How to Bloom in the Dark: Self-Compassion, Compost, and Nature

    —
December 3, 2021

Compassion is the magic ingredient that turns our personal “compost” into personal evolution.

 Some time ago, I found a strange bloom in the kitchen. It was elegantly twisted, like a dragon at a Chinese New Year celebration. It was frilled, purple, and pungent. This exquisite thing grew out of a chunk of purple cabbage that I’d put under the sink to go out for compost. Instead of fading quietly however, it burst into new life in the dark grotto of my cabinetry. It blossomed into something unexpected, unusual, and fiercely beautiful.

Reflecting on the discovery of this “flower” in the shadows, I’m reminded of, and heartened by, the fertility of dark times. Many people are feeling a collective spiritual darkness now, exhausted and frustrated, maybe also angry and scared. Having compassion for ourselves and others is especially important in times of literal and metaphorical darkness. How can we do this if we already feel overloaded?

Nature is our ultimate model and guide—in the light, in the dark, and in the most surprising and gorgeous ways. Cue the weird, glorious cabbage flower which came to life in the dark. What was being shown there?

There is the clear compost metaphor. Compost is the stuff we reject, the moldy, wilted, too hard, too soft, nasty bits that don’t make it to the table. It’s also the leftovers from delicious things we appreciate and enjoy, silky mango skins, green tea leaves, dark coffee grounds.

It all transforms into a rich sloop that eventually nourishes future plants. Our personal work includes processing our own “dark” sides, the parts we’d like to hide or discard. Self-compassion (and compassion for others) holds both the rejected and respected parts of who we are. Like composting, it isn’t always pretty, but it’s potent. Research shows self-compassion helps us stay present and kindhearted without sinking into absorptive empathy, which can lead to overload and burnout. This meditation is part of the toolkit in the audio course Shining Bright Without Burning Out.

The cycles of the natural world, into which we are interwoven, take time. It’s hard to be patient, to let everything, both scorned and enjoyed, stew in our symbolic personal compost piles. The speed with which that brew changes from nasty to nourishing varies widely with the internal and external conditions. Sometimes all those different elements take a long time to dissolve and break down. Sometimes it turns around faster than we think possible, like time-lapse photography of a log rotting on the forest floor with new green shoots springing to life overnight. Compassion is the magic ingredient that turns our personal “compost” into personal evolution.

The dark supports transformation. Times of literal darkness are needed for regeneration. Roots, seeds, and bulbs prepare. People and animals sleep. Times of symbolic darkness are also helpful. In darkness, transformative processes happen without spectators, often below the level of our conscious awareness. These are periods of catharsis, healing after trauma, cocooning in preparation for the next version of ourselves and our world.

We sometimes feel hopeless and helpless in the dark. Our society avoids sinking into it. Instead, we gravitate towards purveyors of easy “love and light!” spirituality, shying away from the deep, gooey work that happens to the larval versions of ourselves (and those around us) when we’re in the darkness of the cocoon. Self-compassion is most needed when we’re a mess.

The dark is a vital part of the wheel of our days, our years, our lifetimes. We need it to survive and be healthy in the long term. So, let’s embrace it, explore it, and be gentle with ourselves as we confront our fear of it. From this darkness we are nourished to bloom into the light.

@ 2021 Mara Bishop MA

Order Shining Bright Without Burning Out now! 

Mara Bishop has
over 25 years of experience helping people find spiritual health and
well-being. Her Personal Evolution Counseling™ method blends shamanism,
psychology, intuition, energy healing, and nature-based practices. She
lives in Durham, NC with a beloved family of people, animals, and
plants.

More information about Mara is at www.WholeSpirit.com

Mara Bishop

Mara Bishop is a shamanic practitioner, intuitive consultant, teacher, author, and artist. In private practice, she uses her Personal Evolution Counseling™ method to provide an integrated approach to spiritual healing, personal growth, and emotional well-being. Her books Shamanism for Every Day: 365 Journeys and Inner Divinity: Crafting Your Life with Sacred Intelligence are resource guides for spiritual practice. She resides in Durham, North Carolina. For more, visit wholespirit.com.

