posts but for today I feel most called to share the following 3 truths/themes that have carried with me from this cave. I hesitate to put words to them for doing these truths a great disservice, but for now here we are… Ready?
- Love is the most GENUINE thing that could ever exist.
- When you learn to love that which you think you are not, you will know God in her fullest form.
- All of life is polarity and undeniably ever-changing and impermanent.
Let’s work backwards from these shall we? I promise it all connects.
3.Polarity & Impermanence…
this is the nature of life, and the more we resist this simple yet profound truth, the more contracted and closed to life we become, the more suffering we cause ourselves and others.
Life is polarity and is constantly shifting, moving, changing, never the same
Life is stillness. Life is movement.
Life is darkness and life is light.
Life can be painful as hell and also ecstatically pleasurable from one moment to the next.
Life is ALIVE and eventually it all comes to death.
and we cannot fully come to know one without the experience of the other
The truth is, there is never just one reality existing, there are many and depending on who we are, what reality we were born into, what path we are on, depends on how quickly our realities shift, merge, conjoin into one.. all the way from horrible suffering to the ecstatically miraculous and back again.
If the dark has nailed anything into my consciousness it’s this…
Every single feeling, sensation, emotion, thought, current reality, is devastatingly and fortunately entirely impermanent.
And convincing yourself life is only a wonderful bright light of a miracle or just a whole lot of suffering is just not the whole story. I have done this and many of us do. The stories we tell ourselves serve us, they keep us safe from that which we are convinced is not okay to believe, to feel, or to think & perceived.
And whatever you’re currently convinced of about your little bubble of reality is totally true and is serving its purpose … and please don’t be fooled it is not the only one.
I am NOT saying your thoughts and perspectives are not important here. They are so important.
However, how you experience the world is really through your SOMA, your living breathing BODY, which really comes down to the state of your nervous system, and fortunately, unfortunately, you cannot outthink, out reframe, out bullshit, out meditate, or transcend your physiological responses forever. Short term, sure, long term, never, because,
Your body never lies. your body is telling you a story right in this very moment, sending you subtle messages. Do you listen?
This brings us to the next truth;
1.Love is GENUINE.
The dark along with my breath has helped me more than anything rewrite my definition of what love is and along with that the importance of being somatically GENUINE…
What does being SOMAtically genuine even mean? It means actually feeling in your BODY with radical authenticity, the fullness of the actual sensations, emotions, and feelings that are occurring without judgment.
What does this have to do with dark? Because there is no avoiding anything in the dark.
For a short time you can find yourself busying yourself with some techniques, daydreaming, or planning, but after a while you best believe that which your’e avoiding is coming right on up. It becomes blatanly obvious anything you might be avoiding or being dishonest with yourself about.
The more I avoided, bypassed, reframed and abandoned the authenticity of my feeling body in the dark, the less genuine I became to myself, to life, to love, to God.
The nature of my mind and the ways in which I deny truth within myself became painfully obvious. I saw all of the ways in which the narratives I was telling myself were simply trying to keep me safe. Safe from what? From feeling my own unfelt, abandoned pain.
When we aren’t authentic with our own felt sense experince and truthful to what is actually occurring within our body, we play a rather disingenuous game.
Disingenuous defined: lacking in candor : giving a false appearance of simple frankness : calculating.
Hello people pleasing…
So what? Why is living genuinely important? And what does this have to do with your year and breaking off toxic relationships?
I will tell you. When we play this disingenous game with ourselves, with others, pretending we’re okay, when we really aren’t, not saying, feeling what we really mean, it beomes utterly EXHAUSTING for every system in our body.
From this place it impossible to come to know, and really LOVE ourselves in our totality, not to mention all of the phycho-biological issues that arise after playing such a game of repression and living in fear of our own authenticity. (Doctor Gabor Mate has a whole slew of scientific studies he’s collected on this by the way)
Because here is the thing, when you practice becoming so ridiculously genuine with yourself/others, truthful with how the life around you affects you, it becomes impossible to remain in any relationship or life situation that is not fully aligned and of service to your body/ your soul.
LOVE IS the most GENUINE thing there is, and from a young age I found I became confused with what I thought love was and what loved looked like. Re-writing my love narrative looks a little like this at the moment…
Love is NOT…💔
a spiritual concept, a reframe, or simple positive perspective. That’s protection!
it’s not letting someone walk over you and treat you however they please. That’s a lack of self respect.
