How To Survive in a Spiritual Wilderness When Life Has Fallen Apart. Part 1.

Dictionaries define the words wilderness, spiritual and falling apart thus: 


Wilderness:  ” … a wild and uncultivated region, as of forest or desert, uninhabited or inhabited only by wild animals; a tract of wasteland…” (1)

Spiritual:   “… relating to deep feelings and beliefs …” (2) 

Falling Apart: “… to lose one’s emotional or mental composure…” (3)

Once, however, you’ve found  yourself ‘fallen apart’  in the midst of a spiritual wilderness,  you know that, in reality, these  descriptions are tame. In fairness, it’s hard to find the right words or phrases to describe the living hell that is at the heart of a true spiritual wilderness. For me, the one word that comes close to summing it up is: bereft.

Bereft: … feeling great loss … a sense of deprivation or lack… ” (4)

But even that doesn’t quite get to the nub of it.

Those of you that have been there will know exactly what I mean.

I first, consciously, found myself in the heart of a spiritual wilderness ten years ago following a massive breakdown.


shame, weakness, failure …

In the middle of one dark February night, I awoke and fell apart. Quite literally shattered in to smithereens. My life was about to change course – drastically. 


For the better.

Of course, I didn’t know that then. All I knew then was that I was completely unable to function. As the lone mother of a young toddler, I should have been terrified. How on earth was I going to cope?

Interestingly, I wasn’t terrified. I was too broken and numb to know what I was feeling or thinking. I wasn’t thinking or feeling. I wasn’t even being.

For the first six months of that period, I did nothing but sleep. I even had to move in to a relatives home in order to be cared for.

I have absolutely no memory of those six comotosed months.

What I do remember is waking up, the sensation of ‘coming too’.



the black hole …


Unable to open my eyes, I lay there, simply sensing what was going on within me.

It was my legs that caught my fleeting attention first with their weak weight against the mattress. I knew that there was no strength in them to move. 

 This awareness was followed by my first thought in over six months:

‘ My life will never be the same again.’

It came in rapidly, as thoughts do, leaving just as quickly. Washed away by a tsunami of terror that crashed through me, reaping destruction on every shred of my confidence and former life along the way.


complete and utter overwhelm…

How would I be able to survive this inner natural disaster ?

I had a young child to care for. I had myself to care for yet here I was – utterly broken.

The tsunami was swiftly followed by  bleak depression which became an unwelcome resident within me, an unwanted partner in crime on what was to be a long, lonely and lost pathway within my own inner wilderness.

It’s a good job that I didn’t know then that I was going to be walking on that desolate road for several years. It might, however, have helped me to know that I would, one day, look back and be so deeply grateful to have had the rich gifts of that journey.


blood, sweat and tears..

For it was on that journey, where I often felt as if I were dying or yearned to die, that I came back to life. I was re-born and reconnected with a part of myself that had died a long time ago. Way before the actual breakdown occurred.

Sometimes I wonder if it wasn’t so much that something had died, more like I just hadn’t given birth to the part of myself that was to come to life while I walked what I now describe as:  The Wilderness Way.

So what did come to life? What did I give birth to?

The answer is quite simple.

I gave birth to my life as I am truly meant to be living it.


when the smile finally returned….

I gave birth to freedom of self, to honouring my true needs, to understanding my true worth and value, to appreciating my self-esteem, to acknowledging my gifts and how I want to express them in the world from a stance that is perfect for my own highest well being. I gave birth to the rhthym in which I wish to live my life.

You see, I had to reach a point of breakdown. I was so far removed from who I truly was that I just couldn’t function any more. We are not born to live false, dead lives. What is the point in that? We are born to live according to our own precious uniqueness. We are here to have fun and to laugh – a lot. We are here to adventure with ourselves – taking delight in all that we are capable of. We are born to get to know ourselves on every level. We are born to be, quite simply, happy. On our own terms. For the greater good of all.

When you are in the wilderness, you might feel like the most lonely and lost person in the world, yet all you are really doing is embarking of a journey of discovery. You are on the pathway back to finding yourself. Behind every tree or under each moss laden rock, there is a part of you to re-claim. On the bank of each wild river there is a  ‘you’ who is eager to swim courageously to the other side to meet a brand new part of your self.  Beside each roaring fire, there is part of you ready to re-ignite your life in so many exciting ways. Under each full moon, there is part of you ready to sit in peace and silence, knowing with surety that you did what you came here to do.

