Out of the shadows

I’m really noticing how the rhythms of my wellbeing follow, not just the patterns of the seasons or the weather but, particularly the equinoxes. As we approach the spring equinox this weekend, it flags up to me that every year, for well over a decade, this has been some sort of “power week”; a time of coming of age, stepping into a new layer of authority or freedom, awakening to deeper layers of myself, taking deep dives into places I might otherwise have feared to go, shaking off old shackles and claiming all that I am without compromise. The very event that I consider to be “my awakening” occurred in this same week during 2011 and this week is the anniversary of me starting this blog – also five years ago – which was one massive leap into the unknown and yet one of the best things I ever did. Like some sort of annual “launch party”, the events around spring equinox seem to play out like a two-week festival of self-realisation parties and spiritual crash mob surprises, a carnival of rebirth.

This year has been no disappointment, its been a BIG week in more ways than I can share, the highlight of which was an invitation to a powerful gathering at Avebury last weekend (that I was then brave enough to go to, for all I was feeling pretty unwell in the days beforehand and had  never  been to anything quite like it before). Its no exaggeration to say that some of the biggest healing of my life has been unfolding in these last couple of weeks, across layers of cellular memory that go very very deep, and looking up from this intense process I see, yet again, that oh, its spring equinox again, so what is that all about? Is this “just” a response in my cells to some sort of self-programmed alarm call, delivered by light, to wake me up to the fact that my power time is imminent and that far more is possible to achieve right now than at any other time of the year, an opportunity not to be missed?

Avebury tall 2Conversely, it is around the time of the autumn equinox that I tip over into extreme pain and exhaustion – every year, even this one, when I was never more determined that I wasn’t going to allow it to happen. This last six month has been one of the most challenging I have ever known, delivering layers and new types of pain that have had me feeling deeply out of my depth at times, pushed way beyond my tolerance barriers to where I have been seriously questioning whether the environment I am faced with as my reality, as a human in an over-stimulated world, is at all compatible with the body I came here equipped with. At times, my life has felt like a long, slow existential scream into the dark as I have faced-up to some of my darkest corners and genuinely questioned why am I here and do I really want to be if this is the way it is going to keep feeling  year after year. Yet somehow, I held onto the handlebars of a different perspective, even in those darkest moment; somehow, I know that it is the reliable expectation that the sun would once again rise over that equinox line that has kept me going all these long months…

I found myself wondering if all of this was my version of grounding myself; by making my health relative to the length of the shadows being cast upon the earth, was this “thing in common” with Gaia fabricating an attachment to the planet that I was otherwise struggling to maintain? Was this the string holding my balloon down to the soil that I might otherwise fly away from? Was I so inclined to pull back and see everything in the large that I was being forced to suck back in, closer and closer still, to where I am subjected to deep shadows that keep me here, literally feeling “in the dark” through the way my body feels, like having clods of earth shovelled over my head for six months of the year? Was this way beyond me super-empathising with the planet and much more like a version of the mirror touch synaesthesia that I am prone to, taken to an extreme where winter isn’t just something that is going on outside my window but is literally happening within my cells, freezing them solid, closing them down to a near-death kind of coma…Because that’s what it feels like when pain comes sweeping down out of seemingly nowhere and takes me over for those September to March months.

So deep have I  been in my plunge this time I now feel somewhat startled to find myself “back” once again, like shaking off a heavy dream and the blurred vision of half-sleep to blink in the bright, crisp familiarity of a room that I thought I would never again see again. Looking to my cosmic alarm clock – oh yes, equinox time, the quarter-year benchmark is near and here I am, rising again from my slumbers. Whatever this is, I know it is not simply weather dependent, a barometer of temperature, mould and damp, as the fact the winter has been especially mild, the blossom out in bloom for several months now, the flowers uniquely early, disproves that theory once and for all. My clock goes far deeper than that, seems to be all about the quanta of light coming in and the very angle at which those photons skim the surface of the earth, the intensity and directness of their message, the volume, persistence and unbridled enthusiasm with which they flood the earth.

