As the days get longer here on this side of the sphere — today we celebrate the return of the warmth and the increasing power of the Sun with Imbolc — I want to invite you to join me for my 28-day journaling challenge. We begin right now and it’s free, with a new guided journaling practice released every day for the entire month of February at 6 am GMT on YouTube:
28 Days of Journaling with Vienda Maria.
When things are unsettled and uncertain around me as they have been I always return to my daily non-negotiables. Journaling is one of them.
Journaling informs so much of my life. As well as my creative writing, the way I run my business, how I relate to others — everything really! But it’s not a daily tracking system. Instead, it’s a way to connect the mind, body and soul and to discover what’s really going on beneath the superficial surface layers. Journaling helps me to find clarity, create resolution and make better decisions for a sweeter, kinder, more meaningful life.
There have been times in my life when I couldn’t afford therapy though I really needed it. Journaling filled that space and allowed me a way to hold those necessary painful conversations in a safe space. This is where journaling came into its own for me.
In this 28-day journaling challenge, we will be using a psychology-based structure of enquiry known as reflective writing beginning today with the fundamentals and 3 big questions that you have 3 minutes each to answer. And on day 7 on Sunday I will guide you on how to journal using tarot cards to identify what’s really going on which is so fun and fascinating. Here’s what you can expect for the week ahead:
Day 1. Fundamentals of journaling.
Day 2. Peaceful morning journaling.
Day 3. Find your centre journaling.
Day 4. Gentle evening journaling.
Day 5. 7-minute menstrual cycle journaling.
Day 6. Clear and focused journaling.
Day 7. Journal with tarot.
A few things as we get started:
I can’t wait to spend every day this month with you taking you through a range of different journaling practices. Please tell me how you go with them!
P.S. Here’s that link for Day 1 again: https://youtu.be/b1M0ZgVRIdA
Our hope to circumvent heartbreak in adulthood is beautifully and ironically child-like; heartbreak is as inescapable and inevitable as breathing, a part and a parcel of every path, asking for its due in every sincere course an individual takes, it may be that there may be not only no real life without the raw revelation of heartbreak but no single path we can take within a life that will allow us to escape without having that imaginative organ we call the heart, broken by what it holds and then has to let go. David Whyte
Each person’s experience of life last year was different. For some, it went on almost as usual. For other’s life screeched to a shocking halt. Some found a comfortable balance point to navigate their way through it. Other’s deeply grieved their past life, or the loss of loved ones, and had to learn to let it all go.
I received a lot of questions asking how to accept the grief and loss that comes from letting go and how to keep moving towards. How to stay grounded and remember that life is beautiful and this time is just a phase.
Heartbreak and the certain grief that accompanies all types of loss are inevitable in life. Sooner or later in larger and smaller ways, we all have to face the vulnerable fragility of ourselves. Over and over again.
There are those who think they can escape it. They build impenetrable invisible walls. They opt-out of real intimacy and cautiously skim the surface of life avoiding the depth that can bring the deepest love, joy, loss and pain. But in avoiding they also miss out on living.
There is a simple answer.
The very nature of life is that we do not always understand, or see why things are happening or where they are leading us. Acceptance brings us the peace to take back control. To remember that life is beautiful and this is just a phase and that we are not victims of circumstance. We have choices.
We have the choice to change our perspective to one the emboldens our courage and our willingness to feel the full spectrum of life. Without avoiding. Without running away. Without playing the victim.
As the serenity prayer aptly says:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Can we believe that this is happening for us?
Can we sit in the unknown and trust?
Can we have patience?
Can we surrender?
Can we then move forward when, and only when, life opens its doors to the next unfolding and invites us into its mystery? Then, can we say yes?
There is a reactive desire to jump ahead, past the grief, the pain, the challenges, the weirdness. We are pleasure-seeking beings after all. We want to speed through it instead of letting it sink in. We have fears that the grief will be too great to hold. That is will drown us. That we will get stuck here.
In the haste to move on quickly to the place where things feel sweeter, we look for ways to reinvent ourselves, to become new, to escape without having fully realised the gifts of our depth of feelings. Inevitably life will find a way to lead us back until we have fully surrendered to it. Until finally, in suffering, we find profound acceptance and transcend it.
Acceptance will lead us through.
One day this too shall pass. In the meantime, life is happening, hours, days, weeks, months are unfolding.
Can we live in the present and embrace the moment?
