Dark Night of the Soul

Trauma Release Retreat

In my last blog post I shared the story of how I was involved in two motorbike crashes, broke three bones in my right arm (shoulder, then wrist) and had two surgeries early last year in India. From the moment I came back to life after the first accident I was inspired to share this story, and furthermore, to share my whole story, authentically. No more masks.

I’ve been writing online for ten years ; it has long felt like part of my soul’s mission to do it. I know this as it lights me up, flooding me with such a strong desire to share I can do nothing but, if I’m to feel whole. I feel the words pouring into my mind from above, desperate to make contact with paper / my keypad. When I resist this flow I get stuck. And when I’m stuck, I cannot share.

It is not easy for my ego to ‘put myself out there’, acknowledging I am susceptible to criticism, judgement, even attack from people digesting my words, a reflection (as we are all mirrors) of my long-accustomed pattern of judging myself, and others. Accepting the responses back, whatever their flavour, without going into hiding and self-hate mode is part of my process of letting go of the outdated versions of my character (ego), which do not convey the truth of who I am, and that no longer serve me. I am a staunch advocate of sharing one’s authentic truth, I’ve just not always had the courage to do it : I’ve played roles, I’ve hidden from my darkness, I’ve denied my own pain.

I’ve played the role of ‘The People Pleaser’ / ‘The Good Girl’ for most of my life. ‘The Rebel’ was always inside, but I pushed her down and down, hid and silenced her for years in an attempt to keep others happy—parents, teachers, boyfriends, society. The psychotherapist I was seeing weekly for six months last year explained to me that adopting this character was one of the early coping mechanisms which I subconsciously used as a child to keep me safe (to receive the love that every child needs to survive). I learnt to be submissive to others’ needs and desires in order to protect myself in a world I deeply feared and did not trust.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been ‘an Empath’ : highly intuitive and sensitive to energies. I can feel others’ emotions and sense things about their beliefs and thoughts, often instinctively knowing what they are really feeling underneath the words they may be expressing, contradicting their true sentiments. This makes it very easy for me to be a chameleon, shape-shifting according to the environment I am in and playing whichever role is needed to balance the energies present and keep the peace. I am a peace-keeper at heart. While this is undoubtedly a useful skill at times, I see now that in always putting others’ first (playing ‘The People Pleaser’), I have denied my own needs, bottled up my true feelings, and dishonoured my core beliefs, causing resentment, frustration and anger to boil up at unexpected times against my will. I have hurt myself, and others, through my in-authenticity.

This is not just a moral issue, I have learned, but affects all aspects of life. Authenticity is fundamental to the healthy development and functioning of a human being on all levels—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. By playing a character (in fact, various characters), my soul fragmented over time, creating disharmony and conflict in my inner and outer worlds (the latter a reflection of the former). To understand this further, watch one of my favourite spiritual teacher, Teal Swan’s video on fragmentation. It’s time for me to heal this. I believe that in sharing my story I am calling back the parts of my soul which left when I experienced trauma (at conception, at birth and beyond), and thereby subconsciously rejected my true nature. It’s time to come clean. It’s time to accept my wholeness, the darkness and the light. It’s time to grow up.

It is because of these traumatic events, and the nine-month-long period of pain and isolation that followed, that I have come to this deeper understanding about myself. For that I am immensely grateful. During this time of enforced self-reflection, suffering and loneliness, I had the opportunity to reflect on the how’s and why’s of my ‘accidents’ (I don’t believe in coincidence), while diving deep into my Shadow side (subconscious). I acknowledged with harsh clarity the negative thought patterns, limiting beliefs and addictive behaviours that have oftentimes dictated my life experience. I embodied again the un-healed child inside of me who went through a lot in her early years, the consequences of which have determined my rocky path through life so far.

You can read part one of my recent story here.

So, where did I get to?

Olivia Wood Healing

I arrived back to the UK in April a nervous wreck. After filling the fridge and cupboards with food, my mum, not realising at the time the extent of my trauma and having long-standing plans to go to a family friend’s wedding in America, left the next day for a three-week-long trip. I felt utterly alone and incapacitated.

My right arm was in a cast and sling. There were metal pins poking through the skin of my wrist which aggravated with any slight movement. My right knee was healing from a deep gash making walking awkward and painful. The whole right side of my body in fact had taken a beating, twice, and I felt completely off-balance. I was exhausted, depressed, and anxious to a level I had never before experienced. Pretty much any daily task proved difficult or impossible. I couldn’t cook. I couldn’t wash my clothes. I couldn’t make my bed. Dressing took all my energy. Showering was hard, and not enjoyable. I lost my appetite completely. My mind quickly took a turn for the worse. I could not get over the fact that this had happened twice – two crashes, two months apart, to the day. I felt like I was cursed and/or being punished, and the prospect of months ahead of me of slow and painful healing, alone, was unbearable.

Feeling desperately uncomfortable in my body and terrified of my raging negative thoughts, I upped my self-medication. I learnt to roll joints with one hand and I smoked from morning ‘til night, a coping mechanism / addictive habit which had been part of my life for six years since discovering the calming and consciousness-expanding benefits of CBD and THC respectively in 2014. For the first time though, it wasn’t helping : it was making me feel worse. And yet, I could not stop. Aside from the strong painkillers and antibiotics given to me by the Indian hospital I had also acquired some pharmaceutical anti-anxiety medication—Xanex, or something similar—and soon found myself addicted to that too. At first I limited myself to one pill at night in order to sleep, but before I knew it I was taking one or two a day to keep me feeling ‘OK’. The panic that was lurking in my belly and spreading to my chest and head felt unbearable and I was terrified of what would happen to me, and what I might do to myself, without medication.

I felt an insatiable pull towards my ex-boyfriend, J. He’d never really left my mind, or heart, while I was in India. The longing had intensified a few days before boarding my flight home, and got stronger by the day now back in London. With my ego pride nowhere to be seen I called him. He came to see me and it was clear immediately that our connection was still strong. I felt calmed by his presence, some semblance of my former self returning as his big, strong, grounded energy helped balance my frantic, neurotic mind-space. We didn’t touch much on this first meeting. But when I laid my hand on the back of his heart and felt him soften and surrender, sigh deeply and let some tears fall, I knew he still wanted me, had missed me, and didn’t hate me. I could play this two ways : remember the reasons we had broken up four times already and let him go, or surrender to another chapter in relationship together. I chose option two. The reality was that I could do nothing but follow my heart, my desire, and my need for him at that time.

On our next meeting I knew what I wanted : sex, and all the holding, cuddling and intimacy that comes with it. My body felt like it was shutting down. My kidneys hurt, I was shivering near constantly, could not get warm, and my sexual energy which had been dormant for a while exploded with desire for him. I got what I wanted, on the surface, (the sex), though not what I really wanted (his commitment). He said during our first encounter of sexual reunion what he had often said in our two-year on-off relationship : that he was afraid of hurting me, could not commit to me, and did not believe he was able to be in a loving relationship. Though his body spoke another language : he rocked me, held me, stroked me and loved me back into aliveness. Oxytocin flooded, I was hooked. And so was he.

