I used to say that getting rid of patterns or triggers isn’t like flipping a switch – it’s not like they just stop all of a sudden one day – it takes time. But what I’ve come to experience over the past few years is that actually, growth and healing a trauma or pattern IS an awful lot like turning a light on. First we recognize the current wiring isn’t working- a particular pattern needs to be changed. Then there’s the demolition phase; we tear out the old circuitry, maybe even pull a wall down or two. We put in the new wiring, hook ourselves up to a new power source, make sure everything is connected the right way (potentially zapping ourselves a few times before we get it right), flick the switch and all of a sudden – bang – there’s the light. The pattern or trauma no longer influences us.
Spiritual self development is like this. It isn’t about investigating the problem- we don’t need to spend time analyzing why the original light switch didn’t work. We simply install new wiring, connect to a better power source, and flick the switch. Put in real terms- we upgrade our operating system through meditation, connecting to our intuition, and cultivating love. As Dr. Dugliss says,
“Instead of using the power of awareness to analyze, we use the power of consciousness to shift and grow.”
Sounds so simple. But it doesn’t feel that way, does it? When you’ve been one way your entire life, the idea of being able to just flick a switch and change seems impossible. That a particular trait or challenge you have struggled with for as long as you can remember might simply disappear overnight sounds ludicrous.
First of all, you need to remember that “You are under no obligation to be who you were a year, a month, a day, or even 15 minutes ago. You have the right to grow.” In fact… It’s why we’re here. It’s actually the whole point. We are designed to grow! The sad thing is that our culture does not embrace or recognize human growth and potential. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, “Intelligence is inherited”, “This is just the way I am.” Such common phrases, all at their core saying that growth and change is limited, when in fact the opposite is true.
Instead, how about the idea that “The greatest problem facing humanity is wasted potential” (no idea who said, this, but YES). Each one of us is pure potential.
Our ability to change is limitless. Our ability to heal is limitless. We simply need to embrace our own power and right to do so; then learn the tools and get the support to help us in the endeavor.
Understand that there are two parts to growth, and without both, you limit that potential within you. First, you must Expand, and then you must Integrate.
We can’t access our full potential until we develop ourselves sufficiently to NOT be dominated by the mind, the senses, the self concept, or the ego. This is where expansion comes into play- we meditate (with an automatic self transcending method like Heart Based Meditation- remember that not all forms of meditation create the same result), so that we can allow the thinking mind (the left brain) to let go and for us to experience more of the right brain, spirit centered, part of ourselves, which connects us to our intuition. Letting go of control can be the biggest challenge some people face; for others, it’s incredibly difficult to fully open to new awarenesses about themselves. However, growth can’t be controlled, and we can’t reach our full potential if we keep part of ourselves hidden. This is why uncovering and understanding our internal workings is a process that takes courage and determination.
Expansion allows us to KNOW ourselves more accurately. But you can know something to be true and still use your free will to pretend you don’t. You can KNOW that eating an entire bag of Doritos isn’t a great idea, but until you’ve integrated that knowledge, you’re still going to eat the whole thing. This demonstrates a lack of integration. In fact, any time you experience your mind saying one thing, but your gut or heart saying another, you are experiencing a lack of integration.
This is why we next need to utilize integration techniques like intuition training, Heart Centering, and guided contemplation to fully incorporate the new awareness. If we do so, we learn how to more accurately not only hear, but follow, the guidance available to us. When this happens- the light switch gets flicked on. When we have fully integrated the awareness, wounds are spontaneously healed and old patterns released in the blink of an eye. I’ve experienced this personally, as have many of my clients. Situations that used to create turmoil simply don’t anymore. Triggers no longer take control. Fears that used to dominate don’t even come into awareness. When it happens, it feels like a miracle. I’ll never forget the first time I had to introduce myself in one of those “let’s all go around the circle and say our name and one interesting fact about us” moments and did NOT spend the entire time before it was my turn stressing about what I would say, and the entire time after my turn worrying about how I had come across. In the moment, I didn’t even think about it. I normally would OBSESS about such things- the fact that I had simply been present and it hadn’t even occurred to me to pre-plan and post-worry was mind blowing. Did I really not care what other people thought? No, I really didn’t- for the first time in three decades, I really didn’t.
But this is the sort of thing that can become a regular occurrence when you implement regular meditation and integration techniques, and it will (obviously) change your life, and help you achieve greater peace and happiness than you ever dreamed. But the process… it can be tricky getting to that light switch moment. You may get zapped a few times while installing the new circuitry. Which is why the need for love can’t be stressed enough.
