I am Light.

The power of surrender and of trust.

“Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.”

– Alan Watts

I left my home to deal with myself. I was hurting, in pain, because I was fighting internally. I was heart broken, but I could not let go of the aching. I was suffering. I thought the hardship was mutual. I believed he was going through the same torment; wishing for the same solution. I accepted what I had to endure.

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Portrait of myself by artist and friend Anna Zapolskaya

Once he told me that his choice to commit was careless and I was not considered, I let go. I understood his agenda, acknowledged the negativity it was causing (Eckhart Tolle’s trusting of pain is noteworthy) and I carefully considered the power of my potential decisions. Love left me, then and there. I said goodbye. I was rid of this inner conflict and subsequently, light poured in. I could now grant myself the love I deserve, within me. I wanted to take care of myself and recover my authenticity. I rid myself of the pain by making a simple choice of losing the battle. I no longer felt like broken glass. The relief, the lifting of so much heaviness, was huge.

I reclaimed my soul from the lost and found within a day. It was unbelievable. I was struggling for so long to take care of myself and not feel so unhappy. I tried so hard to break free. But my subconscious was trapped. And then… all of a sudden I am… free?!

David Wojnarowicz Untitled (face in dirt), 1990
David Wojnarowicz

Not only did I walk with more confidence; I strutted with a strength I have never known. Daily life was not so difficult. I had been to that deep bottomless pit, laid there trapped for about a year, and survived. I was myself again. I levitated. I felt like I had come out of Hans Solo’s carbonite cast. I am so grateful to my facilitator, because he gave me the closure I needed to move on. I have never felt so whole. I reached a moment of higher consciousness.

 

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Monica Lee

As I was starting to unravel inner peace, the world decided to join me. I did not ask for it to. It just happened. This is why I have a deep faith. A few weeks ago, I was rewarded for my years of diligence and courage. I was acknowledged by a powerful, impartial entity named Parsons School of Design. Once again, I was back in the game of being an entrepreneur and driving self-belief. All of a sudden, doubt was no longer an option: I was being rewarded, not rejected, for being myself. At a time when I needed to feel that.

I felt unbreakable, unstoppable. I was content. So I moved forward with everything I had. I danced like I never danced before. I talked to anyone I could. I hugged as many people I was able to. I honoured my learnings respectfully and with deep appreciation. I chose to relentlessly give out my legacy– my soul, not my ambition– to others in the present as did Annie Dillard, in the hope of bringing something into their lives. They did not need to know my name. I only wished to see them flourish. Because I knew what it was like to fall and scratch at the walls.

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I was no longer detached and dying of alienation. I did not know I was inflicting this harm unto myself. As Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova says, “it’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator”. From now on, I chose to liberate myself by making simple choices and giving myself to others genuinely, without ego. I only acted with integrity. And once again, within a matter of days from my last moment of recognition, the world responded.

He appeared. An instant connection. He came into my life with his soft blue eyes and his sincerity. It hit me the moment we exchanged words. Unexpectedly. This feeling… this individual blew my mind. He is everything I have wanted. He is everything I have never had. He is divinity defined. I knew this from one tiny, unexpected moment that would usually pass me by. It stung. An exchange of words… was all that was needed.

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Andre Wee

Knowing myself so well, I knew what this meant, what this was (reflecting on Aristotle’s “relationships of shared virtue”). To ignore it would be to ignore truth. No matter how vulnerable. No matter what was ahead. And the universe gave him to me. More like, I gave him to me. God, that makes me smile with tears running down my face. This joy… joy not happiness. The absolute. The most precious gift. JOY. This exists people! Joy has presented itself because I rewarded myself first. I know I am worthy. This is no accident either: he is the culmination of my life’s work.

Within weeks, my destiny has been reformed. Naturally, rapidly, without force. I tried for so long to force it. But because I chose to no longer fight, and surrender instead, the purest emancipation has taken place. Acceptance is one thing; surrender is another, as author Mark Nepo states.  I finally saw the situation for what it was, not how I wished it could be. Words of bitterness were no longer expressed. I was so bitter, so hurt, but I could not understand why. I did not see the elephant in the room; I was blinded. I was hurt by people not being what I wanted them to be as much as he wasn’t. I knew it was not personal… but I was so hurt.