J looked after me for the next two and a half months. It was beautiful to see him in his Divine Masculine power and his support was incredibly healing for me. He told me that I was allowed to feel what I was feeling, that it was OK to not be OK and that I could take as much time as I needed to heal. I needed his reassurance. I needed his presence. I needed his touch. The Cosmos had aligned : he didn’t have much else to do during this time and we clearly had unfinished business. He told me how sorry he was for pushing me away and disappearing all those times in the past, and for his harsh words over email which had come from a place of abandonment and grief (another unhealed inner child). I needed so much to hear his apology and to see his goodness again. I forgave him. He forgave me. It felt like we were starting again with the heightened perspective of awareness, having spent six months apart.

J had been working on himself during this time : he was seeing a psychotherapist weekly, attending a men’s group once a month, and going to yoga classes regularly. He seemed like the strong, stable, powerful man I’d met on a Bulgarian mountain in the summer of 2017, not the lost, lonely, angry boy I’d left behind to go to India, reluctantly, after four breakups and depressive breakdowns at the end of 2018. Our connection blossomed by the day. We spent days together making love, painting, taking walks in the park, me holding onto him for support, and when not physically together we spoke every few hours. He came to Devon and stayed with me at my dad’s house. He cooked for me. He cooked for my family. He made me laugh. He held me while I cried. The sex was cosmic. It was healing me, bringing me back into my body, and distracting me from my anxiety, self-doubting thoughts, and physical pain. I fell more and more ‘in love’ by the minute. My hopes were raised. Maybe he was my man after all, I thought. I started to believe again in our Twin Flame story and got carried away envisioning our happy-ever-after ending. For him though, the doubts were real.

During this time I started having panic attacks. This was new for me. I’d felt anxiety before and what I might have once described as a panic attack, but this was on a whole new level. The first serious one happened in Devon the day before J arrived. My dad and his partner M were worried. They wanted to take me to hospital. I refused. I couldn’t bear the idea of more bright white lights and waiting rooms, and knew that in truth the doctors couldn’t help me. So I did what I’d been doing for the past few months / years when feeling anxious : popped some more pills and smoked some more weed. It made it worse and I stayed in my room crying, hyperventilating, shaking and sweating profusely for eight hours until I finally fell asleep. The panic vanished when J arrived : proof in the power of the love drug, oxytocin. Though when we would part I felt it coming on again and experienced a dozen or more of these terrifying out-of-body experiences over the next three months.

Panic attacks feel like you are going to die—a truly nightmarish experience that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. I would feel my energy rise up my body and get trapped above my solar plexus (sternum area of chest). Though I tried to get my breath down into my belly and feel my feet I could not. It felt like someone was sitting on my chest—no space for air to get in. My breath kept getting shorter and faster until I was gasping for breath through my mouth. I’d feel an electrical tingling sensation spread from my head down my arms to my hands getting stronger and more forceful until it was unbearable and I believed my bones would snap under the pressure. My throat felt like it was closing up and the longer this went on the more I believed I was going to die. I would call J and somehow, with his masculine, grounded energy, he calmed me down, suggesting breathing techniques, and just being there. I realised how much energy was trapped inside of me, dying to come out, and knew that I needed to receive some hands-on healing.

I had begun to lose sensation in my right foot making it really hard to ground my energy. I now understand the nerves down this whole side of my body were restricted by the twist in my torso and hip caused by my two falls. The circulation to my foot got so bad that my right big toe bled from dryness (‘coincidentally’, the same toe I broke, aged 11). Energetically speaking, my root chakra was severely disconnected. I became aware too that my hips, ankles and left shoulder (I couldn’t yet move the right) made disturbing clunking noises when I moved them. I had been grossly neglecting my body for years and I hadn’t received a treatment since a few weeks after my first accident.

J, being the only person I felt comfortable with touching me at this time, agreed to give me a massage. He set up the table in my mother’s room at home (she was still away in America). Within less than a couple of minutes, I went into one of the most scary panic attacks of my life. His intuition led him straight to my solar plexus, where we store repressed emotion, in particular anger. After gently resting his hand there, almost immediately I felt my lips tingle, my jaw start to seize up and the electric force spread down towards my hands. ‘Go to my feet’ I instructed him, and he did. But it was too late.

My hands started to cramp with tetany (intense muscle spasms that clasp the fingers and thumbs together and shape the mouth into a small ‘o’). I had experienced tetany a few times before this (brought on by dehydration and during intense breathwork exercises), so I knew what to expect, and I was terrified. My right arm was still in a cast and knowing that the bones were not fully set in my wrist, I freaked out. ‘Oh my God, my arm is going to break again! I can’t breathe. I’m going to die.’ I pleaded with J to help me. He stayed completely calm and told me that I wasn’t going to die and to keep breathing. The pain was intense in both arms, especially the right, as the cramps spread, causing my arms to bend against my will, raging with electric force. My fear intensified as my mouth started to close shut and I struggled to get my breath in and out.

This went on for about five minutes and I saw the fear start to show underneath J’s cool, grounded composure. I really thought I was going to die. Then I remembered what he’d told me about releasing tetany during his own experience in breathwork sessions—of shouting and screaming and becoming an animal. Despite my uncle being downstairs and not wanting to frighten him, or my neighbours, I did what I had to do in that moment : I roared at the top of my lungs, a sound that shocked me with its ferocity. To my surprise and relief, after a few long, loud, guttural screams, the tetany started to ease a little and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. J continued to ground me and after some time the energetic pulsating eased, my hands de-clawed themselves and I was breathing easily again. We both fell asleep, exhausted by the ordeal. Though relieved I had survived this scary attack I felt overwhelmed knowing how much more I would have to do to release this energy trapped in my being.

A few days later I went to see B, a healer I’ve known for 17 years, a friend, guide and mother figure to me. As I lay on her treatment table, within minutes the tetany came on again, to my surprise, as I’ve had countless treatments with B over the years and have always drifted off into a deep meditative state, then fallen asleep under the magical touch of her hands. I felt her pain seeing me in pain, and my own shame intensified : it’s hard to let the ones who know you the best see you at your weakest. It took hours to feel grounded again and though she offered me another treatment the following day, I cancelled last minute, too frightened to go through the experience again of tetany and panic. I was also ashamed. In all these years we’ve known each other I’ve never had the courage to tell her about my addictions or the extent of my depression. She told me as I was leaving : ‘Now is not a good time to get back together with your boyfriend, Olivia’, explaining that he would always see me as broken. She told me to work on becoming whole first. More shame arose as I knew I was going straight back to J’s arms after leaving her and would ignore the advice which I knew deep down was wise. (We were destined to be caught in the victim-rescuer-villain drama triangle.)

My panic was made worse every time I saw a medic. I’d gone to Charing Cross hospital the day after arriving home, alone, and after an expectedly long wait was seen by a senior orthopaedic surgeon. He scared the living daylights out of me when asking me to perform various movements with my right arm that pushed me well beyond my comfort zone. He said the Indian doctors had done the right thing in both surgeries, which was a relief, but that I must get the arm moving. It would take at least a month to be seen by an NHS physiotherapist so my mum found, and paid for, some sessions with a private physio in West London. Let’s call her C.