Author photo © Sarah-Jane-Kenner

Also By Author

Shining Bright Without Burning Out

Mara Bishop is a shamanic practitioner, intuitive consultant, teacher, author, and artist. In private practice, she uses her Personal Evolution Counseling™ method to provide an integrated approach to spiritual healing, personal growth, and emotional well-being. She is the author of the books Shamanism for Every Day: 365 Journeys and Inner Divinity: Crafting Your Life with Sacred Intelligence, and, with Sounds True, she is the author of the audio learning program Shining Bright Without Burning Out: Spiritual Tools for Creating Healthy Energetic Boundaries in an Overconnected World

In this podcast, Mara speaks with Sounds True’s founder, Tami Simon, about how in today’s world we can learn to value our sensitivity instead of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Mara and Tami also discuss shamanism as a path of direct revelation, accessing non-ordinary consciousness for insight and healing, the three phases of creating healthy energetic boundaries, the difference between “just plain stress” and burnout, discovering your energy personality archetypes, understanding your energy ecosystems and how they interact, working on yourself and bringing light to the shadow aspects of your personality, the difference between compassion and empathy, energetic cleansing methods, the paradox of “one and all one,” Mara’s concept of “powering on” to amplify and shine our inner light, how our world has become “overconnected” and how to avoid the burnout this can create, the shamanic practitioner as someone who can “see through the eyes of the heart,” and more.

How to Bloom in the Dark: Self-Compassion, Compost, an...

Compassion is the magic ingredient that turns our personal “compost” into personal evolution.

 Some time ago, I found a strange bloom in the kitchen. It was elegantly twisted, like a dragon at a Chinese New Year celebration. It was frilled, purple, and pungent. This exquisite thing grew out of a chunk of purple cabbage that I’d put under the sink to go out for compost. Instead of fading quietly however, it burst into new life in the dark grotto of my cabinetry. It blossomed into something unexpected, unusual, and fiercely beautiful.

Reflecting on the discovery of this “flower” in the shadows, I’m reminded of, and heartened by, the fertility of dark times. Many people are feeling a collective spiritual darkness now, exhausted and frustrated, maybe also angry and scared. Having compassion for ourselves and others is especially important in times of literal and metaphorical darkness. How can we do this if we already feel overloaded?

Nature is our ultimate model and guide—in the light, in the dark, and in the most surprising and gorgeous ways. Cue the weird, glorious cabbage flower which came to life in the dark. What was being shown there?

There is the clear compost metaphor. Compost is the stuff we reject, the moldy, wilted, too hard, too soft, nasty bits that don’t make it to the table. It’s also the leftovers from delicious things we appreciate and enjoy, silky mango skins, green tea leaves, dark coffee grounds.

It all transforms into a rich sloop that eventually nourishes future plants. Our personal work includes processing our own “dark” sides, the parts we’d like to hide or discard. Self-compassion (and compassion for others) holds both the rejected and respected parts of who we are. Like composting, it isn’t always pretty, but it’s potent. Research shows self-compassion helps us stay present and kindhearted without sinking into absorptive empathy, which can lead to overload and burnout. This meditation is part of the toolkit in the audio course Shining Bright Without Burning Out.

The cycles of the natural world, into which we are interwoven, take time. It’s hard to be patient, to let everything, both scorned and enjoyed, stew in our symbolic personal compost piles. The speed with which that brew changes from nasty to nourishing varies widely with the internal and external conditions. Sometimes all those different elements take a long time to dissolve and break down. Sometimes it turns around faster than we think possible, like time-lapse photography of a log rotting on the forest floor with new green shoots springing to life overnight. Compassion is the magic ingredient that turns our personal “compost” into personal evolution.

The dark supports transformation. Times of literal darkness are needed for regeneration. Roots, seeds, and bulbs prepare. People and animals sleep. Times of symbolic darkness are also helpful. In darkness, transformative processes happen without spectators, often below the level of our conscious awareness. These are periods of catharsis, healing after trauma, cocooning in preparation for the next version of ourselves and our world.

We sometimes feel hopeless and helpless in the dark. Our society avoids sinking into it. Instead, we gravitate towards purveyors of easy “love and light!” spirituality, shying away from the deep, gooey work that happens to the larval versions of ourselves (and those around us) when we’re in the darkness of the cocoon. Self-compassion is most needed when we’re a mess.

The dark is a vital part of the wheel of our days, our years, our lifetimes. We need it to survive and be healthy in the long term. So, let’s embrace it, explore it, and be gentle with ourselves as we confront our fear of it. From this darkness we are nourished to bloom into the light.

