Nicosia, October 2015
I was sleeping in Katerina’s bed one night. The candle next to me had burnt down. The sanskrit lullaby that put me to sleep had faded. As soon as my eyes registered the room, the windows, and Katerina’s cozy clutter, the darkness pounced into my belly again.
No, not again. I wailed inwardly.
The tormentor threw on its cloak and came. It turned into a physical grip in my body. Flashes of things came to me, raw, in psychedelic speed; A Course in Miracles sitting on the kitchen table outside, prayer calls, my bed in Riyadh, wet sand, starry skies on hiking trips, blue eyes, yoga poses, the Koran, stealth, a changing heart hidden deep in my chest, hellfire, God in the hovering disembodied form that I always imagined Him in…
I rose just then. Not from the bed but from the grip of the darkness. I did something so simple and instinctual: I held myself in a fierce embrace. And I rose even taller and looked that darkness in the eye and whispered:
“This is a good person. I will love her and protect her no matter what. She does not deserve to be punished, or tortured, or hurt. Even if you choose to punish her eternally, I will not let you. I will stand up for her and keep her safe. This is a good person…this is a good person…”
I wept then because my own words struck me. The gong of truth!
“This is a good person…”
I repeated that until the darkness vanished. Peace washed through my belly like a wave and I eased into sleep.
I thought about this incident all day the next day and the day after. It felt like a turning point. I still did not fully understand what this darkness wanted and why I felt the need to say what I said to it.
The rest of my days in Cyprus went by without incident. They were blissful as I felt myself occupying this new body that was just waking up. Katerina even began opening up to me about her life, something she was shy about.
Once, she left me to spend the day with Stephanie at her home while she went to her class. Stephanie and I spent hours chit-chatting about awakening, love, relationships, feminine energy, and all things supernatural.
At some point in the afternoon, I was left unattended so I went outside in an open field alone. It was golden, as most fields were in Cyprus at this time of year. I sat down on the spicy dirt and contemplated the softness that the sun created when it was low in the sky. The air was perfect. Everything was still. I closed my eyes and slipped into meditation.
A voice trickled in. It came from somewhere inside of me. It sounded like myself only gentler than I’ve ever been and eternally loving. It flowed, superior to thought and imagination, like warm water from a source I could not trace. I tried not to be too astonished so as to listen. This is what it said to me, as well as I can remember:
I love you. I have always loved you. I will continue to love you. I will love you when you cry. I will love you when you are afraid. I will love you no matter what you do. I will love you even when you can’t love. I will love you when you doubt. There might be darkness ahead and I will love you through that. Through pain and sorrow, and, yes, anger, I will love you. Because you are mine…
I arrived in Riyadh, knowing in my heart that this state of bliss would not last. We were not made to stay afloat, after all, in steady waters for so long. We were made for the changing current. And the current changed soon, only three weeks after.
I had no idea that the darkness that struck me on the beach at Karpaz and in Katerina’s bed would strike again and again, harder and harder, like a blacksmith pounding metal against a relentless anvil.
As I went through airports to get back home, I was floating in a state of consciousness so blissful, transcendent and cleansed. When I was a child, I used to hang around my grandfather's driver as he cleaned the dusty marble floors in the yard. He would hose water across until the floors were brown and murky, then, I would watch, fascinated, as he meditatively squeegeed the water through a drain, revealing with every stroke a broad lane of pure white marble. My soul felt squeegeed in the exact same way. I saw and felt everyone around me. Presence so sharp like the glimmer of light bouncing off a steel pot. Joy that flowed from me with incredible ease. I made love to life everyday during those few weeks. I used love like magic that was given to me as a gift and I received love from everyone and everything. I made love to food and received love from sunlight.
I did not know then that birth was, in truth, a long laborious process and that I would soon be lying on the floor of my bathroom, in a tight ball, waiting to be annihilated, over and over, for months on end. I sought my bathroom often, because, even behind my locked bedroom door, the bathroom felt like I was going into the womb of solace.
This darkness broke me down completely until I had to reveal my dismantling to my family, something I was never wont to do. My older sister worried over me. Some of my friends did not understand it and saw it as overindulgence. I pushed away someone I loved because of it. One person remained faithfully by my side throughout, even at 3 am. in the morning, and I will name her in a separate sentence all to her own. Dalia.
I was being abandoned. Something crucial was leaving me. And what was taking its place? I didn’t know. I felt raw and naked and uprooted with my legs flailing. I was constantly terrified and I did not know of what. I moved around like a tortured ghost in a constant state of disassociation (which can cause panic).
I tried speaking to the darkness but it would not respond to me. Until, one day it did. I wrote it a letter and it wrote back. It did not make much sense but it wrote back… and so with this open conversation, I began to lead this darkness home to me. Slowly, but surely, with the love I showed myself in Katerina’s bed, I created a tender bedding. It was not until March that I came out the other side, tempered and bright. I had just finished the Hoffman process in the UK, an unconventional therapy program that addresses childhood wounds. The birthing was over. I finally understood that birth does not only give you a new body in a beautiful Cypriot sea but it also rips off your old.
Now, I thank the darkness profusely. I still have miles to go and possibly new births in my path. They might be painless. They might be excruciating. I don’t know. But this process was pivotal.
This is what a pilgrimage is. It’s not a trip where you only see beautiful things and have an ecstatic time with your “soul friends”. A true pilgrimage strips you. It brings hardship and opens those doors you locked so that the monsters can come in and be healed and transmuted into light. A true pilgrimage welcomes everything and everyone. It welcomes heartbreak, boredom, shame, and even - God forbid - anger. It welcomes the mundane things, the stale moments, the conflicts. It also welcomes oceans of love you never knew you had within you. And two big tubs of Greek yogurt.
Disclaimer: As I did not take many pictures on my trip to Cyprus, I took the liberty of borrowing some images from googles images.