It was not until moments after a long meditation, when I was lying in a pile of my own bliss, that I let go of the idea of becoming thought-less.
Ironically, that morning, upon returning to my body, I was thought-less—for a whopping three seconds. It felt strange, amazing, beautiful, yet also, fleeting.
For 10 years I had attempted to become thought-less during meditation. And if I hadn’t heard the saying, “We are not our thoughts” from almost every spiritual guru, I might have given up long ago. That morning, something changed. Perhaps I was ready to hear the truth, or I had just had enough of trying. Either way, it was time to give up.
Moments later, I received a download from the Universe. I saw the image of my thoughts as an extension of myself, only it was my child-self. When my thoughts were at their most abundant, she, meaning me, was having a temper tantrum. Ruminating, worry, fear were all manifestations of her trying to get my attention. To wake me up.
The Universe then asked me a question: “Would you follow a toddler into a full-blown temper tantrum, screaming along with her in the toy section of Target, or worse, would you give the toddler what she is demanding reinforcing the behavior?”
As a parent, I knew the answer was no.
I also suddenly knew meditation was never about becoming thought-less as a goal but about creating the space for self-reflection to emerge. And what was unfolding was one juicy insight—that the child inside of me needed some well-deserved conscious parenting.
My first role as the parent was to improve our communication. I tried to reason and was rebuffed. Then I got down on the floor and looked her in the eye. Gently, I said, “I hear you. I see you. You can do your thing and think whatever you want. You can go to the past and think about what you could have done better. You can worry about the future. You can think you will not have enough time to get everything done, or wonder if people will hurt you. I will be waiting right here.”
She turned and stared at me for a few moments, seemingly confused. “You mean you are not coming along?”
“No,” I replied. “But you go ahead. I am just going to do my thing here. To just be. Rest. You can yell as loud as you need.”
I got that she wanted me to join her or it would not be as much fun. I got that she was shocked. I also got that I was on to something.
She tried again to lure me in with our old pattern. She was not giving up so easily. She tried again and again. Testing me over and over, just like a child.
I did not give in. I also did not get mad or frustrated. She was doing the only thing she knew how to do—to be repetitive, get loud, even scare me into listening in order to be heard. I knew instinctively she needed boundaries, not a laissez-faire attitude. Responses, not reactions. Discipline, not control. Love, not neglect. And it was my job to give it to her.
Over time, we stumbled and fell, but we persisted. If I was not going to follow her down the rabbit hole, she stopped sniffing around it.
When I fully got that the little girl was me, we sealed the deal. That little girl was screaming for my attention because she was never praised for who she was, never loved for who she was, never allowed to just be herself. I simply let her be.
The little girl whose boundaries were trampled, and who was loved—conditionally—never gave up. She was that stubborn, amazing child who would not be silenced. The part who still wanted to be acknowledged and heard. I grew to respect her.
It does not matter how we get there: through meditation, connecting with nature, or following our breath. Take some space and we will see that our thoughts are us! They are not our enemy or something to run from.
Among other things, they simply need a little love, patience, and understanding.
We hear the word healing so often in life. In the doctor’s office, on the therapist’s couch, in the spiritual community. Healing can be seen by a surgeon cutting us open or felt by a child whose mother kisses his skinned knee. We know our bodies, minds and souls can heal from many things in life. But what is healing really?
Healing is messy, as well as beautiful. It is heart wrenching and uncomfortable. Healing takes courage and strength. Healing is moving from feeling like a victim to knowing we are a survivor. Healing is finding our voice, even after it was stuffed down for so many years.
Healing is taking a risk to change jobs, move our home or stand up to the person who has been bullying us, no matter how afraid we feel. Healing is reliving our worst nightmare and taking a stab at our grandest daydream. Healing is facing our demons and feeling what it brings up for us. Healing is walking away from a relationship that hurts us, no matter how much we still love them.
Healing is going to the store for a gallon of milk and having a meltdown because the size we want is not available. Healing is also realizing that a half gallon would have been fine, under normal circumstances. Healing is looking inward at our self and asking what makes us happy? What we can do better? How are we really feeling?
Healing as doing what we came here to do in this life, no matter how distracting life becomes. Healing is following our gut, and pushing through our doubt and fear. Healing is changing the way we have always thought because it simply is not working anymore. Healing is taking care of our self, giving our self what we need for the first time. Healing is saying yes to what we want and no to what we don’t. Healing is taking a chance and asking someone to be there for us, risking rejection.
Healing is asking for that raise, knowing we are worth more. Healing is knowing we will find strength in overcoming adversity. Healing is doing as we say. Healing is putting down that drink, or other addiction that is wreaking havoc on our life and asking for help in doing so.
Healing is walking through vulnerability and showing our true self to the world. Healing is knowing the shame that comes from this raw exposure is temporary and we can do it all again. Healing is putting away our technology and looking in the eye of the person sitting across from us. Healing is simply being alive.
Healing is not reacting to another who triggers us on social media, nor blindly following a politician who is leading us astray. Healing is no longer separating the message from the messenger knowing this never works. Healing is addressing someone’s character even if it affects your bottom line.
Healing is putting away those negative thoughts, the ones that come time and again, because they are not who we really are. Healing is doing something different, than we did the day before. Healing is cursing, screaming, running, journaling, walking, painting, gardening, noticing, exploring, meditating, listening, adoring and inviting.
Healing is learning something new, even if we are afraid to fail. Healing is making a mistake, losing our job, or experiencing divorce, death, illness or injury. Healing is seeing our anxiety as trying to reveal something to us that we have stuffed down, and understanding our depression is the space we are given to breathe, feel, change our thinking, our behavior and our life. Healing is addressing our past and choosing our future.
