Standing In My Power; Knowing I Am Safe


Our relationships show us our unresolved patterns and where we still need to heal. This is one woman's story of her endeavours to communicate from a place of Spirit not Ego, and learn to love and trust in herself.
Image courtesy of cocoparisienne on Pixabay.

The first of January this year saw me having lunch with my two pottery teachers and a friend of theirs after a call the night before asking me if I had any plans for New Year’s Day.

After lunch one of them produced a set of Angel Cards – in English no less – that they’d been given years ago. “I’ve never used them. You have them,” he said, offering them to the friend. It turned out that she already had a set of her own that were exactly the same, so by default they were now mine.

I have to be honest, I didn’t think I’d have much use for them either. Pulling cards isn’t something that I’ve done before or something that I feel drawn towards. But it was the first day of a new year after all. “Let’s pull a card each for 2016,” said the friend. And so we did.

Mine felt like a bit of a let down. While one of my teachers got “play;” his brother “creativity” and the friend “inspiration,” the card I drew was “communication.” It felt boring and mundane compared to the others’, and on arriving home I put the cards on my chest of drawers where they’ve been sitting ever since.

It’s only recently that I’ve begun to see how apt the card I pulled was; what a big part of the picture communication (and miscommunications) are turning out to be for me this year.

2013 and 2014 were, for me, years dedicated to intense inner work. I traveled through the pain of solitude to discover on the other side the beautiful gift of that same solitude: the chance to reconnect with myself.

One of my friends on visiting me described my existence as “hermit-like,” and in a way she was right. I continued teaching so it’s not as if I was a total recluse or completely isolated. But it is true that I didn’t invite many people into my world, and the ones I did were all “safe choices” – people who saw me and accepted me exactly as I was, burden of pain and all.

That was exactly what I needed at that time, but they do say our greatest gifts of growth and self-knowing come from our interactions with others – difficult to experience when your lifestyle tends towards the reclusive.

Since early 2015 I’ve been opening up to more encounters with the world again; making new connections; expanding my circles of acquaintances and friends. Although the majority of these have been good encounters, since reentering the world communication has moved to centre stage.

During those years of self-examination, healing and soul-searching I gradually opened up to a greater acceptance of life as it is – including the impermanence and uncertainties that it can be all too easy to forget are written into the small print.

It’s when we fight against life by refusing to accept it as it is, demanding that it should be different somehow, that we find ourself entrapped in suffering.

This is the place I found myself in in 2013. Little by little, as I released my attachment to the idea that things needed to work out in the way I thought they should in order for me to be safe, my suffering diminished. In its wake came peace. The peace of acceptance.

Relinquishing, bit by bit, my desire to control outcomes, I learned instead to trust that the experiences life presents me with are always in my greatest and highest good – exactly what I need to open up my potential for growth and allow me to expand into more of my truth and innate potential.

Slowly, slowly I leaned to trust that we live in a benevolent Universe; to see how much I am always supported. Learning to see with the eyes of Spirit instead of the eyes of my Ego in this way did wonders for my fear of the unknown and my unease and anxiety when brought face to face with the fickle and uncertain, unpredictable nature of life.

It’s not that my fear of the unknown or unease in the face of uncertainties disappeared; but each time I felt myself falling off the cliff face of fear I would bring myself back to the perspective of Spirit, remind myself that events in my life were unfolding in the direction of my greatest and highest good and that the Universe had my back.

I was managing this pretty well while I was living my semi-reclusive existence. Of course I still sometimes dropped into fear and the illusion of separation, but the insulating cocoon I had created around myself meant that most of the time the only major player in the picture was me. Of all the things in this world I am the one I have the greatest degree of control over, so (with the support of the various people and processes that have been and continue to be gifts of grace in my life) I could usually manage to bring myself back from the brink of fear and centre myself in the perspective of Spirit again.