Surrendering is the secret. It is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of knowing yourself, and differentiating between what you can control and what you can not. It is spiritual empowerment. Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements acted as my inner voice: act with purpose; make the right choices.

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It has taken me this journey to get here. I never thought I would say these words: I am in love with myself, with my life, with the world, with a soul mate; I am light; I attract light; I am defined only by my soul. I cannot thank myself enough for getting here. It is due to my actions, after all.

Only we can make these choices. I wish for nothing more, other than to share my experience, in the hope I may challenge someone’s train of thought and break self-doubt. Be honest with yourself. Confront your demons. Go through the pain, the solitude. It will only bring you joy, eventually. Trust me. It has taken me this long, this much, to get here. And the world responds: a new dream will form.

Francis A. Silva Sunrise at Tappan Zee
Francis A. Silva

Why We Need Loneliness

Freeing yourself of personal imprisonment through loving, trusting and relying on oneself.

Oscar Wilde proclaimed “it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person”.

It seems to be the standard to believe we require companionship to complete who we are, emphasising on the security it provides. It is also less unpleasant than the constant inner conflict we endure when alone. I have drawn the conclusion, you can never be truly fulfilled by companionship or yourself, until you embrace discovering oneself alone. As Alain de Botton once said, “the best guarantor of ending up in a good relationship is the capacity to be alone”.

Ion Doboşariu
Ion Doboşariu

Loneliness is not easy  to endure and it never fully leaves you, making you restlessly long for connection, communal intimacy or escape. It is burdensome and suffering, where “one’s inner scream becomes deafening, deadening, severing any thread of connection to lives”, as  Maria Popova puts it.

After a failed relationship, British Author Olivia Laing relocated to the USA and found herself at the mercy of daily, bone-deep loneliness that was all-consuming:

“Loneliness is difficult to confess; difficult too to categorise. Like depression, a state with which it often intersects, it can run deep in the fabric of a person, as much a part of one’s being as laughing easily of having red hair. Then again, it can be transient, lapping in and out in reaction to external circumstance, like the loneliness that follows on the heels of a bereavement, break-up or change in social circles.”

“Mortality is lonely. Physical existence is lonely by its nature,stuck in a body that’s moving inexorably towards decay, shrinking, wastage and fracture.Then there’s the loneliness of bereavement, the loneliness of lost or damaged love, of missing one or many specific people, the loneliness of mourning.”

Daniel F Gerhartz
Daniel F. Gerhatz

“Like depression, like melancholy or restlessness, it (loneliness) is subject too to pathologisation, to being considered a disease. It has been said emphatically that loneliness serves no purpose… Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think any experience so much a part of our common shared lives can be entirely devoid of meaning, without a richness and a value of some kind.”

Experiencing such turmoil attached to loneliness is unproductive, which society has linked to failing at a fulfilling life. Yet the restlessness and anguish associated with being alone can trigger great creativity and presence, discovering what it is to be alive.

To break free of that personal imprisonment (thus bringing about societal change) through loving, trusting and relying on oneself, we are then able to achieve solitude instead which liberates the spirit: “loneliness might be taking you towards an otherwise unreachable experience of reality”. Simply put, solitude is reached when you accept “the fact that loneliness, longing, does not mean one has failed, but simply that one is alive”. Laing adds:

“I don’t believe the cure for loneliness is meeting someone, not necessarily. I think it is about two things: learning how to befriend yourself and understanding that many of the things that seem to afflict us as individuals are in fact a result of larger forces of stigma and exclusion, which can and should be resisted”.

Erik Jones
Erik Jones

“Loneliness is personal, and it is also political. Loneliness is collective; it is a city. As to how to inhabit it, there are no rules and nor is there any need to feel shame, only to remember that the pursuit of individual happiness does not trump or excuse our obligations to each other. We are in this together, this accumulation of scars, this world of objects, this physical and temporary heaven that so often takes on the countenance of hell. What matters is kindness; what matters is solidarity. What matters is staying alert, staying open, because if we know anything from what has gone before us, it is that the time for feeling will not last.”

