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  • Lisa Carmen

The Void, Self-Help Books and How I Lost and Found Myself While Quarantined


So about those self-help books, and my new allergy to them. Go deeper with me, yes? It’s a little trippy, you’ve been warned, but here’s more of what happened to me during my Quaran-time.


The mandated shut-down meant no work, for six weeks. Unemployed with the world closed down, I had nothing but time.


I decided to go against the grain of staying connected with zoom meetings and online events and gatherings. I politely declined invitations, I did not talk on the phone or do video chats.


Sure, these would have been nice for endorphins and maintaining my roles in humanity, yet I innately knew that what I needed most of all was disconnection. There was a knowing inside of me that said: Get quiet. You won’t get a chance like this again.


I don’t necessarily recommend isolation as a spiritual path, it's certainly not for the faint of heart, but my soul was urging me to utilize this historic period of unstructured time to turn inward.


I knew, without knowing, it would be a trip.


As an empath, I realize it’s very easy for me to become focused on other people’s ideas, opinions, experiences and stories. It’s not a good or bad thing, it’s just a thing.


What I didn’t realize until recently, is that when there are too many Other People’s voices, ideas, opinions and stories, it gets too loud out there to hear what’s going on in here, and to discern what’s truly mine.


As if prompted by a retreat guide or shaman, I allowed myself to fold inward, to cease outputting for others, and to get really, truly, entirely self-centered, in the most divine sense of the term. Something strange began to happen. With no other voices to distract me, I could finally hear my own, which beckoned me to bring my toes to the edge of that one thing that I have spent my life avoiding or filling: THE VOID.


I began to indulge in countless hours of meditative activities like drawing and coloring (I go deeper with blank paper than I can on a cushion.) This put me in a heightened, yet relaxed, alpha state for the majority of my day. Day after day. I looked into the void, and was terrified. I wanted to fill it. I wanted to run from it. Instead, the voice within me said “Jump in.”


So I jumped.


To say it got dark is an understatement. It was black. It was despair and emptiness and nothingness.


In this void, I was not a mother or a daughter, a wife, a friend, a sister, a writer, an artist, a nanny, a teacher, a coach…without these roles and labels, what was I?


I am nothing, I would think to myself. As uncomfortable as that idea was initially, I stayed with it. I am nothing. Slowly, what felt like blackness also felt began to feel like liberation. Like complete and utter freedom, like something to celebrate. I am nothing, hooray!


When all of my identities were stripped away, I came face to face with my own nothingness, and it was there I experienced my true essence.


It all sounds crazy, I know, like some existential journey or an acid trip, but this was happening in my own study, door closed, completely sober, as I sat on my chaise, coloring the days away in this alpha state.


By staying with it, my nothingness turned into everythingness. My nothingness became spaciousness, limitless vastness, a wellspring of energy.


I am not the labels I wear, the roles I play. I am nothing and everything, all at once. Whoa, dude.


On the other side, was a deeper sense of self-trust. I did not annihilate, I did not explode or wither or fade away.


And now, I trust myself completely.


Looking around my library, I started to feel offended. All the thousands of dollars I have spent on books that promised “the solution”, searching for the answers, while all along, I was the answer, I am my own solution.


The countless hours I spent looking outward for the opinions and expertise of others, to tell me how to fix myself in 30 days, change my life in 5 easy steps, have a new body in 21 days, so many of these books had it wrong. I had it wrong. I am not a broken appliance in need of repair. While well-intentioned, many of these authors have a lot of nerve. How on earth did THEY become an expert on ME?


This is not to say self-growth books are a bad thing. MANY books have rescued, inspired and rocked me over the years. They continue to do so. I believe books are sometimes angels in disguise. I’ve even had a theory that maybe after we die, if we’ve been really good, we get to come back as books.


I’m just beginning to see it all differently now, my addiction to looking outside myself was all part of the journey, and I’m getting better and better at looking within. At trusting my own Soul, and her purpose here on earth. I will always look to teachers for insight and wisdom, but no longer will I look to others to be led, directed or fixed. I will still look to books for enrichment, for comfort and companionship. But I vow to never look outside without also looking within for my own truth and guidance.


I’m just getting to know of this new version of me. I love her. She trusts herself and her journey. Took me 48 years and a quarantine to reach this spot.


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