Now that I’m inviting other people into the picture, however, I’m reminded that in our communicative act with others there is always a degree of uncertainty, an element of the unknown.

Our degree of control over ourselves may be tenuous at times; but it is ever-present if we choose to embrace and engage it.

Not so with the other people in our life.

Leaving behind the safety of my cocoon where, for the most part, I only had to deal with myself; the backdrop on which my patterns are choosing to play out has extended its parameters as relationships have moved to centre stage in my life.

The stage is the same – my feelings of fear and unworthiness and being unsafe exist only in my mind and have nothing to do with anyone else; but it’s as if the Universe is using the relationships in my life to reflect these patterns back at me 100X magnified. As a result, I’m finding my Ego mind is back in control more often – playing on my insecurities, telling me I’m not safe.

In the space between two people and the act of communication that takes place between them there is an inevitable haziness – a lack of clarity wherein lies the potential for misunderstandings- because the other is not a known entity to us as we are unto ourself.

It is this that my Ego is using to such advantage.

In one particular relationship my Ego has been having a heyday – aided and abetted by the fact that the other person and I are still relatively new acquaintances in a formal setting with pressure to perform well on both sides, the parameters of the relationship not yet clearly defined.

Things that could be talked through, laughed off or put down to a quirk of the personality if the relationship had had longer to develop have been blowing themselves up from molehills into mountains; the ground-shaking reverberations that result causing me to lose my footing on more than one occasion.

For someone who is usually pretty well-balanced, generally speaking well-liked and trusted by the people I know, I’ve been doing a spectacular job of off-kilter clumsy communications; flailing around like the proverbial elephant in a china shop: worse, a bull elephant teetering on one leg in a circus tutu in a china shop, wielding a baton in its hands.

It’s like all my relationship patterns have come to the forefront in a head-on collision with the other person involved. I have to keep reminding myself that by the universal laws of interaction we’re acting as mirrors for each other, and it’s not just me smashing into him in such a brutal way.

Thank goodness that through it all, at some point I become present enough with myself to realise that the whole reason these deep-rooted patterns are coming up is to be given a chance to heal.

It’s then that I manage to embody my higher self; to look at what is coming up for me and trace it back to its root; unleashing the power of healing in full force in my life.

Tracing it back I see that, for my part at least, each and every time communication and/or interaction problems have arisen two particular circumstances have been in place. First, the communication has been taking place via e-mail so there’s the additional pressure of the fear of the unknown that comes with not being able to read the other person’s reactions face to face or get an immediate response from them. Second, I’ve given my Ego the reins: forsaken the relaxed, open, expansive, all-embracing energy of my heart space that trusts that as my intention is to be aligned with source consciousness then everything that unfolds in my life is in divine flow, for the masculine energy of striving and wanting to control situations and outcomes that my Ego so thrives on.

When I move into Ego in this way it throws up a veil between me and the perspective of Spirit so that I can no longer see things clearly. I lose my connection with the energy of trust and start to overthink things and worry, plunging into the energy of anxiety, creating problems where none existed, perceiving only lack. I start to grasp and grab to get what it is I think I need to make me safe and, from this blinkered perspective, I start to panic as if – going back to that bull elephant in the china shop – it knocked off a shelf-full of plates with its baton and accidentally startled itself.

Before I know it I’ve gone into full fight or flight mode and my adrenaline and cortisol are running high. It’s from this space of ungroundedness that I make arbitrary and unbalanced decisions, engaging in acts of communication that are fuelled by the energy of my Ego’s perception of lack and fear – no longer present enough to think and act from my calm and creative space.

Communicative acts taken from this space inevitably alienate the other person and dial up the stress in the relationship. It has to be said, though, that the stress created in the relationship is nowhere near as high or as intense as the stress I manage to inflict on myself during the whole process… Each time it feels like I’ve been run over by a steamroller and then some, taking me several days to recover.