My weekly meetings with C left me with sweaty palms and feeling completely dissociated from my body. Her energy was intense : she spoke very fast, had a big forced smile on her face, and gave me a list of exercises to do, none of which I felt ready for. Though I appreciated her reassurance that I was moving along OK and the lack of movement was more down to fear than lasting physical impairment, I felt she didn’t understand where I was on a mental and emotional level and found myself embodying my wounded inner child—full of shame and self-pity about not keeping up.

I berated myself for not being able to do the physio exercises at home. Each time I tried I went into hyperarousal and panic. My arm was not coming over my head, as C said it MUST, if I were ever to move it again. It didn’t want to move at all. My rib cage felt locked from months of immobility and one rib popped in and out of place when I moved my arm to the side. I had a recurring fear that the metal plate would come out of my body and any bit of movement to my right side could send my arm into spasm, just like on the scene of the first accident. My body was trapped with fearful energy and needed gentle, loving care to open, which I could not give to myself at this time. I knew yoga and meditation would save me, but I was so frightened of my internal world, I found it impossible to sit with myself.

I had the cast taken off my wrist and the pins removed a few weeks after getting home. The doctors had told me this was a huge milestone and one I’d been looking forward to, thinking that once the six-weeks they claim to heal a bone was over, I’d feel better. Not so much. My wrist looked, and felt, pitifully weak. I was terrified of moving it, and my shoulder. Every inch of muscle and tendon and fascia from my neck to my fingertips felt tight, sore and lifeless. I was in pain every day, not an acute pain like when I had the accidents, but an extreme feeling of discomfort and being off-centre, which was worse because I couldn’t see the end. My neck, chest and upper back ached to the point I could hardly turn my head, my organs hurt, and I had no sense of grounding under my feet. I felt like my body would be out of whack and broken forever. My energy was all up around my chest, throat and head. I felt dizzy often and like I couldn’t breathe. The fear of having another panic attack had become a source of anxiety itself. I could not for the life of me relax.

Peter A. Levine in his book ‘Waking the Tiger’ explains about the experience of post-traumatic stress, which I experienced daily for the first six months of my recovery process. He says:

The experience of traumatic anxiety is profound. It goes far beyond the experience we usually equate with anxiety. The elevated state of arousal, the symptoms, the fear of exiting or fully entering the immobility state, as well as a nagging awareness that something is very wrong, produce an almost-constant state of extreme anxiety. This anxiousness serves as the backdrop for all experience in the severely traumatized person’s life. Just as we are more aware of the water than the fish that swims in it, so may anxiety be more apparent to those around traumatized people than it is to them. Traumatic anxiety displays itself as nervousness, fretting and worrying, and in appearing to be ‘high-strung’. The sufferer frequently experiences panic, dread, and over-dramatized reactions to trivial events. These maladies are not permanent fixtures of the personality, but are indicative of a nervous system temporarily, though perpetually, overwhelmed.”

Being with J inspired me to move forward with my healing, even though I was scared. I knew he couldn’t hold my hand forever. By this point the Xanex had run out, making me more acutely aware of my bodily sensations and emotions, both of which terrified me. I’d become frightened of leaving the house alone. Loud noises, road traffic, and crowds of people instantly triggered my panic. I could not go on the tube or buses alone without feeling intense anxiety that I feared would lead to hyperventilating and losing consciousness. Yet I knew I had to get stronger, and that the only way out of my pain was through it.

I signed up to a three-week trial at a yoga centre near my house and tentatively went to some yin and restorative yoga classes and sound healings. Being in a crowded room felt overwhelming and the simplest postures hurt. I realised how much my right hip was out of alignment and I could not bend my knee properly. My mind would not calm. But it felt like progress to be doing some yoga again.

I started to see a psychotherapist weekly. This quickly became an important anchor in my healing journey. I told her about my addictions and history of separation trauma. She explained to me about coping mechanisms and gave me the validation I needed to feel I wasn’t going completely insane. She suggested I ‘make friends’ with my addictions rather than trying to banish them right away, and noticed my tendency to blame myself for everything that’d gone wrong in my life, always quick to protect others over myself. She suggested I work on giving compassionate loving attention to my inner child, finding out what her needs are, and allowing myself to feel whatever emotions came up, be it anger or rage or sadness. I noticed that during these sessions, when she asked me how I felt at that moment, it was hard to pinpoint. I realised how detached from my negative emotions and dissociated from my body I’d subconsciously trained myself into being.

I was still smoking weed and drinking coffee every day, which were key anxiety triggers, sending my nervous system into high alert, disembodying me and rousing the trapped energy in my being. Yet the addiction monsters had sunk their teeth in deeper than ever and I couldn’t stop, despite knowing that it wasn’t helping. I was trying to find some productive daily routine but I found it hard to concentrate on any task. My mind raced from one potential ‘to do’ to the next, followed by self-critiquing thoughts like : ‘I’m useless’, ‘I’m never going to succeed in life’, ‘I’m never going to feel better’, ‘I don’t deserve to be here’, ‘Why does everyone else have this figured out and I don’t?’ I was constantly overwhelmed, spiralling from one negative thought and emotion to the next. The only thing I could do to calm down was paint (with my left hand), though after months of doing this all day, it was starting to feel like a waste of time and it was increasingly difficult to sit still. I wanted to get better faster than my body was allowing and I cried every day with despair and frustration.

And then J broke up with me. He said he was attracted to a girl he’d flirted with in a bar, wanted to be free, and felt overwhelmed and enmeshed in our relationship. His mother wound had been triggered and he did what he’d always done in the past : disappeared without a trace. I should have seen it coming (note the earlier declaration that he never in fact did commit) but it felt like a massive shock. We had been so in love, I thought. Was it all a lie? Was he only interested in sex? I felt used, rejected and ashamed. All the old stories came back which had taken me down into depression before, not only with him but with two prior inconsistently-available boyfriends (‘I’m not worthy of love ; ‘Everybody abandons me’ ; ‘I’m too much for anyone to handle’, etc.). I could not believe he was leaving me again, and at my darkest point. I went down, down, down.

As it became clear to me that I’d been living in an illusion about my romantic relationship, I started to question many other aspects of my life, past and present, including my friendships, my work and finances, my social media presence, and my very identity. I saw fallacy, projection and denial were rife. Deep shame and self-hatred arose. I was completely disillusioned with life and I saw no hope for authentic and loving experiences in the future. In spiritual terms, I was in the depths of a mega ‘dark night of the soul’.

Eckhart Tolle explains :

It [Dark Night of the Soul]  is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness.  The inner state in some cases is very close to what is conventionally called depression. Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything. Sometimes it’s triggered by some external event, some disaster perhaps, on an external level.  The death of someone close to you could trigger it, especially premature death, for example if your child dies. Or you had built up your life, and given it meaning – and the meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievements, where you are going, what is considered important, and the meaning that you had given your life for some reason collapses.

