Integration

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As filled with chaos as my life has been this year…the sorrow, grief, loss, fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and frustration…the one thing I always knew for certain was that something wonderful was taking place. I had no idea what the outcome would be…I still can’t say with certainty what the outcome will be. But, I’ve always known that life as I’ve previously known it was saying good-bye.

One amazing side effect of all of these shifts and changes in my life is that of integration. All of the pieces of myself that I’ve left in various places, with different people, kept hidden from certain groups of people…all of those pieces no longer wish to be separated or differentiated. It is time for all of them to come together in a unified human. Not in the old ways as the pieces once fit together, but rather, in a new unknown configuration. As each little piece falls into its perfect place, I watch in awe and amazement…acutely aware that some greater force is undoubtedly orchestrating this entire metamorphosistic process.

This blog is as a result of that integration. Two years ago, I set the intention of creating a sisterhood of spiritual women. I felt so alone in my journey, and desperately wanted and needed support and companionship. This year, in the midst of all the chaos, some wonderful women came to me in just a matter of months…reconnecting with long-ago friends, deepening old acquaintances into friendships, meeting new people through online classes and teleseminars. Together, you helped me to realize that there really is a wonderful network of amazing women, even if not all of you are close enough for a pajama tea party. Ironically, you also spoke of a need for community…of feeling isolated and desired support in your journeys. And so, this blog was born…sharing my deepest parts with you, with gratitude that my experiences could help another.

Last night, however, I realized that this blog is also asking for integration. I spent many hours trying to figure out how to keep this blog as it is…I like the intimacy…the anonymity…the focus…the community we are building. Was I really ready to reveal myself to the world and let the world fully embrace all that I have to say and share with the world? The more I contemplated this, the more it became quite clear that despite the twinge of sadness, the answer was yes.

So, this will be my last post on this particular blog…to be continued in a new one that integrates all the different pieces of me in one place. Eventually, I hope to pull all of these posts over to the new blog so that there really is a continuity of experience for those who will need it in the future.

For you who have inspired this deepening and have participated in fulfilling my desires for a sisterhood, thank you for your support and  companionship. I hope that, should you feel called to continue with me in this next phase of my life, you will join me at http://gyselagervais.wordpress.com.

With gratitude,
~Gysela

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Compassion after the Discomfort

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“People often ask me, “How do we know whether to refrain from something or go toward it?” My answer is, just practice what comes naturally at the time. If the first commitment, refraining, seems like it would be the most helpful, do that. But if you feel that you can keep your heart and mind open a little longer to someone who’s irritating you or triggering your impatience, then follow your instinct and do that. Then maybe, based on having been able to stay open a little longer in that situation, you’ll begin to get a sense of what it would mean to not turn away at all.”
(Pema Chodron, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change)

There is always an after. Even when facing an ending, there is always an after…especially when that ending does not result in turning away. But that after is never the same from one end to another. So, no matter how many afters one experiences, the only thing that can be assured is that “this too will pass.”

But what do you do in that space between the end and the passing of the “this?”

Be.

With Compassion.

For self.

Usually the after indicates some kind of previous struggle…and often, for quite a while. A lengthy struggle can result in many things…depletion, depression, exhaustion, sorrow, grief, resentment, fury, vulnerability, fear, relief, expansion, and many, many more.

These emotions swirled through me after I made my decision to leave. And, they didn’t stop. It’s been three weeks since that decision, and there are still waves that catch me in unsuspecting moments.

Those first few days after the decision were the hardest…trying to wrap up projects, writing up documentation, visiting all my rituals for the last time, still working and keeping a cheerful face even the presence of those who wished me ill. But the most difficult was the goodbyes. I would swing from holding an energetic protective stance with my co-workers to a gut-wrenching sorrow as a student’s eyes welled up with tears.

After a couple days, and many nights of asking for help from the Higher Realms, I re-learned something beautiful…it can all co-exist. I don’t have to swing from one emotion to the other, exhausting myself in the perpetual pendulum. Instead, I can just hold space for me to simply BE in the wash of it all…all at once…all at the same time…immersed…present.

