As is my practice each year, I have spent the last couple weeks reflecting on my greatest take-aways from 2022 as well as starting to think about how I want 2023 to feel.
For those of you who follow vedic astrology, you know that throughout our lives we transition through different dashas. December 2021 my Jupiter period of Expansion ended and I entered into Saturn for the next 19 years. Saturn is the teacher of Truth and Responsibility. And 2022 has definitely been full of lessons in those.
Every year I sit and reflect on a few questions:
What were my greatest lessons? What did I learn? Where did I grow? What were the most challenging aspects? The most beautiful?
Since I began this work of self-awareness in 2015, I have opened myself up to bigger and bigger experiments. Practicing discipline in various forms, non-attachment in selling my house and giving away my possessions, moving to different places, being single and being in relationship. With each experiment in discomfort I have discovered more personal freedom from my old survival personality defensive mechanisms. The freedom becomes addicting. Ultimately what I seek is TOTAL FREEDOM from the unconscious beliefs and stories that I used to keep myself safe in the past. A willingness to let them rise into my conscious awareness, to sit with how they feel, however uncomfortable, to question their validity and if they no longer serve me, to let them go and choose a better way. That to me, is personal growth in a nutshell.
- Lessons & Growth? My Truth is that Freedom is absence of fear.
- Most Challenging? Partnership with children & divorce, aging parents, work sabbatical
- Most Beautiful? Connection, intimacy, communication and growth in partnership
Freedom. The word is like a sutra to me. A thread that weaves into multilayers of meaning. What initially started as a grosser, more physical concept in regards to work, financial or relationship freedom, has expanded into the subtlety of letting go of all the beliefs and stories that made up my survival personality from childhood. The last few years that had been focused on releasing story in personal relationship, is now revealing the truth in some of my most uncomfortable old stories. Ones tied to children, parenting and the responsibility of boundary making and holding safe space in these realms. I never wanted children. Never cared about getting married. These “never”s are tied to thinking I didn’t want to repeat the mistakes my parents made, to having cared for my brothers at a young age, as well as being responsible for boundary holding for other people’s children for 20 years. It is a responsibility I never wanted in my personal life…
But real partnership IS something that I have been intentional about creating. I spent several years exploring the old stories I had there, while staying open to who that person might be, and what real partnership meant, what it looked like. A big part of knowing what it is, was experiencing what it isn’t. I’m grateful for those experiences as well. Sunshine is much more appreciated after a little rain.
This partnership has brought more growth, understanding and love than I could have ever imagined. A physical, intellectual, emotional, and relational equal who strives to show up as the best version of himself every day; seeking to see, hear, understand and unconditionally accept the person I am. This relationship has taught me that love at its best isn’t sunshine and rainbows; Love is a pressure washer. Love is a willingness to be uncomfortable together, to look at fears, insecurities, to face hurt and misunderstanding head on, to give space when old survival modes get triggered, to respect different communication styles and to give each other the support and time to share thoughts, feelings and integrate the experiences of life both as individuals and as a partnership; on our own and together. Situations arise that trigger old stuff. The pressure washer is the willingness to let the relationship be the means to blasting off all the old ways of being and doing things that no longer serve. It’s not a pleasant process, but love in real partnership holds safe space to do so. Relationship can be our greatest teacher and the means to finding the most freedom.
This partnership has brought the most challenge AND the most beauty to this year. A partner with children, going through divorce has been a real opportunity for growth.
Caring for aging parents is another milestone in life as an adult. Watching my Dad care for my step-mom as she declines with Alzheimer’s has been a testament to another love as a pressure washer. Watching a person lose themselves, not know the people who have been in their lives for decades. Even to be hurt by them. It’s a huge experience of non-attachment, of letting go of identity and ego, and of grieving the loss of someone even though their physical body still remains. Life continues to remind me that our purpose here is to learn to fully live and die well. The less resistance to change and loss, the freer we become. To be able to be with what is, without being completely ruined. And when life does throw us, having the tools to come back to a safe and grounded center.
Finally, as I have returned to Australia for a third and final time this year, on “sabbatical”, letting go of work contracts and clients throughout the process of caregiving and space holding, yet another layer of ego arises. Once again being challenged to ask myself, “Who am I without my work?” Staying at home, cooking, cleaning and taking care of meals comes up against a whole other layer of story around my value as a woman in today’s society. Can I find purpose, value and self-worth not working for a paycheck in the traditional sense? That has yet to be determined. Something I will continuing exploring into the New Year.
In reflecting on these lessons of 2022, I want to bring that growth into Intentions for 2023:
How do I want to feel? What do I want more of? Less of? And what desires am I dreaming towards creating?