One of the roadblocks we likely hit as we grow and gain awareness, become more sensitive, and more comfortable with actually allowing ourselves to feel all the feelings, is that it can seem like our quality of life actually goes downhill. If I had even a nickel for every time a client told me “I feel like I’m coming apart at the seams.”, “It feels like I’m dying.”, “I’m just such a mess right now.”… I would be a very wealthy woman.
This is why we need love; why we need to cultivate within ourselves its facets like Compassion, Forgiveness, and Invincibility. If we are able to connect with our intuition, we know what is in Harmony with our inner truth, which makes it so much easier to decide how we want to live our lives. If we are able to step into Acceptance, we may even find deep Gratitude for things we used to hate about our experience. As we gain facility with moving through our pain, we are able to find a Joy we never dreamed of.
Part of the power of being free- the power of consciousness- is in where attention goes energy flows. If you BELIEVE you are one way, you are going to act in that way. The power of consciousness is the power of learning how to stop identifying with anything- once you do that, you can shift and change literally overnight. Asking yourself questions from a place of deep Love, from the hearts center, is a fast way of recognizing the illusion behind the beliefs you may hold about yourself. For example- if someone says you are a selfish person, you can learn how to sit in the hearts center and ask yourself “Is it true?”. Perhaps it is, in which case giving yourself compassion and forgiveness is part of the healing and transformation process. Perhaps it isn’t, in which case your conviction of this knowledge erases the impact the other persons statement has on you. How? Think about what it’s like to walk by a barking dog. Assuming the dog is securely restrained so there’s no fear of harm, do we really care about the dog? No. There’s no reason to, it’s just doing what dogs do when they see a stranger. As we grow, we begin to recognize that so much of what we let bother us is just a barking dog.
There is nothing more important than figuring out who we truly are, what we are here to do, and how to become the most authentic version of ourselves we possibly can be. Meditation, intuition, and love are the keys to expanding and integrating a new level of consciousness. As our subconscious patterning unwinds, we begin to have the ability to recognize we have a conscious choice to decide how we respond to everything. We get out of living a subconsciously reactive life. This is what enables us to hear what that quiet voice within us is saying, and have enough love for ourselves and for others to listen to it. This is my hope for all of you; my hope for the world. Because if we all could just learn how to love, accept, and live our lives as authentically as possible, this world would be a much more joyful place.
Love and Light,
Have you ever had one of those moments when you realize that you’re not actually handling something as well as you thought you were?
This morning I was doing dishes, keeping an ear out for the ding of the laundry being done, my eye on how much time I had left before my husband and son got home from the grocery store, my brain making a list of what I need to pack for an upcoming trip, trying to figure out how to address logistics for my father’s memorial service, while simultaneously responding to two client texts and a text from a craniosacral classmate. In the middle of that, my husband called to ask where the peanut butter is at the grocery store. I laughed, told him, hung up, and tried to remember where I was in that mental gymnastics routine… couldn’t… and calmly told myself “It’s ok, you’re doing the best you can”, before bursting into tears.
I then screamed it out to the empty house, “I’M DOING THE BEST I CAN.”, scaring the crap out of my cats, but feeling better for having been so firm with the myself and the universe.
The thing is- I’m ok. No, really… I am. Because it’s actually possible to be hanging on by a thread and also be deeply at peace. You see, my thread is made up of stainless steel. It’s been carefully crafted through years of purposeful, gut-wrenching, painful, self-introspection and intentional growth, so that while it may be a very thin strand at the moment, it is unbreakable. And actually, I consider this to be one of the most important things I’ve learned over the years about spiritual transformation- it’s not that those who are “evolved/fill in whatever word you want to use for people who have done a LOT of self work” never again have problems or struggles, it’s that we learn how to be truly, deeply, ok with these struggles. We develop tools that enable us to discern our true priorities- what really matters – and what it’s ok to let go. We learn how to take care of ourselves, and how to prevent hurting others when we aren’t at our best. And we also realize that the path is not one straight line trajectory to never again feeling pain or having a bad day; it’s about learning how to navigate all the ups and downs not only with dexterity, but also curiosity and a sense of invincibility. Which sometimes involves screaming obscenities to an empty house.
But how? How do we turn a thread made of yarn that feels like it might snap at any moment into a thread of stainless steel?