‘But Karen,’ I hear you ask, ‘I have a yearning for this way of living but I haven’t had a breakdown,  yet I feel so lost. I want to feel these things you describe. I want the courage to swim that river and to feel the peace under the moon. I  want to sit by that fire and re-ignite my life.


Are You Doing What You Came Here to Do?

Do you have to have had a breakdown in order to feel as if you are living in a wilderness?’

The answer is simple:


You do not have to have suffered an horrific breakdown to find yourself in the wilderness.

The wilderness will reveal itself in different ways to different people.

For some, like myself, it came as a dramatic occurrence, manifesting as a long-lasting debilitating illness of some kind whilst, for others, it can be a more subtle, nagging ‘knowing’ that all is not well. You know, where you find yourself sighing a lot or having that ‘ there must be more to life than this’ thought regularly.

Take my advice. This is the time to act. Those sighs and thoughts are clear indicators that part of you is living in the wilderness, where many aspects of your life are depleted, malnourished or out of balance and where you have a yearning and knowing that all is not as it is meant to be. They are clear signs that your life essence is calling out to you, screaming:

‘Come back to who you were always meant to be.’

I didn’t listen to those signs. I was too busy living life at too fast a pace, giving way too much to others, ignoring my self and, quite frankly, just too ignorant to even know that those sighs and yearnings were internal gifts trying to nudge me in the right direction. I urge you – don’t be like me. After all, look how I ended up. Seriously ill and at a place where it has taken years to recover.

Then I hear your next question:

‘How Karen? How do you do it? How do you recover from a breakdown? How do you pull yourself out of depression? What do you do with that ‘ there must be more to life than this feeling?’ 

I’d love to tell you that there is a simple and easy answer to these questions but the truth is, there isn’t. And I’m not going to lie to you.

My recovery from my breakdown and depression has been one of the hardest, loneliest and most terrifyingly complex experiences of my life. It has destroyed me on the inside and crumpled my life on the outside. It has been a long slow crawl back to life. 

But it has been worth it.


joyful fun with my daughter!

I am genuinely happier than I have ever been before.      


Ultimately, my breakdown liberated me. 

I have rarely spoken (or written) in depth about my journey of recovery, mainly due to the fact that it’s taken all my effort to just do the work I needed to do to come to a place of wellness again.

Another contributory factor is that behind any breakdown there are, often, deeply personal and traumatic experiences that can be painful to re-visit. It’s desirable to deal with those and move on. 

 Now, however, due to the interest demonstrated by readers of some of my recent blogs, I’ve decided to devote my writing this year to telling the story of my recovery – in the hope that it might help others who are living with the horror and terror of such a difficult experience.

 I shall be posting these experiences on this blog on alternate weeks. If you would like to follow my story of recovery, please feel free to follow me here. 

In my next blog, I shall be sharing the heart-rending story of one of the key life changing events that triggered my descent in to my breakdown, casting me in to my own spiritual wilderness, leading me in to the heart of The Wilderness Way. 

 If you are struggling to survive in your own spiritual wilderness, please know that I am sending you love, strength and courage. I urge you to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I hope my sharing my story and, more importantly, how I dug my way to recovery, helps you do the same. In the meantime, you might find these two articles that i wrote at the end of last year helpful:

1: How My Breakdown Helped Me to Learn to Trust my Inner Wisdom

2: 4 Nourishing Ways to Cope With Falling Apart.

Remember: ” … the greatest adventure is the journey of our own transformation once we begin to honour our truth…” (Karen Packwood – The Love Millionaire).

Sending You Much Much Love,



Karen is a #1 Best Selling Author & Spiritual Healer who runs on-line and live wilderness retreats for adults who are in the midst of their own spiritual wilderness so that that they can re-claim their joy and purpose in life. 

She is currently writing the book: The Love Millionaire – Cultivating the Art of Inner Richness. 

To find out more about Karen, visit: About Karen!

To work with Karen, visit: Work With Karen

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© No part of this blog may be reproduced without the written permission of the author. 





How to Move From Fear to Confidence.

Breaking Free from The Prison of Upper Limiting Beliefs and Habits.


I had an insight about upper limiting beliefs and habits. You know – all those fears & terrors, anxieties & confusions that prevent us from embracing our big dreams and feelings of joy, keeping us trapped in gloom and frustration. Even perhaps, when the going gets really tough, sucking us in to a well of  overwhelming depression.

It wasn’t so much a new insight, more a magnification of something I already know. Something in to which I’m continuously re-learning and expanding.

The Insight:

Upper limiting beliefs and habits are always there.

Will always be there.