Love does not come down to play your ego games, it does not pity, placate, save, betray itself, or put itself last and call it selfless or unconditional love.
Nor does love turn a blind eye or positively reframe one’s own or humanity’s deep suffering and traumas…
patient, love is kind and she is also fucking fierce and honest.
love is found IN the discomfort and IN the darkest of the dark.
Real Love can BE with the truth of another’s reality without needing to solve it, defend, or fix it.
Love can HOLD one’s own reality without needing to fix, reframe, or transcend it.
Love is RADICALLY HONEST
Love honors itself, respects and invites you into your highest because
Love is a fierce TRUTH of what IS.
Love is an in depth noticing, awareness, and acceptance of what IS.
Love can be with and hold the absolute most horrible things that occur in this world and also devote itself simultaneously to create more space for the wonderful, the beauty, the lightest of the light that exists even in the darkest of places.
Can you imagine if the whole world practiced loving all of itself? And I mean ALL of itself?
Remembering it’s own divinity
Love says “you are strong, you are worthy, deserving, step up, step out, and rise into me!
Love is EVERYTHING.
Read that again.
I can say I discovered a whole new level of love and permission in this darkness and it rocked my world.
If you are craving more love in your life…ACTUAL LOVE, which we all are when it comes down to the root… Then you you are capping yourself if you are not giving others, this world, and especially YOURSELF permission to be, feel, express ALL OF ITSELF.
To me, this is to know God’s love. to receive God’s love in all of her forms.
This is Freedom.
2. Loving the shadows of that which you think are you not
One question I will leave here for your own reflection is this…
Can you find love in that which you think you are not, in that which you think is void of love, be it the darkness in a person, situation, reality, or even aspect of yourself?
This is the invitation I find life is constantly presenting me with.
And yes, somtimes the highest expression of love is ending relationships, leaving situations, even if its with someone you feel you are obligated to stay in connection with such as family.
What to do with all of that? Nothing, absolutely nothing, besides take a deep breath into the wholeness of your being, and repeat after me, “I will learn to love ALL of me, all of this holy life because by loving ALL of me, I practice loving all of this big bad world back into its wholeness!”
“All darkness disappears when you light the lamp in your heart” – Kabir
and don’t you think the world might need a little more of that?
I didn’t even go into all that gets to be reborn and realized when you come out of this metaphorical and physical darkness… the dark does in fact lead you to the lightest of light. Coming out of that cave, emerging as nothing but truth, my entire body experienced a gratitude, a rebirth, like nothing I’ve ever felt before.
This nugget of a share feels entirely unfinished, but for now, thank you for making it this far if you did.
The ONE thing.
If you take only ONE thing away from this little recounting/ blog update I hope it’s this…
BE GENUINE with EVERYTHING as MUCH as you can, as often as possible, especially with yourself, even if it feels entirely unsafe and unnatural. You CAN learn a new way of being if your current one is no longer working. I PROMISE YOU.
You will also realize in your genuine healing efforts that there will be inauthentic, disingenous tricks to keep you from feeling wrong or keep you feeling safe in the reality/story that you currently live in, and that is also okay. When this old patterning comes up, which it will, I invite you to also repeat after me,
“Everything in my body is deeply intelligent, even the outdated old patterning. I honor the intelligence that has kept me safe thus far”
I hope you have the courage to PRACTICE living more somatically genuine, authentic, and flat out REAL, because this is the highest form of LOVE my friends. You will ruffle some feathers, a lot of people won’t like this new genuine you but real LOVE never fails. Are you here to be liked by everyone or are you here to be authentic, hold this world/ yourself accountable and LOVE IT FIERCELY and BE LOVED by it fiercely?!
Pay attention to your body, life’s polarities and perhaps that which has forgotten its own divinity will begin to remember itself, within you and all around you.
I love you.
To be continued…
*For more on darkness retreats if you are interested visit The Hermitage website here or you can also listen to a Podcast I recently recorded with Magic and Science, Part 1, Before the dark, Episode 50 and Part 2, after the dark, Episode 51. I highly recommend this experience for those who feel ready. DISCLAIMER: dark retreats are not for everyone, especially if you are new to trauma work, just beginning your healing journey and do not have a strong meditation practice.
*Photography by Cole Hatcher