Mind & Spirit

Finding the beauty after the darkness

 

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There was a time, not so long ago, when all I felt was sadness. It was all I knew how to feel and the only way I knew how to live. I had hit the darkest night of the soul — where the idea of returning to a light space is always frightening, weary, impossible.

When I finally left this space I felt like half a person, a hand-puppet shadow-version of myself trying to navigate a life that felt like it was filled only with blackness. It felt like I had to learn how to live again, to look at all the broken bits of myself and piece them back into something whole.

So much of this effort felt terrifying. Where would I even begin to start piecing things back together? I started a small series on a personal blog, titled “How to put your life back together” as a way to journal my way through a period of self-care and self-rediscovery. I spent time with only one or two people who held a space for me to just breathe and be and feel. And I actively started looking for ways to find beauty again after all the destruction and darkness.

I realise now that this place of feeling entirely broken down is also a blessing — because as frightening as it can be, it is also entirely liberating. It is new.

You’re given a blank slate to create and recreate and reframe the world anew; to see, receive and experience things in ways that will nourish and uplift and grow, rather than diminish you; to enjoy the fullness of a moment as if you’d never felt it before.

As you’re coming out of a dark place, self-care and self-love feel furtherst away from you. I get this. I know how hard it can be to just wake up and take one slow breath after another. I also know that everyone will find their way back to brightness at their own pace and in their own special ways.

But below, I offer a few steps you could take as you relearn how to nourish your heart, heal the body and strengthen the bare bones of your will. This is by no means a complete guide; just the sharing of a breadcrumb trail from one girl who sank into darkness and felt, cried, breathed her way back into a loving, beauty-filled world again.

1. Rest

In every trauma or sad episode, we experience exhaustion at so much more than just a physical level. One of the first and most important things to do, as you’re trying to build yourself back up is allow yourself to rest and relax your body, your heart, your mind and all the thousands of feelings that are vying for space in your head. I say “allow” because the gruelling situations that most often wear you down will also most  convince you that you don’t deserve rest, that you’re lazy or selfish for wanting to pause. But hear this: you’re no good to anyone, not least yourself, if you’re a tired, slumped-over wreck of a person.

Lean into the rest. Fill yourself with quiet. Know that even if you’re not moving, not thinking for awhile, things are still happening within and around you that will become clearer later. You are still alive. You just need a break and that’s totally okay.

2. Be selfish

First, read this — Is self-care selfish? (Answer: no).

Then rest in the knowledge that looking after yourself for awhile is not only okay, it’s important and necessary. For awhile, stop putting others needs above your own. Look after yourself. Give yourself only the best and juiciest care. Imagine the deep care you’d give a precious five-year-old and bundle yourself up in that same love.

3. Go back to basics

Give yourself everything that a normal, healthy, functioning human being needs to stay alive. This may sound obvious and overstated but these are also the things that are the first to be neglected when we’re coming out of trauma, intense grief, loss or anxiety.

So: eat good delicious foods, drink enough water, move your body, breathe in big lungfuls of fresh air, sit in the sunshine, walk barefoot on grass, hug, get enough sleep, meditate, breathe some more.

4. Enjoy the basics

The next step is allowing yourself to enjoy these simple things. Find delight in the meals you prepare and eat, sink luxuriously into bed and let yourself look forward to falling asleep, seek pleasure in the simple play of connecting again with nature.

When you open yourself up to receive and enjoy the good things that the earth around you has to offer, your body, mind and spirit more readily accepts them, and this leads to deep, profound healing.

5. Surround yourself only with people who bring you light

Now is not the time to try to be Miss Popularity. You may be feeling sensitive, emotional and raw, so be selective with who you choose to surround yourself with. Choose who you keep close to you and try to only pick people who bring you light, love, healing, who uplift you, who hold safe, sacred spaces for you to release any pain you’re holding, to talk it all out, to cry and laugh, to heal at your own pace, to puzzle things through and find your way again.

Wrap around you friends who will help you to be more of all the good things you are.

