Leaving the Badlands

Let me fall if I must. The one I become will catch me. Baal Shev Tom

From my twenties, I recall this image. I was standing on the edge of a crevasse, not just a cliff, a dark, vast jagged wound in the ground, an abyss where I couldn’t see the bottom. Around it was desert, completely dry, unforgiving, and I was teetering at times, about to fall from vertigo and exhaustion, out of control. I just couldn’t walk away.

The crevasse looked inert and empty but it was full of invisible emotion – at the worst times building into a deafening howl of distress only I could hear, at best maintaining a low, sad whine.  Restless, angry confusion running down the rock walls like sludge so that the hole looked empty, but you could feel its threatening energy always there.

It’s how I felt inside when I was absolutely lost for meaning and direction in my young world. Looking back, I can see that I felt disconnected from others, from myself and my own passions and that the disconnection from love was keeping me stuck. The ache was intensified by feeling very little respect for myself because I was unable to just get over any of it. I’d spiral into self-hatred that I was so useless despite my potential and privilege, unable to access my abilities, to extricate myself from self-criticism, soothe my chronic dissatisfaction and yearning for…something…

For years I felt trapped wandering my insides, feeling nobody could understand me, lost and alone, often returning to gaze down the crevasse, despite not wanting to. It held me in awe. I’d try to escape rather than wander such inhospitable terrain any longer. I’d want to get lost in things that weren’t me. For me, it wasn’t drugs, or sex – I longed for love as my escape. I always knew love was the answer to pain, I just didn’t know how to find it in myself, yet. So, I looked for love in the wrong places and parts of me fell deeper and deeper into the hole each time it didn’t work out.

For a long time, I thought that the crevasse was the only feature of the landscape inside me, I camped around it endlessly, not seeing outside my tunnel vision of pain and anger at myself. I didn’t see the vast lands of possibility and things to love and enjoy, spreading out from that crevasse in every direction inside my inner world. There were so many other places to go and experience. I just hadn’t seen the possibilities of my inner life or the outer world yet because I had no map and nobody had shown me what was there, or how to access the good stuff. Sadness and self-criticism, depression and pain are clouded lenses that prevent us from seeing the landscape. All we see is the hole.

Lost in your inner world means also being lost in the outside world. How can we effectively find our way, live from our passions, and find meanings that give us deep joy when we’re spending most of our time mesmerized by the crevasse and how to avoid falling further?

Why is the crevasse so pervasive and powerful? How does it hold us so fixed, unable to leave that place? How does it draw us to making the same mistakes, feeling the same pain, and yearning for something undefinable, day in, day out?

Because invariably, that aching something we crave is connection over isolation. That doesn’t mean needing never to be alone, nor does it mean hanging constantly online or looking for someone to “complete you”. It means joining the dots, connecting the pieces of you so that they no longer cry out for integrity.

It means union, yoga, integration of yourself.


The only way to that integration, the only way to appease the dull, aching roar coming from the crevasse is to honour and love even of the parts of you that you don’t really like. I promise there is no alternative. The hurt parts are calling out for help from the rest of you, keeping you transfixed in confusion and indecision. The parts that are exiled, rejected are asking for your help and forgiveness while you’re fighting with yourself, holding a grudge, not wanting to forgive. While you’re standing on the edge looking down, angry at them or scared of them, not seeing their need, they’re going to keep calling you back to the hole.

You must get away from Blame City. You’ll see it if you look up from the hole. It’s a seedy little shanty town not far from the crevasse. Get out of its toxic smog and get to a place where you can breathe and allow yourself to reconnect to the soul of who you were, who you still are underneath, before your family, your peers, your institutions, this world f***ked you up. You are soul, you are energy infusing a body and energy never dies – only changes form. It’s about getting that energy to flow again, in a way that’s integrated, in a way that’s fed by your loves and desires, in a way that is useful to you, your evolution, and the lives of others.

To help you feel strong enough, you’ll need to gather some tools and some good strong ropes. Get your pack – carry only the essentials, fresh water, warm gear and strong boots that can walk and walk. This may take some time, especially if you find you’re at the bottom of things and don’t know where to look. Set out, set out, don’t look back for a while, not yet – later that will be easier, and safer. There will be a time for looking at the past through different eyes. Right now. Save yourself.

What’s going to be needed is an inner expedition – a journey into the Lovelands to discover what has been exiled, what has been lost and to bring it home. The clues are in the sad stories, the cruel-to-you stories you tell yourself. They are the markers of the pain.

First, focus on finding your loves, because they are the ropes you need to save yourself. There are three great loves of our lives: self-compassion, mindful relationships and flow or finding peak experiences in life. When you know yourself well enough to live from those loves, the outer world honours the inner, and vice-versa. The loves are the ropes that will help you recover lost, exiled, or disconnected parts of yourself from the crevasse.

Self-compassion is the strongest rope to attach to yourself, to haul the parts of yourself up from suffering and insatiable longing. This is because only you can silence and soothe the parts of you that are crying out, by rescuing them from their miserable oubliette. It’s in your power alone to haul them up, reintegrate them and reinvest them with dignity. You must forgive and love all the pieces, even the ones formerly exiled to hide in the crevasse, or frightened away by terrible things. Only you can be the hero of your own inner lands.

Return to the crevasse, ropes in hand and extend the ropes to all that was living in shame and darkness. Embrace them in the daylight.

Let there be integration of the parts of yourself, rather than inconsolable distances within you. The yearning and the being become one once the buried, almost forgotten parts of yourself are recovered from the crevasse and you are whole again.

The crevasse, truly empty now, loses its mystique and power over you. A beautiful, empty monument in the desert. Silent.

The noise is gone.

All is at peace in The Lovelands and you are sovereign of yourself once more.

For more on healing, self-growth and reintegration, Debra’s book Lovelands is available in good bookstores and online.