I don’t like to preach on this blog. Most of my posts are, as you probably know, about my own experiences that have led me to a more peaceful and happy place over the past almost seven months now. As I say in the ‘about me’ page, this blog is about my healing journey. While that was my primary intention for writing when I ‘picked up the pen’ again so to speak in January this year, after over two years of silence on here, I am starting to realise that I also wanted to inspire others with my writing all along.
In fact, when scrolling through my archives recently, I found a post I wrote right at the beginning of this journey called ‘Speaking My Truth’. I explained my need to write, in a public forum of some kind, as part of my own healing practice – as a way to connect with my feelings and express them, truthfully, without fear of judgment. (I had already connected enough with my heart then to know that this was one very important step to improving my emotional wellbeing.) I said then that to inspire anyone who may be reading my ramblings was just a bonus. My sentiment remains the same.
But, amazingly, I believe I have already started doing this (inspiring others, that is). I’ve received some of the sweetest, most heart-felt messages via email, Twitter and Facebook – from both friends (some of whom I hadn’t spoken to in years) and complete strangers – which really touched my heart. Because what they all told me, in various, roundabout ways, is that I had touched theirs. And that is so precious to me. If what I am doing now, just by writing this, is making someone else in the world feel more positive about his/her own life, about his/her-self, that is the greatest gift I could give. And it gives me the courage and passion to keep on doing it.
In that vein, I have decided to make this post a little more about you than about me. Hence the use of the imperative in the title. As I say, I don’t like to preach, but I feel that actually, through my recent experiences of healing, I do have a leg to stand on to tell you a few things about life and about happiness, and about how to set about achieving it. (Actually I only have one leg to stand on right now, as my left foot is in a cast, but hey ho.)
So, back to the title of the post: Follow your heart. It’s the only path to true happiness…
If I had to give one succinct answer as to why I was so unhappy in 2013 (and for various other periods throughout my life) it was that I stopped listening to and following my heart. I got so caught up in others’ expectations of me that I no longer put my own interests and my own happiness first. And by doing this for so long, I lost perspective of who I was completely. I didn’t know why I was doing any of the things that I did in my daily life, which I didn’t enjoy doing, and which I knew, I felt, were not right for me. Yet I did them anyway. I followed a career path that I don’t believe was right for me (although I am grateful for it nevertheless because it’s given me skills – social networking, online marketing, and blogging for example), which clearly are now coming in handy! But I hated it, really.
Why did I do it? Because I didn’t give myself the time or space I needed to really connect with my self, with my own intuition, with my gut feelings about what is right or wrong for my life, not anybody else’s. I lost all connection with my heart, and therefore, with myself. And I just carried on, going through the motions of a life which I believed was expected of me, that was ‘right’ according to what I thought me, as a ‘middle class’, well educated girl from West London should be doing.
Never did it make me truly happy.
If I hadn’t had my ‘breakdown’, if that is what you want to call it, at the end of last year, during which my anxiety levels were so high I really could barely function at work, or in other areas of my life. (My brain was fried, my emotions were on tenterhooks, and my heart physically ached with the sadness I felt on almost a daily basis.) If it was not for this period of ‘depression’, then I don’t think I would have had the courage to, quite spontaneously, book myself onto a yoga retreat in India just a couple of weeks later (I left on 4th January) with a group of people I’d never met. In practical terms this meant going to my manager at work and asking for two weeks off with less than a month’s notice (not allowed) when I’d already handed in my notice and had no more holiday days left to use (contractually not really possible).
But I fucking did it (excuse the swear). I set my intention on that yoga retreat like it was my last chance on earth of getting out of the mess I was in – the inner turmoil of despair which was literally destroying me. I went to my manager, who is a very lovely person and actually quite similar to me (although she does living in the ‘real-world’ far, far more competently than I ever could). I laid my cards on the table and I asked her, plain and simply: ‘please, help me find a way to do this. I need this’. She already knew some of my pain (after a while I couldn’t keep the pieces together at work and she’d seen my tears, my desperation). And she, thank god (and thank YOU if you are reading this!), did help me. Of course, I could have just gone anyway, without permission, if I’d been willing to break my contract and forgo my last couple of month’s wages. But I didn’t want to do that. I’m not that kind of person.
That trip to Goa in January saved my life really. I’m not being dramatic here – and I’m not saying I was going to take my own life, literally – but it saved my emotional and mental life. It saved my soul. It put the breaks on from me continuing on a downward spiral of negative thoughts, actions and emotions which saw my true Self (my soul) becoming more and more lost, trapped, suffocated and ignored. It started a very, very important healing process, which I believe was the fundamental stepping-stone to achieving any of the joy and happiness (and gratitude) that I have felt since. It helped me to connect again with my heart – with myself.
So, that was in fact still about me, and not about you…whoops. But I suppose I feel that it’s through my direct experience that I can most inspire you to do the same. It saddens me, really, that so many people have been, or currently are, in the same position I was in not-so-long-ago.
So if you are reading this and can relate at all to the kind of loneliness and misery I described, then you must do something about it! Because life is wonderful. I can tell you that now from the bottom of my heart. I have felt joy that pulsated through every cell of my being. And to have come from a place where that joy was once replaced by pain, fear, insecurity, self-loathing, guilt, regret, and a multitude of other negative feelings… is truly magical.
So please, do what you need to do to find out who you really are, and what really makes you happy. Because that is your purpose in the world. Stop listening to what other people want, or what you think they want (you might be wrong; they might in fact support your new path to happiness. Have some faith). Make space in your life for you, only you – even if it’s just for 15 minutes a day. Sit with yourself, and try to quiet your mind, so that you can really start to pay attention to what is going on with you. What do you feel? What thoughts come to you? What are you longing for, or lacking? What do you want? What makes you feel alive, and happy?
You won’t find the answers all at once, but they will come, if you keep listening. Trust yourself to know who you really are. Because in fact you are the only one who does. And to find out, I believe, is the only truly important mission you have during this (short) life on this planet. Only you can do it.
And it isn’t easy, trust me. There are challenges ahead if you wish to accept this mission… the fear of disappointing others, the fear of change, the fear of failure. But do you want to live a mediocre, unsatisfying life hiding away from your fears? Or do you want to leave a legacy – your legacy – whatever it may be, behind? To put your unique stamp on the world that when you do finally die (because you will one day, of course), says: ‘I was here, I lived, and it was bloody marvellous’.
My favourite expression, which I learnt in India is: ‘everything is possible’ (or ‘anything is possible’ – same-same). And it really is. I’ve seen magic, both in the world around me, and within me, that I hadn’t dreamed possible before. But it is, I promise you. And just by believing that, I keep seeing it, and feeling it, every day.
So please, follow your heart. Let it guide you to where you truly belong, and to who you truly are.