I’ve never had a good feeling around limitation in any of its guises; be it the kind that directly undermines the most fundamental of life’s joys or the more subtle variety that takes the form of routine, timetables or commitment.
So strong has this dislike of limitation been in my life that I have come to recognise all of its many triggers…the way I start to prickle as soon as anyone tries to insist I do something their way; or that all enthusiasm for a project dissolves away as soon as I’m forced to engage with it in a particular time-frame or space. This trait has made me a terrible team-worker all of my life since I bob in and out of interaction with others as and when it suits me and not to a schedule or team goal.
Before I go off on another spiel of the personal variety, I’d like to point that I was drawn to explore this topic exactly because it seems to be so universal – this feeling that we are not as free as we would like to be, that life is some sort of compromise and we’re not really living it the way we would choose to – and as though we are born into this state of limitation, which only adds to the long-perpetuated belief that it is something to be put up with as an unfortunate fact of life.
Indeed, it is something we are born with if, as I have come to believe, the very energy of limitation is something we carry as a genetic imprint from the many other lifetimes in which we have encountered a hard-coated outer parameter to what is possible or allowed -the kind of lifelines in which circumstances were so horribly restricted that, for many, there was no way out of them except to leave that life behind. If so then, as a particular flavour of the experiential playground that is life, we have explored that one enough times now to put it down if we want to; we already have the badge, the trophy and the certificate on the wall.
Yet if we have come here this time to break free from our limitations, it is likely that we will have set ourselves up to experience a great deal of limitation in this lifetime because that’s how we get to play with the territory. Many of us set ourselves up with such tightly restricted lives that the very urge to break free from such a life is left almost nowhere to go – except into extreme frustration, breakdown and illness, and that’s somewhere that I’ve been too – and yet, as human consciousness has evolved, we have manifested a whole new and expanded range of options to play with when this kind of thing happens, without having to bail out.
No coincidence that, at the time my health fell apart, I had reached the very pinnacle of an entrapped feeling that had been building for years and was, to cap it all, firmly ‘tied’ to one of those soulless corporate desk-jobs that feel like a life-sentence. Yet, hidden within the very illness that resulted was the key to the door because it was the long journey to re-discover my health that took me along the route of expanded consciousness and so, ultimately, to a place where I came to realise that, not only are all our limitations of our own making but we set them up the very way that they play out in order to catalyse the expansion that is now growing out of them. In short, we do this to ourselves – meaning that lurking within every ‘problem’ there is a perfectly customised solution designed to progress us along in the journey we are on. I really feel like I’ve understood this for the longest time now – grasped all that ‘being ill’ had (past tense) to offer me on the road back to myself and a fuller experience of freedom – and yet, if that is the case, why do my health issues keep coming back for a replay?
So it seems that understanding something at the cerebral level isn’t the same as bringing that same expansive wisdom into play, especially when we equate expansiveness with leaving safety behind. As I’ve looked into this deeper, something I’ve come to recognise is how, even after we have managed to unlock the door and left it ajar in some aspect of our life that has been limiting us, we often choose to camp out in that familiar place for much longer, even calling this ‘freedom’ yet hesitating to step out into the truly liberating space that lies beyond.
You see, I’ve come a very long way with developing my ‘freedom consciousness’ this year (this phrase being borrowed from Story Waters as he’s been, in no small part, instrumental in how far I’ve come), enjoying a remarkable summer of flow, creativity and expansion – and some really exciting developments in both the art and writing aspects of my career. So, with disappointment and no small amount of despair, I’ve watched as the return to shorter days and autumn weather has ushered in all the same old, here we go again of ridiculously intense muscle pain, massive exhaustion and (yes) full-on physical limitation as in previous years.
I should interject here – on behalf of anyone reading this from the perspective of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue or ME – that where these kinds of illness are concerned, nothing is ever clear-cut as there are layers upon layer of potential triggers at play, from seasonal adjustments to changes in diet, chemical sensitivities and plain old-fashioned tiredness. Body matters aside, a lot of us are doing so much other work with ourselves – at the energetic level – that the push-pull experienced in our physicality as we integrate new growth spurts can temporarily knock us off our perch as well.