First of all, sorry to say there’s no single correct answer; it is a unique, individual journey. I can tell you the books that moved and shifted me. The courses I took; the people I was exposed to; the healing modalities I love. (Check out my Resources page, a lot of it is listed there!) But ask anyone else who has created real self transformation in their lives “How did you do it” and they will give you a completely different answer than mine. Not only that, no one is ever going to give you a single tool, book, or guru (if they do- run… it’s never that easy). They may have a “most valuable player” (for me, that would be my mentor Dr. Dugliss since he introduced me to so much of what has helped me heal and grow), but it isn’t going to be just that one single thing. It’s always a combination of things that create the overall state of growth. There is no silver bullet.
Because of this, it’s supremely important to be looking at yourself from as many different angles as you can think of. Physical, energetic, emotional, mental, intuitive, spiritual… just to name a few. We are such dynamic creatures, full of so many layers, and we MUST address them all if we want to find true sustainable growth. This was brought home to me recently by a friend who has a tendency towards depression- their only outlet to prevent a full on downward spiral consists of working out. Recently they got injured and found themselves unable to exercise for three weeks during a particularly busy time at work while some difficult things were also happening at home. The pressure and stress this created almost undid them, because they were not able to utilize their single coping method. This is what we want to avoid- putting all our selfcare eggs in one small basket, so to speak. We never want to say, “I’m fine, so long as I can do X.”
A third thing to remember is that one of the most important traits you can develop during the process is a curious openness to both what you’ve never heard of, and what you might have heard before but didn’t land at the time. Example: About ten years ago I attempted to read Eckhart Tolle‘s A New Earth and it made zero sense to me; I got maybe 20 pages in and just gave up. I remember feeling so defeated- this book was supposed to change my life! I opened it again five years ago and ended up highlighting basically the entire book because it made so much sense and resonated so deeply. This is growth. This is one example from my life that showed me just how much a little step here and a little step there can change us. We also don’t need to “buy in” to everything a book/method/teacher is selling in order to gain some deep nuggets of wisdom. I recently took a little mini course on manifestation from someone I’d never heard of, and while I certainly did not agree with everything they said, I got a lot out of the course simply because of what it brought up for me; because of the *way* it challenged me. So stay open, you might be surprised by what you learn!
Fourth- it’s not just about knowing what to do, it’s about practicing it not only when you “need” it, but also when you don’t. Great quote from Brene Brown: “It’s not a knowledge base, it’s a practice.” Yes, yes, yes. You can know all the things, but if you don’t continue to implement them until they become effortless, you limit the extent of possible growth and transformation. So many of us come to realize we need to make a big change in our life because we hit rockbottom; we have a dark night of the soul and decide we need to alter course when we are trying to climb out of a hole we can’t see our way out of. Our 3rd long term relationship falls apart and we begin to wonder what role we are playing in our own soap opera. We get fired from a job… again… and realize maybe we really aren’t a “good team player”. And we start to wonder… how do I fix this? And so we turn to the self help books and start trying to implement practices and it’s HARD because it’s so foreign and takes time to work, but we keep at it and the needle starts to shift. We begin to feel better. And because we feel better, we start letting off on those practices because we feel like we don’t need them anymore, why bother? And that is the BIGGEST mistake a person can make, because if you aren’t consistently good at something when it’s easy, how can you expect to be good at it when it’s hard? This is why trying to institute a gratitude practice when you feel that there is nothing in your life to be grateful for is so challenging. Trying to find joy when you are depressed is like climbing Mt. Everest when you have never been hiking. Trying to lose weight when you are 50lbs over and you don’t exercise OR eat well feels impossible. You can do it, but if you don’t *keep* doing the practices that finally made the pounds come off, those pounds will creep right back on and you have to start all over again. So we need to practice the tools we learn All. The. Time, so that instead of them being a state that we have to constantly work on maintaining, they become a trait that is effortlessly intrinsic to who we are.
And finally, the spiritual growth journey is not just about the “spiritual”. It’s not just about meditating and reading books by Ram Dass and Tara Brach and trying to transcend. Yes, we want to open our hearts and connect to the divine, but if you only look up while you’re walking down the street, you chance stepping in dog poop. We need to have the ability to keep our eyes ON BOTH. On learning the tools to help us live a divinely connected life full of abundance, love, and synchronicity; as well as keeping our eyes on the road directly ahead of us and continuing to be present to the practicalities of our day to day. No longer is the path to spirituality one of becoming a monk; in fact, the fastest path to growth is that of a householder, because it is one in which all the spiritual tenets are challenged daily. Think of it as strength training for the soul; you need to challenge your baseline if you want to grow. Easy to remain peaceful when your day consists of eating, meditating, sleeping, and praying. Not so much when the kid is having a meltdown, the washer broke, there’s no food in the house, and your partner is away on a business trip. If you can find joy and gratitude, acceptance and peace in *those* moments, you are truly on your way.
