Posts in stripped
Stripped: Meeting My Shadow
Paige Geffen_Jane Magazine
Paige Geffen_Jane Magazine_Figs Underwear

I thought that following the voice to come here to New Mexico would potentially relieve me of the seemingly bottomless anguish I was experiencing, but I never expected that it would instead bring me to meet my shadow. There is no denying that darkness lives within all of us, yet the importance lies not in its existence but rather in how we choose to engage with it. I hid from my own darkness for so long. I built walls of black-and-white boundaries around me so that I wouldn’t have to take on the underbelly, for fear of truly meeting myself. I stuffed it deep into corners of my body, only to repress my true appetite for self-exploration and connection. I concealed my intensity in order to exist within a culture that champions aloofness. This torment only grew into an abyss of longing that would eventually lead me to unearth the roots of who I truly am.  I needed the physical space to explore this, to drive into foreign sunsets and foreign lands in order to gain the metaphysical space to allow my innermost fears and desires to reveal themselves.  Now, instead of building walls, I’m tearing them down. I’m allowing myself to meet my shadow with my gaze. To hold it. To honour it. To allow it to breathe and to permeate every part of my being. I’m permitting my life to fall apart and to get messy. I’m permitting myself to fall apart and to get messy. I am more authentic in my unravelling than in my needing to be “good.” And here I lie, naked, stripped, and raw. The dirt is exposed, but it only rots so that I can renew. 

-an excerpt from my piece in Jane Magazine issue five - you can purchase here

A little expansion on this:

Rather than denouncing people and situations because “I deserve better,” I’ve been showing up for these sticky, grey areas.  I’ve been engaging, listening, and learning.  I thought that my standards and morals carried too much integrity to engage with anything that was not in the realm of what I felt was “right” for me.  However, there was nativity in this for me - shadow work I was too afraid to dive into, parts of myself I was too afraid to look at.  We are often taught that if we show up for these types of things than we aren’t leaving room for better things to come through.  For some of us that may be true, but that hasn’t been my path.  My work/learning involves going there. 

I’m allowing myself to break down, to be a fucking mess.  To not have the answers.  To be the least intelligent person in the room.  To not give a shit.   To give too many shits.  To fuck up.  To not do the right thing.  Not because I don’t care for myself, but because I do.  I can trust myself.  I trust that when something is not in alignment or me that I will set a boundary and speak my truth.  But if I don’t allow myself to engage at all, I am missing the opportunity to learn from a situation or another person.  We don’t need to denounce the dark to get to the light, but rather to face it.   

What do you feel you have to write off? What do you feel shameful of? What situations/people have been triggering for you regarding this? I encourage you to explore these questions in your journal. You can use your objects as helpful tools as you do this work. I pause and practice rituals to ground into my body, and to encourage deeper support and release.

Stripped: Leaving Room for Messiness
Paige Geffen_object and us

I was speaking with a dear friend recently about messiness in life.  I’m using the word messiness here to refer to events that happen that feel alarming, jarring, and maybe even terrifying.  The things that shake us up.   Perhaps you’ve experienced a recurring issue, theme, or symbol in your life, in which you’ve felt fed up with, tired of, angry about - as though you can’t take it any longer.  I’m trying to unsubscribe from the belief that when this happens, it’s because I’m not “getting” something or shifting something.  Yes, I believe that the messiness happens to crack us open.  That it can ultimately be a blessing because it leads us to deeper learning.  But despite all of my best efforts, I cannot control or advance that learning.  People have said things to me like: “you’re attracting this from your mind, and you have to do the work to shift it.”  I think that’s bullshit.  What I do believe is that there are events we go through in order to help our souls to grow.  What I’ve been learning (and what I also struggle with) is that in my eagerness to learn and to grow, no matter what I do, I cannot speed up the process in order to rid my life of the messiness.  I’m learning that if something becomes recurring, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m not doing the work fast enough or deep enough.  During our conversation, my friend told me to accept that life is not on my timeline.  She's right.  It just is.  It doesn’t have to feel great or even okay.  It just is.  What’s happening is what’s happening, and no matter how many meditations we do or journal entries we write or deep issues into our childhood we crack open - we cannot govern what’s happening.  What occurs on the material plane is not a reflection of our insides.  

Perhaps sometimes we have to learn something over and over and over again.  And maybe it’s not because we haven’t learned from it the first time around.  Maybe it’s because we are being asked to learn more, to go deeper.  I am not interested in surface work.  I want to go to the depths.  The work of Object & Us is not about curating a perfect room or a perfect home or a perfect life.  It’s about grounding, even in the midst of groundlessness.  It’s about coming home to ourselves, so that our external world has no bearing on who we feel we are.  

I don’t care how ugly you feel your house is, or if you even have a house.  I didn’t have one for nearly a year, and I still don’t have a “permanent" space.  When I was frustrated about this and told my friend that I wanted to finally sign a year lease and ground in one place, she told me that I can do that in my sleep.  That what I’m going through is not because I’m not doing self work, it’s because I am.  That I can help people with my sessions and workshops and writing more deeply because I’m getting schooled on this shit.