Perfectionist tendencies also tend to come with the territory for those of us with hyper-sensitivity of the physical and emotional variety and – especially where fronting a writing or coaching vehicle such as this blog where positivity is such a major theme – it can come as a challenge to admit to experiences of ‘relapse’ or not doing so well – and yet I would be doing a poor job as holder of light at the topics of life-energy-balance-evolution-consciousness-limitation-fear, and so on, if I failed to mention those inevitable moments of contraction that occur in between some very glorious moments of expansion
Another trait of the very-determined recoveree is that, after years of illness and related research, there can be a tendency to jump down hard on the very first signs of a relapse and I know I can become like a mad woman discharging an uzi of herbal remedies at myself when I reach this time of year. Important to address how much this ‘taking it all on’ and, in effect, ‘fighting it’ attitude is actually feeding the issue as though it were something coming from outside; which smacks of victimhood and something I would like to think that I laid aside a long time ago when I took responsibility for my own life. Nothing, I should add, is externally imposed – it is all a reflection of what is going on inside – and yet with this territory comes the risk of self-judging as we ask ‘why am I still creating all this unpleasantness for myself, how could it possibly serve me?’
(When we aren’t) in the flow
So, I’ve been asking, what happens in September that knocks me off my health perch? Well, the school routine starts over, my husband goes back to work…and I start telling myself I ‘must’ get back to painting, writing, networking, marketing, filing my tax return, increasing my profile, doing that course I signed up for, catching up on my piles of subscriptions and reading-matter… and so I start setting myself all these entirely self-invented deadlines, targets and imperatives. In short, I set about trying to paint and create to the defunct old structure of a traditional 9-to-5 job, which is ludicrous since as anyone that knows me well (and that apparently doesn’t include me!) would point out, I work most productively in wholly organic bursts of high creativity whenever these bursts happen to occur, be it straight after dinner, very early on Sunday morning or perched on the edge of a bath clutching an iPad in the middle of the night. And before anyone labels this a foible peculiar to ‘the artistic temperament’, I know people in so-called ‘conventional’ desk jobs who would dearly love to work this way and who just know (and I believe them) that they would be far more productive, more genius, more inspired and far far more relaxed and healthy if they were ‘given'(ahem) a choice to do so!
Four weeks ago, my routine was to wake up feeling refreshed and inspired (a good couple of hours later than I do now), enjoy a leisurely breakfast in my dressing gown, set up my desk under the canopy in a sunny garden and, between bouts of working, watch butterflies in the borders and sip tea as new inspiration came in with ease. It didn’t feel like work…I was completely in the flow and had some of my most productive weeks ever; writing, painting and networking, as new opportunities just seemed to be there for the taking as the natural bi-product of circumstances that felt synchronistic and, often, magical. My body, health and energy levels felt near-optimised and I would look forward to clearing my head on a dog walk once I’d reached a natural pause in the creative process, only to find that I would volunteer to do more ‘work’ when I got back…One golden-inspired day just seemed to flow into another and I woke feeling refreshed and excited to get on with things.
Now, I’m awake – and feeling grizzled – at 6.30am and bolt down a perfunctory breakfast before dashing out of the house in a flurry of forgotten school bags, drive the hour-long round trip to school in stop-start traffic before walking my dog for a further hour in the rain, frost or damp of the autumn morning… All that before I even get to put on the kettle and reach for my laptop or brushes to try and recoup some of the naturally-flowing inspiration that is often ‘just there’ for the plucking in those first few minutes after waking only, having been interrupted by several hours, will have become strained and overly-cerebral by the time that, stifling yawns and nursing body-aches, I sit down to do anything with it. My body feels so pain-ridden that I struggle to sit at a desk or use a keyboard for long and am having to prop myself up with cushions and heat-packs to make it all bearable.