So- my thread is made of steel, and while I’m now more aware of just how much stress I’m feeling surrounding issues pertaining to my father’s passing, I’m also full of profound gratitude because part of the reason I was unaware of my current stress level is that so often during the day I feel intense joy watching my child play with his father; love while I receive such unwavering support from my husband; peace as I fold laundry in the house I love, and self compassion as I recognize I am, indeed, doing the best I can…and that’s enough.
It has been quite the start to 2022. My husband, son, and I contracted COVID January 1st, and then my father passed away three weeks ago. To say it has been a tumultuous, stressful, and chaotic time is putting it mildly. I’ve been meaning to write a newsletter for weeks and it’s only now I’ve had the time and been in the right headspace to sit down to do so- and then I couldn’t think of what to say. So I went digging into newsletters I started but never sent, and came across one that resonated deeply. I’m going to share it with you momentarily, but before I do, I’m going to give you the headline:
No emotion is inherently bad. Anger, Grief, Frustration… they all serve a purpose, which is not to make you miserable, but to wake you up to something you’re ignoring, stuffing, or numbing. They are a symptom, not the disease. Emotions are not the enemy; Blocking them is. Why do we as a society give so much weight to the idea of being happy all the time? Of “having it all together”? Why is it such a bad thing to feel “bad” emotions? Why do we try to rush through them?
Here’s the scenario I wrote about back in March of 2020 (how is that two years ago?!):
Recently I had a pretty rushed morning. I felt a little chaotic; a little unsettled. We are in the middle of some significant changes to my son’s schedule due to losing one of our sitters. There’s been some upheaval within our immediate family. An unexpected large expense. Still sleep deprived. Suffice to say- I’ve got a lot on mind; a lot I’m trying to juggle with not all brain cells fully functioning. And in the middle of running a little late and trying to figure out a scheduling snafu in my head, someone commented to me that I was looking frazzled and needed to take better care of myself.
Wooeee, did the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up. Cue immediate internal defensiveness. The comment stuck with me the whole rest of the day, all the way until I was able to have a conversation about it with my husband and he asked me, “Why does it bother you so much- you just admitted to me that you WERE feeling frazzled and aren’t taking good care of yourself.”
Well, sure… but I don’t want anyone else to know that. I don’t want anyone else to know I’m human. Aren’t I supposed to be a paragon of calm and serenity? Isn’t that what meditation is supposed to give me? Aren’t I supposed to be more “evolved”?
Yup. AND I haven’t been meditating twice a day. AND I’m sleep deprived. AND I’M HUMAN.
My father’s recent death, and the grief I have been wading through since, is why the memory from two years ago resonated so deeply with me. I thought I was as prepared as I could be for his passing. After all, I’ve already lost my adopted and biological moms; I know what it is to lose a parent. But it turns out the loss of the second parent who raised me was a whole different flavor of grief. The day he passed I had the thought “I’m an orphan now” rise up unbidden, and the level of sadness that came with it was unexpected. The more I’ve talked to others who have lost both parents, the more I realize I am not alone in feeling this way. And of course, it brings up the energy of abandonment for me due to my adoption. As healed as that wound is, it still pops up from time to time.
But here’s the thing- this grief- it also brings with it a profound love. This is what we sometimes miss when we are deep in Grief- that the opposite side of that coin is Love. The sadness would not be so great if the love was small. And this is the positive purpose of grief- to remind us of the depth of love.
“Bad” emotions are not bad. They can encourage us to change! Feeling frazzled two years ago helped convince me that I really needed to take stock of how I was running my schedule and make some changes. Acknowledging that I wasn’t taking care of myself helped me shift my priorities so that I could start doing so. Same with meditation- recognizing that my sanity was suffering helped me put that back on the top of my daily to do list.
Emotions are not negative. They are wake up calls. They are here to serve a purpose. And it’s ok to be out of sorts sometimes. It’s ok to feel uncomfortable. Grief is a reminder of love. Anger, frustration, envy… all these “bad” emotions are really just energy in motion, and it’s energy that can motivate us to MOVE. To CHANGE. To do something DIFFERENT. And what’s wrong with that?
