Well… that was intense. I don’t really want to write about it, because it’s kind of embarrassing. But I’m going to, because She wants me to talk about what She’s taught me recently. And because admitting publicly that I don’t always have my shit completely together is the antidote to perfectionism.
I spent much of December in a sort of healing frenzy, shuttling between sessions with different practitioners and pulling stuff out of my body and psyche like I was in some kind of Olympic pentathlon event for personal transformation. I did so much work, I needed the past two weeks to recover. This last week I’ve mostly spent alone, with a couple of trips to the market for supplies and minimal internet time. It was only when I slowed right down that I saw the trap I’d fallen into, described here for your amusement and (perhaps) recognition.
For the sake of this explanation, I’ll call it spiritual perfectionism. For me, it shows up and plays out through these three related beliefs:
- there is (still) something wrong with me because
- spiritual perfection is possible but I’m not there yet and if I can just find the right combination of therapies and practices and prayers, I’ll attain nirvana (that place where I’m really fucking holy, all the time and forever) and
- until I’m perfected, with all my issues cleared and sorted for all time, I can’t possibly step back into the world of relationships and work. (Especially if I presume to think I might actually be able to help anyone else deal with the sort of experiences I’ve walked myself through in the past few years… as part of my work. No – for that ESPECIALLY, I need to be perfect.)
Note: Please forgive the sarcastic tone. It’s just that as I’m writing this, I’m actually boring myself with this old, tired plot line. I’m taking that as a positive sign that I’m about ready to let it go.
So my ego-mind, who sees its job as to make up stories, had created a beautiful tale weaving together the end of Saturn in Scorpio and the Mayan Calendar Blue Castle of Chaos and Transformation and Pluto conjunct Uranus to create a window of energetic opportunity for major clearing and healing from early November until end December. And all of that astrological convergence may well have been extremely helpful, because I certainly did blow through a lot of old stuff. But underneath that elegant and pleasantly cosmic rationalisation lay another story, which was unacknowledged and way less cosmic – one that sounded more like this:
I need to get back in the world and start working again soon and I’ve signed up for this intensive immersion to create my own business starting in January, which means I’m going to be busy after that with much less time to do inner work, so (calculating backwards) that means I need to reach nirvana/get enlightened/deal with all my shit/fully embody my Soul by the end of 2014.
I told you it was embarrassing.
Please let me be very clear about this: there’s nothing wrong with doing intensive inner work – because every time one of us clears some old, heavy consciousness and raises their frequency, we all get a contact high. I’m incredibly privileged and grateful to have the time and resources to do this deep dive right now. It feels like I’m consolidating all that I’ve experienced and learned and worked through over the last 5 years, which have themselves contained several extraordinary adventures down the rabbit hole and back up again. It also feels like this sprint will give me a springboard I can use to create some momentum for the process of coming back into the world. But what’s a little ‘off’ about the intensity of this most recent period is the whole truth about my intentions.
This past month (and for most of the past year) the flavour of my spiritual perfectionism has been “I’m not fixed yet because I’m not fully embodying my Soul at all times”. What I realised this week is that my ego had formed a picture of what ‘embodying my Soul’ looked/felt/sounded like. And it was predicated on some kind of grand revelatory experience, much like the experiences Sera Beak describes in chapters 20 and 21 of Red, Hot and Holy. Yep, I’d fallen right into the bear pit that is comparison.
Apparently nothing less than a near-perfect replica of Sera’s adventures with the Red Lady was going to be good enough. I wanted proper multidimensional fireworks. And in a display of gobsmacking arrogance, my ego actually thought she could place an order for delivery of those divine fireworks by a specific deadline. What’s even more hilarious is this: Sera has been at great pains to emphasise, both in her writing and in my presence, that the outcome of her most mystical experiences in the Red Tent has not been that she ‘fully embodies her Soul at all times’. She has said, repeatedly, that she is still a human being who sometimes falls flat on her face and winds up ‘with shit in her hair’ (that kind of honesty is one of the things I most admire her for). Sera has also been extremely clear that everyone’s experience of getting to know their Soul will be unique: “I hope this goes without saying, but you don’t need to have visions or cosmic experiences, you don’t have to pop past-life pimples or go through a dark night of the soul in order to realise your Self… you just gotta pay attention.” But as I’ve said before, my ego is pretty sneaky and I had to slow right down last week to see clearly what was going on.
Luckily, once I caught a whiff of the self-deception and stated a new intention – to get quiet and (once more) invite my Soul to come closer – She was willing to help me out.