One of the other things I’m acutely aware of is that – with life newly re-structured and back to its old routines – I feel suddenly time-poor, all of time. Forever glancing at the clock, I’m aware of a relentless feeling of mild anxiety that hovers over me as a result of this apparent time-leakage that makes the school pick-up come around with alarming rapidity – marking the point when the window of creative opportunity closes down for yet another day. By late afternoon, I feel frustrated, defeated and more than a little cross at having achieved, at best, a small fraction of the ‘work’ I’d laid out for myself to do.
On closer scrutiny, I see how I overlook all those (many) things that I do achieve in my day – the accidental networking moments with people met online, the spontaneous blog post that flies off the cuff, the new leads that take me off at a tangent yet which are seeds sown for a future day. For some time now, I have equated work with ‘play’, as something organic, unpredictable and fun. Measured only against what we ‘set out’ to do according to some invisible schedule or out-moded concept of achievable targets, our days and weeks can feel hopelessly ineffectual; but isn’t the real problem the fact that we strive to measure this new way of operating – this all-new freedom consciousness – against any traditional benchmarks at all?
Hmmm… It suddenly struck me that, for all I’ve created this roomy and creative space for myself, the only time I allow complete and utter flow is during the school holidays because I have the excuse of them. The rest of the time, as lives around mine slip back into routine, I switch to focussing all my own efforts upon filling the (potentially) creative void with routine, commitments, a timetable, imperatives…in short, with shape and structure of that kind that while it (subliminally) reassures, it also imposes limitation and interrupts flow. Underlying some of this reaction was, I now realise, guilt – the kind that comes with knowing you’ve already created far more flux and fluidity for yourself than is currently enjoyed by others in your household, people you love…who you wish could enjoy more flux and fluidity too. At some level, its like slamming the brakes on, for fear that any more freedom claimed would be obscene, greedy and unfair to those you care about.
Another trait that I have identified in myself is a very common one – that, even when we have made our own lives looser and more comfortable, we continue to take on everyone else’s stuff as our own, their school politics or bad day at the office – to the degree that we might as well be going through it all (again) ourselves. Important to remember that we are of far more service to them – and ourselves – when we remain grounded and emotionally detached from their drama and, in identifying this important role, it is possible to find some justification (not that any is necessary…) for the glorious spaciousness that we have claimed for ourself.
Yet, as ever, you can be sure that if pain and restriction flags up in your body, it is your body flagging up to YOU that your freedom is being compromised, given away or that the structures you have in place in your life are not keeping abreast with the expansion in your consciousness – because we are all far from static in this respect and, if you’re even reading this, that includes you. In my own case, if I am feeling restriction to my being then, I have come to realise, it is because the ‘skin’ of my life is proving too tight for my newly expanded energy field – for, whilst this September might feel (on the surface) to be much like any other September, at the energetic level I have expanded so much in just one year that no way can I expect to just say to myself ‘OK, lets just get back to the routine, back to work, back to the grind’ and for this to feel comfortable…either in my energy field or, as the communication frontier of that field, in my body. Without self-judgement, I see now that it was not realistic of me to expect that of myself and that these incredibly strong reactions in my body have been a prompt to stop, or at least slow down, and to listen to what it is telling me.
As with everything along the consciousness route, it all begins with self-love and that can only come into play when we focus, pay attention, listen and respond to ourselves, from a state of awareness. Yet, how often do we prioritise listening to ourselves or even practice it at all? I’ve yet to come across a timetable or routine that factors self-nurturing in as a genuine consideration, let alone a priority. By the time pain has been resorted to by the body, it is fair to say that it has reached a point of feeling it has to shout to be heard!
Also at the core of the consciousness perspective is the understanding that no one else can limit our freedom and so if we are experiencing lack of freedom in some aspect of our life we can be quite sure that this is a reflection of our energy field, as every aspect of our external life circumstances always is. If we are imagining that others hold the key to our circumstances, then we are out of our flow because when we are openly connected to source, and in full possession of freedom consciousness, we realise we are uninhibited. Once we ‘get’ this, the realisation that something outside of ourselves appears to be encroaching upon us flags up the question ‘OK, what block have I set up for myself here; why am I out of the flow?’ and in addressing this, we can start to work our way back into alignment with what does serve, what does feel right.