The drama continues as my Ego refuses to let me forgive myself for ruffling things up and tries to overcompensate with a kind of masochistic impulse to apologise profusely. Too profusely. Unless I’m incredibly mindful, I end up taking all the blame for the situation on myself and, more often than not, apologising for being who I am as well as for the disruptive communicative act.

Tracing it back I see that this, too, arises from an Ego impulse to control outcomes. It’s a pattern of interaction leftover from imbalanced power relationships in which my Ego (mistakenly) took on the notion that if I apologise and debase myself enough I’ll somehow be able to appease the other person and prevent them from rejecting me entirely, thus abandoning the relationship.

Once again it all comes back to my Ego’s desire to keep me “safe.”

Making myself a scapegoat doesn’t actually serve myself or the other person though, and it certainly doesn’t keep me safe.

If anything it’s an act of self-harm, elevating the other person at the expense of myself. When this particular pattern is playing out I subjugate myself and my standing within the relationship so much that I devalue myself. Ultimately I erase myself and my right to equality within the relationship out of the picture.

A classic case of low self-worth if ever there was one.

What’s more, if every relationship is a chance for us to act as mirrors for one another, allowing us to gain more consciousness around the roles we play and the subconscious patterns of behaviour they are rooted in so that these things can come up to the surface for healing; then when I make myself the scapegoat and take all the blame on myself I seriously diminish the likelihood of the other person interacting with the experience in a way that allows them the opportunity to integrate the soul lessons it holds for them. This dishonours the other person as much as myself, and from a universal perspective could even be interpreted as impeding their growth.

No winners there then.

I know I’m emerging victorious from this encounter – and I don’t mean in relation to the other person involved. The whole experience has led me to look deeply into my Ego’s patterns of reactive interaction and gain more consciousness and clarity around them; opening myself up to the possibility of more mindful interactions in the future. In my willingness to face the encounters, the uncomfortable feelings provoked, to integrate the soul lessons as best as I can I am already victorious.

It’s only fair to accord the other person the opportunity to interact with the experience in a similarly empowering way, to garner the soul lessons it has for them.

So the question I’ve been asking is, “How can I engage in communicative acts in ways that ensure that everyone is a winner; communicative acts that honour both me and the other person and bring about the outcome that is in the greatest and highest good of all?”

I know it has to do with being in my heart. Interacting mindfully from this space of peace, openness  and acceptance.

Trusting both myself and the other person.

Trusting in Divine flow.

Belatedly realising the significance of the angel card I pulled, after these encounters I made a list of ways to interact with others more mindfully: not being caught up in my own agenda; expressing my appreciation of others; finding ways to make the person I’m interacting with feel seen, heard and valued; seeing them with fresh eyes instead of through my judgements; taking care to ensure that what I want to say is clear and my language is uplifting and supportive…

I propped my list up on my kitchen table where – in theory – I would see it every day, and set my intention to be more mindful in my interactions.

The problem is that the times when I most need to be mindful in interactions with others are also the times when I’m least able to be present with myself in this way, or highly conscious about the way I’m communicating.

My interaction and communication problems tend to arise when a flicker of fear catches on then escalates like wildfire, plummeting me into my reactive Ego. The best that this reactive Ego self can do is to get its head above water and tread water furiously – gasping for air and latching onto whatever it thinks will make it safe.

Acting consciously is not high on its list of priorities.

I’ve found it more helpful to go directly to the root of the problem: the imbalance of energy in my root chakara that this pattern – thinking that I need something from the other in order to be okay instead of standing in my own power – indicates.

Spending time focusing on my root chakara and giving myself the gift of the three words  “I am safe” has made all the difference.

Of course I’d still like to move into more mindful ways of interacting with others, but rather than getting caught up in efforts to self-improve – which inherently imply that I’m in some way lacking and incomplete, thereby reinforcing the grip of my Ego – I’ve been taking the short cut of simply loving and accepting myself where I am. Accepting my scared and fearful Ego-self that doesn’t feel safe and giving it what it needs: the reassurance that I’m here for it; the affirmation that it is, in fact, entirely safe.