A few days ago, after yet another torturous meditation session (where I spent half an hour trying and failing to get out of my head and into my body and to FORCE my Soul to join me there) I walked out to my deck, which hangs over the side of the rock and overlooks the valley below. I asked the wind and the sky and my Soul a bit dispiritedly (and to be honest, a little petulantly) “where ARE you?” In the next moment two huge wedge tailed eagles appeared, riding the thermals, hovering exactly at my eye height and soaring together with their glorious two-metre wing spans almost touching.
“I’m right here” She replied.
And I realised: what if there’s nothing wrong with me or Her or how we are together today? What if most of these practices and teachings are actually just pushing Her away? What if She’s right here, just waiting for me to be right here with Her?
To be clear: there are a pair of wedge tailed eagles living somewhere near my valley. I’ve seen them before but don’t see them often and I very rarely see them flying at the same time. So their sudden appearance together and right in front of me certainly got my attention. And Her voice was very loud and very concise and very clear.
After digesting this message and watching the eagles play on the thermals for a while longer, She suggested I take a dance break. So I went inside and pulled up Pandora and was looking for a playlist to shuffle when a song (which I’d never heard or played before) began playing completely at random and by itself (She loves using Pandora for this). It made me laugh out loud and sob with gratitude and dance my feelingsorryformyself ass around the house, all at the same time.
After my dance break, I googled the wedge tailed eagle totem. Apart from being a messenger of Spirit and a symbol of Soul, the Australian wedge tail in particular is known as ‘the persecuted king’ (because it’s the only bird of prey in the Western world that it’s still legal for farmers to shoot and kill – I know, don’t even ask me). I’m pretty impressed that my Soul was able to arrange those particular birds to appear at that moment and point out to me that perfectionism achieves nothing, except to enable me to persecute myself.
The next day, She showed me a very clear image of what it looks like when my ego gets so caught up in a story of separation that I start hiding from Her. It was beautiful, so I tried to capture it using paint and pencils and paper.
My ego is the black dot in the bottom left corner, insisting I’m all alone. I’m so internalised that I’m not aware She’s all around me, ready to enfold and embrace me. All it takes is for me to stop, breathe into my heart and be willing to see Her.
The same day, She also nudged me to listen to a webinar that presented me with a simple but incredibly powerful perspective shift. What if, rather than my Soul living in my body, my body lives in my Soul? In other words, instead of thinking of my Soul as something outside of me that I can eventually embody (ie. through lots of practices and trying really, really hard) perhaps I could think of my body as simply the dense core of the multitude of energetic layers that constitute me in this dimension (and all the other dimensions, if you want to go there too).
My ego-mind both loves and hates this idea, because it takes away any need for effort on my part. The single most important thing I can do to ‘embody my Soul’ is to want it so badly my heart catches fire. Which is not a problem.
So where am I left after my excursion into spiritual perfectionism? For a start, humbled and beyond grateful for my Soul’s unconditional love for me, Her infinite patience with me and Her wicked, creative sense of humour. I’m also fairly confident that our communication channels are open (providing I have ears to hear Her) and that our relationship will continue to unfold and deepen, in perfect timing.
Beyond that, it’s really simple. Every time I ask if I should do some specific practice today to connect more closely with Her, She keeps telling me to let it go. At first I kept asking “Let go of what? And HOW do I do that?” It took me a little while to understand that my ego’s instinctual drive to do it/get it right plus its desire for constant entertainment/distraction and the fear of missing out will combine to create a restless seeking that will continue for (many more) lifetimes, if I let it. And it’s taken me a while to get that what She actually means is “let go of the question… and then let go of the answer”. That’s a work in progress. All I can do for now is to keep noticing the urge to control and manipulate the reality of my experience in this moment and keep dropping it. Over and over again, a thousand times a day.
As my favourite contemporary mystic (Buffy) says, the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. I’m tired of chasing transcendent spiritual experiences for their own sake. And I am determined to live in this body, as this body and through this body. So most of all, I’m left with a renewed commitment to come off the rock and back into the world fairly soon and to actually be here without chasing what’s over there, just out of reach. And ‘here’ means the heart… the burning, red hot heart. Of me. Of Her. Of us.
Because guess what? I can be useful in this world without nailing every single one of my ‘issues’. I don’t have to hunt down and understand every instance of loss from every lifetime in order to help others deal with loss right now. I can light a path for women who are willing and ready to connect with their grief, while still dealing with grief myself. In fact, it’s quite helpful I have some of my own grief left… because it’s easier to sustain compassion by maintaining a capacity to go there myself. And the heart is a muscle that needs to workout regularly to stay in good shape. And because perfection isn’t actually believable.
In other words, I am allowed to be human. As I grant myself that permission, She sighs with relief. Because that’s all She really wants from me, ever.