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Julie Hoyle : Emerging From the Darkness

Emerging From the Darkness

Through Atma Vichara, Self-inquiry

By Julie Hoyle

Have you ever felt as if you were in a deep, dark hole and unable to dig yourself out no matter how hard you tried? That was exactly where I was in Spring of 2005.

From most perspectives, I should have been in heaven. My husband and I had moved to Grand Bahama Island six months earlier, a place high on most people's dream-location-wish-list.

However, the reality was very different. Soon after we landed, the island was hit with two violent hurricanes arriving one after the other in rapid-fire succession. Effectively tearing the beauty out of the natural landscape and leaving homes in a state of devastation and disrepair, they also seemed to suck the life and soul out of everyone and everything.

Tourists stopped coming, hotels and businesses went broke and it was evident there was not going to be a quick fix. I was also working at a school that presented other challenges. Handed an unwieldy schedule and despite my best efforts, I was buckling under the weight.

By early March, I was desperate to get out. I began a manic job search in the hope of finding something, anything that would get me out of the disorder and chaos I now found myself living and working in.

However, nothing was opening up. Intuitively I could feel I was being blocked and as a consequence, I was hungry for answers. With this realization, I engaged in what Yogic texts refer to as 'Atma Vichara,' the practice of 'self-inquiry' or the act of becoming aware of oneself.

Atma Vichara is not about dwelling on a perceived problem and dissecting it to pieces. It is a quality of inner reflection in which we open to our deepest wisdom and learn to trust it, rather than trusting questions and doubts thrown up by the mind.

In support of this, I meditated, contemplated, wrote in my journal and became hyper-alert to messages I was hearing inside as well as out. In this state of receptivity, I was soon gifted with a lucid dream.

In the dream I spent what appeared to be hours boxing up piles of old art journals and delicately illustrated books. Then I sat down to take a break and realized something strange was forming in my mouth. Spitting it into the palm of my hand, I saw a beautifully colored precious stone.

This process continued, until I had a lap full of exquisite stones, shimmering in color, some flecked, others patterned and others sparkling with a brilliant, iridescent hue. Using the small openings running through the middle of each one, I began threading them on to long twine.

Instinctively knowing which stones should be placed side by side, I finally hung the stones around my neck and walked toward a large mirror. Staring back was a powerful, ebony-skinned woman.

With deep, penetrating eyes and thick, bronze hair, woven into shiny braids, I knew I was viewing the normally unseen 'me.' This 'me' was a shaman representing all paths, faiths and traditions.

On waking, I also intuitively knew that the outer chaos and disorder I had been so desperately trying to escape was a reflection of what was going on inside. The outer turmoil reflected inner neglect. I had been repressing my innate gifts, rather than finding new ways to express what was seeking to come forth.

With this awareness, I sat with my journal and asked two very simple questions,

  • Do I honor who I am?
  • What am I being encouraged to offer to the world at this stage in my life?

When we engage in this kind of self-reflection it is imperative to be honest. However, in order to be honest we have to be willing to address subconscious fears around self-expression. In other words we have to look the shadow aspects of the psyche, squarely in the face.

In my own personal inquiry, I was forced to turn the questions around and ask:

  • Why am I afraid to honor who I am?
  • Who or what do I think will not be able to take it if I offer my creative and intuitive gifts to the world?

The answers were insightful. I quickly realized I had effectively created inner and outer obstacles in order to keep myself 'safe.' However, the problem with safety as we all sooner or later discover, is that it leads to dis-empowerment, anger, frustration and depression.

By contrast, when we listen, trust and act on our inner guidance, the outcome is always amazing.

For me, this inner journey led to new and unexpected ways of expressing my creative voice in articles, essays, books and online courses. Once in alignment with this creative flow, I stepped back and watched in awe as new opportunities magically opened up.

When we are in our truth, we also enable others to do the same. For example while I still offer art classes to teens, I have been gifted with the joy of witnessing incredibly deep and sensitive qualities in their work. At just sixteen and seventeen years of age, they have embraced the courage to delve into powerful and emotive themes.

By exploring the compelling beauty of shadow and light in respect to the psyche, they enter into their own inner world, leading to a profound discovery of who they are. Their drawings, paintings, wood burning and printmaking projects reveal shadowy figures, keys and doorways, lotus blossoms and power animals. Another consequence of this is a natural inclination to engage in inspiring discussions on life, death and purpose, allowing students to embrace, acknowledge and articulate hidden or previously half-embraced dreams, goals and visions.

Ultimately, this deeply personal inquiry is vital for each one of us. No matter how young or old we may be, no matter where we are in our life, how successful we have been or how many times we may have failed, we always have the opportunity to listen to and act on our inner guidance.

When we make a commitment to carving out quiet, contemplative space, even in the busiest of schedules, we are essentially en-lightening ourselves. Then we begin to clearly see what our dark challenges have to offer and in transforming them, we find a way out.

As a consequence, if we are challenged by disharmony in a relationship, discontent at work, having to up sticks and move or stay right where we are, we can deal with it. We are no longer stuck in a deep, dark hole.

Atma Vichara, self-inquiry is the key to integration and wholeness. When we embrace, honor and understand the many facets of who we are, we are illumined by the messages our own intuitive wisdom. Then rather than hiding away and being constrained by fear and darkness, we can be empowered to reflect the luminosity, inspiration and beauty of our unique and radiant light. •

© 2012 Julie Hoyle. All rights reserved.

Julie Hoyle Julie is a writer, spiritual teacher, natural intuitive and trans-personal hypnotherapist. Her profound spiritual awakening is detailed in her eBook, An Awakened Life — A Journey of Transformation. More »

Updated 1/17/14