I’m still easily surprised when I realise that I have overcome, or I’m in the process, of overcoming something. It feels so magical. Especially because I used to believe that I’d be kept prisoner by my thoughts and beliefs, telling me that I’d never be able to overcome anything. I picked up my notebook that I was journaling in earlier on the train. And, it fell open onto a page that I haven’t looked at since I wrote it down many many months ago. Around 5 months ago. The pages hold notes of an amateurish Tarot reading I gave myself. At the time I guess the issues the cards were telling me I had to work through seemed quite overwhelming. And I didn’t really know how I was to work through them. So I never gave my analysis much thought. Accidentally opening my journal to these pages, though, struck me as incredulous because I overcame (mostly) these very problems during my time at Buddhafield. I still feel rather in awe at what happened. It was my pathway to people.
On the 18th July, I returned from my 7 day adventure. And my, what an adventure it was.
What an adventure it was.
I am deeply grateful. I volunteered at a festival called Buddhafield. Mostly, when going to a festival, or going abroad, or going on a night out even, or even to a meditation class, I’ve always held the thought, a slight expectation, a modest hope, that I would meet someone. Or to at least have some sort of romantic experience. However, the expectations I have held, compared to the reality of how I actually am with others, well, it didn’t match.
“If I can’t be open and vulnerable with strangers,” I thought, “then how can I possibly connect in the way that I so deeply wish to?”
Although it was more of an overriding feeling rather than a clear-cut thought. And this has plagued me. As, what am I to do if I am being triggered and closing myself off? What am I to do if I’m not even aware that I’m doing this? Why does it seem to take me months of knowing someone before I can really, you know, relax? To let my guard down. To let my skin, my boundaries, melt. I haven’t been doing myself any favours believing that people first need to earn my trust before I can trust them. As it is this that prevents me from developing deeper connections. I’m not here to blame myself, though. It is a natural reaction to what I’ve been through.
I haven’t been writing no-where near as much as I have wanted to over the past 6 or 7 months. But then that isn’t to say that I haven’t been using my time wisely. I’ve been focusing on my healing. Observing how I’m guided. In the past, writing has acted as my tool for self-healing. But now that has changed. I have healed my PTSD. I have healed my fears of talking about suffering from PTSD. I have healed my shame around the topic. For a time I thought, “Oh goody! Everything is now healed!” And then it started to become more and more apparent that I had so many open, unattended wounds with my dearest Intimacy. Platonic and romantic. Which is what my Tarot reading brought up. However, it has been easy for me to fool myself. Thinking that I had overcome pretty much everything. You see, when I spend time by myself I feel amazing. I feel Love and acceptance and joy and trust coursing through my body. I feel knowingness, I feel humble, I feel grounded, I feel clarity. However, I had forgotten to observe how I actually am around people I don’t know so well. Bringing people into the mixture changes everything. Maybe you’ve recently met me and you’re wondering what I’m on about. Thinking that I am open. See, I feel that by being open with words leads to a connection. As it usually allows for the other to then feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable. But also because the walls that I’d usually have up against my heart, for in that moment, have dissipated into the realms of the fearless. But I have learnt from my time at Buddhafield that an openness with words alone isn’t enough. It doesn’t have enough depth, not for me, anyway. It only demonstrates one aspect, one dimension of a multi-dimensional experience of connection. By not being fully open to others, I am not able to fully express myself. And then this makes me feel lonely. As something that I desire so greatly is to be able to fully express myself and to be lovingly accepted for it. To feel alive and free. And to be alive and free with others. What I have learnt from Buddhafield is that once I have initially opened myself up, revealing my past without shame, I close my heart quickly.
“That’s enough,” I say, “I’ve shared 5 seconds of myself. That’ll do.”
I can only take my vulnerability so far, it seems. Or rather, I could only take it so far. Now that has changed.
I had actually come to a place of acceptance that it takes me longer than most to feel comfortable around others. But, alas, this acceptance dissipated amongst the humming atoms in the air, rather quickly actually, rather fiercely; leaving me feeling fragile. Taken by a strong gust of wind far away from my grasping, during the first half of my time at Buddhafield.