What gives these emotions a bad rap is when we we unconsciously hurt ourselves and others by not fully processing them. We let ourselves be ruled by them, instead of learning to use them as a constructive tool to help us find our best selves and our best lives. Trying not to let my grief overtake me during the hours I was taking care of our son these past few weeks created a ton of pent up emotion that manifested with me becoming short tempered with my husband. Recognition that this was what was going on is what allowed me to ask for more alone time so that I could properly acknowledge, feel, and release the grief. This skill of recognizing, feeling, and releasing takes PRACTICE. Most people never take a course in emotional mastery – this world would be such a different place if we did! – but the good news is that there’s an easy first step to try…
I encourage you to practice mindfulness surrounding your relationship with all those “negative” emotions. The ones you’d rather not feel. When they come up, which they inevitably will, ask yourself- what is the emotion wanting me to do? What is it telling me? What is the opposite of this? What facet of love is being called for here? Instead of trying to push it down, put it on a shelf, or wallow in it… try to simply be aware of it and ask yourself how it’s trying to help you. I know it sounds a little silly- having a conversation with an emotion. But you’d be surprised what our emotions are here to tell us, if only we can slow down, acknowledge, and listen.
Light & Love,
p.s. If you start practicing this mindfulness surrounding challenging emotions and begin to feel overwhelmed, or need help processing what is coming up for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing me. Self inquiry does not need to be done by yourself! In fact, a lot of the time it’s much easier to do this practice when being led through it. That said, give it a go and get curious about you might learn, and always remember I’m here if you need to talk.
As always, I love hearing what you think and welcome your comments and questions- email me!
A few weeks ago I listened to this podcast with Brene Brown (Author of so many great books including Dare to Lead and the Gifts of Imperfection) and James Clear, discussing his recent book Atomic Habits. I loved what they had to say and have sat with it, trying to pick apart what resonated and what made me uncomfortable (because the latter is where we can always find the most value).
I loved how they jumped right past what I think most of us view as sort of the quintessential framework for setting a goal: make it SMART= Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based. James Clear’s point is that most of the time we focus too much on what the goal is, as opposed to how we are going to achieve it. He said:
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fail to the level of your systems.”
The more I think about it- the more true it is. He puts it well- the system is the collection of your daily habits, so if there is ever a gap between your system and your goal, your daily habits will always win. And your current habits are perfectly designed to deliver your current results…
- Say your goal is to meditate twice a day. Why do you fail? Because you don’t set your schedule up in a way to accommodate twice daily meditation.
- Say your goal is to lose 20 lbs. Why do you fail? Because you fill your pantry and fridge with unhealthy foods.
- Say your goal is to be less judgmental. Why do you fail? Because you have no process in place to help you work on stepping into compassion and acceptance.
So what do we do? How do we even begin setting goals?
It all boils down to shifting our attention from what our SMART goal is, to figuring out what kind of person would accomplish that goal and changing our intentions to center around this- having identity based goals, versus accomplishment based ones.
- Twice daily meditation is the SMART goal- well what kind of person does that? There are many reasons to meditate; one example is a person who prioritizes their emotional, mental, and spiritual well being by centering, contemplating, or meditating daily. You can be that person, even if “all” you do is a five minute guided meditation off Insight Timer.
- Losing 20 lbs is the SMART goal- but perhaps the kind of person you want to be is someone who exercises daily. This doesn’t need to be an hour long sweat session at the gym every day. It could mean going for a ten minute walk, or doing seven sun salutations when you wake up.
- Being less judgmental doesn’t fit well into the SMART rubric, but it’s still a common goal people set for themselves- perhaps it’s really that you want to be the type of person who jumps to compassion first- someone who is better able to see someone else’s side of the story. This doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and it doesn’t mean you have to spend 30 minutes a day contemplating the shadowy parts of your soul. It could simply mean that every time you find yourself judging someone, you stop and list three alternatives other than your judgy ones as to why someone might be acting the way they are.
What’s the value in this? What’s the value in shifting from only focusing on a SMART goal to thinking more big picture about the kind of person you want to be? The biggest one I can think of (without having read Clear’s book, which is on my nightstand and next in line- I promise I’ll let you know any major tidbits once I’ve read it)- is that it allows us to focus on consistency over perfection. Think about it- instead of “failing” on a given day:
- Because you didn’t do two twenty-minute mediations – you can shift to being someone who practices some form of spiritual betterment every day because you listen to a guided yoga nidra as you fall asleep.
- Because you didn’t make it to the gym – you can shift to doing ten pushups before bed and being able to truthfully say that you are still someone who doesn’t miss a day of exercising.