It can happen if something happens that you can’t explain away anymore, some disaster which seems to invalidate the meaning that your life had before.  Really what has collapsed then is the whole conceptual framework for your life, the meaning that your mind had given it. So that results in a dark place.  But people have gone into that, and then there is the possibility that you emerge out of that into a transformed state of consciousness. Life has meaning again, but it’s no longer a conceptual meaning that you can necessarily explain.  Quite often it’s from there that people awaken out of their conceptual sense of reality, which has collapsed.”

Thank God my mum was now home and making herself available for me. I told her what had happened and began to unravel in front of her eyes. For the next few weeks I was in total darkness ; there was no light to be seen. I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t want to live. The pain in my body got worse and worse to the point the only thing I could do to feel better was have a hot bath. Some days I had four. The outbursts of rage, desperation and despair that came through me during this time shocked my mum, and me. I remember one day us sitting in the garden and telling her that I desperately wanted to die, that I just couldn’t face one more day like this. She held my hand, squeezing it tight and started praying, something I’ve never witnessed her do before. ‘I pray for Olivia’s heart’, she said. ‘I pray for her microbiome, I pray for her mind, I pray for her body.’ I wanted to recoil at first then watched in fascination and admiration. It was touching that after so many years of feeling disconnected from my mother, here she was, holding my hand, and asking God for help to make me better. I felt grateful and a glimpse of hope washed over me. I wasn’t completely alone.

I knew it was not all J that was making me so upset—that he was triggering wounds of the past which I’d not yet dealt with. (I will talk in more detail about this in my next blog post.) Childhood memories rose from my subconscious and raged like wildfires. I expressed my anger to my mum for remarrying when I was 11 someone I did not like and abandoning me for him, her social life and her work ; for the pressure I’d felt to be the perfect child academically, musically and socially growing up ; for the lack of openness in our family about sex and relationships, which had confused my adolescent mind and made me feel shame about my sexuality ; for the loneliness and isolation I have felt throughout my life because of her frequent absence, which felt like rejection. I’m so grateful she did not react back in anger but listened to these long-suppressed grievances which needed so much to be released. She apologised. Though this was one of the hardest times of my life it was also so healing. I realised it was difficult to let my mum in and allow her to soothe me. But I had no choice now : I needed her. I was on the edge. I was in a constant state of hyper-arousal and hyper-vigilance. Left alone, I wanted to kill myself.

A turning point for me during this particularly low period was attending the Red Tent’s Doula training course. I was catching up on a day I’d missed due to injury when first attending the course in autumn, 2018. Back then, I’d rolled on a foam roller (designed to release muscle tension) across my rib cage and popped out an intercostal muscle the night before the course started. I ‘soldiered on’ and tried to pretend nothing had happened, but it was so painful by day two that I had to leave the course, white as a sheet, and go to hospital. (I see now that this was a warning sign about my health, and also coincided with breakup number 4 with J. Rib injuries, many holistic practitioners say, signify feeling undervalued, and on the masculine side, by a man.) This time around, I woke up on the morning of the course anxiety-ridden and in so much pain I did not want to go. I felt mortified about having to show my vulnerability and weakness again in front of the course administrator, Nicola, even though she is one of the least judgmental people I’ve ever met. It was my own shame holding me back. My mum was having none of it. She helped me pack a bag of blankets and food, put a warm heated rice bag on my shoulders, and sent me off in an Uber.

Swallowing my shame I climbed the stairs of the lovely house in which we were gathering and entered the circle of welcoming women, immediately relieved that I had not chickened out. Hearing the stories of births and deaths, taking in the ancient wisdom and held in loving acceptance by fellow sisters left me leaving with a smile on my face and with a deep feeling of gratitude. I’d turned a corner, remembering that my purpose extended beyond my own story, and that I was not alone. I felt a glimmer of faith that I would get through this painful period and rise again.

Despite this little boost, I was still feeling lost, lonely and in a lot of discomfort. My mum went away again and J ended up coming back into my life for yet another round of ‘love’. It only lasted a few weeks, during which time we did some nice things together and had our usual heart-to-hearts, but the sex was no longer cosmic and I felt his distance. His defences were up. He was no longer in his Divine Masculine and I was certainly not in my Divine Feminine. The penny finally dropped for me when, after days of giving me the silent treatment, he finally answered the phone and said : ‘I can’t help you every time you have a panic attack’, without an ounce of empathy. I wasn’t as surprised this time when he ended it, for the sixth time, saying he just couldn’t do it anymore. The truth hurt but I was finally starting to see our relationship for what it was : two wounded people desperately seeking solace in each other with nothing real to give. He couldn’t help me anymore ; it was time for me to face my pain (current and past) alone.

divine masculine feminine From Rebecca Campbell’s book ‘Rise Sister Rise’

Determined this time not to sink back into the dark hole of depressive doom, I put all my energy into my healing. I signed up to TriYoga, which became my Mecca, and started going nearly every day to classes and to use the infrared sauna. I tried all sorts of movement practices, starting with gentle Yin and Restorative Yoga, Feldenkrais, Chi Gong and TRE (Trauma Release Exercises), and as I got stronger, Barre, Pilates and other varieties of Yoga. I began to feel safe on the mat again and slowly, slowly, to trust my body. Feeling less afraid of crowds of people, I went to Movement Medicine and Ecstatic Dance events, and went swimming in the Hampstead Heath ponds. I also started regularly attending Kirtan (mantra singing gatherings) which I found deeply healing for my heart. It wasn’t all smooth sailing : some days I felt overwhelmed with anxiety, my body tingling with nervous energy and my mind telling me I wouldn’t make it. But I kept on going, forcing myself to put one foot in front of the other and go to a class, knowing I’d feel better for it. Gradually coming back into my body with the support of a group, and led by a teacher, was my saviour.

I took control over my eating habits and diet. Realising that I’d been under-eating after my first accident and usually relying on others to feed me, I began preparing three meals a day for myself. I found it difficult at first to feed myself as my state of hyper-arousal meant that I had little appetite. I came to see that this was a long-established pattern that began in my early teens and crept in again whenever I felt abandoned and rejected, triggering my primal separation wound (I was taken away from my birth mother as a baby). My subconscious habit had been to wait until I was practically starving to feed myself, and to eat as little as possible, as I  could not  stand the feeling of  being over-full and sluggish. On a deeper level I had been conditioned by the media and society that being thin would attract the opposite sex. My addict sub-personality also enjoys the high that comes with food deprivation. Gradually though, I started to find satisfaction and joy in cooking again, and felt much more grounded with food in my belly.

With my inner strength building I finally found the willpower to stop smoking weed. Unable at first to go ‘cold turkey’, I weened myself off by allowing myself one joint in the evenings, though I wasn’t enjoying it, if I was honest with myself. So I went to spend a week in Devon with my dad without any supply. I also quit the coffee. The detox felt amazing. I started reading books and meditating again, things I could rarely do when stoned as I couldn’t concentrate. I felt a lot more grounded and no longer so afraid of it down here. It’s now been eight months without this daily habit, and though I’ve had the occasional joint, it isn’t helping me like it used to and I’m reminded again and again to stick without.

