There are self portraits included in this post that are of me messing around for my lighting class and a couple of shots I did for a different homework series about shame. They're not specifically about this post but I thought I would share them for the sake of the topic. --MC
At the lowest of my lows, I was living in Los Angeles, very much in debt and super depressed. Each day I would pray for God to get me through another day. I was clearly living in 'survival mode.' Psychologically, spiritually, emotionally-- you are surviving, and anything more than that feels like an impossibility.
I'm sure I've mentioned this before but bare with me... I began to take classes that taught you to examine your thoughts and feelings. By becoming aware of those thoughts and feelings, you could see your unhealthy patterns and change them in a loving way. My mind was blown. I was waiting for my life to begin when God was whispering, "I already gave you the skills. Take responsibility. YOU got this." With this new set of keys, my life did change drastically. Some might call this mindful or positive thinking.
When you are a student of life, however, truth is like an onion. There is always another layer. You work up the courage to peel off a layer and you feel great. Then you dig deeper and you realize there's more. It isn't easy but you do the work, feel great and dig deeper again, peeling off another layer in the name of awareness. There is always more work and more truth and more bliss-- a teacher in everyone and everything.
Me? I'm a digger. Since that class, I've always got a shovel. I know the deeper I go, the more is revealed and the happier I am. I've seen my life change... More of that please, thank you! However, there are so many people in this world that hate digging. It's such a scary thing! Their journey hasn't taken them to a place where they can hear that they have the power to dig. They don't yet have the tools.
So here's the thing... I'm seeing a lot of this idea on social media, first of all, is that to have feelings is a negative thing. It means your not 'being positive.' Ex: Me posting these photos could potentially be viewed as uncomfortable, negative, sad, depressing. "Poor Mandi, etc." Do some of these photos make you uncomfortable? Why?
My response to that idea is remember you're human. To say you don't have moments of fear, worry, anxiety, etc. in life is a lie. Through photography, I've learned to linger with them. It's all beautiful because it is all truth. It is what we have in common. The more it is embraced, the more we're able to accept each other and relate.
Let me be clear... I think 'positive thinking' is GREAT. Yes, you can go through life much happier and lighter by being aware and examining your thoughts. Joy is absolutely a choice and mantras are terrific. But what about deep fucking trauma? Indoctrination? Societal constructs? It's like people being told to eat healthier when what a person might need is major hospitalization for a triple bypass. Years of therapy might be required for them to recognize what a shovel even is and their existence is just as valid as yours.
The second thing I'm noticing is that to be negative means you are a toxic person and "I can't have that kind of negativity in my life." These folks make me laugh. Let's get real... There are soul suckers, for sure. People that you truly cannot be around. I am all for cutting out unhealthy people from your life. But a majority of this toxicity is an unwillingness to allow for humanity. It's grounded in fear and judgment rather than love. We don't want to get our hands dirty with a fellow human being because it makes us uncomfortable. This usually comes from people that have found their answer and if you're not not the same brand of bandwagon, you're icky. It's positive thinking at its most baby-spiritual.
Like any good intentioned person, there will always be those telling you you're doing it wrong. Out of 'awareness' will tell you, what you're doing is something else. There might be those on a bandwagon that can't handle your honesty or reality-- or even worse, view it as negativity. Everyone's story is different and trauma is trauma, folks. People that don't understand aren't meant to be around for your journey and that's okay. Feel free to set aside anyone's rules about what it means to be spiritual. Feel free to set aside people that want to put out the fire in your soul that you know to be true. Honesty is integral.
Also, if you're not big on shoveling, feel free to listen. More often than not we are very stubborn people and our fear is so deep rooted we can't see our own programs. We believe a mantra is doing it differently but we make demands about how our life should be. It is a limiting ruse. Fear feels good and right because it is comfortable. It is what we know and allows us to maintain the status quo out of survival rather than take part in real change. Cheating yourself only leads to more misery. (Also, being open is a hell of a lot easier than kicking and screaming).
We are all on our own journey and hear things in our own timing. If you have you eyes to see, be grateful. Have compassion for those who aren't where you are. And keep your eyes open. There's probably more going on in the mirror than you might be willing to admit. xoxo