“I just wanted to write and let you know how much I’ve enjoyed this class. I’ve taken all of your courses and this one feels qualitatively different – deeper – an evolution. I liked the lightness and gentleness of the structure, the space for carving-out deep alone time. It perfectly suited and reflected the purpose of the course.” – from Melinda, via email
After five years of teaching online I’ve come to trust that the teacher often ends up teaching what she most needs to learn. All my courses draw on my own experiences, and The Sacred Alone is without a doubt the most soul-excavating work I’ve done since writing the book. The class is illuminating and rich and I really didn’t want those 14 days to end (always a good sign!).
I like to challenge myself to find new ways to present my ideas and I knew meditation would be a key part of this class. I was a little nervous about recording the audios as I hadn’t done it before, but, as always, I trusted my instincts and opened up to the possibility of doing it imperfectly, knowing that would be enough. Because the truth is, I’ve had a patchy relationship with meditation over the years. My reluctance to settle into stillness has dogged me forever, despite spending a lot of time being still, if that even makes sense. I have a shedload of guided meditations, and have tried all sorts of techniques, but nothing really stuck as a daily practice. I live mindfully, yes, and have often said that photography is like meditation for me, but it’s only been this year that something has changed.
As I unravelled my understanding of the Sacred Alone, I opened myself wide to meditation. After a lifetime of inconsistency my body/mind/soul finally let go. It’s like when you’re learning to drive and after months of struggle it suddenly clicks into place and you’re driving without thinking. I’ve had my click and it feels like a miracle.
It’s no coincidence that this has coincided with my decision to be more transparent about my spiritual side. Some of my online peers write very unselfconsciously about this stuff, but I’ve always shied away from revealing this side of myself. Even after 25 years of figuring out what rings true for me, it felt too personal, somehow, too revealing. But when I wrote the “Spirit” week for Journal Your Life, I knew it was time to own this part of me more publicly. I’m not a traditionally religious person, but I am and always have been a spiritual person whose hotchpotch of beliefs informs how she lives.
“I LOVED the meditations! I’ve been trying to find a way to incorporate meditation into my daily life and I had tried several different techniques, etc. but nothing had clicked for me until this course. Between the morning meditations and listening to the mixtape on my morning walks (that mixtape is gold!), I’ve felt so centered and peaceful.” — Kate, via email
As I wrote and recorded each meditation it seemed to be coming from someplace outside of myself. The audios are short — just 5-6 minutes — and simple, and even the act of recording them was incredibly transporting. I was thrilled (and surprised) to discover I have a knack for this. I want to explore this way of connecting with participants further and definitely see a sound studio in my future, so expect longer guided meditations at some point this year.
As Melinda noted in her email to me, my work is evolving. I feel the strands of the last five years coming together into a pattern, and I’m hungry to see where this next stage takes me. I feel more confident in my role as teacher, while still honouring the fact that I’m always learning. As with everything I share, I like to work through the lessons first so I can authoritatively report back from the trenches. Because, you see, I don’t have the answers — no one does, we find them for ourselves — but I’m very happy to share the results of my experiments.
After ‘retiring’ Unravelling last year I’m now looking into how I can develop this core work. Whether it’s Unraveling 2.0 or a multi-media ebook remains to be seen, but I DO know that I’m feeling called to go much deeper in my teaching. Between me and you, now I’ve taken a break from dating I have so much more energy available for creating. No surprises there, I guess!
I’ve also started working on something that makes my heart race every time I think about it: a deck of oracle cards. Think: inner wisdom, journalling and beautiful imagery, all wrapped up in a deck that feels amazing in your hands. As many of you know, I’m a big fan of oracle cards, so creating my own deck feels like the most natural thing in the world. It’s got to the stage where I can’t *not* make them — my overflowing notebook is proof of this. I’ll keep you posted on my progress!
I had an amazing dream while I was in Devon last week. Actually, there was nothing particulary amazing about the actual dream, but what it represented was amazing (to me). For the last few years I’ve been having a recurring dream that I have another home somewhere, out there, but I can’t remember where it is. It’s an apartment I used to live in, and it holds a lot of my stuff, but I haven’t been there in such a long time I can’t remember the address. In the reoccuring dream I know I have to find this other home at some point so i can sort through the things and let it go, but I can never find my way there. I always wake up confused and it takes a moment to remember that in the real world i have just one home and it’s here, in London. The relief is always enormous.
For the first time ever, I dreamt I found the other home. I can’t remember how I found my way there, but suddenly there I was, opening the door and walking in. In the dream I was so surprised to finally be there my heart was racing as I looked around this converted loft filled with tables strewn with my belongings. There were clothes displayed on the walls like a museum, and piles and piles of books and records. Slowly I began to go through the objects, pulling out things i remembered from my teenage — things I haven’t thought about in forever in my waking world. It was like discovering a corner of my brain I hadn’t opened in 25 years.
