I often ask myself why some days I can feel so connected to myself, to this world, and to others—and why other days it seems so elusive.
I know that feeling connected to life starts by feeling connected to myself, and to do that I need to be in a place where I’m able to accept and love myself. To believe in my wholeness and my goodness.
Sometimes it’s as easy as getting a solid eight hours of sleep and not drinking too much wine the night before so that I wake up feeling energized and positive. Other times, it’s quieting the chatter in my head about how I’m not enough—not good enough, not smart enough, not capable enough, just not enough of anything.
When I find myself stuck in that space in my head where I’m beating myself up with my thoughts, I’m in a state of negative energy and it’s much more difficult for me to listen to my heart, to breathe deeply, and let go the things that are causing me worry and stress.
I once read a wonderful analogy that we are like oil and vinegar, like a bottle of Italian salad dressing with the bitter, red vinegar resting on top and the smooth, golden, molten oil resting at the bottom. Before we can pray or meditate, we need to pour out the vinegar until all that is left is the oil. For me, this means sitting in a place of stillness, closing my eyes, and taking a few moments to be still and breathe. Allowing the vinegar to evaporate as I exhale out fear and uncertainty and breathe in love and acceptance, until all that is left is buttery smoothness.
Then, in this place, I can connect with God, with the universe, and with my guardian angel, which I think of as my triple deity, and feeling that I am utterly and completely loved and accepted exactly as I am, by all three. I can then love and accept myself wholly. The feeling of separation seeps away, and I find myself feeling strong and connected again. I know that I am good, that I am lovable, and that I am perfect exactly as I am in this very moment.
As I focus on all of the simple things that I have to be grateful for, as I focus on all of the people who I love so much, my protective outer shell and my hard edges begin to soften, and I am able to anchor myself back into love. Stepping away from fear and I melt into this moment, knowing that everything is okay. I remind myself that all I ever have is this moment and that everything will always be okay.
Feeling like I am not enough, like my life is not enough, takes me out of the space of gratitude and by finding stillness and presence, by noticing my thoughts without judgement, I can change the tape that is unconsciously playing in my head and consciously choose new thoughts. It’s something that I need to do over and over again each day, and it’s a powerful tool to bring myself continually back into presence and living in this moment. I slide back into living from my heart instead of my head. I bring my focus back into simply being, instead of doing.
I don’t know if everyone struggles with this inner battle of connection and disconnection or if it’s just me.
For many years, especially during adolescence, I felt like I didn’t belong. I grew up in a very conservative environment where religion played a large role in being liked, popular, and accepted. I always felt like I was on the outside looking in, and this was often a lonely place to be. I felt different.
I knew there was something about me that was different on the inside, and so I started to do everything I could to show that I was different on the outside. I went through my punk rock stage, dyeing my hair bright purple, wearing a silver studded leather jacket and combat boots. smoking filterless clove cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and listening to angry music.
I found my place in a group of peers and friends for a while, but still I often felt myself to be on the outside. A year later, I tried out a Grateful Dead hippie stage for a few years. I let my hair grow down to my waist, wore tie-dyed t-shirts, and smoked pot with my new peer group and friends.
I kept looking for a way to belong from the outside-in, instead of starting from the inside-out. My teenage years were not easy, as I continued to search for a place where I felt like I belonged and where I felt connected to myself and others.
I’d started dancing when I was four years old and continued until I turned 14. Friends became more of a priority than dancing, and so I stopped going to dance classes and started going to parties. The years in between 14 and 18 were tumultuous as I searched for something, some group to belong to, to make me feel whole and accepted and connected.
When I went to college and decided to major in dance, everything fell back into place again for me for a while. I was a dancer. I ate, slept, breathed, and dreamed of dancing every second of the day. I had an identity and a group of friends I felt connected with, and I spent my days in dance classes, moving my body, being inside my body and out of my head, feeling instead of thinking, and living from the inside-out.