- Because you flat out judged that woman who yelled at her kids in the grocery store – you can shift to being someone who is working on acceptance because you were able to think of three other reasons why that guy cut you off on your way home from work.
I love this. I love this idea so much. Because you want to know why so many people stop working towards goals? Because they feel like they are failing during the journey to achieving them. And this gives you a mechanism to stop doing that- instead you just ask yourself, “What would a person with the identity that I’m looking for do in this situation?”
- I skipped my twenty minute meditation this morning and now I don’t have time; my daily streak is blown. SHIFT to “What would a person who meditates consistently do?”
- I didn’t even go for a ten minute walk today, and now it’s dark out. I’m never going to lose that weight. SHIFT to “What would a person who exercises every day do?”
- I judged ten people yesterday but didn’t stop in the moment to think of alternatives to them being selfish or ignorant etc. I guess this is just who I am. SHIFT to “What would a person who is trying to cultivate compassion do?”
This concept allows for us to pivot. To realize that maybe the SMART goal wasn’t actually as smart as we thought it was when we set it. To recognize that sometimes days get away from us and we seriously don’t have time to go to the gym, or that we are really stressed and it’s almost impossible to try to use higher level thinking when we are worried about how we’re going to pay for our groceries.
Life happens- but our daily habits are the consistent arc that takes us through it all. So if your habit is to respond to difficulty by falling into “Oh well, I can’t do this goal perfectly so the day is blown and I can’t do anything about it”, then you will consistently feel like a failure and a victim of life. But if your habit is to say “Wait, how is this for me. What CAN I do?”, you will consistently see every challenge as an opportunity to shift, change, and rewire into the type of person you want to be.
This new way of thinking about habits allows us to acknowledge our own inner experience and gives us a mechanism of proving to ourselves that we are consistently working towards our goals.
One other major takeaway I had from the podcast was the simple idea that a habit must be established before it can be improved. This is why we meditate for 10 minutes a day when we begin, vs. demanding we meditate twice a day for 20- we need to set the framework for the new habit of becoming a meditator. Once that is established, it’s far easier to begin to improve and step into the full expression of what that means to us. We basically need to master the art of showing up- so even if it’s only reading one page a day (to become a reader), or walking into the gym every single day just to get on the treadmill for 5 minutes (to become a daily exerciser), or taking 2 minutes every day to contemplate a facet of the heart (to become someone who prioritizes their spiritual well being)… this is how we prove to ourselves that we are who we want to be and get out of the perfectionist mindset. Making these little daily choices prove to our inner selves that we are, in fact, progressing- and that sense of progression is one of the most satisfying things to our minds. So even doing ONE pushup is important. Is it going to get you the body you want? Of course not, but it DOES reinforce to your subconscious that you are the kind of person who doesn’t skip workouts and improve the operation of the system that’s holding you back.
So here we are, about to step into a New Year, full of possibility, and I ask you-
Who do you want to be? How do you want to show up for yourself, and for the world?
I know I want to be more compassionate, less in fear; more accepting, less judgmental; more present, less distracted. I want to be a person who doesn’t skip a workout! I’ve written down the full scope of the person I want to exemplify, taped it to the inside of my medicine cabinet, and intend to read it every morning as I brush my teeth. At the top of it is James Clear’s quote:
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”
How are you going to vote this year?
I am just re-entering reality after an amazing meditation retreat weekend where myself and about 25 others (both online and in person) rested, got curious about acceptance, and of course- meditated! It was such a gift to be able to spend this time away, especially during such a busy time of year.
I want to share with you some wonderful nuggets about Acceptance from Dr. Paul’s lectures at the retreat:
- We don’t accept the unacceptable… we transcend it and move to a place of seeing a higher harmony and design. (Ok, that’s all well and good Sarah, but HOW!?)
- The foundation for cultivating Acceptance is two fold– it is both the expansion of our awareness, via Meditation, and the integration of this new awareness using tools like the Heart Centering technique. For those of you who have trained in meditation recently with me, you learned this technique during your training. For those who trained with me more than a year ago, you have not! If you haven’t learned it or want a refresher, I highly encourage you to attend one of the Community Forums I have coming up so you can learn this wonderful integration tool!
- Acceptance is something that happens spontaneously as we come to live from the heart…you don’t force it, because this isn’t something that can be forced. A 5 year old does not get the maturity of a 25 year old by acting like a 25 year old; they get it by growing and evolving.
- As we cultivate the heart, we discover a sense of peace that makes it far easier to be in a world where there is much happening that we don’t like. Rather than our energy being poured into resisting that which we don’t like, we use it to take action and effect change.
