“Call me crazy, but I believe that changing and improving your life requires destroying a part of yourself and replacing it with a newer, better part of yourself. It is, therefore, by definition, a painful process full of resistance and anxiety. You can’t grow muscle without challenging it with greater weight. You can’t build emotional resilience without forging through hardship and loss. And you can’t build a better mind without challenging your own beliefs and assumptions.”
~ Mark Manson
Back in the months following my embolism in 2014, there was one friend from Portugal who kept in daily contact with me to check on how I was doing and lend constant encouragement. Stella and I didn’t know each other so well. She had been a dance student of mine back in Porto, also an immigrant to Portugal, hailing from Scotland. We connected on various levels, brought together in our otherness within a culture that was becoming our own, and yet often a bit discordant with the ways we had grown up.
She recommended checking out Mark Manson’s blog – practical and useful philosophy about life. In essence, it would prove to be a soft entry back into spirituality, given that I had left that far behind years ago, jaded from my experiences in Christianity. Truthfully, it wasn’t a conscious move towards finding my spiritual side. I just desperately needed some idea of how to get a hold of myself!
So I had been reading his blog posts every now and again over the last two years, when he came out with his book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”, and I read that too. One thing he mentioned that really struck me at the time, because it was such a novel idea for me, was questioning – not the truth of a belief – but its usefulness. He suggested that believing negative self-talk wasn’t useful, and that thoughts we had about ourselves should be weighed in the balance, not of truth, but of their value for our lives. Because the fact is, the truth is always up for debate, so it would be better to hold on to a belief that would be helpful to us.
This was all a little bit heretical to my brain formed throughout childhood by fundamental Biblical beliefs about truth and original sin. And yet, my former worldview and religious philosophy hadn’t seemed to bring me to a life of peace and tranquility, so yea, ok, I guess I could try to start with this idea about how we think – kind of trick my brain into believing positive things about myself. Maybe those things would become true? At some point? Eventually?
So I’m on a journey. Trying to work on my beliefs about myself and others. Overcoming fears and anxieties. Acceptance without complacency. Taking responsibility and pushing myself. Forgiving my failures and problems. Learning from them. Standing up for myself. Caring about myself. I’m finding my balance in myself slowly but surely. Getting more confident.
But growth is not linear and its motion is more of a spiral, so there is forward movement and there are switchbacks. Kuk Sool wasn’t going to come into my life and all of a sudden make a better Abeth without some explosive shaking out of the emotional cobwebs, as exhibited from the crying that I would spontaneously do at least once a week in class. Shaking out the interior dust and unleashing stuck emotions inevitably meant my body would begin to talk, because that is what my body tends to do, even if I had never learned to truly listen. And it would talk through the medium it hoped would get my full and undivided attention: pain.
Remember that hip pain from the first time I tried Kuk Sool?
In August 2016, after four months of almost daily Kuk Sool practice, I wrote:
I’m a difficult person. So hard to change. Why so many steps back? Did it start with the pain in my leg or was that a symptom of all this inside me? Or is it some greater truth about how when we try to improve, try to work on ourselves there are setbacks that naturally arise to keep us in the status quo? Or is it kind of like dusting? Once you get the duster out that’s when you see all the dust – you stir it up. Moving things moves all the dust around and it takes a while to get things all clear again. I don’t know, but this sucks.
Yes, that old hip and low back pain began to appear and grow stronger. Additionally, I began having extremely vibrant and crazy dreams. Something was moving within me. There was some vibrational stirring inside – what I have come to think of as my personal volcano.
I was attempting to shape a new life perspective, reading and listening to wisdom from others who wrote or talked about the journey towards self. Trying to hold on to the upward journey, knowing that I was still so stuck in thinking, emotional and behavioral patterns that had been strangling me for decades.
One big necessary step would be to examine and somehow embrace my shadow and all its failures.