2020, in a poem:
I flew 5,740 miles across the Atlantic ocean to a new seaside town I’d never lived in before and cried when I couldn’t find a place to live midst pandemic until a stranger reached out with a little flat that’s been my home for 8 months now. I withdrew from the world into my own creative imagination when the world told us to stay home. I held in my heart all those whose hearts were broken through losing loved ones, leaving loved ones, and letting go. I tightly squeezed everything I could out of every sunny day and every friendship and heartfelt connection. I gave myself grace in my business and in my life, not to create too much or expect too much, but just to be here, every day, and show up fully present with openness, tenderness and love. I grieved the loss of an old version of myself, the loss of a family I never really had, the loss of love in its many iterations across my lifetime and went back to therapy. I have been up and down mountains this year. My heart broke open over and over again. I questioned my existence for days on end wondering where I belong. I received a note from a stranger saying “you’ve been very much on my heart of late. you are wholly and resoundingly safe, supported, and loved.” and wept at the intuition and kindness from a woman I’ve never met. The world cracked my heart open with all its beauty and its brokenness.
Life, an initiation of heartbreaks.
It’s definitely been a wild one. For us all.
Collective grief is dripping off the walls at the moment. We have all experienced a loss of some kind and many of us, myself included, are navigating this in some sort of isolation. Bearing witness to each other’s pain is uncomfortable, but we have to learn to embrace it to create a new relationship with grief and loss and uncertainty.
I read somewhere recently that community is the antidote to grief.
The desire for community and belonging has been a strong one for some time now. I dream of living in a village of friends where we all have our own homes and come together daily to share and support one another. But there’s a caveat. I’m repelled and exhausted by the “new age spiritualism” narrative that seems to have taken over the internet. Big words and theories are thrown around by youngsters who’ve barely lived. I don’t want to be apart of it. I don’t want that in my community. To me, truth is simple and spirit is found in the subtle nuances of daily life, love and nature. We don’t need to complexify the multifaceted life experience with cognitive distractions. Everything we need to know is right here and it’s so uncomplicated.
For me personally, this year was hugely paradoxical. Incredibly beautiful and deeply painful. I had more space and time to myself than ever before. After having always been surrounded by people and communities I struggled with the loneliness of being without that and also cherished finally being able to soak in my own spirit for everlasting periods. I reconnected to people who have always lived in my heart and allied with new ones. The circumstances of the year uncovered deep-rooted trauma I didn’t know I had. Some stemming from childhood. Others from unpacking western culture and modern societal norms. I learned that if you look for trauma, you will find it. And that acknowledging and working through your trauma is one thing but carrying it around as wounding to negate taking responsibility is another. I’m working on owning my part in things and letting the rest go.
We still haven’t become mature enough to think of ourselves as only a tiny part of a vast and incredible universe. But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.Rachel Carson
The thing is, I have always been one of the fortunate ones. I have worked online for 7 years now. That didn’t change. My business thrived as more people joined the online sphere. I don’t have children to worry over. My life became my simpler, insular, contained into a smaller sphere than I’m used to. After a life of going anywhere and everywhere on a whim, I barely left the 10-kilometre radius of the seaside city I currently call home. And I’m still searching, still looking for the perfect place. A home to call my own. I feel like I’ve been searching my entire life and while home resides within me, it is also a place outside me that I am craving with some urgency to sink into.
I spent 20 years of my life following my heart across the globe whimsically exploring the lands of my planet. This year my heart led me to find a place to land and nest. While I fully intend to do that it doesn’t come naturally to me the way travel has. Its feels awkward and uncomfortable to allow my roots to take hold deeper than they have before. I sense a great resistance to the simplest, mundane things. Going grocery shopping. Paying council tax. Unblocking a clogged sink. And while I don’t miss airports or aeroplanes I do miss the momentum and spaciousness of foreign landscapes rolling past me while I centre myself. For years I practised anchoring myself within and finding a sense of grounding in the unknown. That’s always been my safe space. Now I am being asked to let go of that and connect to the land I find myself in in a whole new way.
What is left is a space of deep listening of what is wanting to be left behind and a claiming of what is coming next. It is a noticing and allowing of the energy to tell me what is wanting to partner with me to guide me into the new.
It feels like we have reached a point where the “old way” just isn’t working even though we have been told our whole life that this is the way it goes. Within each of us exists this natural force that wants to drive us forward in life. The caveat is that it doesn’t fit neatly into any pre-made boxes. It has a song and beat of its own. This is where the fear and uncertainty seeps in… the sense that this thing that we don’t know cannot be safe or trusted and all it is asking us is to commune with our own inner nature. It’s big, potent, powerful, necessary work. And it’s terrifying. We all meet each other here at some point in our lives, whether willingly or because life has brought us to our knees. Sometimes both.
It doesn’t require a noble purpose or a grand ambition; it’s okay to just wander through life following the threads of what lights you up until you die. Our western cultural narrative has tricked way too many people into thinking their lives have to have them looking for a great lightning strike, some flash of great meaning and deep insight whilst they miss out on everything else. In reality it’s mostly the little things that really matter.