@ 2021 Mara Bishop MA

Order Shining Bright Without Burning Out now! 

Mara Bishop has
over 25 years of experience helping people find spiritual health and
well-being. Her Personal Evolution Counseling™ method blends shamanism,
psychology, intuition, energy healing, and nature-based practices. She
lives in Durham, NC with a beloved family of people, animals, and
plants.

More information about Mara is at www.WholeSpirit.com

How Do You Shine Bright? Managing Your Energy Ecosyste...

When you hear the phrase “shining bright,” what does it evoke for you? Does it mean being yourself? Is it radiance, openness, or casting your energy outward toward others? Is it being the center of attention?

For me, shining bright is about sustainable personal energy, understanding your unique spiritual makeup or energetic personality archetype. It’s about managing your energy ecosystem. It’s also about keeping the balance of what’s “coming in” and what’s “going out,” as all healthy systems do.

One of the ways I feel my “brightest” is when I’m in nature, especially in the little jungle of my backyard. As I write this, a rabbit is relentlessly distracting me by flashing its ears in my line of sight, stretching up to grab some leaves, ducking down into the ivy. Observing and immersing myself in nature keeps my energy ecosystem healthy. It helps me see the bigger picture of the earth’s systems and appreciate the extraordinary beauty that exists in our seemingly ordinary spaces. I breathe differently and feel lighter when I’m watching the creatures and plants outside.

Rabbits don’t do it for you? You may need the bright lights of the stage, deep long meaningful conversations, sweaty workouts, or something else. It’s a combination of things that blend to create ideal self-care habits, big and small routines that honor who we naturally are and help us be our most radiant.

It’s hard to shine bright when you’re burned out. Many of us are overwhelmed, facing disasters of all kinds. Even if we’re not experiencing direct trauma, the world feels chaotic. That can make it easier for us to spin out of control a little too and neglect healthy habits. Maybe, like me, you love and are rejuvenated by time in nature, but feel you must travel to far-off places to find the wild and that’s not possible right now. Maybe you’ve struggled to find a practice that suits who you are and fits into your life. Maybe you feel the experiences of those around you so keenly in your body that it’s hard to distinguish your own emotions and needs.

We’re vulnerable to burnout when we get overwhelmed and depleted when we become cynical and feel negative and ineffective about our work. We start to distance ourselves from others and detach from ourselves, our needs, and what it takes to be healthy and happy.

I have two resources to help, one is available now, and one will be available soon.

Even if you only have a few moments, making time to meditate or journey regularly can help avoid burnout. Shamanism for Every Day: 365 Journeys is a daily guide for reconnection. No pressure, not another to-do list item, but a gentle way to engage your inner wisdom and the support of the spirits around you to stay healthy. Shining Bright Without Burning Out: Spiritual Tools for Creating Healthy Energetic Boundaries in an Overconnected World is an audio course that will help you step by step to manage what comes into your energy ecosystem and what goes out. We’ll reframe how you engage the world in order to stay compassionate and present, without losing your spark or burning out, so that you can shine bright and enjoy your time here on this beautiful earth.

Preorder Shining Bright Without Burning Out now! 

Mara Bishop has over 25 years of experience helping people find spiritual health and well-being. Her Personal Evolution Counseling™ method blends shamanism, psychology, intuition, energy healing, and nature-based practices. She lives in Durham, NC with a beloved family of people, animals, and plants.

More information about Mara is at www.WholeSpirit.com

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The Practice of Presence

PRACTICE ONE PRESENCE

START HERE . . .
I’m starting with love. I’m starting with breath.
I’m starting with stretching my body that carries me despite the aches.
I’m starting with a hand over my heart. I’m starting with forgiveness.
I’m starting with a clean slate.
I’m starting with a cup of tea and a crisp new page. I’m starting with a tearful release.
I’m starting with wind on my face and gratitude on my lips. I’m starting with my eyes up, not down.
Today, life is calling me to take my own path— Go at my own pace,
Stop when needed,
Notice the signs, people, and sights meant for me. Today, life is calling me to show up—
And I take this brave step by declaring . . .
Love is where I’m starting.
May it also be where I am going. Love IS the way.

Ever since I recovered Google Island, the book I wrote as a child, I’ve been making an intentional effort to connect with that younger version of me, the one I now call “my Dreamer Girl.”