After J and I broke up I realised that the thing I missed the most from our relationship was the physical touch. To give my body what it needed (/needs) I started having weekly massages from a beautiful soul, Frances, who understands the body holistically and is trained in injury management. Unlike the physiotherapy approach, which isolates just the injured area, she looked at my whole being and realised that the first thing I needed to do to heal was to ground myself. She showed me how to stand on tennis balls with my knees slightly bent, bringing my energy and breath into my lower belly. ‘You have lost your connection with your power centre, that’s all’, she said to me on our first meeting, with such a genuine, beaming, loving smile, I felt reassured. Finally, someone who spoke my language. After a few sessions with Frances and practising the tips she gave me at home I was feeling more connected to the Earth. Week-on-week I was getting stronger and my energy body was slowly shifting back to its centre.

Frances suggested that I attend a one-day Arvigo massage training. She was going. Feeling such trust between us I felt sure it was the right thing. Similar to the Doula course, this was an ancient feminine wisdom-sharing gathering, this time to learn a self-care massage technique passed down from the Mayans. The workshop was attended by a small circle of women. We discussed womb healing, vaginal steaming, spiritual bathing, moon cycles and ancient herbal remedies for digestive and reproductive healing. We learnt how to massage our abdomens, stimulating the digestive and reproductive organs in a way that is much softer and more Yin (feminine) than the approach I’d been taught before. After the course I began practising the Arvigo massage on myself nearly every morning when I woke up, or last thing at night, which helped greatly in bringing me into deeper connection with my body.

While in Devon I came across the book, ‘Awakening of the Western Woman’, by shamanic healer Louise Carron Harris, sitting on my dad’s bookshelf. I’d mentioned it to my dad some time ago, and, considerate as he is, he’d ordered it for me. I read it front to back in three nights, crying in parts as her story resonated so deeply with mine. I felt this was a clear sign that Spirit was guiding me back to my path (the Shamanic path) as I poured through the pages. Soon after I booked a session with Louise. During the shamanic healing session, over the phone, Louise asked me to come up with a few sentences about how I was feeling following the distance healing she’d just given me. It read something like this:

I feel warmth in my heart. The warmth is spreading down my arms to my hands and feet and all around my body. My feet are grounded. I am supported by the Earth. I feel safe. I feel open to the world. I feel love. I feel my love extending out to the world.”

My homework was to write this empowering mantra in my journal morning and night for 35 days (a day for each of my years on Earth). I did it, bar maybe one or two evenings when I forgot or resistance got the better of me. It was very powerful to connect pen to paper again and to dedicate myself to a daily practice, consisting now of Arvigo massage, Vipassana meditation, and journaling. Though I didn’t feel the truth in what I was writing most mornings—in reality I was feeling fear in my body and resistance in my mind about the day ahead—writing down how I wanted to feel was powerful medicine, and I felt better as each day progressed. By the evenings it usually did feel authentic to write the paragraph, and often more words of gratitude followed, as I felt myself shift out of my needy, fearful ‘Victim’ sub-personality and into my true Self : a Divine Earthly Shakti Goddess.

On 11th September (I love to travel on auspicious days), I flew to Portugal to stay at Merkaba, an off-grid conscious community in the mountains. My soul sister, Rachael, who I met in India in 2016 on an epic journey of sisterhood and self-discovery, and who was by my side after my first accident in India this year, had been living in and managing the community for 2.5 years. I’d been waiting to get my strength up before jetting off again, and the time had finally come. I could not wait. Living at home with my mother for four months had become suffocating. Though I felt immense gratitude for her heartfelt and ongoing support, I also felt like a teenager trapped in an old paradigm and desperately wanted to be with like-minded Rainbow Warrior souls. The heaviness of London city living was becoming too much and Mother Nature was calling me.

Merkaba deserves a blog post in itself : there is so much to say about this beautiful community and all I went through there. But, seeing as I’ve written half a book already here, I’ll try to sum it up in a couple of paragraphs!

I arrived feeling exhausted by the journey, having had a panic attack at the airport on the way out, then carrying my heavy bags up the steep mountain road, too rocky for the taxi to drive all the way up. I was immediately calmed upon nearing the gates, greeted by Cosmo, the community’s huge-hearted, and bodied, mountain dog, and community owner and co-founder, Dan. When Rachael appeared, eyes shining bright, and barefoot, I knew I was coming home.

Merkaba Community

There are two huge domes on the site, one for communal cooking, ceremonies and yoga practice, with two bedrooms upstairs, and another dome for sleeping. This isn’t ‘slumming it’ off-grid living ; the beds are comfortable with real duvets and pillows and there is a hot shower. (Thank God, as I was not ready then for a full into-the-wild experience.) For the first ten days I was sharing a twin room with a lovely young volunteer whose company I enjoyed. It felt so liberating to unpack my things knowing I had five weeks to settle into my new environment : 360 degree views of rolling hills, clear blue skies and magical sunsets, and not a sound around, except for the occasional shout from up the mountain from our 80-something-year-old Portuguese neighbour, Anna, herding her goats (which never failed to amuse and impress me), birdsong in the morning, and the hum of crickets at night.

Merkaba Community Photo Credit : Catherine Almgren (on the right)

Two days after I arrived, Rachael and Fouad, an Egyptian friend we’d met in Goa, co-hosted a five-day retreat, which I part-joined, while also helping out in the kitchen and with housekeeping chores. It was called ‘Ikigai : Soul Nourishment’—just what the (spiritual) doctor ordered. I felt a massive wave of relief during the opening circle as I shared the story of my traumatic ordeals, and listened as others opened their hearts, shed tears, and shared their own stories. I knew we were embarking on a special journey together and I was in exactly the right place. Over the next few days a real bond was created between the retreat participants, the hosts, and the volunteers (13 of us in total). I felt once again part of a community, as I had in Goa, finally out of my cocoon of miserable isolation and able to connect again authentically with others. With Mother Nature grounding me, through the fresh, organic food I was eating three times a day, and walking barefoot, always, I started to find my love for life again. We drank cacao and took medicinal mushrooms in ceremony, both of which cracked open my heart and connected me even deeper to the land and to Great Spirit. We let loose on the dancefloor in ecstatic dance, and I pushed my body to new limits during yoga classes led by Goddess Catherine Almgren.