The more I tune into my essential nature the more I recognise how much I have to override my innate gentleness, that softness and sensitivity in order to operate in this world. Having to adhere to linear, masculine energy undermines the powerful nuances and delicate nature of that feminine essence that resides in all of us which has messed up our human species and the planet considerably. I’m trying to find another way forward with all this.
Being a human being, a woman, a creative, running her own business making her way in the world on her own is a ride. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve reinvented myself and my work and the ways that I share pieces of my heart with you in the last 7 years. I’m currently unveiling the next version of myself and look forward to meeting her with you.
As this year comes to a close I don’t come with big, grandiose statements or insightful revelations. I simply have a commitment to myself to keep my heart open and trust the unfolding.
2021, may you be gentle with our hearts.
Thank you for continuing to share your heart and life with me on this online journey. It’s fun, weird, wonderful, awkward, inspiring, and confusing. I’m deeply appreciative of the watching, liking, commenting, communicating, and connecting. Truly, deeply, from the depths of my heart, thank you. No really, I mean it. Thank you. No, you hang up first.
Photo by the lovely Fern.
The start of this week has been tough for me. My heart bruised, I was triggered by my fear of abandonment and the recurring wound that human beings are capricious. We are ultimately fickle, inconsistent at our worst, and deeply loving, caring at our best, contradictory creatures at all times. It reminded me of the constant uncertainty that provides a close companion to life.
Now, more than ever since the last world war, are we feeling this uncertainty powerfully as it seeps into every area of our lives: work, security, home, relationships.
The unknown of what’s ahead and the uncertainty that couples it, has always been with us. We have been able to eschew it through illusions created by controlling our environments and experiences belying a sense of safety and security and believing that things are not going to change, and if change, then only within the realms that we are willing. We have to build a new relationship with the uncertain nature of reality.
As I wrote here we are watching each other go through withdrawal from the emotional addiction to the myth of certainty as we make sense of things that we cannot: the mystery of life that is uncontrollable and beyond our intellectual capacities.
After a few days, I’ve been able to return to my calm and centre. I put it down to the relationship I have cultivated with my inner self over the past 15 years. It means I can be jostled from time to time but I find my way back home quickly. Here is what helps me:
1. Permission to feel, deeply. I took an entire day off to grieve what was, and let go of what might have been. Too often and too quickly do we shun the way we feel because we deem it “silly” or “dramatic” or “doesn’t make sense”. Feeling in itself is part of the process. Every day we grieve smaller or larger losses, that is the nature of life, yet our tendency is to focus entirely on the facade that we can always be happy.
2. Vulnerability as a guardian of integrity as Anne Truitt wrote. I feel great satisfaction from being able to be visible even in my wounds. It connects me to our humanness and sparks a depth of compassion for the beauty and the challenges that we all dance with. It means that I turned to 4 of my girlfriends, 2 of whom wept with me as I shared my plight. It means that I had a conversation I was scared to have. And it means that I am prepared to be someone that people can turn to, to be the kind of woman that people can speak truth to.
3. Willingness to let go. As I wrote previously here, the essential ability to let go requires emotional agility. To be able to hold in our hearts the paradox of life’s beauty which is inseparable from its fragility and to allow it to be exactly as it is. In practical terms the way I practice letting go is by choosing a new narrative of what I consider to be my experience and reality, releasing attachments to how I think things should be, clearing my energetic space with movement and massage, and my physical space with cleaning, cleansing and rearranging, and using my breath to breathe out anything that feels stuck in my body.
4. Remaining anchored. I feel this necessity in life and art to radically simplify, to get back to innocence. The only way I know how to do this is to move through the world slowly enough that life can express itself through me. Life, in my experience, renders itself at a pace half of what the modern western world that I know runs at. I cannot keep up if I want to remain anchored. So I slow down and proceed gently to the natural tempo of my soul.
5. Disconnect from distraction to reconnect to poetic imagination. Due to the nature of my work, I spend a lot of time, more than I would like, online and behind screens. I am grateful for the many gifts that this gives me and also aware of how it creates a sense of separateness from the true nature of life. The one thing that has helped me move through the past few days of sadness was the hopefulness that stems from my imagination of what is possible beyond the framework of my current experience. I want to find myself deeper in that space and have decided to take time away from my phone and screens for two weeks from the solstice to the first week of January to reconnect with the center of my being. I want to feel my own truth in my body and connect to the seat of life that bubbles through me.