This work is not going to help you to make your life prettier or more appealing.  It’s going to help you to ground despite how ugly it may be.  A really nice side effect of doing the work will be that you learn to better understand your own likes and preferences so that you can create a space you love.  And this is helpful not because of how attractive the space may be, but because the space will help you to operate in a more intentional way.  It will support your journey to living with mindfulness.  So I encourage you to leave room for messiness in your home.  Not so that you neglect your space or become careless, but so that you can leave room for messiness in your life.  Controlling your environment to the extent that there’s no room for fluidity will only keep you from your own freedom.  There’s room for you to be you - in all of your majesty and in all of your messiness.  I promise.

Below are some easy, simple rituals that will help you ground in the midst of groundlessness no matter who you are or where you are:

MORNING DRINK

Whether you’re filling your cup/mug with lemon water, tea, or coffee, study the cup/mug while you’re filling it with your drink of choice.  Connect with it - notice the texture and take note of how you feel in your body while doing this.  When you sit to have your drink, do a stream of consciousness journal entry. 

AFTERNOON EARTHING

Take off your shoes and plant your feet on the earth.  Connect with your breath and breathe in the earth energy through your feet up into your body.  You can also do this throughout the day - even if you are indoors and cannot take your shoes off - at your desk, work table, or in your car.

NIGHTLY SHUT OFF

Turn your phone on airplane mode an hour before you'd like to go to bed.  That way, in the morning you can keep your phone on airplane mode until after your morning ritual is completed.  Lay on your bed at night and feel the sheets/comforter.  Run your hands over the fabric.  Allow the fabric touching your skin to awaken the senses in your body.  You can then rest, close your eyes, and take some time to just be.  It doesn't have to be a formal "meditation," but rather literally a place to rest your head.  You can take mental stock of what you're grateful for, or write it down.  Whatever feels the most natural.  If you don’t have a bed, you can practice this wherever you are sleeping.

Stripped: Craving Space
Paige Geffen_Object and Us

I feel trapped.  Stifled.  Suffocated.  I need space.

This is a theme for me.  One that I have been consciously exploring in the last two years, and as of late, it feels like this need is only getting stronger and louder.  It’s pretty obvious that no one person (other than myself) or object can give me this space.  Perhaps a larger home would (I’m in 300 sq ft with another person and a dog).  Perhaps.  Yet this need for space has depth.  So much depth.  When I close my eyes I often see myself swimming with dolphins in the deep sea or walking in the open desert.  My subconscious is taking me to vast, expansive places.  Places that are unknown, elusive, and even otherworldly.

These visions help me to access the spaciousness within, while my physical world may not be as roomy at the moment.  I spent nearly a year of my life in fight-or-flight mode, and while I’m so thankful to be out of that state, my body is still holding onto some of the trauma (which I’m actively working on releasing), and the areas in which I’m seeking expansion in my life are remaining stagnant (or seemingly so).  For instance, we moved into the moldy place after identifying that we needed some more physical space than we had in our tiny Echo Park cottage - to have alone time, to create, to rest, etc.  We eventually ended up in an even tinier all-one-room cottage.  Thankfully, we now live in nature, amongst the trees.  But you can probably gauge why the feeling of suffocation comes up regarding this situation - I left the tiny Echo Park cottage for more space, learned and grew so much in that insanely difficult time, and then ended up in the “same” situation I was trying to expand from in the first place.  But I can create a bit of space simply by not attaching to that meaning.  By knowing internally that I’m not in the same place I was a year and a half ago.  That I’ve learned so much.  That it might not all be crystal clear, but I’m listening.  I’m tuning in.

It’s frustrating to do self work and to have incredible epiphanies and realizations and connections and to then watch your life stay stagnant.  But this is where I get deterred from being in the unknown (which is actually a place of spaciousness, like the ocean) - by trying to “figure it out.”  By trying to attach to some kind of understanding of the situation or the need.  Yet truly, the only thing that works is to let it breathe.  To allow it to be there without having to understand.  To trust that everything will be revealed in due course.  And if I’m not “getting something” it’s not because I’m not doing the work - because I am.  I cannot force myself to accelerate faster.  All I can do is show up for myself.  And in that showing up, I’m being asked to go into the depths of feeling stuck and suffocated to learn and extract more from it than I can currently fathom. 

Part of this process for me involved clearing out all most of my possessions.  This allowed me to open up the space to even hear this voice.  To heed to its calling.  Because so much of my attachment to the “what if’s” relating to those items was released as soon as I let them go.  And this letting go has allowed me to be where I am.  To stay in the simplicity of each moment.  To release my yearning and needing for things outside of myself.  To detach from old stories and ways of being.  The more physical space I cleared, the more metaphysical space became available for me to dive into.  This may not be the case for everyone.  This work is so individualistic (depending on the truth of your internal needs).  But whatever the need, the physical and metaphysical are connected.  When we are only exploring one realm, we are missing parts of the whole.  If we go straight to the metaphysical without looking at the concrete, we lose connection from the earthliness of grounding in reality.  If we only go into the physical, we lose the magic and the message of what’s trying to come through and help us to grow.  

