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Until seven years ago, I experienced regular bouts of depression and anxiety. The anxiety sometimes bordered on panic attacks. I had been on and off antidepressants, in and out of long-term therapy, and was a recent graduate of eating-disorder rehab.
On the face of things, my life was totally fine, good even. I had a nice place to live, close friends, a family who loved me, and even financial freedom. But my internal life was a mess.
I used to say that if I could only use one word to describe the general pervasive feeling of life, it would be “desperate.”
I had a vague sense that life didn’t have to feel that way, but it had been so long since I’d felt any other way, that I suspected happiness might never be possible for me.
One day, I drove up to a vacation rental in Tahoe, California. The plan was to stay for a month, use the mornings to illustrate a friend’s book, snowboard in the afternoons, and cook my favorite foods. It sounded like a mini-paradise. I was so excited.
Within an hour of arriving, however, a familiar darkness began to descend. “What am I doing here?” I thought, looking around the empty condo. I suddenly felt very lonely. I began to panic. “Why did I think this would solve anything?” This trip was supposed to be a salve for my stressed out feelings, and now here I was, just as lost and alone-feeling as ever. My vision narrowed. I had trouble breathing. I did the only thing I could think to do, I phoned a friend.
“Jim,” I said, “I need help.”
“Tell me what you’re experiencing,” he said.
Instead of trying to get rid of the panic, we went toward it. With kind, careful questions, he invited me to feel it more. Within 15 minutes, the panic was gone. I could breathe again. I could see the sky. I hung up the phone and began to unpack.
The next month turned out to be as nourishing as I’d hoped. It wasn’t free from fear, doubt, and loneliness, but somehow those feelings stayed in the background, like stuffed animals lined up on the bed. They were there, my old familiar friends, but they didn’t take over.
Nearly a year passed when I had my next foreboding sense of panic. This time, I was going through a breakup. I was terrified that I was giving up the last good potential partner on the planet for the seemingly pathetic reason that “it just doesn’t feel right.” I was terrified this meant I’d spend the rest of my life alone.
Again, I called Jim. Again, we moved toward the fear. And again, after only a short time, the panic began to subside. Though I was still very sad and full of unknown, I was at peace with that.
“Ok,” I said this time. “Now I need to know. What did you just do to me?”
“It’s the Sedona Method,” he said. We hung up the phone and I registered for my first retreat.
What you may not know, because it’s relatively recent, is that sharing it has now become my current life’s work.
Before I found this practice, I was obsessed with achieving. In my secular life it was achieving traditional success from having the right job, the right partner, the right body.
When my life took a more inward and spiritual turn, the striving didn’t end. I became obsessed with being free from suffering, loving myself unconditionally, and living in a permanent state of acceptance and flow.
It wasn’t until I found and practiced the Sedona Method that I began to really get that my quest for a “better” experience of life was the cause of my suffering.
I thought I was working to make my life better, when in reality I was continually rejecting my life as it was, in favor of some lofty hypothetical ideal. The result was that my actual life was always coming up short by comparison. So then I’d believe I had a problem and I’d run myself ragged trying to fix those apparent problems.
Thanks to the Sedona Method, I began asking new questions.
“What if,” I began to wonder, “what if this life, as it is, with all its apparent problems, contractions, resistances, doubts, sadnesses, envy, mind-jabber, judgements, physical and emotional pain, short-comings, frustrations, world-problems, etc. what if this is the ideal life?”
“What if there isn’t some other hypothetical magical resting place? What if this is it?”
“What if,” drumroll please… “There are no problems; there are just apparent circumstances? What if there is no better-than?” That last one was hard to swallow – “Surely there MUST be a better version of life! Look at what all those spiritual teachers describe! Or those other people who’ve made it?”
“But what if,” the quietest voice began to ask, “that better life DOES exist, it just doesn’t come from rejecting this one, exactly as it is?”
Slowing, subtly, and subconsciously at first, a new experiment began. As often as I could remember, I began letting go of the belief I had a problem, rather than trying to fix the problem.
When uncomfortable experiences or feelings would arise, I began letting them just be, instead of reinvesting in the belief that I’d be happier if I and/or life were different.
As I reoriented in this way, I began to notice that the emotional turbulence I used to experience still happened, I just wouldn’t take it so seriously and it wouldn’t last nearly as long. I also noticed my emotions weren’t driving my decisions nearly as much. They were just something that happened, like weather. I realized I could still make choices and move in more confident directions even when I felt insecure, small, doubtful, resistant, etc.
I’ve also noticed experiencing a lot more compassion for myself and others. When I’m not busy trying to fix or change certain feelings, beliefs, or circumstances, I can just be with painful experiences in a state of understanding, patience, and love.
So back to the question, why have I now organized my life to share this work?
In that first fifteen minute phone call with Jim, I experienced a door out of suffering I hadn’t known was there. Since then, I’ve discovered that door is reliable and healing, both in the moment of suffering, and cumulatively over time.
Not everyone wants to walk through this particular door. It’s the door of acceptance. It’s the door of giving up “I’ll be happy when…” It’s the door of seemingly settling for what is. But it’s also the door that ends the war.
For anyone who is ready to be done fighting with life, I want to let you know, first of all, there is a door. And if you want to walk through it, I will continue to do my best to show you how.
If you’re moved to learn more. Head on over to The Welcoming Way to see what we can offer in the way of support along this path.