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  • Writer's pictureArlene Bailey

Becoming the Breath Between

or the past three years I have been in transition.  Some would say a journey of discovery.  It has been both and… it has been death, suffering, illusion, awareness, descent (somewhat different than death, though a prelude to such), ascent, going in circles, standing still, lost in the dark, peaking at a hint of light, bathing in lots of light, finding me, losing me, meeting new me, drowning, surfacing, spiraling… spiraling… spiraling.

~We are told in the face of adversity we are to continue to smile and stay in a place of love.

~We are told to embrace change, even (especially??) if that change comes as the crashing Tower of the Tarot destroying everything.  After all nothing is permanent.

~We are told that when death (metaphorical/symbolic) comes calling we are to deepen into ALL our feelings, acknowledging them and letting them surface.  

~We are told don’t attach.

~We are told to name the negative and release it.

~We are told don’t focus on the negative; all will be well if we just focus on the positive.

~We are told to allow and name the fear rather than burying it.

~We are told don’t acknowledge fear.

~We are told don’t struggle.

~We are told anything worth having is worth fighting/struggling for.

~We are told change is good and that deep transitions create our medicine, our sacred work.

Whew!  So many things we are told.  So many impossible contradictions.  So many voices telling us what is best.  Many times – usually - from voices that have not the same experience(s).  

Although I already knew this from a point of insight, I have come to feel it in my bones.  Change comes to us whether we want it or not, whether we are ready or not.  Life is not static.  Sometimes the change that comes is on the surface another’s change, but if we are in relationship we are affected too… differently perhaps, but just as deeply and profoundly.  Regardless, it is change and it happens and it is a maze with no instructions that we now must navigate.  It may be a symbolic death, but at times it feels very real.  At times we may even want it to be real.  

For the longest I struggled with the incongruousness that lived in all the advice, all the wisdom shared by teachers, friends, family, new age wisdom, ancient mystery teachings.  

How was I supposed to acknowledge and accept while also focusing on only one side of the continuum.  The questions haunted me.  If I acknowledge only the light, only love, giving no voice to fear or darkness where does that leave me?  Conversely, if I deepen into the shadow, the negative, the suffering, how am I ever to come up for air, for life?  

For the longest after the earthquake that started this roller coaster, I felt like I was simply in the void.  Not the void of creation – on the edge or event horizon – but slap dab in the middle of the darkest of the darkest, the deepest of the deep.  I raged and raged and felt like Inanna on the meat hook stripped of everything I knew, everything I believed, everything I had worked for and held dear, everything that identified me as me.  Unlike Inanna, however, I didn’t go willingly into this place nor was I interested in any understanding.  I just wanted my life back, the way I thought my life should look like, the way this stage of my life (my Crone years) should be.  Each time I felt like I could ascend and grasp onto some semblance of normalcy, the dark sister, Erishkigal, yanked me back and the darkness once again swallowed me.  You didn’t come willingly, you haven’t learned, you don’t understand, you’re not ready, she hauntingly said.

I’m not sure when things began to shift or what changed.  These last three years contained moments of vast darkness and moments of incredibly beautiful love-filled experiences of lightness of being.  Shadow work, dreams, psychotherapy, shamanic journeying, Shamanic Breathwork, visions and more visions, new found psychic abilities, new found and reclaimed abilities in art and writing, ancestral and past life memories, messages from the oldest of the oldest Goddesses, messages from Angels, messages from feline familiars on this plane and beyond the Veil, messages and mystery teachings from beloved teachers along with LOTS of solitude and walks in the woods and ritual, ritual, ritual… THANK GODDESS FOR RITUAL... all parts of the puzzle of putting me back together or rather birthing a new me.  

One day recently I had another of my light-bulb-turning-on epiphanies… 

Life is paradox.  Ok, that’s not such an epiphany, but it was the beginning.  The ah-ha moment came when I realized that, it is by stepping into the paradox and allowing it to wrap around us like a cloak, that the mask comes off and our eyes actually open.  It’s not about just understanding or acknowledging the paradox, we must become the paradox.  In my case, the paradox was named trauma and there wasn’t just one layer, but multiple layers and hence multiple paradoxes that would demand to be seen and heard and experienced.

One has to allow the darkness, one has to allow the suffering, the descent, freely and loudly acknowledging the pain, the distress, the disappointment, the illusion AND one has to do this through the love of the light and the dark.  There has to be both sides… two seemingly incongruous possibilities, i.e., the paradox…or there is no homeostasis, no balance.  Further, if we only allow one side we risk being lost in the illusion of what is real, what is not real, and even more importantly what can be real.  

It’s not about one side or the other, not about only light or only dark, but about both.  Not only about how we think things exist or should exist, but the potential for how they can exist.  This is how Mother Nature is, how Goddess is.  She does not have only one side.  She does not deny dark in favor of light or vice versa.  She does not permit life without death nor death without life.  She is both of these and all of this and everything in between and while there are times that one is stronger than the other, both sides… light and dark… birth and death… are necessary for wholeness, for completeness, for the homeostatic integrity of the system.  

It was only after I realized I had to allow for the both/and, that I had to approach everything through my heart… through love… that I had to tap even deeper into my connection with Goddess and her cycles and ways of being and knowing and living…that I had to allow for the incongruousness of it all...that things began to shift and the light began to grow stronger.  It was only after all of this that I understood the need for the darkness, for the metaphorical death, and I could once again begin to embrace life.

By acknowledging the dark, the so-called negative… by giving voice to our fears, our disappointment, our shadow, our trauma, we break the hold these things have on us and we are no longer attached.  By allowing the juiciness of the dark, we are actually able to see and embrace the light.  In contrast, if we simply bury the dark, the negative, our light is dimmed and there is never true balance, true wholeness.  If we deny paradox, we deny potential.  If we don’t allow for the seemingly incongruous, we can’t achieve homeostasis and that place of internal stability, that place of internal strength.

Going one step further with the idea of becoming paradox…  It is not enough to just become the paradox of both light and dark.  Actually, we must become the breath between – neither light nor dark, but both super imposed into a seemingly single existence, existing in a place of simply being present.  Only then are we not at odds with the seemingly incongruous.  

I’m not sure when this shift happened, but I knew I’d lived in the dark long enough, done my work there, and now it was time to return to the surface.  I could finally break free from Erishkigal’s grip.  

So where am I presently? Hmmm… still not sure.  I do feel movement, but I also know that I am still in the void, still in the cauldron of rebirth and regeneration, not completely ready to spring forth… not just yet.  


I am swimming closer to the edge, now able to touch the proverbial rim of the event horizon – that place of unfathomable possibility and birth.  Although I’m not sure what comes next, I am ok with that.  It is enough to finally feel and know I am moving from process to being.  It is enough to simply exist in the present knowing I have been marked by the Infinite.

I am living from my heart, illusions of what should be gone, more accepting of what is, understanding nothing is permanent, understanding that when others said my darkness made them uncomfortable it was not about me, understanding and accepting that both light and dark may exist in the same day, the same moment and, all in all, ready for whatever comes next.  

Interestingly, in keeping with Her ways, all of this realization and movement has occurred since Imbolc.  I am coming out of the dark, feeling desire stirring, just as She begins to move.  The Old One is speaking, but it is the Maiden I feel and see.

Becoming the Breath Between ©Arlene Bailey

Previously published in Re-Membering With Goddess, Healing the Patriarchal Perpetuation of Trauma, A Girl God Anthology ©2022

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