The Shoebox  

My guess is that it’s fairly common for women to have a ‘shoebox’ or something similar in which they store their ‘treasures.’ Letters, cards, photos, locks of their baby’s hair, basically things of sentimental value that seem to confirm their sense of identity, things that are pertinent to them and their lives.

In much the same way as kids love to layer papier-mache around a balloon, we humans love to build stories around who we perceive ourselves to be. We think that the music we listen to says something specific about us; that the food we enjoy eating says something special about who we think we are; that our hobbies make us more interesting and differentiate us from others and that the way we dress is a statement that sets us apart from everyone else. Our shoeboxes are where we store the ‘physical evidence’ of our assumed identity, which is why, when I think about it, I carried my ‘shoebox’ around the world with me. Throwing it out would surely have meant throwing away the evidence of my existenceor so I thought.

I had lots of things in my shoebox: concert tickets, photos, love letters and cards with sentimental words written ‘just for me.’ They were mostly things from specific people, however I had a couple of things in my shoebox that weren’t written by anyone I knew but were words I had cut out of cards and articles that had for whatever reason struck me as being significant.

I suppose the best way to describe these keepsakes was that rather than solidify my sense of self they alluded to a deeper aspect of life, and although I wasn’t totally clear as to why I wanted to keep them, I knew that I didn’t want to throw them out. Looking back, I can see that for most of my life I had an inkling that there was more to life than met the eye and yet I was never able to put my finger on quite what it was. I can see now that what I was doing was scrabbling around for what felt like tidbits of the truth.

As a child, the deeper aspects of life never consciously occurred to me; and looking back I can see that that was because I, like most kids, just lived it. Life and I were one and the same – we just bumped along together effortlessly. Up until the age of about nine I lived life from my body. I ran, jumped, skipped, hopped and rolled my way through my days. Whether I was building a dam out of rocks and pebbles or playing on a building site, I lived life through my body.  

My fingers still remember how it felt to squeeze a berry from the Snowberry Bush and they can still recall the squishy feeling of pulling putty out of window frames in the new houses on the building site where we played. My nose remembers the smell of our compost heap down the end of the garden and the smell of gas still reminds me of being in my Grandad’s kitchen. When I hear a plane flying high up in the summer sky, my ears take me back to lazy days spent playing in the back garden and when I hear the football scores read on the telly, I am transported back to feeling my boredom on Sunday afternoons when the sport was on TV. My mouth still holds the memory of how sweet the stem of a blade of grass tastes and the taste of strawberry jam reminds me of my daily dilemma of which spread to put on my toast.  

My eyes are just as instrumental in remembering my past: colours, particularly the colour white, brings back the memory of playing marbles and of how each different coloured marble had a different effect on my body. The sight of daffodils transports me back to my childhood joy at seeing their emergence in the field at the back of our house.  

The body, the body, the body… I lived life from my body. 

So what happened to me at the age of 9 to literally sever my connection from my body? Well, my family moved from a small village in North Yorkshire (the road we lived in was called ‘Crimple Meadows’) to Watford, a huge sprawling town an hour north of London. My sensitive young body felt like it had literally been assaulted and in many ways it had. Not only had my beloved countryside been replaced with concrete, but I was also picked on at school.

Many of the kids were hard and aggressive and up until that point I hadn’t been exposed to either trait, not even in adults. It was the girls in particular that upset me: they used swear words that I had rarely heard before and although none of the girls actually hurt me physically, looking back I can’t help but wonder if a quick kick would have been better than the numerous venomous verbal attacks I received. But it’s the way I chose to deal with it that’s particularly upsetting, because I chose to harden in exactly the same way that the girls that bullied me had.  

The me that had been me up until that pointthe young girl that had skipped and hopped her way through her childhood, the girl who had been as delicate as the spring flowers that she delighted in – chose to harden. And the reason why I hardened was in a desperate attempt to avoid feeling the pain I felt. Not just the pain of being attacked but the pain of feeling how awful it was to feel what had happened to the girls who had, at some point in their lives, been just as tender as me.

In hardening myself, I brought in a wedge between me and myself and in separating from myself, I also separated from the life that up until that point I had been part of. I subsequently spent the next 35 years living in separation from myself and therefore, from life. I feel to add that none of us can ever truly separate from life because life and us are one and the same, but by making our outer shell crusty, it gives us the feeling of being separate. This unclassified feeling of separation resulted in an almost permanent state of mild tension – a tension that I did a masterful job of covering up by managing to assemble myself into what can only be described as a ‘comfortably happy state.’ And why didn’t anyone notice what had happened to me? Well, because it had already happened to pretty much everyone else around me and living in separation from ourselves has become so normal and accepted that we neither recognise it nor speak about it. But deep down we all know that it’s happened and it is a pain we carry permanently.