Healing is moving one inch to the left and seeing the bigger picture of a traumatic event. Healing is forgiving our self and another, when we are ready. Healing is showing up at court and doing our community service. Healing is taking a class at sixty years old and taking time off before college at eighteen.
Healing is breathing, sleeping, smiling, laughing and loving. Healing is a bear hug, when we feel like frightened fawn. Healing is speaking the truth, finding our voice, and calling out injustice for what it is. Healing is knowing we are not our zip code, the numbers in our bank account, our our children’s achievements.
Healing is saying no to a tyrant, a racist, a perpetrator, a bully, a dictator for another, who does not have the courage or strength to speak out for him self. Healing is manning up when we are caught, finding the courage to admit to unconscious behavior even when it affects your popularity, pocketbook or freedom. Healing is recognizing an agent of change, no matter what he looks, acts or seems to be.
Healing is protecting our children at all costs from unclean conditions, dirty water, abuse, neglect, and harm. Healing is hearing the screams within the sounds of silence. Healing is taking risks to believe the first victim that comes forward, not waiting for more to collaborate the story.
Healing is nonviolent protests and open conversations across cities, states, countries and continents. Healing is entertaining another viewpoint, for the sake of respect. Healing is no longer putting entertainers, politicians, musicians, the wealthy, the white, the educated, above the law, and on pedestals.
Healing is knowing that nothing is wrong or right in our life, but everything is here to help us.
Nothing is a coincidence and we are never alone. To take in the beauty of a flower, and the movement of a poem is to know healing. There is a bigger picture, and healing is stopping for a moment each day to look just below the surface, knowing that we are all part of something bigger than our self.
Healing is happening in every moment when we choose to live from our soul, and to become guided by our heart. Life will always lead us where we need to be. We never have to look too far for healing.
One of the most difficult things about living in our chaotic world is figuring out how to live beyond the fear, doubt and separation. How to remain loving and compassionate with our hearts open even when it seems as if loneliness, illness, divorce, job loss, addictions, and even death have been a part of all of our lives. Yet feeling broken, depressed, anxious, lost, bored, rejected, not good enough, or even like we have failed in some way, are all incredible opportunities.
If you are alive, you have been broken in some way. Some of us
have been shattered, and the process of putting our self back together feels
like walking up a mountain covered with ice. We finally figure out a way to
move forward only to slide back down, losing our momentum. Others have been
split in two or more pieces. Some of us, slightly cracked.
Whether we need glue, cement or additional tools to help us mend
is not important. Becoming whole requires the same process, whether you have
been shattered or slightly cracked.
Like Humpty Dumpty, we know we have fallen off the wall but do not know how to put our self back together.
Fixing our self in the broken places is the most difficult task we may take on in life. It means we begin to peel back the layers, dispelling the lies we so often tell our self. “I cannot change.” or “I’m fine, really.” And we must resist the urge to convince everyone that we are doing well, perhaps fooling nobody. It means we stop running, distracting, using substances – drugs, food, alcohol and the Internet. We understand we need not be a slave to our negative thoughts, or even self-imposed optimism.
These are all simply defenses, coping mechanisms that have created a false self in order to get up after our fall; or even just to survive in our world today. But there is a far simpler way. And that is to feel – to get out of our heads and move into our hearts.
Living from our hearts is no easy task; but the most important ingredient to living a life of peace, joy and love no matter what happens to us. If splintering off, cracking or losing pieces of our self has left us broken, feeling through our hearts puts us on the path back to wholeness. Yet it is feeling the darkest of feelings, those we avoid on a regular basis, that is the key to putting our self back together again.
Becoming whole is a process; one that takes courage, commitment and effort. Yet the rewards are enormous. The pathway involves becoming aware, releasing judgment, admitting the truth, finding support, and lastly feeling those hidden feelings of anger, loneliness, fear, doubt and grief.
There is a voice, a watcher, an observer in each one of us. This
is our higher self, consciousness, intuition and we all need to be able to tap
into our higher self. In order to do so, we need to begin watching our thoughts
and actions. We need to become curious. Why would I react in that way? What
does this situation or person remind me of? We need to become aware of our
critical thoughts, and where they come from. We need to learn how we think, and
how we avoid feeling the hard stuff.
We are all beautiful human beings prone to making mistakes. That is how we learn. Judging these mistakes keeps us broken. We need to find compassion for our self so that we can heal or mend. Having judgment for what has happened to us by another person or something we have done to another, keeps us stuck. If we release judgment, we can free our self to speak the truth of how and where we have become broken. Releasing judgment requires moving beyond our mind, releasing those critical thoughts.
Admitting the Truth
Opening up to what has been our experience or even what we are
feeling in any given moment helps us heal. We need to admit the truth to our self
that we have fallen off the wall. If we have been pushed, we need to accept the
pain another has inflicted upon us. If we have jumped, we need to understand
why. Pretending, denial, lying and covering up what has happened and how this
has made us feel keeps us broken, lying next to the wall, unable to get up.
Sharing with another how we have become broken helps to release not only our shame about falling but what we have done to hide the fact that we feel broken. For shame survives – in darkness and silence. Someone who has been shattered may need someone at the top of a mountain with a rope helping us climb the ice ridden jagged edges. Others, who do not need to climb a mountain, can find relief in journaling, walking, and healing in solace.
Once we walk through some of our defenses, we are ready to feel.
Opening our heart to powerful feelings is the ultimate piece in
becoming whole. Feeling what we have stuffed down, ran from, what has broken us
is not easy. There is a reason that we have not fully felt these feelings. We
think they are painful. But the secret remains in knowing that what is painful
is the resistance to these feelings. Feeling our shame, deep
grief and rage feels beautiful. Running, stuffing, distracting, avoiding is
what is painful.
