Ardhan Swatridge: “I am willing to see that I am already free.”

Paul SwatridgeI grew up on a small farm, held in nature and the cycle of seasons. From the age of 8 to 18, I was sent away to boarding school to turn me into a ‘man’ where I was often lonely and miserable.

Four years at art college were wonderfully freeing. I met my wife there and with the gift of a family inheritance we bought a crumbling 17th century cottage with land to learn about property restoration and ‘self sufficiency‘ to feed my dream of a better world.

My wife reared goats and chickens, while I fell into founding a business with four other free-spirited young men, making reproduction oak furniture. My wife and I shared the rearing of our beautiful daughter and woodcarving/cabinetmaking became my lifelong way of ‘grounding‘, along with DIY and growing vegetables.

After a midlife crisis I left the now expanded and stressful business and dived deeper into psycho-spiritual searching, including professional trainings; first in  Psychosynthesis and then Voice Dialogue (Psychology of Selves).

At 45 I left my marriage and spent 10 years helping to run an ecological retreat centre offering weekend courses and developing community projects, before burning out for the second time.

I have been a Buddhist in different forms since 1993. My path has been a search for healing, peace and reconciliation for myself and the planet, with an underlying longing to experience what lies beyond the mundane duality of existence.

I recognise myself as an introverted sensitive; and more recently I have come to accept that my child(hood) was significantly wounded by abuse and trauma. Wounds that affect me to this day, as an armouring of protection that can separate me from others.

I spent the first half of my life carefully hiding my sensitivity, my victim mentality, my lack of self esteem. Years of therapy and training only partially reached to the depths of my wounds and longings.

But recently I entered a relationship with a woman who, through her own commitment to healing and honesty in communication, has brought me to a new threshold, in which I am opening to a level of trust that I have never experienced before.

I speak of trust in two ways; my life-long distrust of others, and my lack of trust in myself, particularly where my rational masculine traits (strongly re-enforced at school) undermine my trust in my intuitive, creative, feminine side, even though, as a man, I feel a strong affinity with this softer side of my nature.

So this was the history I brought to Amy’s class 18 months ago – and I have included these details here, because they are very pertinent to what I encountered and gained through the SC training.

Of course, angels are a significant part of Amy’s work and I found it difficult at first to ‘believe’ in them such that I could talk about them as real beings. I was also unsure about trying to invoke them. But over time I began to see that they represent a realm of powerful energy, support and insight that is available to us all.

Also – and this was important – that this angelic realm waits to be invited, needs to be wanted and only appears to us when we ask for help with an open heart and mind. This was one part of a big learning that I gained from the training. I think of the angels and their signs as a reflection of my own inner grace and wisdom, my own source of light and love.

For me, it was a process of uncovering and strengthening my ability to access a range of sacred signs and own these mystical qualities in myself. I also learned and found myself happy for other people to relate to angels more literally as beings outside of themselves.

Week by week I found myself softening in the gentle atmosphere of self-acceptance that Amy’s words convey; both in the concepts she presented to us and also in her very manner of speaking. I learned that I was far from being able to love and accept myself; and I found her simple injunction to bring to every situation the question “what would LOVE do?”to be hugely helpful. I say ‘simple injunction’, but to remember to bring love in, in those moments of challenge and stress with another person or situation, has actually been very difficult for me.

Having the opportunity to re-address my old patterns of reaction and my tendency to blame and withhold was ongoing in my new relationship. Amy’s approach in SC reinforced this,  as she consistently offered ways to see ourselves with acceptance for all of who we are and to live with our heart more open, stepping out of darkness and into light. Bringing light to everything.

I found the directness and simplicity of this very healing and empowering too. Amy was living proof to me that sharing one’s own vulnerabilities by telling one’s own personal stories of struggle can be deeply helpful to others – which I’d also experienced in my work as a professional therapeutic counsellor.

I remember a moment in week 4 or 5, when Amy spoke something like these words: “The biggest challenge to my own unfolding has been a deep resistance to joy. Here I was standing in the centre of my life with a rich deep clarity about the message – this work that I wanted to deliver. How could I have come all this way and still be resisting the very thing that I asked for? As it turned out I was afraid of my own power. I was afraid to let myself change.”

Her words spoke to me with such clarity. They could have been my own words, if I’d had the self-awareness to see this! And coming from her, the bare honesty of sharing her realization, hit me as a powerful injunction to look at my own resistance to joy and my fear of my own power.

My relationship with my own fear and my vulnerability is also the source of my gifts. 

I knew this already but it hadn’t stopped me often over-identifying with fear, staying small and feeling powerless. The light, love and self acceptance that Soul Caller work taught me initiated change in these areas, bringing the possibility of more joy, more creativity and more power into my life.

I didn’t need to become something other than who I am. I am already enough as I am; if I could just relax into the centre of myself and feel safe to be seen as a sensitive man, worthy, needed, valued – as artist, craftsman, mystic, and ‘keeper of the keys’ of a sanctuary space for others.

In a conversation with Amy, in one of the live calls, which I tried to do as often as I could, partly to challenge my fear and ‘be seen’, a powerful opportunity was presented to me. I found myself saying:  “I am willing to see that I am already free!”

I don’t know if these words came from Amy but I suspect they did. They enabled me to cut through layers of conditioning and identify with that higher part of myself, who is always there, but has so often been lost to me, out of reach.

One further ingredient that helped me was the wonderfully supportive sharings on the Facebook group wall. They created for me a healing environment where I could ‘practice’ being seen and accepted, valued and appreciated for who I am, by people I had never met.

This happened in ways that were often deeply moving, healing and transformative; adding further weight to Amy’s very personal and yet universal message. My unfolding continues, Amy and the angels stay with me. I feel much appreciation and gratitude.

~ Ardhan Swatridge, Italy

 

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10986950_10206438226454132_112197459685646841_nRecent exposure to Soul Caller with Amy and to the power of the Sacred Feminine courtesy of Sally Kempton and Andrew Harvey (Shift Network courses) are enabling me to express my Life Gesture at last, .

I am supporting my partner in the birth of a small healing centre in Italy and, inspired by Charles Eisenstein’s book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, I am creating a website to inspire others; with ideas, quotes, and links to a host of initiatives and people who are unfolding a NEW STORY for us all to live by.

Its live, but still in development: www.awakeningnewworld.org

My personal writing blog: www.innerventures.me

My woodwork: www.swatridge.net

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  • Laura Ozarow Doreson
    Reply

    Paul, I love your story. I just love it all! It is a wonderful group created by our lovely Amy. I am grateful to be part of this group and to have you in it. I am a practicing Buddhist for a few years now and feel what you do about many things. Look forward to seeing your new website and other links. Thank you and namaste to you!

    • Paul Swatridge
      Reply

      Thanks Laura for your appreciation. I was so happy to accept Amy’s invite to write and speak up on behalf of, and hopefully inspire, men as well as women.

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