‘Comfortably happy,’ would be for most a very enviable way of being and yet, deep down, I knew that it just wasn’t it. I had a sense of looking for something and yet was never quite sure what it was that I was looking for. I looked for this unnamed thing in some pretty strange places. I searched for it in extreme physical fitness, somehow believing that if my body was in what I perceived to be ‘pristine physical condition,’ then it would eventually lead me to some mystical elevated state.  

I explored the world of drugs, believing that an altered state could potentially open up a hidden trapdoor that I would be able to step through… ‘et voila,’ a hitherto hidden world would suddenly be revealed. I also dived headlong into the world of spirituality, feeling finally that I had found what it was that I had been looking for. But alas, spirituality eventually fizzled out in the same way as all my other fruitless pursuits.

At the age of about forty-three my previously athletic, buzzy body broke down. When I say ‘broke down,’ I mean that it kind of stopped going. It no longer wanted to power walk around the park; in fact it was so reluctant to even walk short distances that I had to start driving to the local shops. During this time, it seemed that I was suddenly able to really feel how my body felt and it felt like it had been hit by the proverbial truck. I literally felt like I had been mangled under the wheels of a semi-trailer! My body felt battered from the years of relentless exercise that I had put it through and it felt utterly exhausted from my fervently held belief that the more I did ‘as a woman,’ the stronger I was. There was nowhere for me to hide: my body brought me to the truth of my choices and I was left feeling directionless, despondent and in physical pain.

Surrounded by an ever-growing amount of crumbling beliefs, I began attending Universal Medicine workshops. Though I didn’t have any initial lightbulb moments or feelings of ‘coming home,’ I was none the less intrigued and have continued to attend workshops and presentations for the last 8 years. Over that time, I have come to realise many things.

One of the main things that I have come to realise is that self-care is crucial to evolution. The constant application of self-care has taken me deeper and deeper inside myself and has led to an unmistakable feeling of love deep within my body. An oh so familiar feeling and yet one that has a freshness to it that’s hard to describe. 

With self-care as my guiding principle, I have been able to systematically restore my body to the pristine condition that it was in when I was a child. A natural part of the process has been the removal of what doesn’t belong in my body. A bit like throwing ballast out of a hot air balloon, the majority of ideals, beliefs and pictures that I have imbibed over the years have been chucked overboard. With the removal of all that doesn’t belong in my body, I have been left with the truth of what does. And without any impediments to prevent it, I have discovered that the light of God is able to come through me, in the same way that it is able to come through all of us. The light of God is both extraordinary and at the same time very ordinary. It is what so many of us knew and never doubted as kids. It was, and indeed is, our natural living way, a way that is known intimately by us all.

So, the crumbs that I have been trying to follow my whole life and the small snippets of clues that I gathered and stored in my shoebox have been replaced by clear directions from my body. And it is by following these directions that I have found myself re-united once more with my body in exactly the same way as I was as a child. And it is through that re-unification with my body that I have been reunited once more with the body of God.

By Alexis Stewart, A woman who is actively engaged with Life in the understanding that it is our engagement with Life that will return us to the truth of who we all are

Further Reading:
The Vastness of Who We Are
The body is the marker of all truth
Returning to our body – The wonder, beauty and science of our body

40 thoughts on “The Shoebox  

  1. Your comment about why no-one said anything when you separated cuts to the truth – they had all separated as well so were not able to see there was anything wrong. Much to ponder here.

  2. “Comfortably happy,’ stopped me in my tracks. Comfortably happy conveys the grimaced smile. When we convince ourselves all is well within, because so much of what isn’t is pushed below the surface. Many of us live this way, not knowing the difference. When aligned to divinity, the difference is holding the qualities of stillness, joy, truth and love, these emanate and sparkle from deep within to be shared with others.

  3. This has been so healing to read. It has brought to life the elements of the purity of childhood still within me and all my particles have shifted releasing warmth, joy and confirmation of who I truly am – who I too have been returning to since discovering Universal Medicine. Thanks Alexis for sharing this blog, There will be an added fire in my day today which feels exquisite.

  4. Thank you Alexis, as one of your biggest fans I eagerly await your first book, I literally hang off every word! I so appreciate the honesty, rawness, insights and the way you let us all into your life and hold everyone as an equal, thank you. Reflecting on your shoebox story and the many things we collect to build an identity had me wondering about the lack of appreciation in our lives, and our inability to value the precious and amazing beings we already are.