I’ve been connecting these two worlds by utilizing my objects to create space for myself, through rituals.  Here are a couple of examples:

MORNING TONIC

I listen to soothing music, heat up water or mylk, and then gather my spices and adaptogens.  The process - of waiting for the kettle to steam, stirring everything together with the tiny wooden spoon, slowly sipping, and enjoying time with myself - is an intimate one.  It allows me to slow down and stay present at the start of my day.  You can read more of this here.

GETTING DRESSED

I ask my body what it needs.  Does my body need ease and movement (something open and free like a linen jumpsuit) or structure (something more containing like denim)?  This simple question opens me up to the truth of what my body needs, so that I can respond with receptiveness.  

These tiny acts create space, because being in touch with the truth and in tune with my needs always does.  When I go about life in autopilot - fight-or-flight, or going through the motions - where’s the room for me?  It’s really about peeling the layers in order to have more compassion, not more understanding or knowing.   To lay bare, to become more raw.  It is in this rawness that I have no choice but to surrender.  To let go.  To need nothing but the space between myself and a universe I may never understand.  

If you feel called to learn more and to dive into this work, explore booking a session.  Feel free to email me with any questions.

Stripped: Appearances & (hair) Conditioning
Paige Geffen_Stripped Conditioning

Last week I got an accidental haircut.  I went in for a complimentary touch-up (less than a trim) and came out with 4 inches of less hair.  I cried as soon as I stepped out of the salon door and continued in my car for the whole hour-long drive home, and for two more days after.  I felt ugly, but more specifically - I didn’t feel like myself.  When I looked in the mirror, I felt like a stranger in my own skin.  I’ve had so many different haircuts and styles over the last three and half years, so I was surprised by my reaction.  I had very long hair for most of my life and decided to chop it in 2014.  This initial cut was such a freeing experience, and has continued to be over the last few years.  I was once told that I would only look good with long hair, and I truly felt that was true... until I cut it.  I felt like I didn’t have to hide behind my long locks anymore.  I can feel pretty and sexy and confident with short hair?  Yes, and even more so than I had ever felt before.  Why? Perhaps because it was an external form of stripping (in this case shedding).  Shedding the physical hair, yet also the ideas and lies I had been fed and continued to feed myself.  “I’m not the kind of person who looks good like x.”  I’ve since experimented with many lengths ranging from my chin to my shoulder, and a few different styles of bangs.  So why was this recent haircut such a shock?  Beyond not setting out to do it on purpose and it being such a drastic change - conditioning.  In this case, I felt like I couldn’t have hair shorter than my chin because I have a strong jaw and long chin, and therefore the proportions of my face would be accentuated in an unflattering way. 

I have felt like that often throughout my life, and not just with my hair, but also with much deeper subjects.  This conditioning can be so insideous.  In the beginning of this year, I vowed for unapologetic self-acceptance.  I believe this haircut has been a small part of that journey.  After I let myself cry and complain and feel the emotions, I knew I had to face myself.  Why am I so hung up on how I look?  Why do specific hairstyles help me to feel like me?  This is a heavy topic.  What makes us who we are?  Our hair certainly has nothing to do with it.  How can I learn to feel “like myself” right now, without something that shapes my identity in the way I want to be seen?  I’m not going to wait for my hair to grow out again to be able to sigh and go, “okay now I feel better.”  Fuck that.  That is such a restricted, stifled way to live, and I’ve lived too much of my life that way already.  So I went within.  I listened.  What came up is that I still seek approval from my mom.  I don’t allow this to effect my actions (hence cutting my hair off and dying it red as a teenager and chopping it again a few years ago), yet I still want her to think I’m beautiful.  Because she put so much emphasis on beauty during my upbringing.  Because she was always more noticed and accepted for her beauty than I was.  This is all bullshit because it has nothing to do with the truth.  It simply stems from barriers I created as a result of the environment I was conditioned in.  Once this clear truth (the truth of the conditioning) came through, I was able to let it go.  I talked to her.  I told her she was beautiful and had something to offer the world.  I told her that my hair has nothing to do with her (something she already knows), that she is who she is regardless of appearances, circumstances and beyond.  She is infinite.  She is my essence.  In her highest self, she has no fear.  She is always in the truth, and she is courageous in her truth.  She is me.  I am her.  

I know this, yet I get caught up in my humanness (as humans do).  In my appearance, my identity.  So what’s all of that for?  Perhaps mirages for us to grow through and overcome.  Yet also, without our identities, we would all appear the same.  The beautiful thing about the external world is that we get to choose.  We get to choose how we present ourselves - with our clothing, hairstyles, spaces.  We have the freedom of self-expression.  What hairstyle (and outfits and home items) would you choose if you broke down some of the conditioning around identity?  If you detached from your identity and made choices from your truest form, without trying to prove anything to yourself or others?  In this case, I didn’t make the choice of how my hair would look, but I choose to embrace it - to see myself clearly regardless.  The importance does not lie in the choice itself, it lies in the intention behind it.  When we don’t have motives, or when the only motive we have is to feel connected to ourselves, we become free.

Photo by Jamie Arrigo