The Contemplative Path
By Lauren Feidner
I found Alive and Well Women at a major cross road in my life where I was battered, broken and – worst – defeated. I had given up and surrendered to the chaos that had enveloped my life. It started with feeling lost and questioning my purpose and value to those around me a couple years prior. It was a growing disorientation as I saw my relationships fracturing, my focus waning, and my ambitions coming to a halt. Then in a freak turn of events, I was mauled by a pit bull that caused permanent damage to my right leg, and caused a flurry of chaos in and of itself. From there, the unraveling of my life as I knew it ran off like a freight train. Every choice I had made up to this point to become the woman I thought I needed to be was serving as a defense mechanism to make sense of a life of abuse, trauma, dysfunction and denial that had never been identified or dealt with until this specific period of time. I no longer recognized the person in the mirror. I didn’t feel connected to anything happening around me- I felt like this life was someone else’s. It couldn’t be mine. It wasn’t.
After nearly a year of extensive therapy, a PTSD diagnosis, and a series of more unfortunate events- I did the unthinkable (for me, at least) and took a mental health leave from work. I fought this idea long and hard and waited too long to really accept that I was at this point. As I sobbed in front of my boss for the umpteenth time, I could only explain to him as knowing I could no longer run from my life, but I could run from this- everything I had worked for to define myself as a successful woman in a demanding, stressful corporate climbing career. I couldn’t fathom taking more than a week off of work, let alone 3 months. It was drastic- radical even- for someone who’s work is their life and vice versa. It felt like the ultimate, yet most necessary, failure- a dire attempt to get out of the muddy waters I had found myself in.
Within a week, I had joined the Contemplative Path group as a deepening of my therapy, and began a journey towards a state of wellbeing that had never before truly made sense to me. I had to dabble with antidepressants and anxiety meds to get a grip. I knew the value of self care, self love, mindfulness and so on. I knew how to act these out with meditation, yoga, acupuncture, reiki, sound baths, chanting, crystal chakra alignments, tree hugging (seriously). But why? Why? Despite all the factual knowledge I was gaining, the book smarts I had obtained on mental health, the wisdom that was emerging from dissecting my life with an exceptional therapist- I could not for the life of me grasp WHY I would do any of this beyond feeling that I should. The answer, though, was so, so simple:
I am here.
I am me.
I am love.
Because, I am.
Coming to the contemplative path connected the dots needed to map my way to center, and come face to face with my soul. Not as the world around me had defined it, nor even how I defined it- but my soul as it was born to be, beyond the narrative of my experiences. Accepting this deepest truth is all that was worth knowing, loving and caring for. In surrendering to the chaos, I also surrendered to the beauty of the universe. The beauty in these ideas truly resonating and altering how I walk the earth. My unraveling made way for revealing- and go figure, but simply being and allowing was enough. This journey has taught me that I am more than the sum of my parts and past, or the labels placed upon me, or the expectations of the world around me. That shame and guilt do not define me. It taught me the most sacred gift of listening- not only to each other, but almost more importantly- to our own selves. That the experience of being a female is uniquely female, so the genuine, heartfelt company of women was worth its weight in gold. That we are all on this journey together even as we stand alone in our own power. That with age comes the beauty of wisdom- not the perceived decay with each forming wrinkle or graying hair or chronic aches and pains. That the energies in words, thoughts and sensations can make or break us if we are not aligned. That the energy of the people and places we surround ourselves with affects every cell in your body. That all that was needed in this life was to come forth from a place of genuine love towards all things, especially for yourself.
If I had carved a rough path away from my chaos, crushing anxiety and depression- the contemplative path was cementing the road home in my brain- brick by brick- back to my place of belonging and belovedness, complete with road signs that say: “Love. You are. Enough.” The contemplative path was enough to empower me to truly live for the moment, without judgement of self or a rampant ego against my truths. It was enough for me to shed the weight of this phase of life, and feel ready to emerge as the magical being my soul was destined to be.
Despite having silenced my inner voice for so many years and through putting forth so much effort into letting it be heard- there are essential truths of my being that have persevered and transcended my darkest days:
I am resilient.
I love BIG and love hard (yet now, I have learned to love myself the same).
I live for the truth.
And I have always possessed a deep seated knowing and belief that everything in this life happens exactly as it should. Not for a reason, or by fate, or how it’s supposed to be… just simply, as it should. I should have fallen apart. I should have been faced with mental illness. This is all that it is. I should have found this community, I should have showed up and learned to listen, I should have shared my story and I should leave myself open to the next chapter. Trusting that life happens as it should places you so squarely in the moment- centered in your being. There is no before or after, just here and now. I should have written this blog post. You should have come across it. Because in the slightest moment of allowing life to be as it should- you are here, without force or anticipation. You are grace. You are love. You are. Just as I am, as I should be.
We’re grateful to recent Contemplative Path participant Lauren Feidner for sharing her story. We love the serendipitous nature of how her path aligned with ours at the right time. We are excited to support her as she continues to build on the goodness she gleaned through her experience.
Lauren writing during our Contemplative Path Program.