In that understanding, a huge energy of compassion engulfed me, and I opened to receive it…the teary, frustrated, angry, hurt, sad, tender, vulnerable didn’t go away. Instead, I recognized the potentials this force carried if I harnessed it. So, I just rode the wave. And in riding the wave, I allowed myself to fully experience all that the emotion had to offer me. By not resisting it, it carried me forward and up to a higher frequency…and a tiny piece of that emotion fell away…completed.

Breathe.

Hold Compassion.

Ride.

Repeat.

 

Being in the Discomfort

The primary essence of the Sacred Feminine is being-ness.

Not in a passive way. In a state of heightened awareness…actively noticing everything in and around yourself…only taking responsibility for yourself and holding space and compassion for others.

That sounds easy.

It’s not.

It’s exhausting.

I’ve been told it gets easier.

I’ll let you know.

I had an excellent opportunity to put this being-ness into practice in light of what I had read from Pema Chodron‘s book, “The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness.”

There’s a common misunderstanding among all the human begins who have ever been born on the earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable…A much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet. To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more passionate, full, and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is. If we’re committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up against the least edge of pain, we’re going to run; we’ll never know what’s beyond that particular barrier or wall or fearful thing.

“You have to be kind,” he told me. “We just can’t have this kind of tension.”

I’m sitting in a meeting with administration and human resources. There have been at least a dozen of these meetings so far, and things are getting worse at work…not better.

I look at this man and watch him squirm.

“That last meeting was just so uncomfortable. It was so difficult to watch and to be in the room.”

“Why?” I ask.

“Because you were so upset and it was just so obvious. And your boss was trying to connect with you but you kept dismissing her.”

“Because she was lying,” I reply. “You were uncomfortable with the fact that I wasn’t willing to go along with her lies?”

He squirms. “It just isn’t kind,” he says.

“And allowing a lie to continue is?” I ask.

He squirms again. “It’s just so uncomfortable. We just can’t have that.”

The above passage flashes through my mind and in that moment, I feel compassion for this man. Oh! You poor man. You really aren’t used to facing difficulties in your life. You really want to avoid pain at any cost. This must be so difficult for you.

“I don’t think you realize,” I begin slowly, “that the level of discomfort that you felt in that meeting is nothing compared to the level of discomfort I’ve been carrying around inside as a result of my boss’s lack of integrity. I am no longer willing to silently carry it all just so that you and everyone else can feel comfortable. The discomfort is there. Ignoring it or running away from it accomplishes nothing.”

He shifts in his chair and looks out the window. He sighs a big sigh.

I do too.

“I know,” I continue. “It’s hard. It’s unpleasant. I know. I’ve been carrying this around inside of me for two years. And I know kindness is important to you, but what about kindness towards me? I’m not being kind to myself by allowing this to continue to hurt me just because it might not be kind to tell the truth to another person.”

“This last meeting was just so different,” he finally says. “It was just so obvious that you were upset, and it just created so much tension in the room. We just can’t have that here.”

“The meeting was only different because I spoke my truth. I didn’t create the tension…I simply exposed it. Your words indicate that you want me to keep silent and ignore my upset. That ignoring problems is being kind and the only way to do business. Is that true?”

I squirms. “I don’t know,” he whispers. “It’s just so uncomfortable.”

He’s right. It is. I haven’t enjoyed a single one of these meetings. My heart has pounded as I walk to the meeting, requiring me to do a walking meditation and request people in my social circle to hold space for me at the appointed meeting time. Watching my mouth speak words that I’ve felt and thought for so long has been gut-wrenching…and freeing. I hadn’t realized how much of my energy has been tied up in keeping quiet…in keeping all of these things repressed…stomped down…ignored…controlled…all in the name of kindness and getting along with people.

The clarity has come. I know what I have to do.

“I don’t want to work for my boss any longer,” I say quietly.

A pained look crosses his face. I look at the other face and see the same thing reflected there. I feel compassion again for everyone’s discomfort with the discomfort. And then, a funny thing happens…I feel freedom…and peace…and a realignment with my soul. It’s definitely been an uncomfortable process. Yet, I’ve learned a lot…about the institution…about my boss…about the administration…about myself.