Yoga and Meditation at Merkaba

Photo Credits : Nat Ma – Healers and SeekersYoga at Merkaba PortugalMerkaba Community Retreats

The introvert in me was somewhat relieved when the retreat was over though, and the majority of our beautiful gathering left. For the next two weeks I got to enjoy some real downtime on the mountain. My first / only priority was to keep up my morning spiritual practice. I got up every day between 7 and 8 and headed to the outdoor yoga deck to meditate, sometimes joined by Cosmo and the two resident cats (with German names I never did get to grips with). After this thirty minutes of silent inner journeying, I joined Rachael, Stefan (a beautiful, young, wise, man who would be there for the rest of my stay), and whoever else wanted to practice yoga in the main dome. It became a ritual, and though I felt resistance nearly always, I kept at it. Day by day I was coming home to my body, trusting in my intuition to guide me into whatever postures and breathing exercises were needed to give me power and ground my energy. My arm was finally coming over my head, tentatively. I saw that I was integrating the teachings which had been drummed into me during the 10-day Vipassana course I took one year prior : patience, persistence and perseverance. Slowly, slowly, I was coming back to Me.

Olivia Wood Meditation

Feeling nurtured by the land and the people at Merkaba, I was ready for my next challenge, and I knew it was a big one : a five day Biodynamic and Trauma Release Breathwork (BTRS) retreat, led by Natalie Keany and her assistant, Miriam. I’d signed up before leaving the UK, feeling a deep knowing that this was one of the reasons the Universe was sending me to Merkaba. The trepidation at what was to come was creeping into my being day by day. I was nervous. But I had no doubt that it was the right thing for me. I was going to go deep within, really feel, and start to release the trauma which I had been holding in my cells from the accidents, from this entire lifetime, and ones before that. And that I did. I faced my fear of breathwork, of tetany, of panic, of shouting and screaming in public, making noise and being witnessed in my rage and in my despair. I roared like a lion, I shook, I cried, I was held, I held. I did more eye-gazing than I’ve ever done and felt a raw and true connection with everyone on the retreat. I was humbled, opened, and filled with gratitude. It was truly transformational.

Merkaba Community Retreats

 

Trauma Release Retreat

Trauma Release Breathwork Merkaba

I left Merkaba with a rather heavy heart. If the weather hadn’t turned colder and rainy, I would have been tempted to delay my departure. But it did, and I had a three-day Arvigo massage training booked, beginning the day after my return to London, falling on my 35th birthday. Gathering again in a circle of women and fed with ancient knowledge was a beautiful way to land back to the dark, grey metropolis I’ve reluctantly called home for most of my life. I felt proud of myself on my birthday, seeing how far I’d come in my healing journey, now able to move my body with more freedom, and having let go of some of the fearful energy which had been keeping me frozen and trapped. I made a video of me celebrating in dance and posted it on Facebook–a ‘coming out’ moment on social media after a long period in hiding.

Then I started to go downhill again. London has always been hard for me, and the shorter, darker days as autumn turned to winter took their toll on my mental state. After over a month of natural, free living with Rachael and other likeminded souls, I felt lonely. Taking my daily practice to my mother’s living room floor felt far less nourishing than in the fresh mountain air at Merkaba. I felt noticeably less grounded. Fear and anxiety began to creep in again as I sat in meditation and the sensation of tetany often arose during my morning yoga practice. The breathwork had kickstarted a process of intense trauma release and I was soon to realise it wasn’t over yet. But I knew I had no choice but to persevere.

While in Portugal, Rachael, Fouad and I had decided to go to Central America for the winter.  They’d both booked their flights almost immediately and I now had a goal in sight. I felt just about strong enough to work again giving massages and started to put the feelers out to clients as well as agencies I’ve done temp work with before. Soon I had some massage bookings, and a four-day job lined up doing market research at the Apple Store in Westfield. Though the latter was a nightmarish prospect for me, I knew that the income from it would cover my flights. I was determined to get out of the cocoon of my mother’s house and feel again my freedom.

Around this time (late October) I ended my relationship with my psychotherapist, feeling we had hit a dead end. Knowing I still needed a helping hand with my healing process, I joined healer Ben Ralston’s online Sangha (spiritual community). I’ve been following Ben online for six years, since googling ‘Kundalini Awakening Orgasm’ in May 2015 the day after I first really ‘woke up’ (realised I lived in a multi-dimensional Universe), and finding an article he’d written about his experience, which mirrored mine. Ben has always been there in the background guiding my awakening process over the years and I feel a deep resonance with his beliefs about the world and his approach to healing. The private Facebook group and weekly Zoom meeting Satsangs gave me a space to share my struggle in a more authentic way than I found possible with friends and family. (For the most part, they cannot relate to what I have been going through on a spiritual and energetic level.)

Ben gave me personal guidance during this time on how to keep moving the stuck energy out of my body, and my practice evolved in accordance with his wisdom. Akin to the work I’d done on the breathwork retreat, he suggested shaking, shouting and making animal body expression part of my daily routine. He also put great emphasis on drinking plenty of good quality (not tap) water, eating well, breathing slowly and deeply, and taking rest whenever I needed it. During the months of November and December I slept more than I can ever remember sleeping. I stopped setting a morning alarm and slept in until 10 or 11 most days, getting much more than my usual 8-9 hours. Then, after making a smoothie and having a cigarette (one addiction I’m yet to beat), I went downstairs and spent 1-2 hours on my yoga mat—jumping, shaking, shouting, roaring, growling, crawling around, and often sobbing. As I went deeper and deeper into my body, more grief and more fear came up, sometimes more than I thought I could bear. But I knew this was an essential part of my process and with Ben and the group’s support (as well as my mother nearby) I got through it.

I did the Apple Store job, despite great resistance. It was hard. Standing for 8-9 hours in a shopping mall under bright white lights and surrounded by electrical equipment and big crowds pushed me to my limits. I felt frazzled. I wanted to quit on day one but I continued, talking to over 100 people about their experience of shopping in the store across the four days. This part of the job I quite liked ; it felt good to connect again with strangers and I found lightness, humour and common ground in our short conversations. The hours were too long though and by the end I felt drained, my immune system weakened, and my emotions were all over the place. I didn’t work again for two weeks after that (outside work that is ; I was continuing daily with the inner job).

Something Ben said to me around this time really resonated : ‘The only real problem you have, Olivia, is that you have lost your connection to Spirit’. He prescribed ritual as the remedy. I realised he was right. Smoking weed had been a daily ritual for me and the plant a portal to cosmic connection. Since I’d stopped I felt far less connected to the plants, the cosmos, and my higher Self. My yoga and meditation practices also rarely felt blissful since my accidents, rather, challenging and often frightening, as I willed myself to sit still with my anxiety and re-open parts of my body that been on lock-down for many months (or years). I needed to find a new way to connect with my spiritual essence while in the pretty un-spiritual environment of London. Like magic (!), following that realisation, I began noticing events for gatherings pop up on Facebook that aligned with my desire to reconnect to the higher dimensions. A few days later I was sitting in a circle with two shamans sending healing energy to the Earth with my hands. Next was a women’s circle on the Winter Solstice where I sang mantras from around the world and shared my desires and goals for 2020 with the group. I joined a circle that gathered in the park in London Fields to sing the Gayatri Mantra 108 times and pray for the evolution of humanity and the purification of the collective consciousness to support Mother Gaia. I found great strength and unity in these gatherings and a feeling of coming home to my soul and its mission as a Channel of the Light.

