Sometimes Spiritual Growth Looks Like Leaving

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“Relationships are opportunities for spiritual growth.”

We hear this a lot. Many of us know it to be true. And yet, we think it means we’re supposed to stay inside of them… because growing and learning isn’t easy, so a challenging relationship must mean we’re doing just that. Right?

Yes, absolutely.
And, no, not necessarily.

Sometimes, the learning and the growing in relationships is finding the strength to walk away in the moments where someone thinks they have the right to take pieces of us. Pieces that don’t fit into their version of an “ideal partner,” or an “ideal relationship.” To learn what it takes to reclaim and fully own our own power.

I remember the moment I began to reclaim my power, over a decade after I started giving myself away in relationships that were toxic and incredibly unhealthy.

Relationships with men who thought it was okay to mold me. To ask or bully me into bending and folding into what they though I should be. Relationships where I didn’t know myself well enough to stand tall and declare with firmness, “I’m here too. What I want matters too.” Where I gave myself away instead.

I started reclaiming my power the day I showed up on a front stoop, with a bag of things in my hand and a stomach in knots so tight I didn’t think it would ever fully untangle. We hadn’t talked in days, and I don’t think he had any intentions of seeing me that weekend. I had spent the night before in tears, typing out a letter that laid out everything that was left to say so that I could finally let him go.

He wasn’t happy to see me, that much I remember.

“Hey… what are you doing here?”

“Can we talk?” I managed to reply.

“Well, we’re about to get on the phone…”

I remember that simple moment the most, because it was the moment I chose me for the first time in nearly 12 long years. It was the first time that I made myself the priority, rather than shrinking to someone else’s needs or desires.

“It will only take a second,” I responded firmly.

It was a small moment.
Anti-climatic.

The sun didn’t shine any brighter, and there was no triumphant ceremony to mark that day. There was simply a tired, sad young woman standing on a front stoop, holding steady inside of who she was and what she needed to happen in that moment. A young woman, who for the first time, fought for the right to take up space. To have a voice. To be heard, regardless of convenience.

I’m still fighting this fight.

I’m still reclaiming pieces of myself that I gave away. Still fighting for the right to take up space, have a voice, and to be exactly who I am, no apologies.

And I share this story with you in case you might be wondering if your challenging relationship is just “the way it is, because relationships take work.”

Relationships do take work.
They are an opportunity for spiritual growth.

I simply want to take the time to remind you that sometimes growth looks like choosing to reclaim your power. Choosing to take back pieces of yourself. Choosing to walk away from someone who can’t love and appreciate you for all your beautiful, messy glory. Exactly as you are. In each and every moment.

Sometimes the work is learning how to grow and communicate.
Sometimes the work is learning how to negotiate and share space.
Sometimes the work is learning what parts of you need work.
Sometimes the work is learning how to ask for what you want and need.

And, sometimes, the work is learning how to leave.

The leaving isn’t easy.
The leaving hurts more than you think it can.
The leaving is messy and inconvenient.

But sometimes, the leaving is everything necessary and good.
Sometimes the leaving is the moment when things really begin to change.

Sometimes the leaving, inside those tiny, seemingly insignificant moments, is where you declare to yourself and the Universe, “never again will I give away pieces of myself in the name of love. Never again will I bend or fold or dim my light.”

Only you will know if it’s time to leave, or time to grow together.
Trust yourself. Trust your heart. Trust your tears.

But always choose you, in whatever form that means.

Stillness, Suffocation, and the Wisdom in Our Breath

Stillness, Suffocation, and the Wisdom in Our Breath

 

Breath has become a huge topic of conversation for me lately. Because breath is everything… it is life and living and all things important. Breath is expansion and growth, expression and soul. Breath is essential. It is second nature and so instinctual that we don’t even think about it.

Until we stop breathing.

I think it happened subtly as time passed, because I honestly couldn’t tell you the day that I first learned to stop breathing. The moment when I chose tension and restriction and a slow suffocation inside my own skin.

I would venture to guess it happened inside one of those moments where I was wounded at the hands or words of someone I loved. Someone who was supposed to love me, support me, and keep me safe. Someone who was stronger than I was, physically and confidently. Someone who decided that I was too much, too intense, or too unsettling to their own beliefs and views of the world, and so they chose to take pieces of me. To cut me down, forcing me to be small and simple.