Most importantly, I know I am now back in integrity with myself.

And I know in that moment, that’s all that matters.

The Honesty of Discomfort

At the suggestion of a friend, I’ve begun reading “The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness” by Pema Chodron. From the very first page, my world was rocked:

During the dathun (as always at the abbey), the participants kept the five monastic vows: not to lie, not to steal, not to engage in sexual activity, not to take life, and not to use alcohol or drugs.

Ok. I roll my eyes. Blah, blah, blah.

The resulting collaboration of nature, solitude, meditation, and vows made an alternatingly painful and delightful “no exit” situation. With nowhere to hide…

Woah! I put down the book. Nowhere to hide?! And it’s “delightful?”

I squirm.

Why am I so uncomfortable with this thought? What do I have to hide?

You couldn’t lie.

I squirm.

Are you kidding me? One of the character traits I prize most is my honesty and integrity…to the point of brutality, I’ve been told. I would always rather someone told me the truth, even if it’s hard and painful to hear because that’s the only way I know someone is trustworthy and worth having in my life. I look down on people who struggle with honesty and judge them for being less trustworthy than I…less honorable than I…less than I.

So…why am I squirming? Particularly over something that I know I do not do?

Except, that you DO. 

What?! When?!

At work. 

Seriously? How?

By not speaking up when you know someone’s lack of integrity upsets you.

But it’s my boss! How do I tell my boss that she’s lacking integrity without losing my job?! I have to pretend I don’t notice it if I want to keep my job!

Why do you want this job if you have to lie to keep it?

I’m stumped. I have absolutely no good reason. From the outside, I have the perfect life. I live in an ideal and quiet beach town in Southern California. I have my dream job and have fabulous benefits. My office has a stunning view, and I have yet to drive to work without expressing gratitude at the scenery. I have access to all kinds of circles and events and have made excellent connections. But, over the past two years, I have become increasingly miserable despite all of the magnificence of my life…of my dreams coming true. Why?!

Because of the lying.

You’re asking me to tell the truth even though I know it will mean I will lose my job.

I’m not asking you to do this…YOU’RE asking you to do this. You’re miserable. How long will you continue to ignore your heart? 

But how come no one else is bothered by this?

Lots of reasons. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that it bothers you and you’re pretending that it doesn’t. And for what?

I then notice my body…full of aches, lethargic, anxious, teeth deteriorating, canker sores, digestive issues, food cravings. How did this happen? Why didn’t I notice before?

Lying. You have been lying to yourself. And, your body is reaping the rewards of that. The lack of integrity within you is being reflected in your body and your outer world.

Crap.

Now what.

Tell the truth. 

No matter what?!

No matter what. 

To sit in a room and tell the truth about my boss to her face and to administration? I’ll have to defend myself. I’ll have to provide examples. Can I do that? I realize that I can indeed…I realize that I have lots of examples. I realize I’m angry. I realize I’m frustrated. I realize just how miserable I am each day.

I squirm again.

To sit in that room and tell the truth and not back down? To tell the truth to people I know personally as well as professionally? To tell the truth and face ridicule? To tell the truth and experience even more harassment from my boss? To tell the truth and risk everything?

Do you really have any other options at this point?

I squirm. Again.

No. I don’t.

I squirm…and send an email to administration requesting a meeting.

It’s time to tell the truth.

 

The Void

At different points in my life, I’ve experienced what I have recently described as The Void.

I experienced The Void in moments of uncertainty or alienation as a child because I was different from my peers. I experienced The Void in moments of fear as the unknown approached me. I experienced The Void as I anticipated exciting events. I experienced The Void when we returned to the United States and everything I knew no longer existed. I experienced The Void in the moments of continued silence as my anguished cries yielded no response from Divinity. I experienced The Void as my parents divorced, my home disappeared, and my family evaporated. I experienced The Void as I journeyed to new places where I could learn about myself, my beliefs, and what I wanted my life to be. I experienced The Void every time I celebrated a birthday or holiday away from my family and loved ones. I experienced The Void as I faced the abandoning of childhood ways in order to more fully embrace who I knew myself to be. I experienced The Void every time I faced an empty bank account but held bills in my hand…or faced a move to a new job without knowing how it would be financed…or finding a new place to live…and many many many more situations.