  5. It just shows how change such as moving can have an huge impact on a child or young person’s life, and how maybe we are not sensitive to this as much as we could be. In working with young people that have had many changes in their life, throughout their life, including the different people that come in and out such as social workers, it makes me see just how much stability and consistency, even if they are unaware of this, is important to them.

  6. I still love shoe boxes, but now only keep things inside I need, wear and love. It’s not the box, but what we choose to store inside. Like our own body. the quality, care and love we bring to it makes a difference in how we experience life.

  7. We can hold onto things to fill a void, or we can buy new things to fill a void. If we are not willing to fill that void with Love, nothing we do will ever feel enough.

    1. The crazy thing is that the void is already full of love because every available nook and cranny is already packed to the rafters with love, so it’s not so much that we need to bring love in, it’s more that each of us needs to reveal the fact that love is already here, there and everywhere. It is quite literally all around us.

      1. Ah Alexis! Thank you – what a stunning response. We can spend our whole lives trying, pulling & pushing that “love” in when it is all, already there.

  8. Thank you Alexis, we all have our boxes. My feeling is we would all like a Dr Who Police Box as we all have multiple lives and would like to take trips in time to explore our incarnations, when all we have to do is fully re-connect to our Essences and thus live Soul-fully in all we do and we have no need for any boxes as we have become spherical, thus we do not feel boxed in.

    1. The collection of anything is about identity, the identification of who we perceive ourselves to be and so the letting go of anything has to surely start with the letting go of our identification with whatever it is that we have collected.

  9. I still have a shoebox but for years nothing has gone into it, only taken out. I used to keep cinema / concert tickets and various other Knick-Knacks. These days I am happy to throw away the ticket stubs. I’d also ad in the incessant need to take a photo on smartphones, to be part of that ‘capturing the moment’ shoebox, I am starting to take less pictures and enjoy the moment for what it is rather than from behind a screen.

    1. Yes, interestingly I can now see I have gathered and stored less physically but I can also see that I am gathering and storing less emotionally as well and life feels lighter as a result.

  10. Your description of ‘comfortably happy state’ brought a picture of a movie of our blood cells flowing endlessly, never going anywhere trapped in a loop and separate from all others. Self-care is the awaking of the cells and their purpose of why we are here.

  11. I so relate to searching till exhaustion going in to illness led me to the truth that it is me I was looking for.
    Life, health and vitality has done a 180 degree turn around since the truth was revealed of not where to look but more simply how to be. The truth as shared by Universal Medicine is nothing short of amazing and empowering.

    1. ‘I so relate to searching till exhaustion going in to illness led me to the truth that it is me I was looking for’.
      Yes this is the essence, the constant searching ends when we we find ourselves and that divinity lies within.

  12. Reading this made me realise that in my teens and beyond, I spent a lot of time trying to identify myself and ‘fit’ into the world, only to years later completely deconstruct this to finally feel and appreciate the true me which is forever unfolding. I feel we live the complete opposite to what the truth is .. trying to attain things, even in ‘who’ we are, instead of letting go of everything that is not us (beliefs, ideals and pictures included) and connecting and living from the love/essence we are. ✨So simple yet we make it oh so very complicated!

    1. How bizarre is it Vicky when you think about how we try to ‘fit in’ when in truth we all naturally fit together seamlessly, the only reason why we feel that we don’t fit in is because we’ve tampered with the original to such an extent that we feel totally out of whack and utter discombobulated. Crazy eh?

  13. When I got to the point where I felt empty as a younger teen, this was the time where I felt I needed to prove to myself that life was ok. Whilst I was never a hoarder of things I remember looking through my sisters’ photos feeling like they had evidence of having a much happier life than me! In truth they didn’t but it is interesting to note what we do to sometimes to convince ourselves we do when we are feeling empty. Now that I live from the inside out rather than the outside in, it simply doesn’t occur to me to keep anything that is no longer used or needed as everything I really need is felt from within first and foremost.

    1. Clinging onto anything or anyone that is outside of us stems from a lack of knowing that we are a patch of everything already, a piece of the Whole. Because when we remember that we are a piece of the Whole, then what small or big items could we possibly want to hold onto? Items are to do with individuality and we are not individuals, we are the United Body of God and as there is nothing that God isn’t then what items could we possibly want to hold onto? Collecting and clutching at items is an attempt to solidify our sense of who we are but it makes no sense because we are the transient nature of life, we are the permanent movement of life itself.

    2. Awesome to hear you are now living inside out rather than within. When we compare ourselves to others we are actually destroying ourselves from within.

      1. When we return to the knowing that we are all actually the One United Consciousness then comparison will simply disappear overnight because what’s there to compare ourselves to when in truth there’s only one of us?