Giving myself, at last, what my Ego has been trying to cling to, to grasp and get from others has gone a long way towards turning my communications around.

When I feel safe – when I give myself this gift; instead of trying to attain that feeling of safety through my interactions with another – I can literally breathe easier. A wave of relief washes over my body and through all my cells and I’m no longer in the energy of striving or grasping.

I spontaneously drop back into my heart space, recenter there.

Floating on the back of the wave of relief and following suit is the gift of presence.

I’m more present with myself. More present with the other person involved.

More present with the ways we engage and the space between us where our interaction takes place.

From this relaxed and open space my communication naturally flows in a way that is in greater alignment with Spirit and the greatest and highest good of all.

This is the gift of communication I want to give to myself and the people around me.

This is the gift of communication I want to give to the world.

Brilliantly, Beautifully Me.

Photo courtesy of Butterflies and Pebbles, permission granted.

Earlier this month I had the chance to meet for a short two hours a colleague of mine from the days when I first came to Japan on the JET program. It was the first time for us to have any personal contact in the thirteen and a half years since our term of contract ended. Though we had remained friends on Facebook we each had only a superficial idea of the trajectory the other’s life had taken, bits and pieces we’d cobbled together from each others’ infrequent status updates.

As we sat in a lovely traditional Japanese style restaurant and enjoyed the feel of the place with its tatami mats and low tables and the noren at the door we had just enough time to exchange brief updates on our lives and catch up on the news we had of some of our mutual friends and acquaintances.

Many of the people who take part in the JET program are go-getters. With their adventurous spirit, their boldness and daring and their natural curiosity and ability to relate well to others it’s as if they were born for success. A good deal of them also have a highly evolved social conscience and a strong desire to do their part to help make the world a better place. This is no less true of our group of JET alumni than any other. As we talked it came out that one former colleague is currently playing a central role in welcoming Syrian refugees into Canada; another went on to work on the Peace Boats and then with international aid organisations. On a bit of a tangent yet another, and for some reason this delights me, is apparently married to a Hong Kong pop star.

And then there is my friend herself. She was always special. Even while we were on JET she single-handedly set up a a web-based international volunteer organisation that helps to match volunteers to projects working at the grassroots level and which, as far as I know, continues to this day. She then worked as the International Relations Officer for the U.S. Department of labor for many years before quitting and going back to school to get an MBA. With her MBA still in process she’s already been accepted by a world class company to work for them after she’s done.

Talk about an exciting and inspiring life, not to mention the exceptional CV.

Despite the astonishing amount of success she has enjoyed and the impact she’s been able to have at the grassroots level in various countries around the world she is delightfully down to earth; humble; fun; caring; intelligent; passionate – an altogether lovely person to spend an afternoon with.

And then there is me, with my altogether more normal life.

Even as we exchanged stories about some of the amazing work our former colleagues are doing and I relished the paths their lives have taken, I felt myself automatically comparing the trajectory of my own path to theirs as my old nemesis my Ego popped up (just for fun) to pummel me around a bit and try to knock me down.

“Strike while she’s weak,” it seemed to say; instantly sensing the hairline fissures that were appearing in the somewhat fragile shell of my self-confidence. They might not have been deep enough to puncture it, but they did create a slight chink which my Ego was quick to spot and use to its advantage.

“Look at all the wonderful things your former colleagues have been doing,” it gibed – the unsubtle subtext being “all the things that they’ve been doing that You Are Not.”

I couldn’t help but feel as if the comparative smallness of scale of my current life made it – made me – inferior, lacking.

I must hasten to add that this is not a reflection in any way on my friend, who said and did nothing to make me feel this way.

It was all in my mind.