My body is yet to catch up…but it is already starting to, I can feel it yawning and stretching, the pain dissipated or having second-thoughts rather than taking its familiar vice-like hold. I’m already more energetic, am up before half eight, writing spiels (in my head) before I even get up, am wanting to paint again (not just making myself do it), planning almost too much that I want to do in my days, multi-tasking in my kitchen while I wait for the kettle to boil, stretching cat-like into home-made yoga while I wait for slow things to happen. I’m booking ahead with relative confidence, feeling excited about nothing and everything, saying “yes” instead of “maybe”. In myself, I’m bubbly and irreverent, I’m finding funnies where there are none, I’m talking to myself, to trees and to birds on my walks, am putting on silly voices and playing around with my dog, I’m daring to think I may start dancing again, I’m firing off emails that may set balls in motion. I’m taking no nonsense, taking action where called for, rising up over things rather than sinking in drama, craving friendships that I haven’t even started yet, welcoming the spontaneous and opportunities to go places for no particular reason. It feels like I’m slipping back into that driving seat while my body sighs “Oh good, you’re back, I was beginning to wonder…” If there’s a really timely metaphor in it – and I know there is – its that I just picked up my new car and am exited to put it through its paces, am miles ahead already with where I want to go. I’m allowing myself to want things again – material things, fun things, silly things – and engaging with life on my terms with an “I’m worth it” kind of vibe fuelling my tank, taking it all less seriously than I was…because nothing much is forcing me to see a darker side like before.

Looking back, it feels like I have been living in shadows for a very sustained time, this time; long shadows that have kept me in the dark even as I have tried to outwit them by dancing around corners. Once those shadows start to shrink away (I know this from all the previous years), most of the pain, the heaviness, the exhaustion seems to float away of their own accord…so much so that I almost immediately start to question what I have been through, like it was a figment of my imagination, so quickly does the body pick up its pace and my cells start to tingle. As I quicken, they quicken and off they go again…until (what is it about blasted September) they just stop and take that deep plunge once again.

As these thoughts began to arise in my half-awake mind, some of the words that I had written in a previous post, about the portrait I have been working on, came floating back to me like a half-remembered melody in my half sleep, so applicable were they to all this. I had been talking about the fact that I struggled most with this painting when I sought to protect a portion of it from being changed; which was any part of it that I felt was my “best work” at the time I created it and so I would work very hard to preserve it, to step around it and make everything else that was newer fit around this older version of its evolutionary process, which only served to halt the evolution of the whole. I had come to realise that this “special quality” deemed so worthy of preserving, at all costs, was only relative to where I was at the time I created it and so, once I was prepared to pull back and look at the whole picture with new eyes, seen as it was now, I would quickly realise that this thing I had made sacrosanct was no longer this stand-out wonderful thing that I thought it was. Often (in hindsight) it was found to be quite mediocre and certainly not worth working so hard to incorporate into the current picture. Maybe it had even become obsolete, a hindrance to the cohesion of the whole. In short, I had outgrown it, evolved past it…habit and fear had kept it there…and it was time I let it go

What had once been the lightest point of the whole was now, possibly, casting the deepest shadow over it; and my aim as an artist is to create something cohesive and whole, not something fragmented into “good bits” and “bad bits”….just like my years are currently fragmented into good seasons and bad seasons. Once I was able to get over my profound fear of laying new paint over that which I once considered to be the very best I had ever done, recycling its parts into something even better, I was able to progress in a way that felt unfettered and divinely guided, something uncompromised and unconditional, led from the heart. So, how could this apply to where I am right now, in the picture of my life?

The key with the painting progress was to get over my fear of changing it, of scrubbing out or painting over that which had once seemed so important; something I had set the clear message to “step around” and preserve that I was now working hard to adhere to long after its message was relevant any more. So when had I made this deep dive into the darkness of winter so important? This need to withdraw and to protect myself? Had there been times in other lifetimes (yes, I know there have…) when this was necessary to do in order to survive? Back in a time when long deep shadows were used to gauge time passing, the change of the seasons, the rhythms that marked the stages of being human on a harsh, seasonal, planet where temperatures plunged, crops waned, sickness and hunger were inevitable and death was always close by; where the necessity to follow tight rules was made to feel synonymous with the desire to stay stay alive a little longer (we are so past that now but our cells are still catching up). Our cells still carry a coding that tells us that lack is a reality and that absence of sustenance from the hard winter soil meant, necessarily, withdrawing into a form of sleep-walking, of hibernation, until the sun came back again. I can only imagine how many other layers of trauma and pain hang around those seasonal associations in my DNA, playing out as the learned impulses of my own seasons…but I also know they have come up, ever more strongly for me now, with a great timeliness and necessity so that I can clear them once and for all. Seen from this perspective, the deep plunge of my winter suddenly takes on a whole radiant new light; newly recognised as the swan song of a long era reaching its end point and healing through my own reinterpretation of what has happened through me across all of my layers of experience – quite literally, what I have been through has been the plunging deep darkness before the incredible new dawn. This is a transformation that capitalises on all the very dark places that we may be aware that we have been in…lately or across multiple lifetimes, perhaps both…so if you have been feeling this too, know it was all with good purpose that this became active in you again recently because that is how transformation is made possible.