6. Avoiding naming things too early. This is a brand new lesson for me and one I am grateful to learn. We name things in order to control them or ourselves in relation to them without allowing them to shape and form in their own way. We name things to give our minds a sense of certainty that we understand and know how to navigate them but in naming them destroy their very essence. I’m not sure what happened here as I am normally so willing and able to allow things to be what they want to be but this time… a gift in the form of this lesson was waiting for me.
I have discovered that the opposite of uncertainty is a sense of belonging to the world in all its unpredictablity. It is knowing that we are part of this uncertainty seeing that we are excellent examples of it. When we stop trying to distance ourselves from uncertainty and recognise that we are included in it a closeness and a meaningful relationship to the unknown develops. Every day we are walking into uncertainty. We can no longer pretend that the change is not happening.
There it is. That dull and familiar ache. An empty wanting.
That dull ache in the depths of our psyche that we are constantly trying to fill with food and comforts and drugs and pursuits and people and evidence that we are doing life right.
That dull ache that feels like the remnants of a broken heart or the whisper of disappointment or the sense that something is missing. That dull ache living in the background of our lives.
Often, that dull ache originates in the unresolved sense of defeat and loss that life serves us daily. Every pending fear, every plan upturned, every expectation for answers or for a response for someone… becomes a loss.
The biggest loss? The loss of sense of control of your external environment.
Most people are holding on so tightly to the illusion that if they get what they think they want — confidence to move forward, a perfectly executed plan, the sense of being ready, clarity before they leap, support from a friend or loved one — they will feel safe and be in control.
Sometimes it’s better to let things be, let people go. Sometimes it’s better to release expectations for answers or closure or for someone to apologise for their harmful ways. Sometimes it’s better to centre your attention on what is going on within you instead of what is going on around you. Sometimes you just have to work on yourself and your inner peace instead.
The ability to let go and move with the rapidly flowing passage of life is directly linked with your understanding that you are not in control. To let go does not mean that difficult emotions and unmet hopes and expectations disappear. To let go means to let be.
To let go what we need is emotional agility. To be able to hold in our hearts the paradox of life’s beauty which is inseparable from its fragility and to allow it to be exactly as it is.
Having emotional agility means we allow and accept the full range of our experiences and emotions without trying to change and control them. We observe them instead of becoming entangled in them or try to fix or control or manipulate them.
Developing such emotional agility can help us alleviate stress, become more innovative, and let go…
That dull ache in the background of your life? It is the doorway to your liberation.⠀
See it as an invitation to let go of the stream of thoughts, fears, expectations, emotions and unmet hopes to make space for something bigger, better, more suited to you…
Don’t do anything.
And if you still cannot… Ask yourself this:
Why are you holding on? What is holding on giving you? How is it seving you?
Can you let go of that?
Don’t stop before the real magic happens.
There were days in the earlier months of 2020 where my entire body ached for human interaction.
I moved to Brighton 2 weeks before the entire country went under strict lockdown rules for 3 months. I had a home. I had Danger Zone. I knew a handful of people but I wasn’t allowed to see any of them. It was hard.
From an educated perspective, I know that desire to form and maintain social bonds is among the most powerful human motives. ‘Belongingness’ as it is known in psychology is considered to be one of the 5 core human needs. Much of what we do across all cultures is done in the service of belongingness. The needs for power, intimacy, approval, achievement and affiliation, are all driven by the need to belong.
Over those long and sometimes sad months, I learned to be alone. This is how you deal with loneliness.
I also gained a new appreciation for community and made it my priority. Here are my 8 best tips on how to find your people when you move to a new place.
1. TALK TO PEOPLE
Most people are shy. And yet everyone craves friendship and belonging. I can talk to anyone if there’s a conduit. The other day I made friends with a man over a large wave that almost washed out towels away. We had a connection point, to begin with, and then we had the most fascinating conversation about love, missed connections and saying goodbye. It’s that simple.
The best place to begin is with your neighbours. They’re right there.
Know that not everyone is going to be your people and that’s okay. For now, you are just friend shopping anyway.
2. USE THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Instagram acts as my most ultimate friend-making app. You can vibe each other out without any awkward conversations and then make the first move by sliding into one another’s DM’s. I would say that 50% of my current deep-and-true friendships have happened because of Instagram and I’m so damn grateful for that.
3. USE PAST CONNECTIONS
Reach out to the people you know and ask who knows people in the new place you have moved to. Allow them to make a connection for you. I love when people I love introduce me to people they love. It almost always works out.
4. BE A GOOD COMMUNICATOR
When you meet someone, compliment them in a specific way, for example, the way they move with grace or their open-heartedness, or how genuine and helpful they are. People will always remember how you made them feel and when you make someone feel good, they’ll want more of that.
Share stories and let them be an intimate part of your life by sharing details. Listen to their stories with all of yourself.