This was the “me” who knew at a very early age that lovingly respond- ing to myself and those around me brought me joy. Over the past few years, I’ve spent time remembering what my Dreamer Girl was like.

She couldn’t walk by a stray cat without talking to it.

She marveled at the sounds she made with her violin and bow.

She loved the rush of the wind when she swung as high as she could go.

She freely ran through the sprinkler in her bathing suit, unhindered by her squarish body that held an abundance of freckles.

And most of all, my Dreamer Girl’s joy was found in filling spiral notebooks with observations, stories, and dreams.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I decided these inclinations were not acceptable and therefore needed to be abandoned. I’m pretty sure it was during adolescence when I began assuming the roles that gained the world’s approval—roles like the Planner, the Go-Getter, the Accommodator, the Helper, and the Overachiever—and when accolades took precedence over pleasure.

And those roles were just the beginning. In the twenty or so years that followed, I took on so many roles and expectations that it should have come as no surprise when it all became too heavy to bear.

But it did. I can still see myself at my breaking point—the teacher, the partner, the mother, the daughter, the sister, the volunteer, the completist, the juggler, the people-pleaser, the fixer, all simultane- ously coming undone during a morning jog, my well-crafted roles unraveling so quickly I didn’t even try to hold myself together.

Fueling my breakdown was a question I got a lot: “How do you do it all?” I’d always taken it as a compliment, but not on this particular day. At thirty-eight years old, I’d reached the very frayed end of myself, and that question loomed before me, forcing me to stop and face the answer I’d been running from.

I could “do it all” because I missed out on life—I missed out on the laughing, the playing, the creating, the connecting, the memory mak- ing . . . the living . . . the loving . . . and what I missed I cannot get back.

That truth was so gut-wrenching, I was forced to stop. I collapsed to my knees and I wept for all that I’d lost and the desolate place I was in. It was then and there that I decided to tell the truth. Looking back now,

I realize the significance of that response. For once, I did not push the pain and discomfort away. I allowed myself to feel it, to let truth enlight- en me, which is why tears of despair turned into tears of relief.

I’d lost my connection with my Dreamer Girl, the tree climber, the notebook filler, the music maker, the seed planter—but she was not gone. Oh no, she was still with me, in here, hand over heart.

I just needed some time . . . space . . . and permission to reconnect with her.

Dear Soul Shift Companion, does that thought resonate with you? Because here’s the reality: as we grow further and further away from childhood, the demands and stress of life increase. We forget we have the power to say yes to what delights our heart and soul, makes us feel alive, and brings us peace. But in order to live an au- thentic, joyful, and purposeful life, we must remember how to say yes to those very things!

We can do it through the Practice of Presencean intentional choice to temporarily push away distractions and be fully present in the mo- ments of our life.

Within hours of my emotional morning run, I made this choice for myself.

I was in the middle of making lunches. My younger daughter, Avery, who was almost four years old at the time, was on the sofa watching The Lion King. My computer was open, the phone was buzzing, and I was thinking about all the things I needed to do that day. In that moment, I looked up and noticed—really noticed—my child. A clear voice inside me said, “Go be with her. There is nothing more import- ant right now.”

Without closing the bag of bread or looking at the clock, I placed the knife across the jar of peanut butter and went to hold my child.

What happened next was something no one had ever done in my whole life: my daughter brought my hand to her lips and gently kissed

the inside of my palm, as if offering a silent but powerful acknowledg- ment of my presence.

This is remarkable, I thought. Tears filled my eyes.

I was so grateful I did not miss that moment and knew I didn’t want to miss any more.

This strong desire to not miss my life is what sparked my Practice of Presence.

Of course, at the time, I did not know it would become my Practice of Presence . . . I called it “going hands free,” a term that was inspired by that kiss-on-the-hand moment.

It might sound contradictory to the process, but being a planner, I needed a plan. Realistically, I knew I could not overhaul my life, give up technology, or abandon all my duties and responsibilities, but that initial response I made to heed the inner voice demonstrated it was possible and practical for me to dedicate small increments of time to just being present.

As an experienced teacher of students with behavioral issues and low self-esteem, I knew the impact of small, achievable steps in creating new, positive pathways. Change begins with a behavioral action, and when you change your behavior, your perspective starts to shift, too.

So, I started with ten-minute periods of time during which I set aside my phone, computer, and agenda to be fully present and open to connection.