As well as joining ceremonial gatherings, I began bringing ritual into my everyday life. This was not something new for me, but like Ben said, I’d lost touch with it. I connected again to my crystals, cleaning them in the full moon and through meditation, then built and activated a grid on my bedside table. I set objects into this shrine that resonated with my desires and core values—pieces of nature I collected on my daily walks, coins to bring in financial abundance, and symbols that resonated with the love and peace I sought in my inner and outer world. I cleansed myself with sage and palo santo regularly, the scents bringing clarity and grounding energy and a sense of nostalgia for the spiritual ceremonies in which I’ve sat over the years. I made myself sacred baths with rosemary and lavender foraged from the garden and Epsom salts, lighting candles and incense and playing mantras as I soaked for up to an hour, massaging my body and practising calming conscious breathing. I made an effort to make time for self-pleasure, though it was a challenge to reconnect with my sexual energy while still holding so much grief. Self-love and self-care, I realised, was key to my physical and emotional wellbeing.

As the close of the year drew nearer I was no longer getting massage bookings or other work opportunities. Part of me was relieved as I had so little energy. I didn’t feel up to it. All I wanted to do was sleep, do my practices (sometimes), eat, and sleep some more. I was worried I was slipping back into depression, though Ben reassured me that there was a lot going on in the collective consciousness and my emotions were valid. I was increasingly triggered by my mother and anyone else who came into the house. I wanted peace and quiet and couldn’t find it. I became agitated and angry, wanting to project this onto others yet knowing it was damaging and unfair to do that. Frustration was boiling inside. As Christmas approached and the house got busier it was harder to do my shaking and screaming routine, worried I would disturb and upset people (The People Pleaser still ruled the roost). I lost belief for a while in my progress, frustrated that I was so exhausted and that the money in the bank kept staying at a level. I didn’t have anywhere near enough to buy my ticket to freedom and fund a few months away with my best friend. I wanted to find my feet again in the world and felt deep down it was what I needed.

On 12 December a big energetic portal opened, allowing for great expansion and miracles to occur, so I was told by Ben and various other astrologers and guides I follow online. This was an opportune time to manifest my desires, they said. I took heed. I created a vision board for my dream life and wrote down my hopes and goals for the upcoming year. In summary : Community Living, Love, Nature, Connection, Freedom, Health and Abundance. That night I couldn’t sleep. My mother and her partner came in late from an evening out just as I was drifting off and I was triggered. (I have a wound stemming from childhood around being woken up from sleep, and when I’m feeling sensitive, I can react with rage.) The anger boiled in me for hours. I punched my pillows, shouted into them, shook my body and eventually collapsed to my knees in tears. ‘I have to get out of here’ I said out loud. ‘I can’t live here anymore. It’s not good for me and not good for my mum’. And then an idea popped into my mind.

A few years ago a famous popular band released an album using an illustration on its front cover that had been drawn by my late grandfather, Charles Wood (whom I never met), without permission. On becoming aware of this, my father took them to court and was awarded a fair sum of money for his efforts, and their misdemeanour. This was to be split between Charles’ living grandchildren, my dad decided, myself included, though he had put the money in a savings account for use when I most needed it. ‘I need that money, now’ I decided. After a quick chat with my grandfather’s spirit, I was sure he agreed, and I messaged my dad asking him to call me the next day.

I explained my future intentions to my father—to build a conscious community in nature and to deepen my service to the world through my healing work—and presented my current calling to move on from living at home and to meet Rachael in Central America, stay in communities and expand my knowledge of off-grid living. I said to him that I was doing all I could right now to get stronger but that I wasn’t able to finance this trip. It felt difficult to admit this and to ask for his help (not for the first time). But, as I explained to him, it was the only way forward that I could see in my current situation. He said he would go away and think about it. I wasn’t surprised when a week later I was granted my wish : one thing I’ve learnt for sure during this long ordeal of recovery is that both my parents love me deeply and 100% have my back. The day my dad transferred me the funds an amazing deal appeared on Skyscanner for a flight to Guatemala (where Rachael was already settled) that hadn’t been visible in all the many times I’d searched in the weeks prior. I booked it immediately, left Rachael an excited voice note to confirm my arrival in less than a month’s time, and cried with gratitude, thanking my father, my grandfather, my spirit guides and my angels for assisting me in the next step of my journey.

The next few weeks passed quickly. I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders and a nervous excitement in my belly for what was to come. I spent time organising my possessions, clearing out old memorabilia from my drawers and sorting through clothes to give to charity shops. At the beginning of January I reconnected with Reiki healing, when, out-of-the-blue, a dear light-worker sister gifted me a space on her level 1 and 2 trainings. I began again my 21-day Reiki self-healing practice, which I’d been first initiated into two years prior. I also continued with my daily practices of yoga and Jin Shin Jyutsu, a very simple yet powerful energy balancing practice taught to me by Ben. Despite the gently simmering nervousness about flying, being on the road again, and leaving the safe nest of my family home, I felt confident that I now had the tools I needed to manage my anxiety and fears, and certain that it was the right decision.

………………………………..

I will pause this story here, and update in a future post about my current state of existence : living in community, in nature, in Central America, in greater presence, acceptance and appreciation for life and myself.

I will leave you with a summary of the lessons I’ve learnt from my experience of trauma, PTSD and Dark Night of the Soul last year. I hope that this story will provide solace to anyone reading who may be experiencing the pain and distress of coping with mental imbalance and social isolation today. I feel blessed to be able to share it. It is with compassion for all beings and hope for our united expansion into Universal Love that I share this. Aho.

Lessons learned …

  1. Ultimately, no one will save me, except myself. But help is always available, I just have to ask.

During this long period of darkness, my first response was desperation and helplessness. I embodied ‘The Victim’. I felt the world was against me and I felt powerless to change my state of inner turmoil. I blamed the outside world and people in it (my boyfriend, my mother, the other drivers on the road, God) for bringing me to this dark place. Projecting was one of the ways in which I tried to avoid my pain.

Eventually, I rose out of this state of victimhood and saw that only I was responsible for what had happened and how I felt as a result. I was not fully embodied when these ‘accidents’ happened : I was distracted, living in my head, and in denial, suppressing my negative emotions, in particular, anger. I was addicted to escaping from my feelings through alcohol, drugs, sex, codependent relationships, and social media. I was afraid of showing people who I really was and expressing my truth. I was hiding from my gifts and playing small. I was living in-authentically. Whilst playing ‘The Victim’ I needed ‘the other’ to play ‘The Villain’ or ‘The Rescuer’. I placed huge expectations on my lover, friends and parents to fulfil my physical and emotional needs. When they failed to meet these needs I felt destitute, abandoned and unwanted ; an old storyline originating from birth that was asking to be healed. When I finally realised I was being forced to grow up and take responsibility for my own health—physical, emotional, mental and spiritual—an empowering shift occurred. I realised I have the power to heal myself.

Paradoxically, perhaps, as I recognised that only I could save myself from the suffering I was experiencing, I saw that help was all around me. I realised that people wanted the best for me but it was up to me to ask for what I needed and accept their help. I learnt to speak my truth to my family and peers and to drop the shame of being vulnerable. I found all the resources and guidance I needed to support my own inner work when I realised that I was worth saving and I committed to self-love.