- If the foundation for acceptance is inner peace- what then is Radical Acceptance? Radical Acceptance is when we come to the full integration of that inner peace; it is when we come to the insight that there is a higher order and that everything in life is happening FOR me.
So to sum up… we first must cultivate awareness of our resistance to something (our inability to accept it), so that we can then integrate the expansion of peacefulness within our heart to the point that we outgrow the original resistance. Once we are able to do this effortlessly, there is really nothing we aren’t able to overcome, and no need to suffer. Instead, we simply acknowledge, accept, and transcend. I’m still processing a lot of what I discovered as I investigated my own relationship with acceptance, but as always after one of these retreats, my commitment to meditation is renewed and my love for exploring the facets of the heart reinvigorated.
Another positive from the retreat is that I was able to receive some feedback about how I set up the three courses I am running in the New Year. As much as I love the idea of having the courses be inextricably linked to a meditation retreat (because I know the power of these retreats!), I now realize that may make it impossible for some of you to take the course when you otherwise would have. My intent and hope is to help as many people as possible learn about the facets of the heart and experience the tremendous growth that comes from exploring them. When you come right down to it, the retreat is a bonus, not a requirement. Therefore, I have just completely reworked the course dates and investments so that they can be a standalone experience. Because of this, I have also changed the deadlines associated with signing up for the retreats and the courses- so if you looked before, please go back to check out the revised versions. The most immediate ones to note are:
- December 20th is the last day to early register for the January retreat focusing on the The Extraordinary Joy Within– receive $20 off the three day retreat and $50 off the five day if you register by this date
- January 1st is the last day to early register for all three courses and receive 20% off the investment for all three- a savings of $290! It is also the last day to register for the January retreat
- January 8th is the last day to early register for the Where’s the Bliss? course and receive $50 off
Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions, and I encourage you to ask “What am I resisting?”, which will give you a great place to start working on Acceptance!
One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is the opening airport scene in Love Actually. The move itself is an ode to all facets of love- compassion, joy, presence… just to name a few. And seriously- how many times have you heard about the power of Love? That it heals all; that it makes the world go round; that it is the answer to every evil. Songs, sonnets, epics, novels; movies- all about love. Spiritual traditions, religions, and societies all put Love on a pedestal; talk about the importance of loving thy neighbor and espouse the virtues of generosity, forgiveness, and acceptance- all facets of love.
But when you get right down to it- how often do you actually cultivate Love in your life? How often do you make any effort at all to recognize, reciprocate, and appreciate Love on a daily basis? How often have you missed it? Love isn’t just some grandiose gesture, it isn’t found in another person, and it can’t be confined to one expression… it can be found everywhere, if only we make the effort to see it.
This is what gets overlooked the most, actually- that Love is not just “love”. It’s so much more than the small box it gets often relegated to. Love is every moment of compassion, and the grace of forgiveness. It is the peace we feel as we look around a room at our favorite people, and the joy that springs to our hearts as we celebrate moments big and small. It is that deep sense of being authentic- of living life in alignment with who we are, and radiating that harmony through our whole being and into the lives of others. It is in every moment of generosity, every prayer of gratitude, every offering of acceptance. It is in the deep knowledge of our own invincibility: that we can overcome anything life throws at us, and in our ability to be present to everything life brings.
If you want to get in shape, you go to the gym. If you want to be a better chef, you make a lot of food. But what if you want to have more love in your life… How do you cultivate that?
How do you actually, in practice, cultivate love?
The short answer is that we cultivate love by cultivating the ten facets of its expression. Every time we experience any of them, we are feeling an element of Love. The difficulty is that it’s just so easy to only connect with them superficially. You can write three things you are grateful for, but if you are just filling out your gratitude journal for the day to check it off your to do list; if you don’t actually take a moment to truly feel into that deep appreciation, you aren’t *really* cultivating gratitude. If you tell someone you forgive them, but still harbor suffering around the situation, you haven’t truly practiced forgiveness.
As you start working with the facets, you quickly realize just how interconnected they all are. The good news, is that as much as that can lead you down a rabbit hole of realizing just how much more shadow work you need to do, it also means that as you get better at, say, connecting with joy in your life, you may also find it easier to be fully present (or the other way around). As you start living your life more in alignment with your true self, you naturally begin to be more at peace. They build upon each other.