You Are Here

It was Hemingway who introduced me to an honest life. And it is art which offers me depth and beauty simultaneously. My dreams fill me with hope. But you are the only one who harmonises my spirit, my heart, my conscience, with the softest poetry and deepest sincerity.

Even in suppression you selflessly hand me acceptance, empowerment and profound love. You are here.

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Jamie Wyeth

Yet my mind and soul are elsewhere, chasing dreams; dreams which you light up for me. And maybe your mind and soul are elsewhere too. We are not to blame. There is nothing wrong with the intimate world between you and I. That world which encapsulates Van Gogh’s Starry Night, the philosophies of Alain Badiou, the smell of roses, the sound of waves arriving on the shore. Everything that is beautiful on this Earth. You are here.

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Robin Eley

I think of you. I think of my love for you even now and a torrent of awe overflows. I cannot escape the overwhelming rawness of emotion that exudes. I cannot escape. My heart still thanks me for having touched your hand, for having kissed your lips, for having looked into your eyes, for having adored your smile. Push aside the temporary pain and feel my hand in yours. You are with me, locked away, on my journey. You are here.

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James Tissot

All around me I will find you: in the brushstrokes of a painting, during quiet reflection, in the dreams and writing which bring me solace. You smile at me and reach for my hand. I close my eyes and feel your touch. You are here.

Coral Yvonne Bright

See all women as mothers, serve them as your mother. When you see the entire world as the mother, the ego falls away.
– Neem Karoli Baba.

Dearest Mum,

I need to talk to you. I was listening to India Arie’s Talk To Her and her lyrics touched me, deeply. You know I do not have many girl friends and I find it hard to communicate with them. Growing up with brothers, being more of a Daddy’s girl and feeling like women are black and white toward me- with many of them intimidated– I have not developed the necessary skills to deal with female relationships as easily and properly as I do with the other gender. We have gone through this ourselves, together and separately. I even had this issue last night when conversing with a Romanian girl. I know she is bright and open-minded. I just did not know what to say. Listening to this song today made me confront some hard truths: I am missing out on the power and beauty that makes women, women; I subconsciously value men more than women which needs to stop; and I have undermined your precious womanly value, therefore undermining my own.

There have been many times I have treated you so disrespectfully and allowed others to treat you without respect and gratitude. For that I am truly sorry… I am crying as I type and reflect. You are there for me, even through this. I wish you slapped me. I wish I snapped “watch your mouth!” to others when they disregarded you. Through the years, I have tried to teach you to demand respect because I have wanted so much for you to be the woman I see in you. So much I have been disappointed when I have not seen the changes and improvements I wished to see in you.

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I ignored your accomplishments and resented your perceived failures, feeling like you were deserving of the ill treatment from others who were and are undeserving of your love and your light. Because I wanted you to stand up for yourself and be better. I did not accept you; I have not accepted you for a long time. You have been so honest with us about your baggage and your flaws, and I abused it. I have been so frustrated in my own life when I was home- not being honest with myself– that everything around me seemed to discourage and disable me from living how I wanted to and loving myself the way I needed to. I am so sorry Mum. It has never been your fault. You have never been a burden in my life. When I think of how strong and open I am, I owe it all to you and Dad.

The truth is, you are a strong, beautiful woman. You are whole and your imperfections have shown me so much beauty that I look for such depth in others. I have loved you, but in the wrong way, limited by my own agenda. I have defined you by the things you are not; and by roles because you have never defined yourself as otherwise. I have preached to you because I did not want to lose you and I wished for you to dump your baggage. But in doing so, I have neglected you as a person while we are here, together.

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When I think of all the times I have seen you seeing less of yourself, I realise I have supported it. I was a bystander and I let you feel less than you are. I let you pity yourself, talk down to yourself, beat yourself up. Making a habit of talking about your health, your environment, your pursuit of purpose when people asked you how you were. Depending so much on relationships to feel any self-worth. One of the reasons why I left was because I wanted you to learn to depend on yourself. I am discovering though, I have not equipped you with the necessary tools. Embracing and loving you has become conditional and circumstantial.