Buddhafield ignited my fears of being rejected by a group of people. It came up so strongly that I closed myself off further. Before starting a shift we would all sit in a circle and state how we were doing. On one day, in particular, I felt alone and fragile. I felt as though I’d never have the guts to approach a stranger and start a conversation. Especially when it meant approaching a group of strangers. I was being incredibly hard on myself. When it got to me to speak up about how I was feeling, I lied. The fear of showing my pain and being rejected for it was strong within my eyes. If I was to open up I was afraid of the tears that might have fallen.
And, once the tears start, I can’t stop them.
It’s as if the tears fully take over my whole being. A tsunami rippling powerfully throughout my body. Ending when it is ready. Completely out of my control. I guess the fear is in letting go of control in front of people who have the power to reject me. Even though, these people were the least likely people to reject me that I’ve ever met. In a group setting, that is. While on this topic, I would like to thank all of the people who cried in front of me and bared their hearts and souls. I am so grateful for your strength and vulnerability.
It made me realise how unable I am at melting my boundaries in front of people. How unable I am at asking for what I need. Feeling as though my needs are too much, somehow.
As though my needs are unworthy of being met.
It was a shock to my Being. I hadn’t known this about myself. It became even more apparent at how guarded I am after a conversation I had with one of the ordained Buddhists. I had just finished a 5Rhythms class, and when I dance, it feels like the ultimate way for me to express myself. To express myself exactly as my spirit desires. I feel safe in the space that is created for a 5Rhythms class to let everything go. To let go of all inhibitions. To let myself be seen. To let my body express itself exactly as it needs to. I allow my body to move, to unfurl, to curl up, to unfold, my heart wide open and exposed. In this dance, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what others think of me.
Because, I feel free.
And this expression is golden.
After the class I went to the Crew Food tent to fill my belly. And I bumped into said Buddhist. He gazed at my face, and said, “Your face looks softer. Less defensive.” He obviously saw the look of horror on my face and he quickly went on to say, “Oh no it isn’t a bad thing. It’s our human nature. To change between being open and defensive.” To which I went on to explain my openness due to dancing. I hadn’t realised before this conversation, that, if I pay close enough attention, how I can subtly feel the tension in my muscles, especially around my face, heart and shoulders, alerting me that I have a guard up. Saying to me loud and clear,
“You’re trying to protect yourself. Your heart is closed. But it’s OK. My darling it‘s OK. You are safe.
You are safe.
My dear Bethany, you can melt. You can relax, and stand in your power. You are loved and you are accepted. If only you knew how loved you are.”
I was still a little bewildered by his comment. But only because I was afraid of being seen. And, I didn’t want to be defensive. I had to rush off to a workshop called Focusing. Which I was feeling a little apprehensive about. I was feeling delicate. Despite the recent 5Rhythms class. What if the workshop was to bring something up and I was to burst into tears? What if it had me dive deeper into what I was currently aware of? It required partner work you see. So my partner’s eyes would be solely focused on me. Fortunately, no tears did arise. Although I would really like to get to a place where I feel comfortable in having a breakdown in front of others. Knowing that I’m not asking for too much. The Focusing technique is incredible by the way. The facilitator asks you, “What’s stopping you from feeling good? What’s stopping you from feeling as good as you possibly can right now?” I was too afraid to focus on what felt to be my biggest problem. So I chose the second biggest: “I’m afraid of missing out. There are just too many potential people to connect with. Too many incredible workshops to attend. But, my fear of missing out is creating, even more, fear. It’s taking me away from the present moment. It’s making me look away from my current experience. I’m falling into the pattern of believing the grass is always greener on the other side.” Once we have determined the issue, we pinpoint where it is in our bodies, by simply feeling for a sensation. Any sensation. And all we had to do was describe what we felt; whether any images or words came to the surface of our consciousness. And our partner would reflect back to us. The sensations I felt in my body changed numerous times. Mainly moving from heart to throat. From throat to heart. Getting hotter and more compact, creating a feeling of a blockage. Then after many movements from heart to throat and vice versa, it began to expand. And then, and then it began to speak to me:
“I just want to be loved and accepted…”
The sensation felt like a scared and hurt child.
“Won’t you care and love for me how you wish to be cared and loved for…?”
It said with the tone of someone who had nearly given up. A strain noticeable within the tones. If the voice had a body, you would be able to see the pain, the weakness, the fear. A look that so deeply says,
“Please, won’t you recognise my pain? I can’t bear to say the words out loud. Here, I will open myself only a little. Enough, enough for you to get a tiny glimpse into my world.”