Perhaps they’re even helpful prompts to keep us moving in the ‘right’ direct as we seem to bump up against them each time we try to move on or up.

I’ve been up against some forceful ones over the last few weeks, mainly in the form of sheer terror which feels like it’s pinning me down to the ground with a large wooden stake.

I’ve found myself wondering:

Is this actually wise guidance warning me against an action that I was hoping to take in my life or is it a limiting belief that I should deal with like a crusader entering in to battle- determined to vanquish this particular foe?

I generally answer this question by listening to the wisdom of my body.nude-1403269_1920

I breath in to it to see what advice it has for me over these debilitating feelings.

Nearly always, it’s a fear of some kind that’s holding me back, pulling me down, ruining the pleasure of my current experience.

Nearly always, it can be traced back to an event in my past, a memory stored that comes unconsciously to life, silently screaming at me: ‘Don’t do it – don’t take that step forward – stay here where it’s nice and safe. It might feel miserable but at least it’s safe.’

Nearly always, I find myself in a period of inner struggle as I decipher the messages and feelings – bringing consciousness to the unconscious.

 Eventually, however, after lots of breathing and deep trusting, a shift occurs.

An awareness.  A new awakening.

A tiny shunt of movement forward, of growth.

I ‘get it’– what the fear is all about. Why the messages  looping around in my mind were trying to keep me locked where I no longer wished to be.

Often, all it takes is one tiny moment of awareness for a giant adjustment to fall in to place, usually accompanied with a sense of relief and enlightenment.That one tiny moment, however, might have taken weeks of work in the darkness, in blindness, in fear, confusion and distrust. Or in grief and sorrow. 


Mining Into The Dark Caves of My Soul.

Unearthing these insights can be like mining in the dark caves of my soul. Laborious and relentless labouring within until a chink of light finally appears. As that one chink of light arrives, the whole wall of terror can tumble down and pure awareness creeps in, a clear light shines the way forward and I can breath again,walk again, no longer frozen on the pathway of my own life.

Sometimes, I hate those times in the darkness. Those lonely hours spent wondering if this is ‘it’ – have I become permanently stuck on my own journey? Yet time after time I have been shown that I never am – that light always follows the dark. That there is sunshine after rain. There is breath after breathlessness.There is courage after terror. There is self-belief after self-doubt.

Yes. With this liberation comes trust once more. That all is well. That I am well. That life is well.


Like the Seasons.

This morning, following one such moment of ‘enlightenment’, I woke up truly connecting with the habitual nature of these limiting beliefs:

As one steps in to the light, one takes another step closer to the next wave of darkness.

As one enters in to the darkness, one moves closer to new light.

Like the  rise and fall of the sun and moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, and the rhythm of the earth and her seasons, there will always be a recurring connection with darkness.  This is only a problem if we haven’t realised that this is how life is meant to be.

We can’t have the light without the dark.


Living in Alignment with the Dark and the Light. 

 Until we come in to alignment with our light and dark and welcome them both in to our life as cherished guides then we will always be stuck in the type of fear and darkness that can never be shifted.

Perhaps this is the greatest awareness of all.

Light and dark are an essential part of life.  


The darkness is merely a guide to the light. Darkness is, possibly, one of our best friends, a vital part of our wisdom – leading us from the prison within to freedom.

Finding Wisdom in the Darkness.

 I encourage each and everyone of you to sit with your breath today.  Sit with those dark parts of you, whether it is anger, fear, confusion, terror, panic, anxiety, conflict – however it is showing up in your life today, sit with it and ask:

My friend, what is your wisdom for me today?

What are you trying to teach me?

What are you trying to heal within me?

Where is it you wish for me to go?

What is the light in this situation?

Then listen, with gratitude, to this wisdom – and follow its loving guidance.

I  then invite you to do the same again – only, this time, with your light.

Sit with  your joy, your laughtLiving in Harmony with Your Light – Your Shine.  


er, your lightness of being, your inner genius, your highest one and ask:

My friend, what is your wisdom for me today?

What are you trying to teach me?

What are you trying to heal within me?

Where is it you wish for me to go?

What is it you wish for me to do?

 Then listen, with gratitude, to this wisdom – and follow.

Don’t be surprised to find that your shine, and your darkness, might both want exactly the same for you!


A Final Message – Mastering the Darkness.

If you have a history of darkness in your life, suffering from more than your fare share of trauma & grief, depression or sorrow, anxiety and terror, it can become easy to tip in to these feelings when life throws us a curve ball or we step out in to new ventures. But here is something I have learned:

Sometimes we have to ‘master the darkness’.