A story perfectly crafted by my Ego – which has lived with me all my life and thus knows exactly where the chinks in my armour are – designed to hit me where I’m most vulnerable.

Having shown its face, my Ego was determined to have some fun. Fun for my Ego does not, as a general rule, mean fun for me. I felt my energy field shrink as my ego continued to knock the bottom out of my self-esteem by regaling me with the glory of my former colleagues’ lives whilst reminding me that here I am still living in the same village doing the same thing as I was sixteen and a half years when I first came to Japan.

To be fair to myself I’m not actually doing the same things as I was sixteen and a half years ago.

I’m not even doing the same things as I was two and a half years ago.

But my ego doesn’t really care about that.

My ego is a master at finding ammunition where there’s none to be found; leveraging facts to suit its current line of attack. “Here you are living in the same village still teaching English,” it held forth. The sentiment behind the words was, “It’s as if you can’t be bothered to get out from under your kotatsu (heated table) and do something else with your life.”

Whittling away at my self-assurance with its words, it expertly declared me inadequate; tried to make me feel that the way I’ve been living my life isn’t good enough / big enough / brave enough / exciting enough / contributing enough / significant enough.

And for a while there it had me; the old familiar pattern that “I’m not enough” crept back, inserting itself insidiously into the cells of my body. As it did so it sapped my self-respect and was on its way to sundering me from myself.

But then I got what was going on. And it really didn’t take that long. The repetition of the old pattern itself, the tired familiarity of it, jolted me back into mindfulness and I realised it was just my Ego playing with me again, trying to sully me with this its latest onslaught.

While it was managing to do it covertly, infiltrating my mind with stealth like a ninja in the night, it had the upper hand.

But now I’d shone the light of my awareness on it, I was a match for it, ready to take it on.

Reminding myself that I was the only authority in my life, and that my Ego had no means of challenging my rule if I stood strong in my power and refused to be deceived by its wily machinations, I commanded (in true Shakespearian style):

“Ego, begone, and be all ways away.”

(If I’m honest what I actually said was far more contemporary, far less civilised and would probably necessitate a foul language alert, but I don’t want to offend anybody).

The point is that by calling out my Ego like this I was able to stop its games and take back my power. A single moment of awareness allowed me to restore the authority in my life and in my head to where it has always belonged: with me. By a simple act of noticing I could incapacitate my Ego in its attempts to usurp my mind, prevent it from infiltrating my consciousness with its treacherous – they were, after all, about getting me to disrespect and dishonour me – falsehoods; at the same time destroying its separation tactics as I reconnected with the truth of who I am.

In an abrupt about-face we went from Ego – 8: Julia – 2, to Julia – 8: Ego – 2.

Oh, the power in a single moment of self-awareness.

I’ve got into the habit of literally talking to myself like this when I notice my Ego is back to its old tricks: comparing and contrasting, finding me lacking, making me feel unworthy or insignificant, miring me in self-doubt or self-condemnation.

Telling your Ego to shut up and stop filling your head with such a load of old baloney (or words to a similar effect) puts a stop to your identification with your Ego and its elaborate stories, enabling you to release the hold the Ego has over the way you think and feel and so confound its attempts to work against your highest vision of who you want to be. It’s a really useful tool for claiming back your authority and putting yourself (the self that you are beyond the Ego) back in the driving seat in your head.

But in reality our Ego, far from being our enemy, is one of our greatest friends. In bringing up my old familiar stories and patterns my Ego was doing me a huge service. Every twinge of inferiority it made me feel, every dose of insignificance with which it inundated me, was like a huge wake up call showing me with pinpointed precision exactly where I haven’t got it yet, where I still don’t love myself enough, where there’s a need to heal in order to restore myself to wholeness.

You see, there’s no doubt that my friend is brilliant. She’s a stellar woman and human being who has passion and commitment, kindness and compassion, a great sense of loyalty, a wonderful sense of fun, outstanding ethics and a genuine desire to get out there in the world and make a difference by helping others.