In my own life, getting back into a place where I am making time for myself – even from within the structure of life’s least negotiable routines – is always the very soundest first step. Making time for a soak in the bath before my morning routine today, I headed off to the tub with my headphones and an audio to listen to. With beautiful synchronicity, I discovered that the next audio in the series from Meredith Murphy’s ‘Soar Fest‘, which I am currently signed-up for, was so staggeringly ‘on topic’ that I almost gasped. She asked me to consider what my energy field looked like and so I closed my eyes and allowed an image to flood my mind.
Interestingly, what came to me was a vision of the huge quantity of blackberry jam I’ve been making since the weekend (for exactly what reason, I haven’t been quite sure since I don’t really eat all that much jam…and so I now wonder if it was expressly to supply my with this excellent metaphor because); what came to mind is the bit when, to test the jam is ready, you put some on a cold plate and push it with a finger to see if it wrinkles and puckers. The very moment I asked myself ‘how do I imagine my energy field to look’, I had this analogy in my head that I am mostly like the hot fruity jam in the big cauldron, bubbling, flowing and bursting with ripe fruitfulness and flavour until…suddenly…I hit the cold plate and then as things come ‘poking’ at me – problems, commitments and anything that I perceive as nudging me away from freedom consciousness – my smooth surface puckers and pulls, holds the shape of every minor drama that passes me by and, around the same time, a skin starts to form as the ‘jam’ begins to set. Interesting analogy, I thought…but do I really want to stand by and watch as my fruitfulness turns into JAM?
Outgrowing our ‘skin’
We make jam because we wish to preserve all the glorious fruit of summer… and when think about skin of any kind, our thoughts automatically turn to preservation or, in our own case, self-preservation.
However fruitful and unlimited we set out to be in the high-optimism of early life, the combined effect of our learned belief systems, cultural norms and a hefty amount of social pressure – and all in the face of an overriding impulse towards self-preservation – is that we tend to become set in our ways, forming an outer ‘skin’ that acts as a demarkation line between the most extreme point of relaxation we allow ourselves and…well, who knows what, but we are generally too afraid to go there. Yet, for all its supposed protection, this ‘skin’ also inhibits growth and keeps so much of the ‘flavour’, the potential, of all that we are, locked in by inhibiting the expansion of consciousness, keeping us compact enough to fit an inflexible outer layer that we have learned to scale down to.
Yet (just imagine), without this self-imposed outer limit, and as consciousness expands, our energy also expands…which has a knock-on effect on what kind of experiences and opportunities present themselves to us and so our creativity also expands…So then we seek out more consciousness-expanding experience and so our energy expands again and our creativity expands some more…on and on and on, without any limit to what is possible whatsoever. This is what it is to live in true creative flow and it is available to everyone, not just the artists in our midst. As the creators of our own lives, this is a mindset that alters everything, enabling us to keep harvesting our own potential in a way that is as self-replenishing as it is expansive. It allows us to bring the very fullness of our unlimited potential down into our bodily form and enjoy all that we are, at the most universal level, within the living reality of being here on earth.
Suddenly I see it: when our energy body outgrows the limitations we have set for ourselves in the physical world, the very tightness that results causes pain and – yes – physical limitation; flagging up to us just what the problem is and – when we choose to look into it more deeply – ways we can address this, using sensations in the body as our guide to what best serves us in our unlimited state…
So, Meredith’s audio went on to ask what qualities of my being do I love embodying the most and I quickly came up with a list that included freedom, flux, flow, fluidity, playfulness, fun, radiance, colour, expansiveness…nothing hard and fast, restrictive, limiting or routine. Like the true synaesthete that I am, I like to mix each day up as it comes along, often setting off to write on a particular topic then going off on a musical detour or fact-finding adventure which feeds back into something I’m painting, which started with the walk I just did and some pictures I took and which all takes me back to wanting to write my blog about what inspired me and how, whilst painting, I realised something important to do with what I was thinking about earlier…None of this can be planned nor should it be; there is no place for planning in the truly creative process since that limits the outcome to whatever can be anticipated and so has, by definition, been experienced before. The same goes for life…our true potential is only realised by aligning with flow and heading out into unexplored territory, allowing us to spiral upwards – like the coiling peel of an apple – rather than going around and around in the endless circles of where we have already been before.