These steps are not linear but circular, and we must go back to them time and again. With each step backwards, or new insight, we must remember to continue observing, releasing judgment, admitting the truth and finding support.
What would Humpty Dumpty look like had he took on the task of becoming whole?
He would have spent less time on social media in order to be able to pay more attention to his thoughts, feelings and actions. He would have shared his experience of falling off the wall in a journal, with a trusted friend or support group. He would have consistently resisted the urge to pour himself a drink to distract himself. He would have released judgment and blame about all of the king’s horses and men who could not help him, for he would have learned that he had to help himself. It was never their job to put him back together. And he would have continued asking himself as much as possible, what am I feeling?
Why would Humpty Dumpty or any of us undertake such an arduous task of putting our self back together, becoming whole?
We do it because it is why we are here – to evolve, heal and change. Healing and soul growth is the purpose of life no matter what our outside looks like. Our marriages, jobs, parenting or how we spend our leisure time is simply an opportunity to evolve and become whole. We do it because it leads us down the path of connection, unconditional love, joy and a life of unlimited possibilities.
We all deserve to find our way back to wholeness. The secret is our souls are always whole, no matter our experiences here in life. They are just hidden underneath layers and falling off the wall has given us the opportunity to uncover our hearts through pain, adversity and remembering how to feel.
If Humpty Dumpty knew that everyone falls off the wall and he was not beyond repair, he would have been able to take the steps to put himself back together again. And then he would have uncovered the secret that he was never actually broken because he fell off the wall. In truth, falling off the wall was the best thing that ever happened to him.
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My husband says I think too much. Perhaps he is right. I remember sitting in forth grade, the teacher scribbling math equations upon the blackboard. I don’t remember the lesson, as I was not paying attention. I was too busy thinking about life. I was asking myself questions: Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? I was also thinking about how I was late that day because I stopped to pet the cutest dogs, and was not unhappy about being tardy, even if the teacher reprimanded me.
Most of us do not have a clue about life, let alone what it means to live a great one. Some of us do not care. Living each day, doing what we are asked, is what matters. We are each on our own journey, which is perfect.
But I care. I cared in 4th grade and I care now. When looking up quotes about examining our life, I came across this beauty.
“Plato says that the unexamined life is not worth living. But what if the examined life turns out to be a clunker as well?” ― Kurt Vonnegut
What does it mean to live your best life?
Does it mean spending your summers surrounded by 300 plus girls, running an overnight camp and ensuring they are all happy, safe and fulfilled? Becoming the CEO of a multi-million dollar company or opening that restaurant you have always wanted to do? Maybe living your best life involves traveling the world, obtaining odd jobs in various places, or choosing to stay at home, raising your children. Becoming a lawyer, doctor, landscaper or politician.
Living our best life is all of these, and none of these things. Whatever is in our path, we need to follow it. But this list, even if we added thousands more to it would be incomplete. For living our best life is not about what we do, but how we do it. Are we happy? Or are we in pain? Do we hop out of bed in the morning, ready to start our day or come home from the greatest job yet drink ourself into oblivion each night when we come home? Are we controlling, unhappy and abusive or open, compassionate and unconditionally loving?
Do we serve our customers with a smile or scowl?
Life is stressful, for almost all of us. We have bills to pay, a family to care for, relationships to navigate, rules to follow, teenagers to worry about, and then we have all the baggage we take with us from childhood. All of us, even those that come from the happiest and most loving of families have baggage.
The ones that travel light, with only a carry on, can sling it over their shoulder, go about their life, feeling satisfied and loving to most people. Their bag easily fits beneath the seat in front of them and they move about the cabin spreading their good cheer. Sure there are a few things in their backpacks. That awful teacher that embarrassed her in the 7th grade. That girlfriend that cheated on him in college. For the most part, life is good, and a person who travels light can manage the ups and downs in life, and are living a good life.
The ones that have a set of luggage, matching nonetheless, but heavy, bulky, with zippers threatening to break, will find it more difficult to travel, move effortlessly through life. They always have to pay for each bag, and need to put more thought into moving from place to place. Often frustrated, sometimes angry at the weight of all the stuff they are carrying around, they look around with envy at those with carry ons. Perhaps they should ask for help with all their bags, they are thinking, but everyone else is too busy, carrying their own bags, managing their own life. For the most part, life is difficult, and this person with additional baggage finds it hard to manage the ups and downs of life, and often do not feel like they are living a good life.
No matter what we are carrying around, in order to feel lighter, less weighed down, we must open our bags. We need to take out the pieces, ask ourself if we need all that we are blindly lugging around each and every day. All of us carry around items we no longer need, although mostly, we don’t remember what we even packed.
What do we do about our baggage?
We cannot just drop its contents in the street, hoping someone will throw it out for us. And we cannot force someone to carry our bags, for that is like throwing our pain on someone else. Then without thinking, we are online, cursing at someone we don’t know, or worse, taking it out on someone we are meant to love. We may even hurt ourself, the weight of our baggage too much to carry. Our shoulders droop, our back hurts and our legs weaken.
We can do it ourself, unzip that first bag, no matter how much we dread looking inside, or better yet, ask for help from someone with a carry on. Asking another person, lugging their 5 pieces of matching luggage will not work, as they are too burdened.
Once we open our bags, and see what’s inside, there are many, many things we may have forgotten we packed. Slowly, we take out our first item, hold in our hands for a few minutes, or longer if necessary. Then we toss it. That was not too bad as our items on top feel easiest to let go of. Our next item may bring us to tears, and the ones buried deeply, we may not want to let go of at all.