    3. Thanks Michelle, reading your comment I got to feel from within myself how attached I am to physical possessions, and it didn’t feel at all like something innately from me, rather something I had taken on.

      1. That’s cool! I actually really dislike holding on to objects as I feel cluttered by them. If they have no purpose or value in my day to day living then they are disposed of without any sentimentality whatsoever.

  14. ‘Life and I were one and the same – we just bumped along together effortlessly. Up until the age of about nine I lived life from my body. I ran, jumped, skipped, hopped and rolled my way through my days. Whether I was building a dam out of rocks and pebbles or playing on a building site, I lived life through my body. ‘ No need for keepsakes when we can live life like this!

    1. Agreed, it really illustrates how we feel and experience everything from our bodies anyway, therefore we don’t need those keepsakes. If we have known love, that is known from the body and forever remembered as a physical feeling, now I can see we reduce it if we leave it locked in a box in the words from another.

  15. Very timely read Alexis, as today I have begun to go through some stored items and it is rather interesting to discover that much of what had been stored no longer held any appeal in the life I am now living. A time of clearing, sorting, understanding and reflection on how one can choose to evolve, and graciously let go of possessions.

  16. Great, great blog, Alexis. As I read these words in particular…’I brought in a wedge between me and myself…’ I felt the pain and despair of having done the same. A seemingly unstoppable pain and despair that eventually turned into icy numbness as the wedge stayed stuck and was at times driven deeper creating a chasm between me and myself. For me, too, self care has been my guiding principle, the belay device that has supported me in climbing out of the chasm of separation and back in to the wondrous connection I was never truly separated from – the body of God.

  17. I used to have a shoebox like that, mine wasn’t a shoebox but a box from a teapot – very pretty, with flowers. I don’t even remember when I got rid of it or how, but the thought of “let me keep this so I can look back and remember this scenario or occurrence in a few years. There is obviously an attachment to these moments, something significant that has happened & we want to keep hold of it. But what if instead of keeping memories in our head, we register shifts in our body? Changes of energetic quality?

  18. Alexis like you I have through Universal Medicine come to realise that self care is crucial to our evolution. And this is something that we work on constantly because the universe is expanding and we need to expand with it. We seem to have forgotten that we are very much part of the universe and instead have settled for less. When we connect back deeply to our bodies again then the universe is revealed once again to us and we are once more united with the magnificence of who we truly are. We get to feel how deeply precious we are and that we cannot harm ourselves or others because they come from the same preciousness as us.

  19. Years ago I junked all of my ‘shoe-boxes’ with old photos and memories of all kinds. After years of self-loving alignments I was able (and happy) to let go of these old belongings. It was and is really a big thing in my life to count now on me belonging to the Universe instead of belonging to things or stories of my life. Sometimes I feel a bit lost, as there is no benchmark in the outside I can orientate myself. But then I know, it’s time to deepen my connection to myself and with that, deepen my connection to God. And I found the Universe inside of me, inside of my body.

    Hmm…in fact, my body is the most gorgeous ‘shoe-box’ ever. And I don’t have to put anything in – it’s all already there, waiting for me to be discovered and expanded.

  20. Our body always speaks to us, if we choose to listen. In the UK I was taught to override my body when young and to ‘push through’ was seen as a good thing, ie totally ignoring the body’s messages. To ‘give in’ was seen to be a sign of weakness. Universal Medicine has enabled me to realise otherwise.

  21. Who hasn’t kept a shoebox like this?

    Mine was a bit bigger than a shoebox actually, and only recently have I been able to throw these things out. Why? Because I don’t contain to a shoebox the bigness of life I felt as a child, the truths I felt I needed to keep secret, and to myself.

    I have also reconnected to aspects of being a child such as that connection to my body and beyond- to God that you have written about here.

    The fact is, this experience of life that I had as a child, that connectedness, could never be contained to a shoebox. As much as I tried, my body had something more to say and simply couldn’t resist telling me that there had always been something more; and that there was a much more connected way to live.

    The ‘crumbs’ of life that I pursued were creating a whole lot of tension.

    I like how you describe the light of God – that it is equally so extraordinary and so ordinary.

    I grew up feeling from the world every reason not to see the light of God as ordinary. The prevailing feeling underneath, then and now, is that it is really so so ordinary.

    1. Is it possible that this is why the Roman Catholic Church has glorified God symbolically by building many ornate churches, wearing heavily embroidered gold and silk garments and the intense ceremonies that are performed because they want to take God away from the ordinary to make him seem greater and only obtainable by the few not the all. And this falsehood is one that we have accepted as true to the detriment of our innate knowing of God.

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