Once we are without fear of loss, we are at liberty to make the right choices for ourselves in a way that is no longer fettered and pinned down or motivated by “what might happen” if we don’t. Life is no longer relative, conditional or standing in shadow. Shadows rely on relativity, on seeing things at ground level where one thing casts a shape over another. Pulled back to a higher view, there are no such shadows. We tell the time by shadows…however, there is no time, no linearity, no process out there way beyond that kind of relativity, where things can be seen in the whole again. Out there, things become objective instead of subjective. We are able to take our human selves out of the equation, which can be profound as we often cast the strongest shadows of all upon our human lives since we can never be without them, not really, while we are physical beings attached to the earth. We all know that phrase “get out of your own way” and yet we get in our own way so often, so broadly, that we hardly notice where the shadows are coming from most of the time; we stand in a constant pool of them, relative to every circumstance we are caught up in as our human selves, the areas of light and shade that we immerse in.

We can become, quite literally, afraid of or own shadow or, you could say of our own mortality and the temporary nature of things. For when we are in that fear, we can become consumed by such thoughts of impermanence and all those things (health, livelihood, people, opportunities…) that, if we pay obsessively close attention to them, can seem to be slipping away from us rather than returning in fuller measure. Something about the darker times drives us deeply into those kinds of fears since we can feel as immersed in them as in the shadows and it can sometimes feel that we have nothing better to be doing, in dark times, than take measure of what we still have and what is slipping away.  We can even become deeply afraid of losing that which is most holding us back us, afraid of who we will be and what will become possible when we are without the long-standing antagonists of our experience, whether these are so-called outside circumstances or deep inner pain, because these can often feel like the longest companion we have known. Sometimes it can feel like we are but an inch from the very transformation we most long for if we could but allow ourselves to let go of the reassurance that can come from any situation, however dire, when it has become like the miserable dog that greets us at our own door day after day. Is this what pain has become to me, do I even know how to live without it…or am I prepared to at least give it a try?

Its interesting to find I am most without my pain when the shadows are less acutely angled, at times of the year when the sun comes down more directly onto my head so that the shadow I cast becomes at once smaller and most directly positioned beneath my feet where I don’t notice it; there feels like much to play with in that. Is this because our feet are meant to be our attachment point, this singular connection that we have with the earth, without that attachment becoming too exaggerated and the most pervasive thing about our experience here, to the point we can become utterly preoccupied by everything about our earthly experience to the detriment of all else. When shadows are longer or all-consuming to where there is no light, we become more conscious of them – try walking in the setting sun and play games with your own shadow walking along side you and then you will know what I mean…but, many times, we forget to be playful with our own shadow and make it all so deadly serious that we trip over it like it is a solid obstacle. At times when shadows are shorter, we seem to think far less about the meeting point between our human and spiritual selves that show-awareness makes possible (you just have to think about sunrise and sunset, how those are such powerful times for expanding your humanness into broader spiritual awareness to get what I mean). Yes, its great to play with that meeting ground if we are in that frame of mind…so, we can indulge a sunset for a few moments, like we are having a “spiritual experience” and feel transported within our human frame…but we can feel leaden with the misfit of our spiritual selves and our “little” humanness when shadow is everything around us – and its true, I go into a deeply “spiritual” place over winter but my human-self struggles with the need to integrate this more than at any other time. In summer, it feels far easier to get the balance right – to feel attached to the soil while I am at liberty to duck and dive into wide open spaces, like a skylark that is, in one moment, singing its exquisite song way-way up there in that patch of deep blue far beyond the cloud-cover and then earth swooping to tend to its nest on the shadowy ground the next. Like that bird, in summer I too seem to get the best of both worlds and transition between them seamlessly, without pain or particular challenge integrating two realities that, actually, merge as one.