Within out bags, we may find lost love, missed opportunities, failures, mistakes, disappointments and losses. Or we may find toxic people, coupled with abuse and trauma. We may feel doubt and fear as we go through our bags. Denial will arise as we tell ourself it is better to just zip this back up. We may even realize that we never even packed our bags. Someone else put their stuff in our bags! It takes courage and strength to go through our baggage, to reach for that lightness and greatness that is all of ours to live, feel and know. We will become uncomfortable, once we begin lightening our load. We may want to run back and stuff our bags, as it was heavy, but it was familiar. But we cannot. Once we unload our bags, we cannot put our things back inside. We simply won’t want to.
Knowing peacefulness, joy, gratitude; finding enlightenment, living a great life, feeling unconditionally loving to all, does not mean we do not have a carry on. We are human, and we all have something that we carry with us through life. It is far easier to rest a backpack nearby as we drink in the beauty of a sunset or a wildflower than a five piece set of matching luggage.
Don’t wait. Go through your bags now. Feel your pain. Air out your grief, shame, guilt and anger. You will feel lighter, freer, and able to travel light. You will be able to release your need for control, rigidity. Anxiety will lessen and depression, the spaces you may feel as you lighten your load will allow you the breaks you need to process. Your envy will become gratitude. And your inner knowing will blossom. You will lose weight and release that addiction. Spontaneity will emerge along with a balance of well thought out planning. You will laugh harder and longer. You will find love in another, walking side by side, supporting each other through the challenges and joys of your days, without being triggered by past wounds. You will forgive yourself for carrying so much luggage around in the first place.
You are now, living your best life. Where you will be going, you can never imagine. Just know, it will be beautiful whether it is raining or sunny. Whether you sit in first class or coach, you will feel grateful.
Although the gifted Kurt Vonnegut fears the clunker life, I believe the only “klunker life” is the unexamined life I believe we must continue moving forward, get on to our purpose and do that. For all of us to know why we are here, what we are meant to do and become, to live our best life, we must lose our baggage.
If you like Alternative Perspective, you will love my co-authored book, Living Beyond Fear, coming soon to Amazon, and fine book stores. These Sacred Letters, stories about life and death, will take you on a journey that is healing and inspiring.
When I think about vulnerability, I think about feeling worthy, and how for much of my life I did not feel worthy. I believe I am not alone. So many of us need that constant approval that we are good enough.
We check our status – how many likes did I receive? We look in the mirror – how much weight did I gain? We look at our bank accounts – how much money did I make?
How do we stop looking for that outside approval?
To begin to feel worthy, let’s first start with why we feel like we are not enough?
I have been a stay at home mom for over eighteen years, and just as long, I have had the feeling I was supposed to be doing something else, too. It stemmed from giving up a six figure job to raise my children. I am proud of this choice, and my children. So I ask myself, why am I still searching for that career, the one that would put me on the map. What map, and where I would land, I had no idea. Ideally, it would be oceanfront. I would have a room with a view. Beyond that? I just knew I was not there – yet.
So I kept running. Around the block, on a trail, through my days, hours and years. While, wondering if there was something else for me to do, I did what life put in front of me – changing diapers, paying bills, planning birthday parties, editing school papers. Supporting, loving, encouraging, managing the life of our family.
And then it hit me. I could never do enough. There always had to be something more to do, to become, to achieve. If you are chasing what is outside, that imaginary finish line keeps moving.
What would be enough, really? A six figure income? A child who attends Ivy league university? The largest house on the street? Best selling author? Fittest body? Longevity? A viral video?
I think back to high school when we all voted in our year book. We voted in categories such as prettiest, nicest eyes, nicest smile, best dressed, most athletic, along with most likely to succeed. What about the categories of most likely to help someone whose car has gone off the road, or most likely to help a child in need? Or how about most likely to pick up and drive to Washington D.C. to protest what is near and dear to his heart? Most likely to start the #metoo movement which will change the lives of millions of women? Most likely to open her heart, fully and honestly with those she loves? Or how about most likely to survive life?
Maybe so many of us feel unworthy because we just have our priorities confused as to what measures success. I have seen women leave an abusive relationship after ten years, and if that is not a measure of success than I am not sure what is. I have witnessed people becoming sober after thirty years of drinking heavily. I have heard the stories of adults surviving childhood abuse, getting knocked down time and again, and still picking himself back up, making a difference in our world. I have watched people lose everything and need to live out of their car. I have observed grieving parents endure the lost of a child, and people lose loved ones in a natural or human-made disaster.
To start feeling like we are enough, to understand why so many of us feel unworthy, we need to first change our priorities, change our definition of what is success. I survived migraine headaches as a child and chronic sinus headaches as an adult – pain that kept me in bed for days. I made it through the devastation of pregnancy loss, a category 5 hurricane and putting our family dog to sleep that we loved dearly. My success included breaking the cycle of abuse, raising my children to love themselves while also helping rescue dogs.
I am not unique.
If you have survived middle school, when raging hormones bully their way into your entire being creating monster emotions, you are a success. If you endured even a year of high school, you deserve more than a pat on the back. You deserve a standing ovation. Working each day when you’d rather be on the golf course, giving birth, holding another’s hand, listening to a child, walking a dog, preparing dinner for loved ones, even getting out of bed in the morning when you’d rather hide under the covers is a wonderful measure of success. Speaking up and out against hatred or deciding that today is the day, you begin whispering kind words to your own heart.
Everyone serving our country in any way, shape or form deserves the highest honor of success. So does the one who steps out of her house after years of suffering with agoraphobic symptoms. The one who creates her own fashion statement, and the one who makes a mistake and says, “I am sorry.” The one who gets a C in chemistry. The one who drops out of college. The one who plants a tree. The one who smiles at a stranger on the street. The one who fails. The one who is rejected. The one who is breathing.
If you are human, you are a success story. If you are alive, you are enough.