Embracing the void…not filling the void
One final point from Meredith’s audio, which returns me back to how I began this post: an inherent pitfall when we create new space in our lives is that we may not initially experience or recognise it as space but, rather, as emptiness, loss (of direction, structure, security…) or fear. Yet, if we allow ourselves to fear it, we miss the very gift of it and the fact that we intentionally created it – we made this happen. Instead of joyfully declaring ‘its here, its what I wanted, I got it, I did this, hurrah!’ we stand petrified on the edge of the very void we manifested, desperate to refill it with anything that will stop it from looking like a void…be it domestic routine, made-up deadlines, the belief that we must go out and solve other peoples problems, even the kind of illness that provides an excuse for us to be sitting there doing nothing because we are all so deeply programmed with the belief that this is simply not ‘allowed’.
Yet, what we really need to do is embrace the void, welcome it as what we always wanted and before we become too irretrievably set in our ways to enjoy what can take some considerable getting used to (the reason why people who have spent their whole lives dreaming of retirement often die prematurely from the late-life shock of confronting the very freedom they’d always longed for when it finally manifests). After all, as conscious-types we all know that, just because we aren’t ticking something off a ‘to-do’ list and running around in a blur of activity is not to say we are energetically stagnant; in fact, some of the most significant energetic ‘work’ of all gets done when we are pulled right back from all activity.
My summer of flow manifested out of the profound state of abundance and gratitude that I was feeling for my life, my garden, my sunshine, my unstructured days, my creative flow…and not directly, in my opinion, out of the work I happened to complete while I was enjoying myself . The ticket here is to identify what you are most grateful for in your life and make sure you are surrounding yourself with experiences of that, daily – including when you are sat at your desk. If necessary, move the desk!
Feel the fear and do it anyway
So if energetic work is where its all at, why do we still insist on measuring ourselves by how much we can be seen to be doing? The trouble is that so many of us get caught up in apologising to others – for how we fear they might perceive us – when we get into this new territory. I admit that I have been beating myself up for weeks for turning down various social commitments that don’t fit with how I am feeling right now, convincing myself that I am letting people down, appearing anti-social and yet (I know) real friends will always be there another day and will completely accept and understand; no explanation necessary. Likewise, when we clear out the kinds of commitment and structure from our lives that feel culturally imposed and which we know are no longer working for us, we can become swallowed up with fear that we may be judged for seeming detached, uncaring or to have become a societal ‘drop-out’, someone who shirks responsibility…the list goes on and on – all complete nonsense because, if left to our own devices, we are about to be come more inspired, more productive than ever before. These fears, in all reality, are no more than the (lurking) self-judgement that we are pointing back at ourselves, and can be dropped as soon as we recognise that.
In my life, seeking to apply all this new insight as I confront my own void, it still feels (I’ll be honest) like standing at the edge of a precipice. Will the canyon below really not swallow me up if I haven’t turned out a dozen paintings by half-term or rushed around like a blue-arsed fly every day? Is it acceptable to alter my dog’s routine to suit me, so that I walk when I want to walk, and when its warm or dry, so that it goes back to being an opportunity to connect with nature instead of a chore? What about that mentorship course I’m on, those webinars that I keep missing, will I fall behind, miss opportunities, because my eye is only on the ball when I want to have it on the ball? Will I still have any friends if I continue to say ‘no’ when no is the only answer that feels right? What about writing when I’m meant to be painting, painting when I’m meant to be writing, doing both at the same time or neither for a whole week…is there even life after such recklessness?
Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.