I then began to feel frustrated. One because I’ve known this for over a year now. I had a really powerful experience where my chakras spoke to me, informing me that I should treat them somewhat as separate entities to the main voice within my mind. That they have their own separate needs that I should honour. Their own personalities. Yet I hadn’t been doing this. And I also felt frustrated because of the time it takes to properly and fully look after oneself. And then I felt further frustrated for feeling frustrated.
As I could feel the open and vulnerable child that was the sensation wanting to retreat.
As if the sensation wanted to say,
“I’m sorry for bothering you. I’m sorry for taking time away from you. If my needs aren’t important then I’ll retreat back into the shadows. I know I’m not important.”
So I apologised. Deeply. And I stayed with my sensation. And as I write this, I can feel the fragility… and all I can say in this very moment, to you who are reading this, please, please be kind to yourself. Show yourself the gentleness that you deserve.
I left the workshop feeling very vulnerable but clearer. I felt light but delicate. I couldn’t quite face people, so I retreated to my tent. And an overwhelming, yet a soft urge to cry, came forth and shook my body. At first, I tried to fight it. “Nope. I’m at a festival. I want to enjoy myself.” Then I quickly remembered how crucial it is to listen and surrender to the body.
So I softly cried and shook.
I picked up my pen and paper and wrote:
‘I want to be with somebody who will hold me while I let my guard down.’
When I was suffering from PTSD episodes, in my sorry state all I wanted in those moments was to be held by someone who wasn’t afraid of my suffering. To be held in the arms of someone who would make me feel safe while I trembled in terror.
Before arriving at Buddhafield, I thought that I had overcome my fear of people. As I have met many wonderful people in Hebden Bridge who have made me feel very safe and accepted and welcomed. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that anything to work through would come up. And yet, there I was, deeply feeling as though I needed to be held.
However, after writing my desire I Let It Go to the Universe. I have come to a place in my life now, that I know all I have to do is recognise my desire. Desire is incredibly powerful, especially when it is from a cracked open heart. The Universe hears it loud and clear. And that’s it, that’s all we have to do (kind of, as there is always more): life happens, we react (internally), desire (want) is created, it is received by the Universe, and then we simply have to find the path of least resistance and let life happen.
I emerged from my tent feeling heavy yet gentle.
I felt a depth of invincibility, however, laced with sorrow.
I felt grounded and all knowing.
I felt solid but spacious.
I felt embodied in my pain and truth.
I had accepted what was for me in those moments.
I thought of how wonderful it’d be to bump into my friend from Hebden who I had previously bumped into. Only five minutes later I saw him. I was on my way to get some food so we arranged to meet 30 minutes later. As soon as I entered the Crew Food tent a male who was also a Crew Food volunteer approached me and invited me to sit with him and his friends. He was beautifully kind. And I was met with kind and inviting eyes. It felt wonderful to be invited into a group of friends. I re-met my Hebden friend and I asked if he had seen any workshops on that he wanted to attend. “There’s a Contact Dance that has just started,” he said. “Do you wanna go?” It was something I had spied in the programme and had felt drawn to. I felt slightly apprehensive as I had never done a Contact Dance workshop before. It was something I’d been wanting to do precisely because of my fear of it.
Being stalked, harassed, and having my heart shattered by heartbreak (twice) all in the same chapter of my life had left me fearful of people. Terrified, in fact, of people. Which contrasted tortuously to my strong desire for connection.
For that deep, soulful, and sincere connection. Despite my slight apprehension, I felt ready for the workshop, though. Surprisingly ready for it. Through my participation in 5Rhythms classes over the last year, I have slowly but surely felt more and more comfortable in letting go to my body, to letting go to my spirit. Even when my spirit has guided me to dance with others. Feeling the flow of blissful energy from body to body, from heart to heart. But Contact Dance, it’s different. When my friend and I walked into the tent, everybody was on the floor. I couldn’t make out where people started or began. It looked like an entanglement of people constantly moving and changing. My friend and I went to the back. I laid down, wondering how I was supposed to slip into the entanglement of bodies. For a while it felt as though I was going to be stuck on the outer edges, waiting for a hand to invite me in. And then before I knew it I was pressed upon bodies, giggling at how something other than myself was moving me. It was the moving of other bodies that triggered parts of myself to move. It felt as though we were moving chaotically in unison. And sometimes the movement would stop for me, as bodies wiggled over me.
