There are many journeys you can take in life. I have always loved travel and exploring new places – for me the journey of discovering my inner self has been the most fascinating. I have spent almost four years training as a counsellor, a training that has demanded I pay attention to my inner most self. This exploration has been a huge journey that has been lonely and taken me to places that have been dark, cold, and punishing. I left for this journey to my inner being without a map or any idea of what monsters were about to greet me along the way. I would like to share a small aspect of this journey with you, a journey that took me into the desert in a literal and metaphorical sense.
During the first year of my counselling training, I looked at Bowlby’s theory of attachment. This was both an academic and experiential exercise. The process was one where I made a deep discovery about myself, opening up very raw vulnerabilities. Bowlby recognises that when a parent is responsive and tuned in to their child, the child will in turn develop a secure attachment, allowing them to thrive and enter into adulthood, being able to relate to others and enter relationships at ease. When parenting is neglectful or abusive however the child will develop an insecure attachment, this is a psychological defence needed for emotional survival. There are many ways that these insecure attachments can materialise as each individual will respond differently to their environment. For me, my early experiences led me to develop an insecure avoidaent attachment.
As adults, individuals with avoidaent attachments are said to have difficulty with intimacy and close relationships. This theory made sense to me: I recognised how I had always avoided close relationships and attempted to live a life without the need for others. For me this was a comfortable place. I had always told myself that I did not want others in my life and I was happy alone. My studies however made me pay attention to the deep vulnerabilities sitting behind this defences, the parts of myself really needing love and warmth. I began to understand my defences and saw how it masked my innate need for love and connection. This mask was needed because on a deep unconscious level I had no faith that I would ever be really loved, and forever feared rejection. On becoming aware of this I felt I could no longer live in such isolation. in a self- reflective document at the end of my first year I wrote the following story that depicted how I wanted to move forward with aspect of my personal process.
“The Ice Queen Goes in Search of the Sun.
The ice queen was very alone in the North pole. This cold place was her home. For her it was comfortable and was all she ever knew. She felt very very safe there in isolation. Isolation was not quite enough for her however. She needed to know she was really really safe and so she wore a big coat and many layers of protection under that coat. You may wish to see her face, but that too was covered. It was covered with a mask that depicted happiness. For many years the ice queen ruled her cold and unforgiving landscape. She was not in need of company as she had her imagination and her dreams as friends. Everything she needed came from herself, and this was OK, this was how it had always been for the ice queen.
One day to the ice queen’s surprise, she gained sight of another queen who had come to her land, it was the queen of hearts. The queen of hearts was radiant and no amount of layers, no big thick coat, could prevent the queen of hearts’ love penetrating through to touch the ice queen with her warmth. Once the ice queen had a taste for this warmth and love she knew that she could not continue to live in isolation. O how she longed to feel this warmth again, she needed it like air.
Holding onto this warmth she called out to the Gods and asked: “Where can I find this love? I need this love, I need it more than air, or water.”. A great voice vibrated through the sky. “O ice queen I have waited for the day you would ask this question, there is a tribe of people waiting for you, they belong to the queen of hearts and go by the name of the Heart Tribe. You will find this tribe in the desert, however they will not receive you with this big coat and many layers. Go now ice queen, find your tribe and on your way lose these many layers so you too can vibrate love.”.
The ice queen knew she had to make this journey, she knew her intuition would guide her and she longed to find her tribe and to be received. Off she went to find her people deep in the desert.”
I intended this journey as a metaphorical one. The queen of hearts for me was the training group who shared my therapeutic journey and taught me about connection. The heart tribe was about allowing myself to authentically relate to others within my life where I could give and receive affection. Now fast- forward three and a half years……… Zoom!!
Almost at the end of my counselling training I felt like I needed a break from writing dissertations and case studies. I came across the ‘Road Junky Sahara Meditation Retreat http://www.roadjunkyretreat.com. “Just what I need” I thought…, An opportunity to dis connect from life and re connect with nature, whilst hopefully meeting some interesting people. So I arrived in Morocco and after a few days chilling out in Marrakesh I took the long bus journey to Merzouga. From Merzouga the group and I headed into the dunes. Soon after arriving in the dunes we had a welcome circle where we all said a little about what we wanted from the retreat. I immediately had a warm feeling about this group, it just felt like a big family who I had arrived back to after a long journey through the wilderness. This was quite an overwhelming feeling for me as traditionally I sit on the edge of groups being very disengaged. Through my training as a therapist I was part of a group for three years. During my training my lack of attachment to the group was highlighted and I had to work very hard to bring myself fully to the group and connect with the people within it.
Back to the dunes, and we spent ou first evening sharing lovely food around a candle lit table, and later sat around an open fire where we sang and ended the evening with dancing. I remember laughing so much that my stomach hurt, and I felt at ease to just be me. I don’t often hold back on sharing my unusual laugh or buoyant personality; I do so often feel however that people can’t receive it, and I can feel as if my spirit is crushed. This group however embraced each and every one of it’s members including me. Each of us brought our own quirky personality traits that were so loved and accepted within it’s framework. My first night in the dunes was such a joyful experience that I felt bursting and vibrant, energised and happy.
The sunrise awoke me on my first morning in the dunes as I lay out alone away from the camp. I joined the morning meditation group and felt clean and fresh (actually I had not washed for a while so the clean-ness was internal). I had forgotten how much I enjoyed meditating as part of a group and felt it set me up nicely for the day. After breakfast I walked into the dunes alone for some quiet reflection time. As I sat down, an abundance of both laughter and tears came over me:, my heart tribe I thought, wow I’m in the Sahara and I am with a fucking heart tribe. I have arrived and my ice queen has taken off her big coat and is able to receive the love this heart tribe offered. I sat and watched the sky, reflecting on how far a journey I had taken, I no longer shy away from hugs, in fact I had been hugged more in the desert than at any other time in my life and loved it. I am here with my heart tribe, I thought. I reflected on how far I have travelled in my own personal process and was overwhelmed that I could be part of a warm and loving group of people, a fully fledged heart tribe member I was….. Am!
That evening as luck would have it we had a sharing circle. The group sat around the open fire snuggled under blankets and a candle was passed around. When the candle came to us we had the opportunity to say something. I shared my difficulty with relationships and connecting to others and I also shared my story of the ice queen. To form we ended the evening with group hugs. As the week went on I continued to feel more and more a loving connecting with the group.
The ending of our week in the dunes was both difficult and beautiful. We went on an angel walk, where the group stood in two rows and each of us walked through the middle whilst the group touched, kissed and hugged us all whilst singing. On the walk back, and subsequent days after our time in the dunes, I felt myself dis connect a little from the group. This was not a full disconnection, but more a way to process how much of an impact this experience had had on me. I feel I have made connections with people on a deep level and I will always hold them close to my heart.
I have wondered how such a group found it’s way into one another’s company. , Tommy, who organised the retreat, has a radiant heart. Its openness glowed out from him in a way I have never experienced in a human. I wonder if the radiance from his heart acted as a lighthouse welcoming all the other little open hearts onto it’s island where we were welcomed with love and laughter.
It’s not everyday that a metaphor comes to life. It’s a bit overwhelming and has stimulated some deep thoughts (these are not hard to trigger in me). In psychoanalysis Jung talks about synchronicity, or in other words, meaningful coincidence. He sees this as being connected to something larger than ourselves, coming from a deeper order, as opposed to occurring from random events. This is referred to as unus mundus – the Latin for one world. Maybe we are all connected after all: all part of one world that so longingly wants us to connect with it, to love it and each other.