Sometimes we have to know when to say ‘ enough is enough.’

Sometimes another part of us has to say:

‘ Okay – I can see that you have a message for me so let’s get on and hear it, shall we? I don’t have time to sit around wallowing in old darkness that no longer serves me. Let’s get it up and out. Right here. Right now.’

I admit that this can take some practice.  It becomes easier, however, once you become less afraid of the darkness. Once you realise that it is a friend there to help you. Once you realise that you can be ‘in control’ of it like a good parent rather than letting it control you like a wicked curse.  Ultimately, you are the leader of the pack not the darkness.

It takes practice to believe, understand and to know how to work with but once you have done it a few times, (following the exercises above), it becomes easier and easier –although it doesn’t always feel like that when your in the darkness!

Please trust me:

 It is possible to master the darkness.

If can be done.

Sit tight.

Keep breathing.

And trust.

Darkness is just one half of the scales of your life.

The other half is – light!    flowers-164754_1280

Once you live in alignment with this truth and way of being, you will be on your way to  having broken free of the prison of upper limiting beliefs and habits in order to lose your fear and regain confidence in your life.

I would love to know what wisdom your darkness and/or light  had for you today – what loving advice did it give to you to help you move forward? Please share in the comments below. 

Sending You All Much Love. 



Karen is a #1 best selling author,  international clairvoyant & healer specialising in healing the wounds of the inner child following breakdown, trauma or grief in order to restore life to the most joyful place possible.

To work with Karen, visit her ‘Work with Karen’ page:


Visit Karen’s Facebook page: Karen Packwood – The Love Millionaire

or follow her on Twitter: The Love Millionaire@karen_packwood


” Sometimes, the most profound adventures lie within us and the greatest journey is the journey of our own transformation once we begin to honour our truth.”

Karen Packwood – The Love Millionaire ( to be published in 2017)

Paint A New Picture for Your Life.

Letting Go of All That No Longer Serves.

“If only she had known her worth, she would’ve stopped begging for the crumbs of other people’s hearts.”

Chishala Lishomwa



I once owned a beautiful sofa. I loved it so much. It was deep purple with soft, voluminous cushions. Friends would remark on the elegance of this prized possession of mine. This was back in the day when I was living a conventional life as a teacher and owned a small semi-detached house on a housing estate in a London overspill town in Suffolk, UK. It was my first proper ‘upscaled’ owned house. My former home, also owned, had been a tiny one up one down affair in a rural village not so far from my newly acquired semi-detached. I was in my early thirties and doing what I thought I had to do:

conventional job + conventional home = conventional life.

The home had everything you would expect a home to have, including the aforementioned magnificent sofa that cost me three months wages which I, following modern day convention, purchased with my credit card.

How very, very grown up I felt.

On the surface.

Job +Home + Credit Card + Sofa = Grown Up = Happiness

That’s the right maths, isn’t it?

That’s what we’re taught to aspire to in this society. Right?

The trouble was, I wasn’t happy.

I was actually deeply, deeply unhappy.

And sad.

And – mostly – bored. Life had no colour.

I would come home from my job, exhausted by my own ‘ fed-upness’  and sink in to that sofa with a sense of overwhelming gloom and loneliness. The truth was my ‘ job + home + credit card + sofa = grown up = happiness’ equation just wasn’t adding up for me. I was unsatisfied, with a profound gnawing sense of wrongness about my own well being.

A Grand Life Decision:

In those days, I had no qualms about making grand life changing decisions in the blink of an eye – normally on dull weekends in February at the heart of winter’s darkness. This particular year was no exception. I decided to quit my job and open a restaurant. Like you do.

Within six weeks I had resigned, rented out my home, bought a second home back in my home county, bought a restaurant and moved. Taking my oversized credit card purchased sofa with me.

Did I mention that I knew nothing about running a restaurant? My greatest experience linked with the restaurant trade had been back in my teenage days working as a waitress with my mates in a Wimpy Bar!

It turned out, not surprisingly, that this was not the best grounding for owning and running a restaurant serving a full a la carte dinner menu. It also turned out that:


1: It’s hard to earn money in the restaurant trade, and:

     2: I didn’t like owning, running or working in a restaurant. 


In fact, I hated it more than I hated my former job.


I actually did sink in to that oversized sofa, symbol of my ‘grown-upness’, every night – often falling in to a gloomy sleep upon it.

Needless to say, I didn’t last long in the restaurant trade. Unlike my ‘ safe’ teaching job which I stuck at for many unhappy years, my decision to leave the restaurant trade was swift. I exited within a few painful months.