We need to cut the cord with the long term belief that feeling like we are enough is tied to any outside source.
It is not about feeling like you have done enough, but knowing that you are enough.
You are not your past – that was just your experience
You are not your future – it is still unwritten
You are not your children’s successes, nor their failures
You are not your zip code or your occupation You are not your age
You are not the words said to you in judgment or anger
You are not your fears, anxieties or depression
You are not your clean house or dirty feet
You are not your thoughts
You are not your body
You are not your age
You are not your clothes, your weight or your hair color
You are not the numbers glaring back at you from your bank account
You are not your gender or sexual orientation
Who are you?
You are a gift
You are loved
You are worthy
You are enough
Peel back those outside layers of not enough. Be the first to come out of the closet with who you really are. And the second, and the last. Walk away from a battered relationship no matter how many times you have gone back. Tell your story with your heart pounding and our palms sweating, saying yes, this happened to me, but it does not define me.
Worthiness is building our selves back up from the inside out. It is letting go of comparisons and likes from others, and finding that place within our own heart that is gentle, loving and compassionate – with ourself.
Worthiness is honoring how we feel. It is putting our self first, saying no, and standing up for someone who has not yet found the courage.
Deep down, we are all worthy, good, and whole. If someone took that from you, told you differently or pulled you apart until you felt like your heart was split into a million pieces, it is time for you to put your self back together. It is time to say each and every day – I love my self no matter what. I love all my imperfect cracks, my shitting mornings, my weirdness and my lack of motivation. It is saying that was then, this is now. Yesterday does not define tomorrow.
I am not there yet, but I am getting closer to feeling good enough. In the meanwhile, I keep in mind that hurt people, hurt people. And loved people, love people.
Today, I choose love.
Today, love wins.
Do something nice for your self today. Do it because it is finally time, to start telling your self the truth.
You are enough.
Please excuse any grammatical errors, as my editor is on a permanent vacation in the Bahamas.
Coming soon: My co-authored book, Living Beyond Fear, due out at Christmas!
There, I said it. There is no such thing as control. We have no more control over what happens in our lives than we have over the sun rising and setting. We may convince ourselves of the opposite so we can rise in the morning and go about our day without worrying that we will fall victim to a drunk driver coming home from a bar or a tree branch falling upon as during a walk along a wooded trail. We convince ourselves we have control because this keeps us from going down the rabbit hole of what if’s.
It also ties us down, binds us to become small instead of limitless. We convince ourselves we are living a wonderful fulfilling life, when in actuality we are hiding within the confines of our mind.
We give control such power, and yet it still defies us. Things in life happen anyway. Whether we brace ourself or not, the unexpected occurs because that is why we are here – for the experience. It is not to have only good things, wonderful easy moments. Life lessons are hard, but that is how we grow. This false notion of control keeps us from living our truest life; one that frees us to follow our intuition, heart and dreams.
In truth, the more we let go of control, the freer we become.
My illusion of control was shattered when the stillbirth of my son, fourteen years ago life came crashing down upon me. For years following this devastating life event, I felt unsafe, unprotected. I knew anything bad could happen at anytime. Truth is, I was no more vulnerable after the loss of my son than before. I just thought I was because I was forced to confront the illusion of control.
Each time my husband was late, I would panic. Every moment my daughters went out to play in the yard, I would need to go with them. I had thought keeping a close watch on my loved ones would keep them from leaving me, leaving a pain, a hole in my heart, so deep, it could never be filled.
It didn’t work. Soon I began to feel worse. Anxious, fearful and depressed.
Traumatic events, unexpected loss, diagnosis, accidents, job loss, divorce, even natural endings of life’s stages all challenge our notion of control. Sometimes the illusion of control hits us over our head, other times, it can feel like a punch in the gut. It may even show up as a simple detour on our way to work. Whether you get knocked over, or just feel annoyed by inconvenience, it is how soft you are, how flexible, how permeable, that will determine how soon you get back up. Let life move through you. Sit within the discomfort, become lost within the depth of grief, and it will pass. Eventually everything will move through you, if you don’t dig your heels in the dirt, or grip tightly to your surroundings.
In my darkest out, grasping onto control began to feel like nails on a blackboard. I knew it was no way to live. I had to reach beyond circumstance and begin to trust life again.
It is that simple. I had to move from my head to my heart.
We must grieve deeply, if life brings us loss. We must allow ourself to feel scared if we become afraid. The only way out is through the mud. Otherwise we risk getting stuck in quicksand.
We must give up our notion that nothing bad is supposed to happen, and release our expectations of what is to come. This is how we move through whatever life brings with a lightness in our step, nor matter how heavy our hearts.
I love to listen to music. For me, this is quickest way for me to get in touch with what I am feeling. It bypasses my mind, and goes right to my heart. You know what works for you. Maybe it’s music or writing. Watching a sad movie. Singing, dancing, pounding pillow, walking in nature. Do whatever it takes to feel your way back from your head to your heart.
Opening your heart is where you will find freedom. Anxiety will dissipate, depression will lift, and you will know what it is like to live within the magic and miracles of life.
Feeling is the pathway out of the illusion of control, and into the glorious wonder of life.
Please excuse all grammatical errors and typos. My editor is on a permanent vacation in the Bahamas.
This morning, while enjoying my first coffee, I looked outside and noticed the bird feeders were empty.
I totally got caught up in my daughter leaving for college, the latest Netflix series, and you know, eating and other life stuff.
If it sounds like an excuse, it is.
I’m thinking what you’re thinking, is it my job to take care of the birds? Unless it actually is my job, and I am getting paid to feed the birds, the answer is no. Still, they’re helpless creatures and in a roundabout way, I signed up for the job because I put up the bird feeder.