One of those same moments where I allowed myself, consciously or subconsciously, to be “cut down to size.” To be shaped and molded by someone who deemed me and my ways unpalatable. Where I let someone hurt me so bad that it felt safer to stop breathing.

Because without breath, there is stillness.
And inside stillness surrounded by fear, there’s perceived safety.

So, I stopped breathing.

Frequently enough that it became second nature.
It became my go-to in more situations than I can name.

And only lately have I come to realize how often I stop breathing, because as I’ve shared before, my body no longer lets me lie. It no longer allows me to hide out inside the stillness — inside that false sense of safety from that which I fear — because I’m dying a slow death. My body’s fighting like hell for the oxygen it needs to not just survive, but to thrive.

When I notice that I’m not breathing, that I’m choosing tension and restriction and slow suffocation… I pause, and I breathe. I breathe so slowly and deeply that my whole belly expands as wide as it will go. And on the exhale, I tune into the ever impressive wisdom of my breath.

What am I needing in this moment that I’m not getting?
What am I fearing in this moment that is causing me to hide out?
What am I feeling forced into that isn’t aligned for me?
What am I needing to say that I’m unwilling to admit out loud?
What am I avoiding because it will be hard and uncomfortable?
What am I overlooking for myself to make someone else happy?
What am I giving away that I don’t want to let go of?

By giving my breath the voice it never had — the attention it always required — I’m recovering more and more of the pieces that I let others take. More and more of my truth and my desires and a life that feels incredibly aligned.

Breath by breath.
Moment by moment.

I mean, really, truly breathing. Deeply and fully. Slowly and consciously. Breathing is magic in its purest form… and breathing will bring us back to life in ways we didn’t realize we’d been missing. Breathing will bring us home to ourselves. To our bodies. To the kinds of truths that change our lives for the better.

So if you’re struggling… if you’re feeling fearful or uncomfortable… check in with your breath. Check in with your body and where it feels tense and restricted. Where you might feel safer inside of the kind of stillness that is actually suffocating you slowly.

Breathe into it.
Deeply and fully.
Slowly and consciously.

Listen for the wisdom of that breath.
Because there’s more than you realize.

Keep Climbing the Wall

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Our brains are fun. They create metaphors and visuals to help us understand where we are and what’s happening around us. They make sense of things that make no sense by relating them to things they can already comprehend.

I remember the months leading up to July 2015.

Which is an ironic statement, because during those actual months, I couldn’t remember a single thing. I couldn’t put time in order, whether it was last week or my life story. I couldn’t recognize half the names on my client list, and I was forgetting how to code websites… a big piece of what I do for a living.

Mostly though, I remember closing my eyes when it felt like I couldn’t handle any more of the world around me. The obligations and expectations I simply couldn’t meet or match, or even remember existed.

I would close my eyes, and I would see and feel myself falling down this deep hole. A well maybe? I didn’t know. All I knew was that it was dark and made of dirt, and I was spinning around so fast I had no sense of which way was up or down. I knew there were sides, and I grasped at those sides with everything I had. I tried so hard to grab onto them so I could stop falling. So I could stop spinning out and maybe start making sense of myself and my loss and my life in the aftermath. But I couldn’t grab on… I was falling too fast. I was too weak and broken.

I remember the months after I got my brain back.

After my amazing mentor walked me through a healing session that broke me further than I knew I could break, all so that I could begin to mend. I remember the remembering. The pieces of the year coming back into focus, bit by bit. The being able to put time in order. To build websites and recognize my clients.

I would close my eyes, just as before, only this time I was clinging to those dirt walls in the darkness. I was clinging to the roots and stones and anything that my fingers could lock onto. I was trying so desperately to climb that wall. To claw my way back from the darkness. But I kept slipping… only when I slipped, there was no spiraling. There was no turning upside down and all around. I would slip several feet, clawing at that wall with a desperation I’d never known, and I’d find the strength to latch back on. Refusing to lose control. Refusing to give up.

And I remember the moment, and the months that followed, where I finally chose to come back.

Every day.
Every moment.
Over and over again.
I began to choose it.

To rise up from the ashes of my loss, my grief, my healing. To pick up the pieces that remained from a life and business I’d burned to the ground, and begin rebuilding something new. Something sustainable.