At the time, I called these moments The Wilderness Experience or The Truth Facing or The Revealing. I didn’t understand what they were…but I knew they were profound…life altering…transformational.

Recently, I experienced The Void in a completely new, and very disconcerting way. For several months at the beginning of this year, I experienced a complete breakdown of the very essence of my being…the core of my identity in this dimension. Everything that I knew to be true no longer seemed to hold any certainty of truth. All my coping mechanisms crumbled…all my insights dissolved into nothing. The foundation on which I built my identity and my life slowly but surely disintegrated.

Grief overwhelmed me. For three months I had no words…no way to describe my experience…no way to share with my loved ones what was happening. Although surrounded by people, I was, in essence, completely and utterly alone.

And then, I surrendered. I allowed the grief to wash over me in waves and convulsions…even though I had no idea what I was grieving. I allowed the tears to flow…the sobs to clean my heart. I allowed myself to stay present and fully experience the gut-wrenching not-knowingness. I allowed myself to just sit…and be…and breathe…The Void…that space of nothingness…the in-between.

As The Void persisted, I gradually relaxed out of exhaustion. Soon, I found peace in this space…and as I surrendered to the peace, I felt comfort. Not in the warm, cozy way I’ve felt comfort previously. This was much more nebulous. I felt support and endless expansiveness. As I became aware of that space, I experienced disorientation and fear again until I found security in the openness of the support…the potentials. And then, I discovered the gift.

The gift of The Void is creation. In that space between the teardown and the rebuild lies all the potentials. It the place and moment where anything and everything is possible…all you have to do is make your choice. This womb of creation is the ultimate place of empowerment, personal responsibility, self-control, and determination. And, in that space, The Void speaks life, encouragement, enough-ness, being-ness.

Caitlin Matthews calls this experience, an encounter with the Black Goddess aspect of the Sacred Feminine. She calls Her the Black Goddess, not because of a particular color, or that in this form She represents evil. Rather, she calls Her the Black Goddess because She’s elusive, veiled, disembodied, yet “…at the heart of the creative process.” She identifies the qualities of this Dark Mother as being “…immanent and brooding with unknown and unguessable power, or as a Virago, a potent virgin.”

She continues:

The Black Goddess lies at the basis of spiritual knowledge…Our own search for the Goddess is one that is begun in darkness and unknowing. Ours is the knowing ignorance of the child in its mother’s womb: we have to be born, and we are frightened of the extrawomb dimension. Once out of that womb, we begin to be terrified of our origins. But one of the prophecies of Sophia is, “I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places (Isaiah 45:34).” Those treasures of the Divine Feminine lie deep within us, waiting to be discovered.

We have only to consider the mystical experience of the Dark Night, as exemplified by John of the Cross and other mystics. Within the darkness of night or the cloud of unknowing, we discover the heart of our spirituality. This is the seed of experience of spiritual growth, to be held fast in the dark earth, to suffer the coldness of winter, that germination may take place. It is return to the spiritual womb, in which we find the dazzling darkness spoken of by the mystical poet, Henry Vaughan

…This school of dark-night spirituality is found in most traditions that venerate the Black Goddess, not because she is sinister or evil, but because she is the powerhouse from which our spirituality is fuelled. It is a way of unknowing, of darkness and uncertainty. Yet the experience obtained by this path is one of illumination, when the sun shines at midnight…

…We fear the Black Goddess because we project our terrors onto whatever we do not know and what remains hidden from us…Communion with the Black Goddess is usually nonverbal, nonintellectual–it derives through the body itself, for she is our basic prima materia…Our fear of being exploded, diffused, or made chaotic may be our reaction to the idea of the Black Goddess who, like dark matter, “controls the structure and eventual fate of the Universe (John Gribben and Martin Rees).”

The Black Goddess is the mistress of the web of creation spun in her divine matrix.

She is not separate from it, for she is it.

I know this to be true…for I have tasted Her, and She is good.