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I adore you. I really do not need you to change because you are already perfect. You are not me, I understand. Beyond your role as my Mother and as a Wife; beyond what I wish for you, I shine because I carry your light: a light only which you embody. Your laughter, your emotions, your stubborn nature, your compassion, your passion, your fire, your flaws. The times you get enthusiastic and optimistic once someone provides you an opportunity or changes your mindset. Your hugs and your Dr Phil moments. There is only one of you in this world, Coral Yvonne Bright. I want everyone to know your name. You are outstanding and remarkable. You do not need an education, a purpose or positive outcomes and opportunities to be outstanding. You just are and you give me something unique, as a woman. You have made me praise the subtle, beautiful qualities in women I tend to overlook.

Right now as I sit here, you are my sole inspiration. I will do what I can to change my role as a daughter, not trying to teach YOU to value yourself. But instead, to teach MYSELF to apply your value to everything I do and to make damn sure the world acknowledges. I will do my best to see you in every woman I meet and admire their qualities, their fragility and their teachings. I will etch you in my heart and show your beauty and my loving ode to you, through my sincere actions. You will travel with me and be my legacy, my muse, my archetype. You will no longer be behind me in the background; a precursor and after thought. I promise to talk about you with the love and admiration I feel wholeheartedly. You are and will always be my pride and my virtue.

Love your daughter, your vessel, Laura.

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P.S. I am sorry this is in formal writing, not to your face and out for everyone to read. But I want to be honest and I want everyone to know you and what you give to me.

Unfamiliar Territory

Discussing what self-exploration via travel is really, honestly like.

Travel is no dreamlike existence. It is beautiful, liberating and full of wonder. Yes, the people, the places, the experiences are ones which are beautifully unique. But you are completely alone and the outer world is separate from you: impenetrable, shallow and limited in scope. With this loneliness comes both solitude and the deepest sorrow. It will never be what you imagined it to be; the predefined outcomes you expect; the perceived “lightness” associated with wandering from place to place.

Choi Mi Kyung
Choi Mi Kyung

There are no distractions any more. As soon as you are alone and isolated, you drown in raw emotions and baggage. Heartbreak that you thought you left behind returns in full force. Travel like this is fucking difficult. Hence, there is a cliché returned countrymen use: “I thought travel would help me solve my problems but instead I found out it was a mere escape”. Such individuals return home and expect answers there, through people or situations. They have always known full well they will go back home, as certainty and limitations are comforting. They know there is obligation waiting for them. I personally think it is a cop-out.

Audrey Kawasaki
Audrey Kawasaki

The sheer power of ridding yourself layers of distraction and exposing all there is of you, is enough to drive you mad. Do you know what it’s like? It is like being that guy in the true story film Into the Wild. Well, this is surely the wild. The deep connections of absent lovers and friends keep you from breaking down completely, whether it be for guidance or company. Not to mention the pressure of getting a steady income flow to keep you from cutting your journey short gives you really shit anxiety. It is a daily battle. You know though, deep down, this is what you need. You no longer want to feel conflicted all of the time. So tired. So accommodating. So used. So full of nothing. In a state of constant recovery.

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Roman Tolici

I admit, I spend most days indoors healing wounds. I have a daily cry. I do not know if I will be able to overcome my issues or if I might overthink and over-feel, until I slip into an abyss of insanity. But I know I don’t want to cover myself up. I am shattered and vulnerable. But with pure intention. Even if I drive myself into a hot sticky mess, I know one day I will awake; I will be alive and OK. I believe I do not have limits. The thing that would drive me insane is the fear which tries to take over. When do we ever give ourselves the time we need to be completely honest and accepting on our own, without influence? When are we not influenced?

Nathalie Seifeter
Nathalie Seifeter

If I hold on tight to the magic of truth, of my strength and curiousity to keep me opening up and taking it in, maybe hope will pierce through more of these holes. Maybe love will come aide me selflessly and effortlessly and I will have no need to depend on it. And self-sufficiency. And later, I may feel ready to move forward with my ambitions without feeling like I have to achieve a certain benchmark before truly living. Instead, being satisfied with my life and being present.