Perhaps, for me, those times of “less shadows to think about” are easiest to deal with as they throw up far less of an obstacle for me to trip over since the meeting point between my human self and my spiritual self can become an uneasy one when it is made too deliberate or obvious; literally too “trying”. Everything I ever struggle with comes loosely under the heading of “being human”, like part of me is still not quite sold on the idea yet and is constantly asking “can I go home now”. Everything that frustrates me most comes down to the physical limitations, the annoyance of time and linearity, the fact I can’t fly from one place to the next or be in two places at once, the tedium of how slowly and predictably things go through their paces when I want everything yesterday and can already second-guess the outcome. I find I want to shout “hurry up” or “not that old thing again” to the skies a lot and can’t get why everyone doesn’t see the bigger picture and long to evolve faster; why some people don’t seem to give it a second thought. Although I understand “why I am here” better than ever before, I still struggle to fully appreciate the slowness of the human form and find it frustrating at the level of evolution that it is at, am already yearning for all the upgrades that I know to be out there somewhere, so perhaps the reminder that we are still living in shadowlands in a very early stage of our potential is the constant sore point, the rub, that frustrates my humanness to point of breakdown every year. It brings me crashing back to earth when I might otherwise keep myself a little looser in my attachment to it. That attachment, when it becomes overt, keeps me perplexed and uncomfortable; in short, it hurts and my cells deliver that frustration to me as hiccoughs in my health. Whilst I have know this for the longest time, this new layer of understanding, helped along by what my painting showed me about the sticking points that we protect, has helped me understand a way out of it as I allow a whole new perspective to birth from the dark soil of these last months.

So, maybe the key is to implant a reminder of what the lighter months feel like as a frequency in all my cells (to record the feeling of it more so than what it looks like – which only leads to disappointment when it doesn’t present as my seasonal reality) and to move that “pigment” around my experiential picture so that the lines between seasons become blurred more than they currently are. Perhaps I plant those reminders like seeds into the dark peaty soil of winter and focus more on the new growth that comes out of that, leading the way towards light even before I have come to register it with my senses; so that, like the early blossom, I can start to unfold even before the weather catches up, the clue to my own awakening before my eyes are even open. Maybe I work upon creating more organic earth-attachments – through friendships, things I enjoy doing outside of just “work” and family, that kind of thing – then maybe Big Mamma Nature won’t have to tie my balloon to the ground with such a big knot to keep me here. All these things feel useful to know and something that will help me get there when I’m in the temporary amnesia of winter time.

Avebury bannerFor me, there is much to process in this line of thought, especially on the topics of fear of loss and letting go of old patterns; the biggest one of all being that pattern that now has me expecting things to always be this way, year after year, dictated by the height and angle of the sun. I really thought I had this covered, in September, because I had had such a great summer and was determined I was going to have a pain-free winter. That determination became the very thing that equated to a fence put up around an enclosure with a sign reading “Do not enter, controlled experiment underway” nailed to the locked gate, turning the whole season into a survival project, a vested interest and the territory of very-likely disappointment occurring as soon as I felt even slightly off-par. In other words, it became the next big thing I was working so hard to protect and step around that it only tripped me up. Better to take down all the seasonal fences and blur all the lines; there will always be deep shadows cast out there beneath the darkening skies of winter but there doesn’t need to be one inside of me!

Suddenly I am feeling the perfect timeliness of having just spent a whole day leaning against the stones of Avebury with the sun on my face; the warmth of which I can still feel releasing quantum messages that continue to unpack and register their codes  in all my cells. Each stone that I greeted, I found myself instinctively embracing from its sunny side, resting my body against its warm platform, pressing my face into the  welcome hug of it, nestling my own curves into the natural folds of its weather-moulded hardness, seeking familiar crevices into which to weave my fingers…but always done away from its shadow side, bathed in radiant March light, receiving endless streams of light codes through my eyelids. Maybe that has something to tell me about how I am stepping out of the shadows now, into a light that is unconditional.

