‘I’ve been holding myself back all this time’, a friend says, ‘and it seems silly now.’
I am pleased (and just a little perturbed) to discover over our green smoothies that some of her story is my story also. The details are not the same, quite different really, but the theme song rings just as true for me as it is happening for her.
It is a moment of unexpected truth. And one I probably shouldn’t (if I know what’s best for me) ignore.
I used to hate these moments, where I saw myself in another.
Now I like them, love them even.
These kind of moments have been my best teachers. They are what all the great spiritual teachers talk of. But we didn’t need a guru to point it out. It was obvious.
She was my mirror and I hers.
I’ve been living (as a more or less successful) mirror for a number of years now. Being a mirror I started to see the world differently. Everything I needed to know was laid out in all its naked glory in the people around me.
I became Alice in Wonderland, and started my descent down the rabbit hole.
If I found myself getting annoyed or frustrated by the behaviour of someone else, then I knew I had something to learn and love in myself. Frustrated with the loud-talking woman in the coffee shop was frustrated that I felt trapped in silence. Hurt by being rejected by someone I liked was hurt by being rejected as not being something enough (smart, pretty, interesting, you name it!) by me myself.
But it didn’t stop there.
When I found myself giving other people advice, it was usually (no, always!) the very advice I needed to hear. Get on with publishing that blog! Stop giving up and start believing in yourself more! Don’t you realise how gifted you are! I wish you would see how much you have to offer! I heard my own voice bouncing back off my mirrors to teach me something. Even when I didn’t think I was ready to act on it.
The mirrors were everywhere, not just in friends and family but in strangers and even movie plot lines. I couldn’t escape. Wherever I went, the messengers came with me.
Australia, England, the States, Bali, Thailand, it didn’t matter which country. My mirrors were in hot pursuit.
They came in pairs, trios sometimes, occasionally even whole communities. It was frightening to see how I was creating everything. Frightening because I couldn’t always control it.
It was the annoying (and usually inconvenient) truth. It meant taking full responsibility for being the creator of my own experience. Great news at first (when I was on my good run of beginner’s luck, manifesting hot air balloon rides and dream apartments) but difficult to pull off consistently and especially difficult in situations that triggered my sore spots. Hello challenging relationships.
The mirror theory for how life worked wasn’t always easy to use to my benefit in practice. I enjoyed reading about it more than using it. It was hard to see that it might be my inner world of thoughts and beliefs that were responsible, even though I intellectually understood that it probably was.
There’s a good reason I taught ‘Theory’ during my academic years and avoided subjects concerned with ‘Practice’.
Getting messy in practice meant I couldn’t blame anyone anymore. This seemed obvious Spiritual Path 101 material yet I was still tripping up over it.
It was embarrassing to admit that in some ways I was still a beginner. I was ashamed and felt I should have known better and been able to achieve better.
I hated (and I mean really hated!) to think I ever played the ‘victim’ card but I (somewhat painfully) came to realise that in some areas of my life I always thought of myself as the loyal sidekick rather than the leading lady.
Underneath my New Age optimism I secreted suspected that life was unfair, that other people got rewarded when I got punished, and that I had to put up and shut up in order to survive.
I was a walking and (barely) talking hypocrite.
Outside of my safe academic environment, I was a scared child afraid to speak up for what I believed in. In my research papers and lecture theatres I was confident. I spoke my truth without fear.
But in the frightening terrain of my personal life, I couldn’t utter a single truthful thing. I kept my true views to myself, even from the closest of friends. I didn’t dare show the real me.
Asked what my favourite movie was and I couldn’t answer. Oh, I haven’t watched many lately. I have too many to pick one. What’s your favourite? Oh look, an interesting bus stop!
I felt judged and condemned before I even spoke.
And I wasn’t even allowed to blame my DNA or family history for it.
But once I stepped down this path, there was no turning back. The more I’ve lived according to this truth, the more life showed me my repeating patterns.
More than once did I avoid telling others what my favourite movie was (or book or food, for that matter). More than once did I hold onto my real opinions if I thought others would disagree. I kept coming face to face with opportunities to do things differently but I kept playing it all out, over and over again, on the same loop.
But once I had seen what was really going on, I couldn’t un-see it, even though I desperately wanted to.
It’s like I had given life a permission slip to show me my ‘stuff’ and it was taking full advantage.
At first I was overwhelmed by this new reality.
I felt like I couldn’t put a toe out of place before life came crashing down around me in painful accuracy of what I was believing about myself to be true. All the fears, limiting ideas and insecurities popped up one at a time (sometimes the same thing 3 times in one week) to show me where I needed to re-align my inner world.
I felt like I was on a never-ending treadmill of personal growth. I feared I would never get back to normal and live a regular life.
How was it even possible there was still more I was doing wrong?
Little did I know I was feeding my inner self-hate critic more food to chew on.
I thought I had self-love down easy. Hello another blind spot.
But it was easy loving myself when I was surrounded by success and validation from others, not so easy when everything was falling apart and my cheerleaders had lost faith in me, packed up their bags and placed their admiration in someone else.
It was my biggest test of faith, not in life but in how I viewed myself.
Did I still feel worthy when I was without my academic achievements and recognition? Was I still loveable without someone to love me? Did I still have purpose in being here when no one wanted what I had to offer?
These questions haunted me. I didn’t know where to run (and I was running out of countries!). I looked to others for guidance but even spiritual teachers and healers couldn’t explain to me what was going on.
So I did the only thing I could. I experimented and became the clumsy comic-hero.
I returned home periodically from adventures abroad to tell friends of my ‘crazy’ experiences and I suspected they started to see me as the fool (and not the divine one!). My smart persona rapidly dropped away as the years in self-discovery continued. Another year, another set of I can’t believe that happened again experiences to share with everyone.
I got sympathy I didn’t want, looks of pity I preferred not to see. Friends and family became concerned, though very few would ever tell me so. I was the only one that knew I was on the right path.
I kept reminding myself The Fool was the highest card in the Tarot Deck, and its magic was still yet to reveal itself.
So I continued to struggle and learn. I filled my shame and doubt with love and forgiveness.
It has taken years for me to discover my way back, to return from my journey down the rabbit hole of Self.
I was right in fearing that life would never return to normal. I have returned a different person, less shakeable and more vulnerable, at the same time more sensitive and even more strong.
Wonderland has been the best teacher and it continues to be.
The mirrors on my journey told me everything I needed to know about myself. They still do, and (luckily) they get better looking all the time.
Life has become immeasurably better (thank heavens!), easier (yay!), more magical and oftentimes amazing. Stuff still comes up but only to show what’s holding me back, not for the reason of torturing me as I once suspected.
Now I know what I know, it’s time to come back. And, more importantly, it’s time for a comeback.