  1. It is OK to not be OK.

Before I could get better, I first had to accept that I was in a very bad place, AND be OK with that. ‘It’s OK to not be OK’ became a helpful mantra. One of the tools I learned to navigate panic attacks was EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or ‘Tapping’. When intense anxiety arose, I would tap different energy points on my face and chest and repeat a variation of : ‘I am having a panic attack, but I love and accept myself anyway’. Learning to love and accept myself, no matter how desperate, pathetic, useless, weak and damaged I felt, was as essential stepping stone in my healing process. After years of spiritual bypassing (self-talking myself out of negative feelings) and dissociating (leaving my body through various methods of escape) I finally learnt to sit still and in acceptance of what was occurring, no matter how scary and uncomfortable it felt.

  1. What we resist, persists.

These accidents were a long time coming, I can see now. It is no coincidence in my eyes that I injured the body parts which I did. The right side of the body, from an energetic perspective, is the masculine (Yang) aspect of our being—giving / doing / action. At the time of the accidents I had a lot of work lined up giving massages on retreats, and not a single thing scheduled in for my own wellbeing. I was teaching yoga but not practising it. I was giving treatments but not receiving them. I was moving too fast (metaphorically and literally), motivated by making money to survive and keeping busy to feel valued in the world, without seeing my blind-spots and meeting my own needs. I was lacking the balance of the feminine (Yin)—receiving / integrating / resting.

In Eastern and Ancient medicine, the wrist and shoulder are extensions of the heart meridian (energy line). I literally broke my energetic heart, which in retrospect, makes sense. I’d spent years, on-and-off, feeling depressed and heart-broken by relationship breakdowns and losses, and then carried on living by pushing these feelings into the depths of my subconscious. I had not healed these wounds, which began at birth ; I’d simply plastered over them with various coping strategies, one of which was to over-give to others (playing ‘The Martyr’).

My right shoulder has been a problem area for most of my life. I remember seeing an osteopath aged 11 or 12 about it. He told me that my right leg was shorter than my left which was causing an imbalance in my body and discomfort in my shoulder. The discomfort persisted thereafter, getting much worse during my office work career, when I sat at a computer for eight hours a day. I had daily chronic pain in my back which I had been ignoring. In fact I had been ignoring many imbalances in my being, such as my unhealthy relationship with eating, my unhealthy relationships with men and my own sexuality, my lack of motivation and willpower, my feeling of not belonging in the world, my addictive patterns and my turbulent mental and emotional wellbeing. Enough was enough, apparently : The Universe decided it was time for me to fully see, and take responsibility for my health and happiness.

  1. Everything is connected : emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and physical experiences. (As above, so below.)

Though I knew this intellectually before, I have now had the opportunity to thoroughly witness my own experience and discern that my thoughts, my conditioned beliefs, and my physical life experiences are intrinsically interconnected. The outside world is a reflection of the inner. When I was in a vibration of victimhood, for example, I experienced immense physical pain and energetic discomfort. My mind was most active in this state, creating resistance to what was happening—blaming / shaming / escaping what was. When I was in a vibration of acceptance, however, the physical pain and discomfort eased considerably and there was space for constructive action to be taken. And when I could feel gratitude, the discomfort all but disappeared.

I’ve learnt that suppressing emotions is dangerous. When not expressed, they stay stuck in the body, causing disease, imbalance, and injury to manifest. Emotions (‘energy in motion’) must be felt and allowed to move to maintain good health on all levels. I see that in suppressing my emotions and reacting with frustration to negative thoughts (not accepting what is) I created dis-ease in my body. It was when I surrendered to really feeling everything that was arising, and giving it space to be expressed, that healing really began.

  1. Loving and accepting myself fully, the darkness and the light, is the key to happiness.

Since ‘accidentally’ arriving on the spiritual path in 2014, through a spontaneous kundalini awakening, and discovering yoga, I realised that my role in this life is to share with others ancient wisdom and the tools passed through the ages by spiritual masters for healing and awakening. Having had a glimpse of enlightenment / bliss myself, I felt an obligation to share my experience and to teach others how to attain it. Little did I know I would fall so far down into the depths of despair after reaching such heights!

It was J who introduced me to the concept of spiritual bypassing. My ego was initially greatly offended and defensive. ‘I am love and light’, I believed. ‘It’s you who’s full of darkness’, I projected. Just as our relationship was exposed as a fallacy, so was this belief. I was forced to accept I too have darkness—manipulative aspects of myself (characters I’ve adopted) that I cannot see, patterns which do not serve, and wounds that need healing. The only way to live harmoniously in the world, I now know, is to accept that, and to love myself for it all.

  1. Daily ritual and spiritual practice is essential for my wellbeing.

I had wanted to establish a solid daily spiritual practice for a long time before my accidents. Lack of discipline got in the way. ‘The Rebel’ inside didn’t want to conform to a routine. (Though I called myself a yogi, I wasn’t practising what I preached.) I see now that self-discipline is a key pillar to happiness and a form of self-love. I’m so glad I’ve been forced into prioritising my spiritual practice. It continues to be the foundation of my now more balanced and fruitful daily life. I am grateful, too, for the power of ritual. I am more conscious of the way I eat, talk, engage with others, cook, clean and move in the world, having re-connected with my Divinity. Everything can be a ritual.

  1. Everything that happens ‘to me’ in life is in fact FOR me—for my expansion and for the highest good.

Stepping out of the shoes of The Victim has allowed me to see what happened last year as a blessing and a necessary part of my growth. Though painful, it resulted in great personal expansion and a deeper sense of empathy for myself and others. I am stronger, more courageous, and more humble because of it. I see that these incidents woke me up from many illusions which needed to be shattered and my battle to rise from the ashes has given me many tools which I can now share to empower others going through similar struggles.

  1. In-authenticity no longer keeps me safe and serves me. It is time to speak my truth and share it with the world.

Aho.

4 thoughts on “Dark Night of the Soul

  1. Thank you for letting me embark on your journey Olivia. I recognise your path through the dark night of the soul in many ways, and it moves me tremendously to read your story. I fully resonate with all the conclusions you’ve put at the end, as I can now see my own path as a blessing in disguise.

    In my humble opinion, you are an awakened soul. A precious gem, a ;diamond as you will, formed under extreme pressure, but gloriously beautiful once emerged from the darkness of the deep Earth. I honour you.

  2. Beautiful story I can so resonate with it on many levels and I was a student of Ben’s that’s when I first started on my journey you are a lovely soul I can tell by your writing many blessings fellow soul sister ..

  3. Hi Olivia
    I will connect with you more later but I want to share with you what my neighbour said was his guiding mantra…discipline equals freedom
    Thank you so much for sharing .
    It is important for healing to happen to take ownership of our stories.
    With Love

    Beena

  4. Wow!

    Amazing reflective writing!!

    Wishing you infinite grace on the rest of your journey <3

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