Perhaps parts of this post will resonate with others who find they closely follow the rhythms of the equinoxes, who find one season harder than another or who suspect the thing they most want to be rid of is also that which they are most attached to, or fearful of losing because it has simply been there for so long. Breaking out of patterns is what we are, surely, invited to do by our very attachment to them; for the more profoundly we feel them, suffer for them, feel the imprisonment of them, the more we dare to do something about them, are prepared to risk all to see what lies outside of them, to assert the authority of our desire to experience them another way rather than continuing to subject ourselves to what feels most non-negotiable about them; because nothing is really that solid or immoveable, even though it can seem that way from our human perspective. There is always another perspective…so I encourage you to pull back a little and feel into what that is. As we step back into our own power, we become the sundials to ourselves so much more  than we have been before and can choose where to direct our own areas of dark and light; then we find that, rather than seasons (or anything else, for that matter) happening to us, we are the walking arbiter of it all, directing where the shadow falls through our own chosen relativity to everything else playing out around us, like the standing stones on our own landscape.

Maybe, together, we are here to shake off the leaden weight of the long procession of equinoxes and all the seeming stuck points that have marked the coming in and out of shadowlands that we have long known as our reality so that we can paint ourselves into a whole new picture without the need for harsh transitions and extreme contrasts of light and shade to mark the forward momentum of our human experience. Perhaps its time to experience a multitude of demonstrations (as many “small” breakthroughs in all our personal stuck points…be those to do with health, abundance, relationships, our freedom to do what we really want…) as ways of recognising that we are all simultaneously moving beyond all those old the cycles that once gave us that feeling of false safety and of momentum; turning those old “round and round and round again” clock-face circles into the upward spirals that releases us up into something newer and easier to experience as our earth-bound human condition whilst being a step nearer to more fully exploring our spiritual one.

Related posts:

The power of portraiture – transformation through art

The blossom opened early


About Helen White

Helen White is a professional artist and published writer with two primary blogs to her name. Her themes pivot around health and wellbeing, expanded consciousness and ways of noticing how life is a constant dance between the deeply subjective and the collective-universal, all of which she explores with a daily hunger to get to know herself better. Her blog Living Whole shines a light on living with high sensitivity, dealing with trauma and healing from chronic health issues. Spinning the Light is an extremely broad-based platform where she elucidates the everyday alchemy of relentless self-exploration. A lifetime of "feeling like an outsider" slowly emerged as neurodivergence (being a Highly Sensitive Person with ADHD, synaesthesia, sensory processing challenges and other defecits overlapping with giftedness). All of these topics are covered in her blogs, written from two distinct vantage points so, if you have enjoyed one of them, you may wish to explore the other for a different, yet entirely complimentary, perspective.
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4 Responses to Out of the shadows

  1. catseybod says:

    Welcome back to the sunny side, good to hear. I’ve certainly been feeling the sap rise too, especially last Sunday and I’m sooo glad I went out and immersed myself in it (rather than putting it off as usual) as one’s had to look a bit deeper for it this week 😉 Funnily enough though, having felt pretty darn good during my winter hibernation I am finding the change of season, onset of menopause (probably), my new yin yoga practice (wonderful but very deep spiritually and possibly getting things moving in by body that have been long stuck), gradually increasing the proportion of veggie & reducing the alcohol in my diet (I blame you two, it must be catching) and various other nutritional experiments seem to be combining to make me feel a bit physically challenged myself. However as all the changes are positive I am trusting that my body knows what it is doing and believing that I am transitioning to more vibrant health. Happy Spring x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen White says:

      Blame away and I am glad to hear the yin, the veggie and the rest is starting to help, it all will. I’m certain the three months Ive been without a drink now have been the single biggest things Ive done for myself in a long time out of all the various health manoeuvres Ive done and I really don’t miss it at all. If you’re reading what I think you are you will no doubt get to the bit where it lays out the statistics of what (a little) alcohol does to women of our age when it comes to dramatically increasing health risks and theres no trade off for me when it comes to the good health that’s been elusive for so long. I don’t miss it at all, personally, and in fact it comes with he added benefit of greatly enhanced clarity and the reassurance that I find I’m capable of being funny and at least moderately good company without it 😉


  2. Pingback: Woken up by Roy…again | scattering the light

  3. Pingback: The power of portraiture – transformation through art | Helen White – Painting Light

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