I’m sure that many of our former colleagues are equally amazing.

But the point is, so am I.

Most of those things that I just said about her… If I started to ask myself what I am instead of focusing on what I’m not, they’re things that I could also say about me.

And although it might be hard for me to see it sometimes, and although I might be doing them on a much smaller scale, I’m doing equally amazing things in my life.

Different things, sure. But that doesn’t make them any less great.

We are all designed for greatness; but what we (read “I”) need to remember is that there are endless variations on the theme.

Some of us are here to work on an international scale and some of us are not, and both of these are fine. Whether we work on a local scale, a national scale or an international scale or zig-zag back and forward between them what matters is that we embody our highest vision of ourself; treating ourself and those around us with love, compassion and kindness; doing our bit to enhance the world; lighting it up with our love, our joy, our laughter; sharing our wisdom and skills; bringing more understanding, more beauty, more simple acts of human kindness into the world; expanding ourselves into an ever higher level of consciousness.

Things that we can do wherever we find ourself, whatever we find ourself doing because they’re about our way of being in the world, not related to or constrained by the specifics of what we’re doing in the world.

And what matters more than anything is that we love and accept ourself for who we are.

Accept what we are and what we aren’t. Spend time getting to know ourselves well enough to know the difference; fine-tune our understanding of our personal traits, our strengths and weaknesses, our dreams and desires, the path our journey has taken…

And then make peace with that.

Not expend our precious time and energy on trying to be somebody else or measuring ourselves against something – a job, a person, a standard, a vocation, a scale – that was never meant for us.

We are all unique individuals and within each of us is the seed of what we came to this Earth to do, who we came here to be. It’s inherent in our gifts, our abilities, our passions, our personal qualities and our natural inclination towards one thing over another. It’s heard in the whispers of our soul calling us towards that which makes our heart rejoice, showing us the path back to our truest and most authentic expression of ourself.

When it comes down to it all that really matters, the only way we’re ever going to be able to know personal fulfilment and joy, is by aligning with this essence of who we are – recognising our own particular brand of brilliance; spending our time and energy on exploring, expanding, honouring that.

And how can we honour our own brand of brilliance if we’re running around trying to be somebody else?

If we’re caught up in regretting the things we’re not?

Embrace who you are.

Let go of the notions of who you think you should be, how you think you should be living your life…

Stop comparing yourself to others and listing all the ways you think you’re not enough…

Explore, instead, the truth of who you really are: what you – the unique being that you are – came here to be.

Celebrate everything that makes you uniquely, beautifully, brilliantly, singularly yourself.

Make incarnate in human form the brilliance that only you can be.

The brilliance that springs forth from your soul.

The brilliance that is written into your every cell; that is so much a part of you that you may not even be aware of the radiance of its light.

Offer this brilliance to the world through your authentic and fullest expression of yourself.

The Source consciousness that is the origin of all life has chosen to embody an aspect of itself through and in you.

Trust in this, and know with a certainty that you are brilliant in your very own and very special way.

The Universe does not make mistakes. It has made itself manifest through the particular combination of form (body) and spirit (soul) that I am, that you are.

I was born to be brilliantly, beautifully me.

You were born to be brilliantly, beautifully you.

Let’s honour the innate brilliance that we are by honouring ourselves; our gifts, our quirks, our qualities, our creative impulses – everything that makes me uniquely me; makes you uniquely you.

In honouring ourself and the unique conjoining of form and spirit that is only brought into being in and through us we step up into who we are, embody the highest expression of our truth. This is who we came here to be. The energy of our soul becomes the energy that infuses and permeates everything we do, and it’s in this that the unfurling of our own brilliance transpires as our soul’s transcendence is made manifest in our physical lives.

Let this be the brilliance we offer to the world.

Ourself as a vessel for the luminosity of spirit to be made incarnate.