When I joined the Elephant Academy apprenticeship program—a 16-week crash course in blogging for social media, journalism ethics, writing, and editing—I was immediately taken by the idea of reaching readers by sharing my personal experiences in a way that is both enlightening and beneficial.
The experience was profound because while the logical side of me was absorbing this lesson, there was another subject, one not on the syllabus, that felt even more challenging. It was the journey through the looking glass of self-reflection that was harder than I expected.
I was not prepared to gaze into a mirror that was both cloudy and clear—a self that was bright but dark, broken but brave.
I saw her once and she frightened me.
As apprentices, we were tasked with reading elephant journal articles, and from that arose a reflection of myself that continued to resurface in the murky mirror of my awake life. I tried to grasp her with my clumsy words, but she’d slither back into the closet of my consciousness, leaving me feeling bewildered and uneasy.
We were all feeling this way, I think; excited to be learning a new style of writing, but nervous in the unfolding of our own personal growth. Every day, I read the words of other writers and my fellow apprentices. And I wrote every single day, spilling my thoughts and feelings without form or function until small themes and concepts began to emerge.
Was I not ready to look deeply into the mirror and see who or what was really there?
Was the shame too great? The pain too real? The distance to reach the image in my mirror too far?
Couldn’t I eat, drink, run, or otherwise keep pretending she wasn’t there? That part of me that peeks back when I’m putting my makeup on in the mirror every day?
If I could stop and look at my reflection for just a second more…
As a survivor of childhood trauma, I focused on being logical, rational, vigilant. Quiet and compliant. No questions. No resistance. And no crying.
But then I started waking up at 3 a.m., and I could sense the presence of something, someone stirring within me, like an expansion of my heart. She was the little sister of my psyche, reaching out and waiting to be re-discovered.
I finally started to understand that she has a tribe and a voice.
My “Elephant Journey” has shown me that so many of us have a hidden sibling that yearns to be heard, to be coaxed out of the recesses of our duality to unite the person we show the world, and the person we truly are, through the process of reading and writing with mindful awareness.
But the little sister inside me doesn’t make eye contact and she stutters. She’s easily hurt because she learned that receiving pain is at least getting noticed. She writes and draws and plays alone. She doesn’t know how to be touched, but she desperately wants to be held.
I am that child and that child is me. I want to know her and hold her and heal her.
On the outside, yoga, meditation, and a generally healthy lifestyle keep the mirror I reflect to the world nicely polished. But the child within me sees her world through dusty glass.
As the weeks of my apprenticeship went by, I realized the missing component has been finding the courage to invite others to “hear my words.” I have met so many writers who are willing to be raw so I can be raw. They are willing to expose their challenges, their fears, and their setbacks, and they are able to transform them into a deeper understanding of themselves so they can be available for others who want to contribute to a more conscious way of living, in thinking and in practice. We are collectively engaged in being of benefit to the world through mindful awareness of how we think and what we do.
We are all on the same journey of the self: to organize and make sense of our experiences, to share the methods that work for us, and to share and celebrate our message in the many social media formats offered by elephant journal. And what worked for me was meditation, journaling, being aware of my daily routine, and being brave enough to reach out to my tribe for guidance and support.
But the most profound graduation gift has been the relationships I cultivated. When we feel safe to share our own soul-centered words—words that can inspire, heal, or resonate with others—it’s as if our “hidden siblings” are holding hands, if only for a moment.
And who knows? Maybe like this, we could just change the world.
Author: Shannon Llewellyn
Editor: Nicole Cameron