Poverty, Debt and Another Grand Idea:

There was, however, one tiny glitch to this particular spontaneous departure: lack of income. An equally, perhaps not surprising, swift spiral downwards equation occurred:

no income + utility bills + credit card bills + the need to eat  = poverty & debt.

Thank goodness I had my oversized sofa to sink in to each night. I could even hide some of the unopened and ignored demand letters under the vast cushions. Many of you might be familiar with this equation:

out of sight = out of mind – not.

It wasn’t long before the inevitable happened. Increased debt. Fear. Worry. Full depression resulting in me having to sell my homes and move in to rented accommodation. Thank goodness I had my sofa to remind me of my former ‘glory’ days when life was ‘ sweet’, when I was conventional and safe and ‘grown up’.

The only house I could afford to rent was a tiny, tiny terraced cottage where my sofa took up most of the space in the living room. I had had to ‘let go’ of most of my other furniture but nothing was going to persuade me to get rid of my sofa – my one emblem of my former ‘ successful’ life. Besides, I was still trying to pay for it and I was convinced that ‘one day soon’ I would have a new home where it would fit in perfectly. No – the sofa must stay. At all costs. Until one day, out of the blue, a thought arose within me bringing a new type of equation in to my life:

‘Let it go. What are you holding on to it for? It’s overtaking everything. Let it go.’

So I did.

I donated my oversized and over expensive credit card purchased sofa ( for which, remember, I was still paying) to a charity for homeless people and immediately felt a whole lot better. I quickly realised that this sofa, a former symbol of sophistication in my life, had actually become a millstone around my neck entrapping me in a life for which I had no desire. I had, in effect, been living a life where I had been offering myself crumbs of joy, barely touching the surface of all that could make me happy. 

Letting the sofa go was, it transpired, one of the most freeing acts of my life. 

Liberation –  And What the Sofa Taught me About Love:

After that, my life followed a pattern of letting go of everything from furniture to locations to people to expectations. A process of clearing and cleansing on every level of my life. A process of discovering who I really was, what I really wanted and needed for my own well being at the highest level.

Although sometimes frightening, it was mainly liberating.  I honoured this new found freedom in my life and slowly but surely, bit by bit, a new life formed.

A life where I felt happier ever. More real. More vibrant. More alive. More excited. More genuine.

I began to find out who I am and what makes me tick. Joyfully.

Do I ever miss that sofa? No! Not for one second! Ditching that sofa was the most freeing act of my life! It taught me many things, including lessons in love:

You can’t hang on to love because of memories and nostalgia. There has to be a positive sense of self esteem and self worth in the love in the here and now.

Love has to feed you in the here and now, bring you what you want in the here and now – not as an attachment to the past or hope for the future but right here, right now it must nourish you, bring you joy and nurture you. It must help you flourish and create a sense of bloom within you.

Are you being fed or starved by love?  Not just tickled with the hint of potential happiness but with a full on daily deluge of joy?

You can’t stay in a relationship because you pity or care for someone and that includes yourself.  You must be in a relationship, any relationship,  because you feel valued and appreciated, because you have fun with someone.  And that, I repeat,  includes a relationship with yourself.

Neither can you stay in a relationship as some form of passive aggressive way of getting your own back or proving your point or getting your own way. You have to be there because you want to be there. Because it serves you and nourishes you at the highest level. And this must, I emphasise, include your relationship with yourself. 

Love does not drag you down, make you small or ignore you.

Love worth it’s weight in gold does not offer you crumbs. 

Love raises you up to your highest height.

Love, in all its forms, cannot be, must not be an oversized, bulky lump of furniture in your life.

And that includes your love for yourself.

Isn’t it time to discover what you need to ‘let go of’  in order to ‘liberate’ your life?

 Regrets and A New Equation:

Do I have any regrets about getting rid of my precious sofa?

None at all! Getting rid of my sofa taught me:

Letting Go = Relief = Liberation = Freedom to Expand = Honesty Living = JOY!

‘Letting go’ of that cumbersome, bulky, hefty, debt-inducing sofa brought me nothing but liberation and freed me up to  to paint a bright new picture for my life!

Never Be Afraid To Let Go of All that No Longer Serves You. 

A Question for You: 

If you had to think of one thing right now to release from your life that would make you happier and more joyful,  what would it be? 

Leave A comment to Let Me Know!

I’d love to know what your version of my sofa is or has been?!

Never Be Afraid to Paint A new Picture for Your Life.