Instead of having a “Goals List” I prefer to frame my intentions around how I want to feel. That way regardless of what life brings, my success is in how I feel, creating situations, interactions and content that build on how I want to show up in the world versus what I do or don’t get done. The common themes in the last few years are Freedom and Connection. I want to feel more and more free and I want to feel genuinely connected to myself and others.
- Word anchors? Truth as Freedom from Story (Safety vs Fear)
- More of?
- Self-Care: Prioritizing feeling 100%
- Practice: 3 M’s
- Service: Sharing integration insights
- Less of? Fear from old stories
- Dreams & Desires? Retreat Centre on a lake in NWO
Expanding on the concepts of Freedom and Connection as Freedom through Connection to myself and others, I have been playing with the ideas of Freedom as the absence of Fear as well as Freedom as Connection in Safety. Safety vs Fear. The state of our nervous system determines the difference in ability to Respond to life vs Reacting to it. The difference of outcomes depending on whether we feel safe or not.
When we are unconsciously in the fear response, (fight or flight), of the survival mode of the nervous system, the body reacts unconsciously to keep us safe from danger. This reaction runs on a spectrum depending on what worked to get your needs met as a kid. If anger and aggression, being the leader, protector or rescuer was the way you felt valued or how you made yourself feel safe and in control worked for you, then you are more on the FIGHT end of the spectrum. Conversely, if you felt safe withdrawing, hiding, staying quiet or unseen, you are on the FLIGHT end. One is not better or worse, only different. And knowing where you fall, as well as where those you are in relationship with sit, will greatly help in understanding how each communicates, thinks and acts in life. We are not the same. The goal isn’t to be the same, or to make someone share your viewpoint. The goal is to seek to understand, even when we don’t agree. Can we hold space to understand each other’s perspectives? Can we show up with a willingness to explore the conditioning and story that contribute to our unconscious reactions that come from the fear-based survival response? I assure you that Freedom is on the other side of fear.
In doing this work, asking the questions and being able to hold this safe space for exploring tough emotions and experience, I continue to be reminded that I need to feel well to have the capacity for it. Prioritizing the routines that contribute to me feeing 100%, is essential, non-negotiable. That will look different for each of us. For me sleep comes first. Getting 9 hours every night is the #1 factor to me showing up with a full battery. In fact, I track my body battery with a smart watch. It has been an experiment on its own discovering the factors that contribute or detract from that 100%. Eating, exercise, or tech too close to bed time and the difference even 1 drink makes to my ability to get a deep and restorative sleep determines my schedule. That’s not to say I don’t have nights where I know I won’t recharge fully, but I try my best to make sure that there aren’t consecutive nights of lack.
Awareness of intake is secondary. I’m not just talking about nutrition and hydration. But what I allow in through all my senses. What I watch, listen to, read, where I spend my time, and the people I choose to spend it with. Are these elements that fill me up and refresh or renew me, or are they depleting, distracting and draining?
I’ve mentioned my 3 daily non-negotiables: Meditation, Movement & Meaning
- Meditation allows me to feel connected to myself, to the bigger picture and to give me integration space for the challenges of life as well as the emotions that come with them.
- Somatic Movement highlights existing tension patterns and creates time and space to undo them. Those same survival reactions of fight or flight get held in our muscles, and over time lead to chronic pain and skeletal problems. Tight muscles eventually pull bones close enough together to impinge nerves and grind bone on bone. Not only is giving yourself daily time to listen to your mind helpful, but opportunity to explore what is held in the body is just as important.
- Meaning for me is created through connecting to others. Whether it is a text, a facetime or sitting down to write and sharing my insights, I crave genuine connection in authentic relationship. To move out of the reactionary space of the drama creating survival mode and into a safe place to respond to circumstances in authenticity, accountability and self-responsibility builds trust and real connection.
In summary, for 2023 I want to show up with less fear, with a willingness to let go of old story, to bring in daily practices that contribute to me self-regulating back into a safe state for my nervous system. To continue to foster connection to both myself and others. Sharing through writing and teaching the concepts and tools to move from Fear to Safety. To help others find the Freedom of Connection in Safety. As far as dreams and desires go, it is very much my, (and our), intention to make it back to Canada. To build a home and retreat centre on a lake in Northern Ontario. To return to working with First Responders. To continue sharing the tools of Self-Responsibility, Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation so that we can show up in a safe state to hold space for others to come back to safety as well. Freedom is Connection in Safety.
My new year’s wish for you is that you take time for yourself. That you prioritize time to connect and listen to what you need to charge your batteries, to feel connected and purposeful. May you cultivate the friendships, family, animals and activities that make you feel fully alive. May you see your challenges as opportunities for growth. May you savor the sweetness of whatever beauty finds you this year. All the best to you and yours.