Bleak is fertile ground. (to quote Holly Whitaker)

A few weeks ago I found myself at the bottom of a hole looking up and wondering how it was I had slipped down that far without noticing. Figuratively, of course – I was in the same house, same location, same day like every day over the past year, but my spirit – my spirit was elsewhere completely. 

This past year – a time like no other – had finally caught up with me, despite my cheery disposition and generally optimistic outlook. I was exhausted, depleted, broken into a myriad of pieces that wouldn’t fit together anymore.

Gratefully, though, when I noticed where I was, I wasn’t worried, concerned, or any host of other feelings that might have layered on top of the angst previously. While the circumstances this time around were different, hitting that bottom wasn’t a stranger. I’d been there before, and I knew it was time to get to the work of unwinding and releasing – the undoing of the doing. 

I’ve become friendly with the anxiety provoked tightness in my chest and heaviness of overwhelm – it doesn’t scare me anymore. It doesn’t define me, but rather visits, teaches, and leaves again.

Truth is, over time I’ve learned to resist the urge to panic when I dip down into the abyss, but instead to open the door and invite the darkness in for a visit. We sit, we chat, we feel, and I allow my soul to speak, to listen. I surrender deeper and then deeper still.

A part of me enjoys these times. (And a big part of me does not.) It’s permission to pamper myself with kindness, release myself from expectations, and settle in for a little soul chat.

Something like this: Hey, there love – You’ve tumbled into this place before, and you’ll climb your way up and out again. You know this is a moment in time, a pause, a reminder, a stepping stone to the next place. 

You will come out of this again with deeper wisdom, expanded horizons, and a newfound gratitude for the bounty of this life.

Because these are non-negotiables you know to be true:

The unconditional love of the universe encompasses you too. 

Your soul needs to breathe in resonance with Spirit.

Your spirit craves creativity, your heart requires connection.

And all of those things are ok.

I sit with those thoughts and feelings. For a long time. I allow them in my body. I breathe into them. I notice. I soften. I know this is all part of my journey of discovering the deeper layers of self, so I surrender. Again.

I actively make room for me. I recommit to a constant practice of gratitude. I allow myself the long and luxurious bath I need, the beautiful array of colors on my lunch plate, special trips to the store for fresh flowers, poems I haven’t read in ages, and the songs that make me cry within the first line. I make room for what lights me up and I say no to what does not. I make boundaries. And then, I surrender and soften. Again. I remember my heart’s inherent wisdom.

Usually from this space of remembering, I recognize that I’ve violated my own boundaries, or that I am off-center in my alignment. For, being the way I am, I have to be just about 100% intentional and grounded in integrity to my soul or I float away into the ether of other people’s lives, thoughts, beliefs, actions, and vibrations. Essentially, without being extremely clear and solid in my own container of truth I get swept away in experiences of life that aren’t really mine. Without being soft and open to divine mystery I am too far away from my own soul to function. And that translates into “anxiety” and “depression” for me. It’s a feeling of having my head and my feet travel one way while my heart tries to move in another.

I’ve been walking this path for the past twenty years, since my first experience with being so disconnected from my own truth I couldn’t show up in the world. A debilitating wave of depression hit late in college life, and I spent “the best time of your life” (haaa – redo, please) often hiding in my shower pretending that was a viable solution to the panic that had settled in my heart. That first time was awful. Really and truly awful. 

But, a long and winding (and not unique) story later, I know now my moments of anxiety/depression are not my forever destiny, but moments of inward expansion. I trust that they are pregnant pauses, a beckoning, a reckoning, an essential hiatus from the doing to return to the being of my nature. It’s the lotus flower preparing to bloom. They are part and parcel to the exquisite nature of life, the deep soul connection we yearn for.

These dives into the underworld are uncomfortable, indeed, and while I can’t say that I like them, I have gotten to a place wherein I appreciate them. They don’t frighten me anymore, but instead, they humble me, soften me, spread me into the nooks and crannies of empathy and eventually, they ignite the flame for inspiration. They become fuel to my fire, they absolve the complacency I can acquire, and they send my roots deeper into the ground – which allows my heart to fly higher into the stars above.  And now, 20 years after my first fall into that giant cavern of despair, I can say with conviction, I wouldn’t change a thing. 

It is as the bold and wise Holly Whitaker wrote in a simple IG post: Bleak is fertile ground. Four simple words that encompass the both and the and I’d been holding the past few weeks.  Four words that allowed my heart to land in a soft bed of comfort, the intrinsic knowledge that I would be ok and needed this moment to reach a new path on the other side. The why I step back, cry for a moment, and whisper “Oh hello old friend, it’s you again.” Bleak is fertile ground because I get to know, without a doubt, that experiencing the extremes of the emotional and spiritual spectrum is a gift. I don’t see just the basic colors, I get to notice every shade along the spectrum, which allows my world to be oh so bright – and sometimes, oh. so. dark.  

That darkness though. That moment, that invitation to collaborate with Soul, with Spirit, with Divine Intuition and to eventually re-enter the world brighter, bolder, and truer? I assure you, it’s worth it. Spend some time planting your seeds in the fertile ground and what blooms will astound you. 

If you want to feel the sunshine, sometimes you’re going to see the shadows. And that’s not a bad thing. 

Next time you find yourself in the thick of the struggle, invite her in and get cozy with the challenge. The work is worth it. It doesn’t mean you’re defective, or less than, that you can’t power through life like others can. You’re not defective at all, but rather you’re accessing your personal super powers – the ones that take a little extra attention. It’s ok. 

Residing in discomfort is certainly not comfortable – it can be downright painful, actually. Yet, these days, the arrival of these moments excites a certain part of my soul – because I know I’m being invited to shed something no longer serving me, and making space for new knowledge, understanding, and compassion. I know I’m releasing into a Lighter way of being human once the heaviness passes by.

Take care of yourselves, loves, be kind and generous to yourself as well as others. If you’re standing in the hole and looking up for the very first time, know you’re not alone, you will get through it, and your light will burn brighter for it. If you are searching for more specific practices to help you align with your truth and allow for more peace in yourself, please, reach out. You can contact me through the contact page on this website, DM me on IG @catherinekeating_  .

It’s all part of the ride, and in the end, it’s all for Love.

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