Grabbing the bird seed bag, I hastily filled each feeder, and sent the birds a silent apology. After a few minutes, I peeled myself away from the trees and walked into the bathroom where my husband was shaving. “The birds are mad at me. I haven’t fed them in weeks. I filled the feeder this morning but they’re not coming by to eat.” I looked up at my husband who was now brushing his teeth.
“Birds don’t think like that, honey.” He smiled at me, but also peered in closer to see if I was serious.
I was serious. And yet, I wasn’t.
I knew the birds weren’t mad at me, but when you’re an empath, you feel everything. And sometimes, without realizing, you project.
In other words, someone, somewhere was mad at someone and I picked up on it.
I don’t remember when I first felt that someone was angry. It could have been yesterday, or last week. It could have been a second ago. And I didn’t realize it.
What we take in, needs to come out.
And when we’re not aware, it comes out in a whole bunch of strange ways, like me and the birds.
There’s a benefit to staying awake as an empath. Like a tick: if you find it within 24 hours, you’ll probably be okay. In other words, if you catch it, name what you’re feeling, or move through it—it ends fairly quickly and innocently. If you don’t, and it builds, it can wreak havoc both emotionally and physically.
A spiritual teacher once told me, “As an empath, you need to take out the trash.”
This is why a mindfulness practice for empaths becomes just as important as a healthy diet.
It is not just empathic adults who need to know what it means to be an empath. Many children are empaths and have no idea.
My son, often distracted in school, is exhausted when he returns home. He has been feeling for everyone else—all day, every day. He has no idea why. He just feels and releases. It’s why he goes into the woods as soon as he comes home. He unwinds with the salamanders and frogs. It calms him. He also likes dim lights, soft music, and time alone.
I’m the same, although I can do without the amphibians.
It’s also why we live on six acres and I work from home. As an empath, being around people can be exhausting. We can feel like rubber balls being bounced around by other’s emotions. We don’t know that it’s happening until one day, you look up and think the birds are mad at you. And you realize that something else must be going on. You’re too smart to think the birds are really mad. You know if you wait a little longer, they will begin feeding.
So you laugh at yourself, often.
And you spend time alone.
And you avoid the news.
And you make it daily habit to name what you’re feeling, and you ask often if it’s yours or someone else’s. And you begin to get used to not knowing why you’re feeling whatever it is you are feeling. And it starts to not matter.
And you even laugh, if you can, at some of the labels you and many other empaths have unknowingly taken on: depressed, anxious, ADHD, ADD, paranoid, phobic, introvert, and agoraphobic.
And you think, if they only had one label for all empaths it would be ESEP, Energy Sensitive Empathic People or ESEC, Energy Sensitive Empathic Children.
And you hope one day that all empaths will realize what is going on, and know that being empathic is a gift, not a curse. That being sensitive can have its perks.
You hope that others can see how empaths are helping others—by feeling the feelings for them.
And that spending time alone can lend itself to an active imagination, creative endeavors, and the time for self-reflection, a necessary and often eye-opening part of a life journey.
So the next time you think someone is mad at you, stop and think about the birds.
And then let it go.
After all, it was never yours to keep.
This article was also published on Elephant Journal. You can find it here.
Simon and Garfunkel got it right when they wrote the timeless song, Sounds of Silence, over fifty years ago. Many remakes hit the charts, and then in 2015, the song was given an upgrade by heavy metal band, Disturbed. Not that the original needed any tweaking, but the incredible feeling and power behind David Draiman’s voice brings the song to a whole new level. The first version creeps quietly into my heart while the second, reverberates throughout my body. I listen to both, often.
Like our music that often permeates our homes and our cars, the sounds of silence are anything but silent. As I sit this morning, bringing forth this blog post, I feel the power within and beyond the silence. For many of us, it is rare that we sit in silence. It has been awhile for me as well, yet today, the sounds within and around me, feel like music. Like an old friend, I am welcomed back with open arms.
My home, usually quiet on a Saturday at seven am, feels no different today. It has been years since babies and toddlers woke us much to early, with their wide eyes and intense hunger. Like a reward for all those sleepless nights, older children sleep late, especially on a Saturday. Two years ago, we emptied one of our bedrooms upstairs as my oldest went to college. In the space she left, we could feel the silence. The first to fly the nest left our house feeling different, a bit awkward and lonely. Yesterday, my second daughter left for college, and along with far too many clothes, she took her laughter, loud music and friends dropping by at all hours of the night. Our newfound silence, again unnerving, but now, more familiar.
Yet, it was not just the empty bedrooms. I had no choice this morning but to sit within the silence. When things call to me, as I follow that inner voice which feels anything but silent, I listen. Sit and do nothing, it said. While I do miss my daughters, the silence they left behind in this moment feels welcoming. A chance to reunite with myself.
I have heard all the arguments why people do not like the silence: I have no time. It makes me uncomfortable. My mind always wanders. I just can’t sit there and do nothing. I know them well because I have used all of them.
Maybe it is because we don’t ever visit with silence that we fear the worst, and then we think we are proven right when we finally sit quietly. Our thoughts go on tangents, seeking rabbit holes without our permission, and our feelings, having been stifled, seem to bring forth the most inconvenient emotions. Perhaps this happens because we never allow them to come out, we never give them a chance to run free. Like a dog kept in a cage or cows prevented from grazing, it is only natural for it to be awkward when finally given a voice, a chance at freedom. Perhaps that anxiety and depression that seems to coming knocking is actually our soul’s need for silence. It is our inner voice of our soul that is banging on the bars of the cage, begging for freedom.
I have only two rules when it comes to silence.