It was impossible not to notice how one choice produced a ripple of positive outcomes. For example, after opening my pop-up chair at my older daughter’s swim meet, I chose not to get out my work in an attempt to maximize the free time. Seeing my open lap and available attention, Avery asked if she could sit there. Holding her made me feel at peace and connected to her. When the meet was delayed, I did not fly off the handle because my plan was derailed. Instead, my daughters and I went and asked the coach how we could help, which he seemed to appreciate.

We got home later than expected that night, but I hadn’t yelled or felt that internal pressure . . . which resulted in my falling asleep without

the pain of regret. With one choice to be fully present, a series of mean- ingful experiences were created, lasting far beyond a solitary moment.

As I continued to practice choosing connective presence over pro- ductivity, efficiency, distraction, and control, I realized that a feeling of peace consistently came along with that choice; it was as if I was receiving an internal message of encouragement from my soul that said, This feels in line with how I want to live.

Now, does this mean that from this point on life was rainbows and

butterflies? Absolutely not. The damaging habits and beliefs I’d car- ried for decades were deeply ingrained, and life continued to deliver unexpected challenges. So, naturally, there were times when I didn’t choose a loving, compassionate, or healthy response to conflicts or big feelings. But . . . I was practicing.

And here was the difference: when I encountered a painful exter- nal clue—a wounded expression, a troubling comment, an upsetting memory, an uneasy feeling—I did not push it away. The difference was . . . I acknowledged it. I allowed myself to feel my response to the discomfort without judgment, so it could be used as information to lead and enlighten me.

Because of this willingness to be present for it all—the remarkable moments and the mundane moments, the peaceful moments and the uncomfortable moments—I was able to move from the painful truth of I am missing my life to a new, healing truth:

Rachel Macy Stafford is the New York Times bestselling author of Hands Free Mama, Hands Free Life, Only Love Today, and Live Love Now. Rachel is a certified special education teacher whose personal strategies are universal invitations to embrace life with urgency and cultivate connection despite the distractions of our culture. Her blog and social media platform are sources of inspiration to millions. For more, visit handsfreemama.com.

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Transform your relationship with your kitchen—and yo...

Hello gorgeous community of amazing human beings,

For the last 15 years, I have been cooking up this question: 

What does it look like to nourish YOU? 

 

Let’s drop everything we might think this is 
and everything you didn’t get done today 
and bring our collective shoulders down from the sky. 

Let’s take a minute here. We are just getting started, yet I feel we need to slow down. Will you take a deep breath with me? Thank you for being here with me. Thank you for breathing. There is nothing to do here. 

You can bring your awareness to your breath with an inhale through your nose. Open your mouth slightly and exhale with a HAAAAAAAAA sound. It feels so good to drop everything and breathe. Me too. To let go, even a little, is a real lovefest for the heart and mind = heart mind. 

It feels so good, can we do one more? 
You can close your eyes this time if you want to—
I will be right here. 

We are just getting here, together.

Now let me ask you again: 
What does it look like to nourish YOU?

What if I told you that your kitchen is a place of stories, mothers, grandmothers, imprints, and emotional weather patterns that shaped how you live now? It is also a place to deeply nourish yourself and cook up the life you have been longing to live. 

Your kitchen (yes your kitchen!) is a fierce, unconditionally loving mother holding what is ripe and ready to become inside of YOU. Who would have thought that you can heal your life in your kitchen? I did! And now you can.  

I am excited to share my new book: The Kitchen Healer: The Journey to Becoming You.

It invites you to bring your entire body into the kitchen, put your shame into the fire, offer your grief to the soup—allowing all you have been hungry for to begin to feed YOU. As you turn on the fire, you will come home to yourself. You will make the room you need, to hear and see and feel the stories you have been carrying.  

 

You will begin, again and again, to become YOU. 
Welcome home. 

In loving service to your courage, your kitchen healer,
x x x x jules

Jules Blaine Davis, the Kitchen Healer, is a TED speaker and one of Goop’s leading experts on women’s healing. She has led transformational gatherings, retreats, and a private practice for over fifteen years. She has facilitated deeply nourishing experiences at OWN and on retreat with Oprah Winfrey, among many other miracles. Jules is a pioneer in her field, inviting women to awaken and rewrite the stories they have been carrying for far too long in their day-to-day lives. She is cooking up a movement to inspire and support women to discover who they are becoming.

Learn More
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop | Sounds True

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