My passion and connection to dance carried me through college, to New York, and then to Paris. Something about living in France clicked with me, and I felt a limitless sense of freedom and connection in this country. This feeling stayed with me for the 12 years I lived in Paris and danced professionally there.
My son Matisse was born in 1999, and I left both dancing and Paris a year later, returning to the city I grew up in. Leaving the two things that I was most passionate about had a profound effect on me and everything came to a grinding halt.
I felt completely lost, disconnected, uncertain, and scared. The only feeling of connection I had was with this beautiful precious baby boy of mine.
I found myself back in the hometown I’d worked so hard to get away from, surrounded by painful memories, living in my parent’s basement raising my one-year-old son all alone.
Every day was a struggle, and the only thing that kept me going and ultimately saved me was my son. He was the reason I had to keep going. He was my one glimmer of light in all of the darkness. He was my hope, my dreams, my heart, my soul, and my love all wrapped up into one tiny two-fisted package. His smile lit up my heart, and I spent every moment of my days and nights with him in my arms. He brought love into my life like nothing ever had before.
Somehow, I got my own apartment. Somehow, I recreated myself and began a new career and a new life. And somehow, I raised him and supported the two of us all by myself for 16 years. Somehow, I’m still alive to even tell this. I always knew that I had a guardian angel, but I never knew that God was right there by my side as well.
During these 16 years, being back in the city I’d been born and grown up in, I felt just as disconnected as I had as a teenager. Once again, I found myself feeling like I was the outsider looking in. Knowing I was different. Trying to find my place, my tribe, and once again looking for connection from the outside-in.
I couldn’t find it. I searched everywhere. Everywhere but inside of myself that is. Which is where it lay dormant, waiting for me to be ready again. I stayed busy and achieved and accomplished and built a thriving career and did everything by myself. I refused to ask for help. I rejected the idea of God, even scoffed at it in disdain. I didn’t allow myself to slow down. I didn’t allow myself to face my silence, my loneliness, and my pain.
I was in a horrible relationship for six years, and it was when I ended it three years ago that I knew my life had to change. I was back on a familiar path of self-destruction and self-hate, and it was all because I felt so empty inside. So disconnected from my life and myself. I felt like I’d lost myself in this relationship and forgotten who I was and the things that made me feel alive. The things that keep saving me over and over again were my son, my perseverance, and inner strength.
Slowly, I started to find myself again by doing the things that I’d stopped doing. I started to travel again, to spend time with friends, to go out dancing and move my body. I started going back to France again every summer to visit and reconnect with the friends and the culture that had brought me so much joy for so many years. I also practiced, studied, and completed numerous certifications and started to teach yoga.
Through yoga, I discovered meditation and prayer. Especially when I injured my back and couldn’t practice asana, which is the physical limb of the yoga wheel.
The two things that brought me back into that place, that feeling of connection and belonging, were being in an environment that I thrived in and taking time each day to sit in stillness, breathe deeply, and get in touch with my soul. From the inside-out.
I now know that this is what brings me connection and that the years, the months, the days, and the hours that I felt disconnected in the past—and the moments I find myself feeling disconnected in the present—are simply because I am looking at life through my thoughts and not listening to my heart speak to me.
And, so, on those days when I feel disconnected, I need only to start from the inside-out, to find a space to sit in silence and let the vinegar evaporate, to sink softly into the oil, and to bring my attention to everything I have, everything I am. I pray, I meditate, I focus on all of nature’s beauty, and I see my own beauty. I bask in the goodness of all I have to be grateful for, and I find the preciousness of my life within.
I take care of my body, but I work on my soul. And, in this place, I find wholeness in myself, have compassion for myself, and connect to my true self. From there, it’s easy to feel connected to the world and to everyone around me.
We are not separate. We separate ourselves from others by feeling alone, by believing that we are not enough when truly we are all more than enough, perfect in our messy imperfection, exactly as we are, in this very moment.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Click here to read this article in elephant journal.