And then, I can’t really say what happened. I didn’t feel as though I was in control at all. I was being guided and that’s all that really mattered. I was being guided by spirit and by bodies. By unknown human bodies and I wasn’t afraid. I was thoroughly enjoying myself.
I was in fact, delighted.
And there was a hand. And I felt as though I was lifted from the ground. By other hands, by an unseen force, by myself, I’m really not sure. I now had my hands on only one other person. Yet I had more than one pair of hands on me. But quickly, they fell away. I became very aware that I had fallen into a flow of movement with only one other. At first, I kept expecting him to move on to someone else. For the magnetic pull between our flesh to switch and move us away from one another. But he stayed. Normally I’d be afraid to be in such close proximity with a male stranger, having absolutely no idea where the movement was going to take us. Usually, I’d be swamped by thoughts of what the hell I was going to say to this stranger once the dance was over. Whether he’d even want to talk to me afterwards. Whether he felt as compelled as I did to get to know one another.
The dance between us evolved. And I began to amaze myself. At how present I was. My guard was down, and I felt safe, and held. It was soft. It was sensual. It was affectionate. Tender. And rough. A part of me couldn’t quite believe what was happening. But I would bring myself back to his touch. To his body beneath my fingertips. To my breath. To his.
Maybe you are wanting to know what happened afterwards. Well, it certainly took me by surprise. Once upon a time, I probably would have felt embarrassed for showing so much of myself to another, and also to a room of strangers. To have openly shown my pleasure, my joy, for enjoying such an interaction. And I would have kept my head down after the dance had finished and left, ran, out of the tent. Those thoughts never appeared. And I stayed. Once the workshop had officially finished we turned to face each other. Mouths beaming. I overcame many barriers further into the evening. He felt into the limitations that I held upon myself. My limitations came to the surface and he met me there. He held a space for me to face some of my unmet demons.
One of the questions the Tarot reading presented me with was: How do you relax with others? The question had me freeze.
Shit. I thought.
Yes, I can relax through dance, I can relax in nature, I’m relaxed when I’m being silly with another, but, I first have to feel comfortable with that other before I can be silly. I first have to feel comfortable and safe before I can spill my desires and beliefs, the interaction unfolding into an invigorating and enchanting conversation. I first have to feel comfortable. I began to realise that I rarely did anything to relax with others. After trying to write down my answer I wrote,
‘I’m having to remind myself to be gentle with myself. To breathe and take my time with this. As this clearly is a big issue for me… I relax with others when I feel accepted; when I feel that they won’t run away from my openness. I can relax when they aren’t afraid of my open heart… When I know they won’t laugh at me and call me young, naïve and stupid.’
I am seeking the knowledge and experience that will set me free.
It seems natural, doesn’t it, to only trust and feel accepted once the other has shown, adequately enough, that they can be trusted, that they do accept you. But with this mentality, we are always waiting for them to give us a reason not to trust. We have to enter life with an open heart. When you are ready. But you can rest in the knowingness that all will be revealed when the time is ripe.
We had arranged to meet the following day at a 5Rhythms class. I was feeling rather vulnerable. But I didn’t want to fight it. I was hopeful that he would turn up but I wasn’t entirely sure if he would. Maybe I had scared him off with my vulnerability. I realised that I had been given a wonderful opportunity to practice being present. Because of this, I fell into the dance like I never have before. My experience of life just keeps getting deeper and deeper.
A tap on my shoulder.
We face each other while dancing. I take in his face and his body. But there is something… I couldn’t feel any particular connection… And I’m worrying about what he may be thinking about me. I suddenly realise that my guard is up. I’m afraid of being vulnerable. I can feel it in my shoulders and across my chest. As soon as I realise I let it go. I feel my heart open and expand. I feel into my heart and I feel my beauty. And simultaneously, an innocent, beautiful and radiant smile spread across his face. And I felt the space between us open up.
I could go on to describe the rest of my Buddhafield journey, but it doesn’t feel necessary. The rest of my journey was about trusting. And everything unfolded so beautifully. Seriously. Mouth-droppingly beautiful. I cannot express. Pure magic.
Whenever a worry came to mind, before it could even take one step further, a loving and gentle voice flooded in, sincere, secure, joyously confident, saying,
“It’s OK. I trust you, Universe. I fucking trust you.”
The Universe without AND within, by the way. Especially within.