What happens in silence, stays in silence. It need not be discussed, unless that is your desire. Forging your own relationship with the voice of your soul for the first time can look messy. We may think strange things, or feel that anger that has been buried for years. We may have intrusive thoughts about what we said in jest to a friend or feel the grief from our grandmother passing decades earlier that we never fully felt. It gets better. If we ride out the wave of what happens when we allow ourselves to sit quietly, things will settle. We will begin to hear the music playing so beautifully from the silence of our surroundings.
Be comfortable. No need to suffer in silence. Grab a blanket, a mug of hot tea, a glass of water with ice. Sit in a field of grass or lay in bed. Even driving can be a wonderful place for silence when we turn off the radio. I like to hear the silence with my morning coffee. It seems that if I do not sit first thing, I do not sit. Emails, errands, writing, cleaning, my son – all take precedent. When we don’t label it, or think that it has to be done in a certain way, silence feels like a warm bubble bath, both soothing and invigorating.
As much as I love the mindfulness movement, the encouragement to meditate, it has created an imaginary box, a way of doing something that puts many people off. Sitting in silence is not about setting a timer and closing our eyes, chanting or listening to our breath, unless it works for you. There is no time limit or method. It is just about sitting, in the way that feels most comfortable for you, and just being. You can write things down, or not. Focus on your breath or not. Close your eyes or leave them open. Go for a run. Garden. Bake.
What do you hear? Smell? Feel? Sense?
With my coffee this morning, as I sit, I can both, hear sounds I usually overlook and feel what lies beyond the silence. I hear my husband snoring from the other room, my dog breathing lightly, and the birds making plans around the yard. I can feel the emptiness of my daughters’ rooms, and the anticipation of my son’s excitement waking on a Saturday morning, having no school. I sense the flowers on the deck making their final offering to the bees, before giving in to the cold and snow.
As I sit longer, the sounds continue. An alarm from a watch goes off for ten seconds. It calls to me from a distant room of the house, likely lost behind a dresser. The white noise from the environment increases in intensity, its energy pulling me into the remembering that so much is going on behind the scenes in our lives, that there is another world going on within our world. Ideas, plans, to do lists begin to elbow their way to the forefront. I greet their existence, and having been welcomed, they simply take a number and wait their turn for my attention. Body sensations become known – last night’s dinner having a rager, while cool water settle its rumblings.
The sounds of silence are never silent. It is filled with hope, sadness, passion, expectations and anticipation of what is to come. As it was sung, “Here my words and I might teach you. Take my arms that I might reach you. But my words, like silent raindrops fell. And echoed in the wells of silence.”
In the end, it is not my words that will teach, or another’s. But the walls within your own desire to sit within the silence and all you need to know will reveal itself to you. Your questions, desires, hopes and dreams. Don’t be afraid of the silence. It has everything you want and need. You just need to open the cage and walk out.When we welcome silence, it receives our invitation. As often as I forget, silence is always waiting, patiently. It will always invite me back no matter how many times I shun it, or put it off.
The world is your oyster. It is waiting for you. You just need to be quiet enough to hear it.
Please excuse all grammatical errors and typos. My editor is on a permanent vacation in the Bahamas.
I wanted to die. Not out of anger or fear. I just wanted the pain to go away. It was the only way I could imagine it would stop. End it! I didn’t just feel pain. I was pain itself – and it had to end.
I had some deep dark days dealing with childhood sexual abuse, a teenage rape and feelings of utter worthlessness.
I never actually physically attempted suicide. But for many years the thought was never far from my mind.
What kept me from doing it?
In the beginning it may have been the Catholic faith I was raised in. A part of me was hopeful, despite my deep depression. I was an optimist at heart. I kept telling myself that maybe, it would get better.
Maybe, if I offed myself I would miss something really good that would make me feel happy and good about myself. What if that good thing happened tomorrow and I would miss it by just one day?
Maybe it was Rita Moreno. I saw her on a talk show many years ago where she talked about her suicide attempt. “If you ever feel like killing yourself just wait one day,” she said.
I always waited.
I found strong support through therapy, but the thoughts persisted. Suicide became a trusted escape hatch. When the depression and anxiety felt too much to handle I could tell myself, I had a way out. I was not trapped in this mess. I could leave anytime I wanted. I didn’t have to actually go down that chute, but if it was handy I would feel safe.
I was tired of the dark sameness of my life, but the idea of change was terrifying.
I was afraid to show who I was. Exposure felt unsafe. Stay hidden or you will be abused, beaten, raped. But something in me wanted to emerge. I dared myself to break out. Step into the light. It felt like I would die if I stepped out even one inch. I was trapped there in that place between deep yearning and fear. It felt like I would die, if I did this, if I stepped out into the light. I realized this was a suicide. I would die this way. Not a physical death – but a jumping off the cliff into a new way of being. A new expression of who I am.
Since that first leap, I have had many suicides. I confronted my abuser. That was jumping off a scary cliff. Years later, I forgave him. That was an even bigger cliff. I took on leadership positions at work. That was frightening – it was exposure. I might be a target for abuse – but I was not. Those leadership positions helped me discover a whole part of myself that was always there, but had kept hidden even from myself.
I jumped into relationships – some were successful, some, not so successful. Jumping into them was a suicide – jumping out of them was a suicide.
I survived all of them. The old Elaine was dead and the new one was there to live a new joyful life.
My favorite suicide has always been the last one — When I am still still basking in the afterglow after having taken a chance to expand into my sense of who I am.
My most favorite suicide is the next one. I don’t yet know what that is. I eagerly await its revelation. I will jump off that cliff with joy into a new me.
At some point in my life, I made a promise that I would devote my life to helping others feel worthy, and this blog has evolved out of that promise. I made that promise because I spent so much of my life feeling the opposite – unworthy, ashamed, bad, and confused about why I felt this way. Perfectionism, achievements were my way out of this unworthiness, or so I thought. Wrong! We can become intellectually worthy, but that is not the same as truly feeling worthy.
