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Have you tried writing to the void?

Sometimes writing a blog feels like journaling.

I get an idea and start writing. My writing takes on a life all its own - going places I never anticipated. In the end, writing teaches me things I didn’t know I needed to learn.

Of course, there are differences when I write in my journal. It's like writing to the void because it's not for anyone else. No one comments or responds. I don't edit or strive to ensure my writing 'makes sense.' Nor does it matter if my writing has value to anyone else. These are all things I am mindful of when writing for my blog, which changes the way I approach my craft. Blogging takes more intention and effort.

One of the benefits of writing my blog is the chance to share my story. To feel seen and heard. This is something I both want and don't want.

As a human, I value feeling a sense of connection and belonging. Over the years, I've experienced healing when giving voice to my hardships and struggles. I appreciate the opportunity to know I'm not alone. And I relish the way sharing is an act of generosity - when we share a piece of ourselves we are inviting others to relate to our experiences and gain insight into their own stories.

One specific time comes to mind when I was in the midst of a depressive episode. I was at a conference where I saw a colleague. She had asked me how I was doing and I answered truthfully, "I've really been struggling lately." She was kind and compassionate. We spoke for a few minutes and afterward, I felt a lightness in my step that I hadn't experienced in a long time.

On the other hand, I have some longstanding habits of hiding. Fear of judgment, exclusion or ridicule stops me from sharing my story. Shame boxes me into keeping quiet. And once I start down the way of what-if worries, I quickly feel surrounded by a cloud of asphyxiating negativity.

Yet, I've noticed something else over the years. When there's a part of me that's not feeling seen or heard, I suffer more. When I hide parts of myself the tension builds and builds like a volcano about the explode.

Sometimes, that leads to actually losing it on people. Getting upset, possibly screaming, or at the very least speaking in a harsh tone of voice. In the past, I have taken out my frustrations on customer service representatives when dealing with an internet problem. The energy needs to dissipate somehow, sadly such explosive moments are hardly cathartic because they don't address my deeper needs.

Other times, it's like there's a stopper keeping everything bottled up. Even the good. It's as though I closed the pathway between ideas and reality. Nothing comes in and nothing goes out. My mind feels cloudy. I cannot think straight. I stammer on my words and struggle to focus. I experience writer's block. Even my meditation practice stalls as I struggle to get into coherence.

All of this happens because I'm denying a voice inside me that desperately wants to be seen and heard. Until I honor it, I remain stuck.

I see the same thing happening with my clients. They experience hardship or trauma. They've changed, but no one at work acknowledges it. And it's not like their co-workers don't care. They do. But work isn't traditionally the place for airing out our personal grievances. Nor are most people versed in holding space for stories of the heart.

As a society, we have habituated fixing people who are struggling like they're a car with a bad muffler. Replace the part and the noise of pain will go away. But despite our analogies of the human body as a car, we are way more complicated than a lifeless mechanical object.

We don't need to be fixed, we need to be honored. We don't need advice, we need to feel a sense of connection and belonging. We don't need to be told cliches, we need to know we are accepted and worthy no matter how we might suffer.

Parker Palmer advises, "One of the hardest things we must do sometimes is to be present to another person's pain without trying to 'fix' it, to simply stand respectfully at the edge of that person's mystery and misery."

Listening without fixing or advising feels awkward and uncomfortable at first. It feels that way because we have long told ourselves a story we have to do something. And listening in and of itself isn't "active enough" to feel like we are doing something of value or substance.

But its simplicity is what makes listening so powerful. When I hold space for clients to share their heart stories something magical happens. Tension gives way to possibility. Blocks melt away. Loops they were stuck in begin to shift.

Underneath the experience of being seen and heard is a profound message - you are worthy, you already know, the answer you seek is already within you. My attentiveness gives them permission to listen within with tenderness and curiosity. To honor their own innate wisdom.

One of the greatest gifts we can give is to trust ourselves. To move past our egos and inner critics and unleash our inner genius. And the only way we can do that is by giving voice to our inner world. To bring those feelings and stories to the surface. To listen deeply for our own true nature.

For me, journaling has been a great tool for finding my voice and speaking my truth. What started as a practice of writing to the void, has enabled me to generously share my story.

For many of my clients, journaling offers a similar catharsis. It's an invitation to let their inner wisdom emerge. It's a tool for discerning between the voice of their inner critic and the wisdom of their inner genius. There's not one right or wrong way to journal, there's the best way for you. Finding your own way with such an introspective practice is one of the first steps to listening within more deeply.

Of course, it's fine to seek inspiration from other sources. A journaling course, or a book may offer practical tools or new perspectives that may enhance your own practice. You may receive guidance from a trusted mentor and experiment with different techniques. And you may always make the practice your own. With consistent effort, you will write your way home to yourself.

I find the change of seasons and the holidays a time to invite introspection. It's a time filled with a lot of emotions. For many, there's a sense of loss as the holidays remind us of who is no longer here. For others, navigating complex family relationships is a struggle. Or there's the loneliness when we aren't able to gather with loved ones. There are loads of commercials glorifying this time of year, which fail to give voice to the complexity of our shared human experiences.

Sure, there's lots to love about the holidays but that doesn't mean it's not also hard.

I write this for all who are feeling lost, stuck or in pain. Your story matters. You matter. You deserve to be seen and heard. If you aren't ready to share your story with another person, at least write it for yourself. Write to the void. Learning to hold space for the heart stories of others starts by listening within.

I would be honored to hear what's been on your heart lately. I invite you to reach out to me directly to share your heart stories as you feel so moved.

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