In a world of aspiration and achievement, none of us really like to think we have demons. Some of us are reluctant to admit we even have weaknesses, or aspects of ourselves which we may be less proud of, but by welcoming in and accepting yourself in ourselves in our entirety is big part of all of our journeys, for healing, prosperity, fulfillment and freedom.
To really progress and develop, we have to get honest about those parts of ourselves that we're probably not sharing on social media, with our families, or colleagues. Our demons can usually feel deeply personal to us and our own story, but for many of us, the feelings behind the stories are usually fairly similar.
Ah yes, hello, fear. You again. Fear is something most of us have felt at some point, whether it's a fear of spiders, a fear or failure, or a feeling of fear that we can't always trace back to anything specific but that often lives in us as a form of anxiety, restlessness or hyper-vigilance. That last fear is possibly the trickiest one, as it requires us to delve deep and understand just why that fear is in us.
Often fear is trying to protect us. It we put ourselves under so much pressure to get everything perfect, we may feel scared to try something new for fear of getting it wrong. We may have experienced feelings of deprivation or danger as a child, and responded to this by going into survival mode. The survival mode can be so strong, that it paradoxically makes us feel safe, and can become even more difficult to get out of.
Learning to welcome fear in and not let it control us is for many of us an ongoing process. Hatha yoga (or any type of movement which involves connecting with the body in a conscious way - including massage) can be a great way to reconnect with the body. For deeper rooted traumas, counselling or psychotherapy with a professional you feel safe with might be what's needed.
When was the last time you felt guilty? I bet you don't have to look far back. Whether it was feeling guilty for treating yourself to a slice of cake, drinking one too many glasses of wine, or spending money on something you consider frivolous, if we don't think very highly of ourselves, it can be difficult to experience pleasure without feeling guilty.
I know myself that in the past I used to feel really guilty for buying clothes, almost panicky at spending "so much money" on a nice winter coat. This came from a long time of worrying so much that money was about to run out that even when I had money I was unable to enjoy it. Ironically now that I am a self-employed yoga teacher, writer and freelancer and never 100% sure how much money I've got coming in each month, I am more relaxed than ever about money because I have dealt with the beliefs I was holding about money, pleasure and myself.
Learning to enjoy pleasure can be difficult if we are caught in the first demon of fear as I was, but also looking back at what messages you may have got as a child about money can be helpful. Were you told that rich people were bad, that anything apart from essentials was wasteful, that spiritual people can't have money? Understanding our belief systems can be a great way to gain insight to where the guilt is coming from, and the first step to realising that maybe the belief isn't true.
Supporting your inner child can be useful (therapists or energy healers can often support you on this journey), and identifying what gives you real pleasure and making sure you allow yourself this pleasure can help you to explore pleasure and joy. Even if it's 10 minutes to lie with your legs up against the wall at the end of a busy day can be a way of showing yourself some kindness and love.
And the third demon, shame. That horrible feeling when you feel worthless, when the inner critic can leap out and point out every single one of your faults, and which can leave you feeling totally powerless.
Personal power can be difficult to attain if we've never had it in the first place. If, as children, we were told to behave and act in a certain way (who wasn't?), or the more extreme case of children who were abused and told it's "because I love you", when we learn early on to mistrust our own instincts and intuition, we can grow up to feel confused and ashamed by what we do really feel.
When we feel ashamed, we lose our sense of power, and without a sense of power we become passive, maybe hopeless. We can gain more power by actually welcoming in our weaknesses, by accepting our demons in whatever shape they form and having the will to want to transform ourselves.
Deep relaxation through restorative yoga and yoga nidra can be hugely beneficial to those type A people who have a tendency to want to do lots, success at everything, and consequently get burnt out. For the opposite types, who get lethargic, depressed and lack the will to try new things, going for a fast walk or jog with a reliable friend can be a good way to get the energy lifted and spirits high. Going with a friend can encourage you to actually do it, as you won't want to let your friend down.
Building sustainable self-esteem needs to start from a place of love, and an appreciation that no matter how bad we think ourselves to be, we are always deeply connected to a greater source than loves us. Often when the demons are running the show we forget this, but it is infinitely true.
The three demons are culturally epidemic as we live in an increasingly-paced world which takes us further away from our roots, and further away away from our bodies. My new project Rest Is Radical looks to address the disconnection being caused by exhaustion, depletion and stress. Find out more here.
This article has been inspired by Anodea Judith's book Eastern Body, Western Mind, which offers an in-depth look at the chakra system in relation to Western psychology, and which has inspired this article.