Feeling worthy begins with getting honest, real, speaking the truth. Sometimes being inspirational is about lifting others up with a hand, and other times it is about keeping it real.
Today, I am going to get real. If it is too real for you, feel free to look away. But if you have ever felt less than, unworthy, deep down like you are not enough, then stay with me. Whether you have experienced exactly what I have or can just be helped in some way from my experience, read on.
I used to think being a good person was about being nice. Janet Straightarrow, a very wise woman once told me, that nice is just an acronym for: Neurotic Insecure Codependent Emotional. Does not sound as appealing does it? Truth is being nice is not the same as being loving, having compassion or feeling through our heart. People pleasing often puts the pleasing away from us, and we are left feeling empty, hollow and wondering why we always come last.
Want to take back your life? Start blaming.
I know blame is taboo. I have heard it many times. “No,” they shout from the rooftops. “Don’t blame! Forgive.” Here is the thing.
If you feel unworthy, like you are not good enough, chances are you are already blaming; you are just blaming yourself.
Why are we so afraid to blame others? Blame is calling people on their shit. It is putting the onus where it deserves. It is giving the shame back to the abuser, the rape back to the rapist, the battering back to the batterer. Blame is empowering. It is about getting angry, and saying, you did this. You don’t have to take ownership, but I am no longer blaming myself. Someone is never responsible for our feelings, our reactions, but he is responsible for his actions. She is responsible for her abuse.
Why has blame become so taboo? The actual definition of blame is to assign responsibility for a fault or wrong. Why is putting the responsibility where it is deserves – wrong?
Blame is a necessary step in healing. Do you want to feel relief like you have never felt? Do you want to honor all you have experienced and then be able to let go of whatever you are holding on to? Want to watch anxiety and depression melt away like an ice cream cone on a hundred degree day? Get angry, put the blame back where it deserves. Write return to sender on the package that you mistakenly opened and thought was yours, and give it back.
We jump to forgiveness because we are being nice – the good daughter, the cooperative friend, the submissive spouse – and it is hurting us on all levels. We have no idea what self-care, nurturing, or true feelings, look, feel, taste and smell like.
I was the ultimate champion for running away – I literally began running for miles and miles to escape the past, those unwanted feelings that seemed to creep in when I was least expecting. Here’s the thing, the run always ends. It all catches up with us – every last repressed feeling. I had always known there was something very wrong with how I felt growing up. I just didn’t know the extent to the trauma and abuse I endured. I am learning that now with the help of an amazing therapist, among other things.
I know I am not alone. I know there are those of you out there, who also have endured trauma and abuse – whether it was a one time occurrence or over the span of years. The #metoo movement is just the tip of the iceberg, but it is one hell of a start. Whether it was a single event, or repetitive, it is time to let yourself off the hook. Educate yourself. And if you are or know of someone who is struggling with the effects of abuse or a traumatic event, please seek professional help. Please email me. I have resources, and information to share.
As a waitress in college, there was an old saying, I am in the weeds. It describes how we would feel when the hostess used to sit three tables in our section at once. I am currently in the weeds because I am doing the work. I feel at the moment like the hostess has sat ten tables all in my section and they all want a five-course meal with drinks. Before we can have a beautiful rose garden, we must begin pulling our weeds.I just keep pulling the weeds out, one by one. I also ask for help. There are food servers, gardeners and managers – all waiting to help us. We don’t have to go it alone.
One of the greatest strengths of those of us who endured abuse is our ability to handle anything. Whatever life has thrown at me, I have handled it. But we can handle a lot more when we stop blaming ourselves. When we rush to forgive the abuse, injustice, assault, the lashing out – whether it is an internet troll lurking behind the tree, ready to toss off an angry post or someone who is close to us, who we least expect, hurting us. It can be a grandiose boss who berates us on a conference call, a borderline friend, who puts us on a pedestal only to cut us down the next week. A possessive boyfriend, exploitive controlling parent, or a narcissistic coach.
We have been taught forgiveness is the key to moving on, letting go. Yes, this is true. But not before we do the work, not before we blame.We rush into forgiveness because blaming, getting angry is about getting dirty. And it can cause us to roll around in the mud for years. We want clean, tidy, perfectly wrapped presents, complete with a beautiful bow. We put that neatly wrapped present upon the shelf for years, hoping that is where it stays. Until someone comes into our life – someone who is kind, compassionate, unconditionally loving, and she looks at the present on the shelf and he points and says, what is that? And we say, Oh, that? It is nothing.
It is time to open the box. Picking up the phone or sending that letter to whoever hurt us, may be a part of your healing, but that is not what I am talking about. It means giving ourself the green light to send it all back, to finally honor what we really feel. It is not about getting someone to admit what she did, but getting ourself to admit it. If you feel called to reach out to the person who caused you to wrap up your pretty box in the first place, do so, not for a response or an apology, do it for yourself.
Rushed forgiveness does not break the cycle. Rushed forgiveness is not healing. Healing begins with blame.
I could not possibly cover everything about the effects of a traumatic event or long-term abuse in this blog post, but I hope this will be a springboard, a start. You can heal. It takes strength, love and support, but you can do it. Please reach out for help. I will continue to inspire you to believe you are worthy, beautiful, smart and enough because it is the truth. But you must find the strength to do the work or my words will bounce off of you like rain pelting down upon an umbrella. It is time to dance in the rain.
Do the work, get into that discomfort zone, and you will find yourself gifted to everything you ever desired – peace, joy, love and the greatest inspirational feelings you can imagine. Life is a gift. If someone opened yours, and cast it aside, it is time to take your life back. After all, it was never his to take.