When I woke up I immediately reached for my journal and wrote down everything i could remember about the other home — there were a LOT of underlinings and exclamation marks. It really was a remarkable dream, an actual conclusion to a long-running series in my head. There are so many layers of significance, and as usual i’ve been journalling my way into it all, marvelling at my own unconscious. Most mornings I wake up wishing I didn’t have such vivid dreams, but then something like this happens and I’m grateful to have this other noctural life that has its own plotlines and climate; it’s like squeezing two lives into one.
Our brains are extraordinary, aren’t they.
Keeping a dream journal has definitely enhanced my ability to recall — and, more importantly, interpret — my dreams. We spend a week on dreams in Journal Your Life, exploring ways to read our dreams, find the gifts in our nightmares and practice a bit of lucid daydreaming, too. I’m certainly no dream expert, but I’m expert at my OWN dreams, and that’s where the benefit lies. By paying attention to our unconscious mind we uncover all these juicy clues to what’s really going on inside us. My dreams are often ridiculous and impossible, but they never seem to lie to me.
Do any of you have crazy big dreams? Have they ever been useful? I’d love to know :)
Registration for the summer session on Journal Your Life is now open — I’ve updated the page with a video sneak peek!
‘This has been so much more than just a course, it’s become a Process. What I have learned, what has taken me most by surprise, is Gratitude. I find that every time I journal now I end up thanking God for my life and all that it holds. On the outside, my life seems very ordinary, perhaps even a little boring. What I have discovered is that I have an internal life that is extraordinary, rich and fulfilling. I wake up each morning excited by the sheer possibility that each day holds. This gift you’ve given me is priceless, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!’ ~ Beth
I can sum up the results of my wee experiment in one word: FREEDOM!
In the past I’ve been an over-packer, the worry that I’ll find myself abroad without that one essential item I didn’t pack made me bring countless items “just in case”. But here’s the thing: “just in case” never ever happens. What does happen is I end up wearing the same four items until they fall off my back, and I come home with a suitcase full of unworn (and clean!) clothes.
This time I knew I had to pack differently. As I shared in the post before I left, the thought of having to catch eight flights — in other words, having to CHECK my suitcase eight times — left me in a sweat. There was no way I could handle the stress of will-my-suitcase-arrive-with-me eight times. And I speak from experience here, as the very first time I visited the USA my suitcase got lost and arrived four days later. Not much fun.
Plus there was the time saved at each airport. By checking-in online the night before I was able to head straight to the security line, take my laptop and toiletries bag out of my suitcase, whizz through the scanner and get to my gate all in the space of an hour — sometimes less. International flights tend to take a bit longer, but all my domestic flights within the USA were a breeze.
So that’s the travelling part taken care of, I hear you say, but how was living out of a tiny suitcase for 3.5 weeks?
Friends, it was awesome :D
I did cheat a little bit, in that I also had a tote bag with me for my Polaroid films, which inevitably ended up carrying a few extras I picked up along the way. But even that wasn’t an issue at the airports — as long as I put my hangbag inside the tote while going through the various checkpoints, everyone was happy.
Having only a few things with me made leaving hotels a piece of cake (not much with me so not much to leave behind!) and staying with friends was just as easy. In fact, it was great not having to cart around a big suitcase as I travelled Littlest Hobo-style around the country by plane and train.
I picked up a couple of items of clothing on the trip and, of course, ended up wearing those the most; I also left a few pieces in Santa Barbara and Toronto to be sent home (thank you, Lisa and Jamie!) and did laundry in Santa B, Bellingham and Providence, too (thanks, loves!).
But the biggest plus of the entire experiment was how FREE I felt. I had literally no baggage with me. I was just ME, being present in every place I visited. It made me realise how little I need to live contentedly. Walking back into my flat on Sunday I was shocked at how “full” the place felt. Do I really carry all this stuff with me every time I move house? What’s the point? Most of it I haven’t looked at or used since I landed in Bath nearly four years ago (and I don’t even have that many possessions, but after 39 years of living i’ve inevitably gathered a few bits ‘n’ pieces. You know how it is.)
Since I’ve been back I’ve been wearing the same clothes I wore while I was away (washed, obviously ;) I’ve already halved my book collection and have started going through all the drawers and cupboards in the flat, clearing out and boxing up items to go to my local charity shops. This morning I started planning which pieces of furniture I want to let go of. Operation Move To London is in full effect!
So while I’m not turning into a minimalist — my camera collection (already halved) and vintage treasures make that impossible — I definitely want some more of that freedom I felt. I’ve moved house more times than I care to count over the last 20 years and perhaps the fact that I’ve never settled anywhere permanently is a contributing factor to this urge to purge. I know that my next home will not be a permanent one, either, and that makes me want to travel as lightly as possible. Maybe one day I will settle somewhere permanently. In my daydreams I imagine that will be when I find someone I would like to settle with — as a single woman I’m happy to keep moving until I find the right place. A place that truly feels like home.
For now I’m pleased to report that with just a few items of clothing, some toiletries, your laptop, notebook and a Polaroid camera you really can be at home wherever you find yourself. It was truly the most delicious, and timely, revelation.
As a few people have asked, here’s a link to the cabin suitcase I used, a Samsonite B-lite Fresh in raspberry