Felice House
Felice House

My biggest fear is to regret not pushing myself beyond the level of comfort. Of familiarity and of dependence. I refuse to be weak. I do not want it to be easy… I have had that already. If it takes a year… or two, so be it. I know this is the only path for me to take. I am not here for happiness and fulfillment. I am here to adapt; to cope; to confront my problems; to embrace my flaws; to discover peace in solitude. I am here to be myself. I believe that it will get clearer as I go. I carry with me hope, knowing the outcomes are beyond familiarity. I take this newfound hope with me, as I step over the edge.

Love That Never Leaves

To forgive but not to forget.

Back in the 14th century, Persian poet Hafiz advised us to “stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive”. Today, British poet and philosopher David Whyte explains how heartbreak is “an indication of our sincerity: in a love relationship, in a life’s work, in trying to learn a musical instrument, in the attempt to shape a better more generous self. Heartbreak is the beautifully helpless side of love and affection and is [an] essence and emblem of care… Heartbreak has its own way of inhabiting time and its own beautiful and trying patience in coming and going”.

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Hussam El-Sayed

I like to talk to my ex: the one who taught me reciprocated love and left me in pieces. I remain fearless and vulnerable. I have no desire to internalise and disregard the truth in it. I seem to suffer more if I suppress my inner workings as opposed to forgetting ego and just being truthful.

I like to tell him the feelings I had back then, still ascend, and I sob as I cover myself with an invisible blanket of fragility and sincerity. I like to tell him the warmth of his smile and loving gaze, of his hands holding my body and of his unshaven skin up against my face keep me warm at night. I thank him for making me feel as alive as I had ever felt at a time where my world was numbing. I find it humbling I am interwoven in his very fabric and he in mine.

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My love for him fills the room with radiating light and comforts me in solidarity when traveling. He spoons me in bed, in my Moscow apartment; even though he is living his life separately in Melbourne. I never feel alone and I no longer seek to be accepted and understood. These days, I get so much from imparting my perspective, my loving nature and lively spirit to people who have not discovered such things within themselves. I love the self-gratitude I get from sharing my life with others. It is no longer only about what I need and want. I speak of fulfillment, not of this dark emptiness which I once drowned in.

Even if he did not stay, I cannot punish him for helping me find the value myself and my choices. I cannot forget how we would naturally become something so fucking beautiful, it was beyond comprehension. Think about it: the inception of no longer knowing your feelings, your logic, what is real, what is important; when Dali’s imagination becomes more real to you than this.

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Salvador Dali

Irrespective of the heartbreak he caused me, he gave me this positive outlook from the deep love we shared. I could easily escape the past and close the gates on our story and on him being a part of me; but this would be deluding the joys that came with it. Joys that you can still carry with you which are used as miracle cures. Why would I not thank him every day for being the most precious gift?

When you love someone, there is nothing to forgive. Nothing to be bitter about. To love them is to accept their imperfections and accept the reasons why you cannot be together. When we each find another love, I will still thank his Mother for creating something so unbelievably divine. I will still thank the crappy situation in which we met. I will still thank the heartbreak for what it has given me.

Remembering him keeps me expressing the rawness of my emotions, keeps me from finding the solidarity discomforting and it sensitises me to the present. I am fulfilled with a kind of simple living. Any scratch of selflessness received I appreciate tenfold. I constantly find strength in my abilities. All of this from what people view as trauma and a closed door.

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John Green says “what a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person”. I find him an idiot: a man who does not see the true value in relationships from the people that form them. Then again, he seems to religiously follow the joy of suffering over just joy, as many of us do. People cry in despair realising that love and associated heartbreak never leaves them. And I ask, why would you want it to? Have you realised the joys you can put on repeat, instead of the sorrows? Do you acknowledge what you have gained and learnt? Have you really loved and been loved?