6. Read good books

This was a big one for me for it helped me see again all the infinite number of stories out there in the world. As well as providing calm, relaxing spaces for rest, stories have a wonderful capacity for healing. It helped me realise the immense potential of the human heart and mind to both endure great pains and bring tremendous love and strength to others. Any and everything becomes possible between the pages of a book (or in a great movie), and with that, the understanding that you too are capable of creating anything you wish.

7. Dance (or just move!)

I don’t care how silly you think you look. Put on your favourite tunes, wear your most comfortable clobber (or go naked!) and just let loose. There’s something cathartic, vibrant and liberating to be found in the ecstatic movement of your body. Let your limbs shake, flail, jiggle, swirl — feel again the full range of movement in every part of your body.

There’s actually only good things to be said of every kind of exercise. As monumental as the effort might seem, I promise that getting yourself out for even half an hour a day, to run, swim, dance, weight-lift, do yoga, or whatever else it is that gets your blood beating, brings immeasurable relief and healing on so many levels (that aren’t just physical). After being cooped up in darkness for so long, exercise will remind you just how strong, free, flexible, dynamic and capable you really are.

8. Remember who you were

There was a beautiful, happy, ambitious you before the darkness — remember that You. If you’re feeling strong enough, reconnect to old friends who knew you from before. Just by being around them, they’ll help you recall the person you used to be — the one who was bright, light, joyful, who had dreams, who had an awesome sense of humour or pulled pranks on people all the time; the one who turned heads; the one who always had a story to tell… or whatever other special quality it is that you had but buried and forgot. Bring that You out to play again. Know that that You — the true You — never really went away.

9. Holy the small

I take this phrase from a friend who recently sent me a gorgeous mini e-zine filled with inspiration and reminders for appreciating all the littlest joys. This is such a small, easy thing to do, but one that I feel packs one of the largest punches in bringing happiness back into your life after a hard, sad, painful time.

Celebrate everything. Feel the joy of sitting down to a perfectly made cup of coffee with a best friend. Relish every sensation of feeling the sun on your skin and hearing birdsong as you sit on a park bench. Enjoy the first bite of slice of watermelon like it’s the first time you’ve ever eaten watermelon. Do everything like it’s sacred, like it’s worth celebrating — because it is.

10. Feel all the gratitude

You finally realise that just this singular act of feeling All The Gratitude for All the Things is the deepest, most healing form of care and love you could give yourself — for within every moment of gratitude, there opens a new moment to start living again, to fully receive and experience, to create, to live it up, to express, to love, to feel.

With every beat of gratitude you feel in your heart, you thump out a new song, a brand new beginning where you can create anything you want — things which will only be good and healing and wonderful for you.

***

All this will feel hard. It’ll be monumental. Sometimes it will be painful and you’ll feel raw. Remember that all of it is okay. Take some of what I’ve suggested, or all of it. Some days, take none of it and do nothing but breathe. Do it all at once, or one at a time, or pick and mix. Know that you’ll go three steps forward and sometimes, one back. It is all okay, it is all good, it is all part of finding your way back to beauty.

If you take nothing else away from this article, I ask you to please take this: The beauty is there after the darkness. It might still be a little dim now, but the light gets brighter, the path to it gets easier, and the beauty will keep waiting for you. She’s not going anywhere. I promise.

 

{Photo: Krzysztof Puszczyński/StockSnap}

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Jamie Khoo

Jamie Khoo

Jamie is the one-(wo)man-band and founder of a beauty full mind. She's loved writing and words from the moment she started to read, and has written plenty for magazines such as Elle and Time Out Kuala Lumpur, and websites such as elephant journal. Sick of being told by mainstream media and society what she should think of as "beautiful" or not, she started this website to challenge normalised beauty ideals and create new definitions and conversations. Say hello to her on Facebook or by dropping her an email.

2 Comments

  1. Anne Jones
    10th August 2015 at 1:30 am — Reply

    Beautiful and inspiring blog, Jamie. You have reached the point where your wounds and pain have morphed into the assets of experience and you use them to help others. Well done darling. Xxx

  2. Veronica
    10th August 2015 at 1:04 pm — Reply

    The wisdom in this article will stay with me, Jamie. Thank you for making your way back to the light and sharing what you learnt with all of us.

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