I would close my eyes, and I would see and feel that fight. I was climbing that damn wall. I was pulling myself up, weak fingers and hands. Tear stained. Bloody and bruised. Fingernails so packed with dirt I was certain they’d never come clean.

And a fierceness.
A determination that this would not be my story.

I would not stay stuck in that hole. That well of dank, dark, upside down misery. I would rise from the darkness that tried to consume me, and I would find my way out into the world again.

I don’t know where this metaphor came from. I don’t know why it’s what my brain chose to show me every time I closed my eyes.

But I do know that when I close my eyes these days, I’m out of that dark well. And I’m sitting there on the grass, with the sun shining and all the people off in the distance. Because it’s time to finish the journey… to come back and share all the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

I just have to get up and start walking.

But before I do, I just want to say that if you’ve found yourself inside that well of darkness… if you’re twisting and spinning and turning inside out… if it feels easier to surrender to the fall, to the darkness… don’t.

Keep fighting and climbing and clawing at the empty space that surrounds you until you find the walls. Hold onto those walls with everything you have inside of you. Even when you fall a little more, a little deeper. Even when your arms are tired and your fingers feel like they might rip right off your hands.

The well isn’t meant to consume you, just as the wall isn’t meant to break you. They’re both there to help you find the strength you need to choose healing and living and coming back fully. The well and its walls are there to make you stronger. You will find yourself on that wall, in ways you didn’t know you could. You will find a fierceness and a purpose that will carry you right back to the top, right back to the world.

And we are waiting to hear your story.
We are desperate to know what you learned on that wall.

So, find your grip.
Climb that wall.
Come back to us.
Choose it.

If you need more guidance, join me for my upcoming class this Thursday, September 1st. It’s all about climbing the wall from my own experience.

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My Body No Longer Lets Me Lie

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My body has been the keeper of many lies over the years. I never considered myself a deceitful person until I began truth telling on a much deeper level. You see, I spent years lying. Lying through the smile plastered on my face, the “fine” responses to “how are you” questions, and by not giving air time to the simple truths that surfaced within me.

The simple truths that said…

This is not the right relationship for you.
This job is killing you slowly.
This client is not the right fit for you.
This sadness is eating you alive.
This career path is so far from aligned.
This life is not truly fulfilling you.

I was a master of deceit. Not a soul in my sphere knew the levels of my unhappiness… and I kept my cards close to my heart. I blended in. I let people see who they wanted to see in me. I made myself small. And I did this for far longer than was healthy or helpful.

These days my body doesn’t let me lie.

She doesn’t let me sit through small talk with people I can’t truly connect with. She doesn’t let me pretend I’m “fine” when nothing is okay. She doesn’t let me play small or blend in. And she certainly doesn’t let simple truths surface without adequate air time soon after.

When grief sucker punched me in the heart a year and a half ago, I was incapable of anything but truth. I was raw and cracked wide open. Any shell or wall I’d built around me was blown to smithereens in an instant, with many pieces still missing to this day. I didn’t know which way was up, I couldn’t put time in order, and I had no memory at all.

Grief showed me that people want us to lie to them.
They may say they don’t, but many actually do.

When you’re going through something challenging and uncomfortable, they don’t actually want to hear about it. They want to hear that you’re “fine” or “okay.” They want to know that “work is good” and “we’re hanging in there” or that “God never gives us more than we can handle” with a smile and a strength you couldn’t possibly embody.

I had my first major panic attack at a family reunion seven months after my loss… and my second at a cousin’s wedding. Answering “how are you” with “fine” or “good” more times than I can count. Smiling while everyone carried on as everything was normal… and yet, everything for me was far from normal. I couldn’t use my brain. I couldn’t stop the slow bleeding in my business. I couldn’t make money. I couldn’t put time in order. I couldn’t make peace with the gaping hole inside my heart. I couldn’t reconcile the gifts and gratitude that came from the most awful and tragic kind of loss.

And my body had enough.

So I started telling the truth, whether people wanted to hear it or not. I stopped spending time in situations where it was almost expected that I lie through my smile or my words. I started spending more and more time with people who could hear my truth, and who would not only listen, but help me. Hug me. Guide me. Cry with me. Hold me. Give me tools and resources and take a stand for my grief and healing.