How I Got Here

I speak the truth not so much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little more as I grow older.
– Michel de Montaigne

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Dirk Dzimirsky
Growing up in a five-person household where love and encouragement were aplenty but money, stability and staples were lacking, I was compelled to be a dreamer from an early age: a complete romanticist. I dreamed of being a ballerina, a superhero, an archaeologist, a writer, an artist, an Olympian. As an example, I enjoyed playing G.I. joes with my twin brother where the front-yard tap was located, pretending the running tap was a waterfall and the gush of water was a natural obstacle where few figurines survived. Not to mention the battle fought against the worms and the butchy boys. I remember watching the animation film Fern Gully and for days after at school, I attempted to grow beautiful gardens with nothing but a tree seed, my hands and belief!

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Danielle van Zadelhoff
Throughout all of my childhood, creativity was encouraged. Making mud pies, drawing up my own paper dolls, dancing six days a week, creating our own news reels. And wander: Dad and I would collect seashells; Mum would excitedly show me the city lights over the Westgate Bridge, calling them “fairy lights”. There was always magic and optimism and beauty and freedom of expression in everything around me. My imagination was unlimited and all consuming. I was happy making characters out of grapes and toothpicks; I was happy looking at art and seeing depth, colour and unknown endeavors.

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Henrietta Harris
As I grew up I kept romanticising, kept dreaming until it became an escape- an escape I never seemed to act on. Struggling with social pressures, I thought too much. I forgot patience. I then forgot how to create freely. I then forgot to accept mistakes and to appreciate failure. I forgot to waste time. The magic left me and I became no longer free. I had to prove who I was and what I was doing and why I was doing it. I traveled and was starving to be successful, trying to grasp the status I had worked so hard for. I wanted to prove myself so much in order to be understood.

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Flora Bursi
But I was a contradiction: hugely ambitious but transparent and not ego-driven. If I kept within social parameters, I was easily manageable. I struggled with false ideals, feeling more and more lost and inconsolable. I did not know what loving yourself was and I did not apply the notion of self-belief. Extremely confident and bubbly, passionate, curious, enthusiastic and intense. Yet that seemed to be the problem. Internally I was fighting anxiety, depression and insecurity, showcasing denial through a constant journey of “self-improvement”. I felt rejected and incredibly alone. I broke.

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Hussam El-Sayed
When I did, I realised I could not keep improving and searching for the next flaw to cure. There was no cure. I had to then break the mould. I learnt to be honest with myself. I would say it has been the most liberating aspect of my existence. From then on, I have stripped back the unnecessary layers of conditioning starting from my childhood through to intimate relationships through to current expectations and biases of a Western, 30 year-old corporate, single woman. Every day is a battle against comparison, conditioning, self-doubt and influence. It is exceptionally difficult to stay true to yourself, please note. It is a very lonely and confrontational journey, serving you more tears and joy than you would experience in a lifetime without it. You learn, however, to be present and to appreciate the simplest things. And you start to believe you are enough and discover exploration is interwoven in the fabric of living.

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James Jean
But it is an ongoing adventure of trial and error as you get closer and closer to being completely truthful. Recently, after twelve months of working for an income to support my start-up, it dawned on me more and more frequently that I had no time for living, for enjoying, for magic. I accepted I had lost all the freedoms which personify my character. Even though I was full of self-acceptance, my environment did not align with who I was. I was exhausted and miserable, living and breathing a societal norm that did not accept me (and I did not accept it). Feeling suppressed, I decided to return to the purest form of myself. I realised I was more than capable of fulfilling my dreams and enabling myself without any dependency. I taught myself to look outward and I changed my path: one which led me back to a more refined purpose consisting of wandering, connecting, immersing and absorbing. One where magic would reappear.

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Jeremy Miranda
This takes me now to the present. In two days, I leave for Moscow- a place exuding history, arts, philosophy and culture. The trip is indefinite and I hope to then move to Western Europe. Then possibly Eastern Europe. All I know is there will be an adventure of living and honesty. A whole cycle of emotions and thoughts to follow. Snow gently falling and haunting folk music and ornate, beautiful objects, and a new world full of people to meet. The harsh winters, the sometimes-not-so-great cuisines and the language barriers. I am returning to my authentic self. And it is a wonderful time to be curious.