Honor Your Shadow and Have Happy New Year, You Badass Butterfly

When I look back at this past year, I am slightly awestruck by all that has transgressed. Things that happened at the beginning of the year seem like forever ago. Just this morning, as I was looking back at photos from my March Unplugged in Ecuador retreat, I almost couldn’t believe it was in fact really from this year.  This misperception of our reality is exactly the perplexity of time. It is forever moving and shifting. What happens in the present has already been manifesting from the past and though we are not yet in the future per se, the future is constantly arriving. There it is! There it went...We are in a constant state of past, present, and future and everything in between. It feels like we have control over the timeline of our lives, and though there are some things we can choose to do and plan for, there is so much of the unexpected, the unknown, the unplanned, that really makes our lives what they are. When we look back, we can’t believe all that has happened (or sometimes all that has stayed the same). The things we have done in the past are what led us to this exact moment. What is so incredible is that what we are doing in just this moment,    * n o w * will have an impact on our future. The smallest thoughts, the tiniest details, the habits we keep, all create our future self. Positive reinforcement is looking pretty good right about now, don't you think?

I cannot believe that this is the year where I really began to *recover* from body dysmorphia, eating disorder(s), and the human condition of being a prisoner to my negative, fearful, and self-destructive thoughts. This is the year where the struggle seemed more like a transformation, where the pain almost felt good because I had this deeply innate sense that it all needed to be just as it was. I learned this year what it meant to honor my shadow side. To respect the darkness and invite it to be a tool of learning, a path on which to inquire, I learned that it is not the end game. The struggle is never the end game. Every struggle that I experienced was a helping hand to the awakening and freedom that I feel right now. Embodied and in my power. Just two years ago, I was bawling on my kitchen floor because I knew that I couldn’t keep starvation up forever. Just two years ago I was sure my life and the “success” I had was crumbling beneath me because I couldn't ‘just eat egg whites’ and drink protein smoothies forever. Just two years ago, I couldn’t leave my house without trying on 7 different outfits before having a complete meltdown over the 'disgusting' body that I felt was such a burden. I thought I would never be truly happy or free. I thought I was trapped, destined to suffer forever. Just two years ago, my entire purpose for living was entirely different and the way I went about my daily life, the thoughts that went through my mind, the regimented rules that I needed to exist in to feel safe, have all fallen away. I have somehow become the butterfly that has transformed from the cocoon. 

I don’t know how much butterfly research you have done recently, but the metamorphosis is mind boggling. The caterpillar inside its cocoon, literally eats itself into a gooey substance, before completely restructuring and rebuilding into it’s incredible new form. 

“First, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues. If you were to cut open a cocoon or chrysalis at just the right time, caterpillar soup would ooze out.” - Scientific American

Sure, this image is slightly, ummmm disgusting, but that is the thing about growth and change, it is not always pretty. Okay, it’s mostly never pretty. It's horrible and icky and just the worst. But the struggle during those dark in between transitions, where it feels like life is over as we know it, are actually the building blocks to our next massive breakthrough. I refer to this as a time of magic and mystery. Sometimes it feels like we aren’t changing, like we aren’t moving forward into our successes fast enough and the truth is that is total bull. Don't buy into that mindset for one second. First of all, let's commit to being a little nicer to ourselves. How about a hey, that didn't go as planned, but we'll do better next time, Self, every once in a while. Or, hey, the way you cooked those vegetables was amazing! You are so super skilled, Self. What a catch! Second. SLOW DOWN. Let's slow down, just for one moment so we can actually discover just how fortunate we are. There is so much happening that we cannot see in the moment. So much is working its way through below the surface. We are evolving and growing and changing constantly. Every moment of our lives we are creating our future and there are so many things to celebrate and applaud ourselves for. In our culture it is not normal to rejoice over the challenges and struggles, but they are what make us. I want us to look back, introspect, inquire within all the ways we have grown in 2017 because we will never be this version of ourselves again. Instead of bombing into the next year like a bat out of hell and setting fire to your memories of 2017, I encourage you to look back, pat yourself on the back, and remember just how much of a badass butterfly (or tiger?) you are. Here is to praising where we have been, popping the champagne cork on where we are now, and feeling the freedom of trust in knowing we are exactly where we should be before beginning again. In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…. 

Shira BrennerComment