My body guided me to a community and healing path and life that I never could have navigated to on my own. And still, to this day, my body will SHUT. IT. DOWN. if I try to deviate to any degree from my truth.

And for that I’m grateful.

If you’re still reading, maybe don’t wait for your body to shut it down. Anxiety and panic attacks are no joke, and they’re certainly not fun. Tune into what’s true for you, what’s surfacing in your life right now, and honor it. Answer “how are you” with truth. Wear whatever emotions are true for each moment. Put it all out there. Ask for help. Be transparent and vulnerable in everything you do and say. It’s hard and it’s scary… but I can tell you with certainty and experience that it’s worth it.

Need support? Click here to learn more about my signature program and process, Foundations for Unshakable Joy™.

It’s Going to Feel Like You’re Dying

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“I don’t know how to get back to that happiness,” she cried as she rocked her beautiful baby in her arms. She shared with me that she had reached a blissful state of happiness and positivity, feeling like she could always choose it no matter what. But it was gone now, and she crashed so hard there were weeks when she couldn’t get herself out of bed. She had to be bathed and fed and she was fighting like hell to get back to happy. “People tell me it wasn’t real.”

“It was absolutely real,” I smiled. “But if feels like there’s a dark side you’ve been denying. And when you face into that and do the healing work, the happiness will come back fuller and richer than before. It will come back as pure unshakable joy.”

There’s power in choosing positivity. In choosing to be happy and grateful and only see life as a glass half full with plenty more water at the ready. It’s beautiful, really.

But it doesn’t always work.

Because some of us aren’t just “being negative” or working with a surface level layer of beliefs that need to be adjusted. Some of us have grief and trauma and scars that run so deep we wonder how we didn’t split straight in two. Some of us have holes and cracks and damage to our foundation that can’t be plastered over with polished positivity. We can’t just “fake it till we make it.”

Sometimes we can use those techniques to get a boost. Things are better, we feel positive, and we’re shouting affirmations at anyone who will listen, convinced that we’ve “figured it out” and will always stay “up.”

Until we crash.
Because we can’t deny our wounds.
We can’t deny our darkness.

Positive Affirmation People love to tell us that “dark” is bad. That anger or grief or trauma have a silver lining, and that silver lining is all we should focus on. And yes, everything happens for a reason whether we like or understand it… but only facing into the “light” and looking at the “gifts” puts all our weight on one side of the scale. Eventually we’re going to tip over. And the more energy we put into that single side, the harder the crash.

If you want to be happy — and I mean a truly unshakable joy that bubbles up from your core no matter what’s happening — then you have to face into the pain. The wounds. The darkness.

And, truth be told, it’s going to feel like you’re dying.

Because, in a sense, you are.

When we face into what hurts, what’s messy, and what’s dark, we face into emotions and experiences that feel like they might eat us alive. The pain can be so deep and so overwhelming we don’t know which way’s up or down. The tears are so fierce and powerful we nearly stop breathing. The truths, the wounds, the aches, they feel like they’ll break us.

This is where we usually stop.
We bandage it up carelessly.
We turn back towards “the light.”
We suppress the emotions.
We hide from the pain.

But if we’re willing to face into it, to be absorbed by it, and to feel it all the way through… not sit in it, not let it fester and become stagnant, but move it through us with tears and words and full body screams… we’ll move right through that space that feels like actual death. And it’s only by going through that void, that dark pocket in between, that we connect with peace and joy and love and truth.

It’s only through that painful pocket — that moment of death and rebirth — that we find the kind of faith and trust that carries us into something even more amazing, joyful, and aligned than we knew was possible.

It’s going to feel like you’re dying… because that part that’s wounded and stuck and wracked with pain, that part of us will be released. And we’ll be reborn with more purpose, passion, trust, faith, freedom, and deep, deep joy.

As someone who has walked through that pocket, more than once, I can attest to its beauty and grace and divine initiation. And I also understand that it seems absolutely terrifying and impossible from where you stand. I know it feels like you won’t survive it. I know it hurts more than anything you’ve ever known.

But, I promise, you’re right there.
You’re so damn close to everything amazing.

You just have to face into it.
Feel and move it all the way through.

You can do this.

Since starting this program I am on my way to obtaining my bachelors degree, I have reinvested in my own business, and started really focusing on my fitness. I am much happier and much more productive; laziness is a thing of the past!

— Kristina Dahlgren