Below I’m going to give you a few questions to help you get started contemplating your relationship with each aspect of the heart. Is this a good place to start? Absolutely… But just like anything else, unless you really set the intention and consciously work on connecting with these facets on a regular basis, you risk two things:
First, you won’t ever really be able to experience the gifts of cultivating the heart if you do this half-heartedly (pun intended). This is one of those things that I can talk about until I’m blue in the face, and you can read about until the cows come home…but until you actually carve out the time to have an intentional practice around cultivating love, you simply won’t see the transformational benefits.
Secondly, you may think you do a really good job already with a few of the ten facets, but I guarantee that you will be surprised at all the opportunities and nuances you’ve missed if you have not done this intentional exploration. Heart centered living is what I spend all day talking about with my clients, and yet, when I actually started tracking how often I purposely, intentionally, tap into each one of these facets, I realized that some of them I do every day almost without fail… And some of them? It’s been a month since I’ve done anything to bring them forth within me. And that’s why I now keep track of it daily- to hold myself accountable, to make sure that I stay consciously engaged with this work. The times in my life I have felt most alive, aligned, and at peace are also the times I have been the most intentional about staying connected with my heart.
So here we go- a reminder of the ten facets, and a few questions to contemplate in regards to each of them.
The Facets: Acceptance, Presence, Invincibility, Harmony, Generosity, Joy, Radiance, Gratitude, Compassion, Forgiveness
- What does this facet mean to me? How do I define it in my life?
- When was the last time I practiced this facet?
- How do I think about this facet in regards to myself? In regards to others?
- When do I feel this most easily? When is it most difficult?
- What would it mean if I could easily and effortlessly have this facet be part of my everyday existence?
What came up for you as you read those questions? Already, have you found that it was so easy to think about one facet, and then really uncomfortable to think about another? Did you breeze through the questions in regards to Peace, for instance, but then when you got to Generosity did you start feeling triggered?
The truth is that I’ve never met anyone who didn’t struggle with at least one of these ten facets, which is why I am so excited to be offering three courses in the New Year that break them down into three major categories for deeper exploration. You can read the full description if you click on the link for each course: Where’s the Bliss?, Finding Peace, and Remembering Unity. These courses are going to be offered back to back starting in mid January, and I encourage you to sign up for all three, but you are welcome to do just one or two.
Up until my mid thirties I really shied away from anything to do with the heart. I thought Love, while beautiful, was also dangerous. I thought living from the heart meant being unsafe and vulnerable. I would have laughed in your face if you had told me I would some day be promoting living from the heart- how insipid, how foolish, how soft…how Stupid!
But now? Now I know the truth. Now I know that there is no better way to experience the fullness and beauty life has to offer. Cultivating these ten facets is how we cultivate our best selves; it’s how we show up in a way this world desperately needs us to. It’s what gives us the courage to face anything, and the knowledge of our inner unwavering strength.
So please, whether it’s by yourself, with good friends, or with me- get curious and investigate the deepest experience of Love possible for you by cultivating the ten facets of the heart. Over the course of the next year (and probably forevermore) I will continue to write about each and give you further resources to deepen your study.
Welcome to the new, improved, and renamed Awakening Ayurveda- now Winding Willow Therapies! For a long time, I have felt that my business name, website, and logo were no longer congruent with who I am and what I offer. COVID gave me the opportunity to really sit with what I want things to look like now that my kiddo is in “school” more often and I have the time I’ve been missing to dedicate to my work. As I contemplated my own journey, and that of my clients, I was reminded most of two things:
It is always better to accept reality and adapt to what is, than it is to fight against all the things in this life we cannot change. This is what the Willow teaches us- that it is better to bend than break. That we all have the capacity within us to grow and even thrive despite the most challenging of circumstances. That we even have the ability to transform what others might see as unsurmountable challenge into something useful, just as the Willow has been known to draw toxins like heavy metals from the land and be no worse the wear for it. With deep roots (some Willow varieties’ root systems can become quite invasive), we are given the greatest ability to grow. The Willow is a survivor- if a branch does happen to break due to a severe storm, the willow heals. We can do this, too.
The path of self discovery is not easy, straight, or fast. In fact, it’s hard, winding, and often takes far longer than we want it to. This is another part of accepting reality- some things just take time and are more complicated than we anticipated. Haven’t you ever started a home renovation or craft project and wound up having to go back to the store because you don’t have everything you need? It is the same with spiritual growth. And sometimes it can be downright frustrating. How many times have you thought to yourself, “What, this again?? I thought I dealt with this five years ago!!!” Consciousness based healing teaches us to become comfortable with the circular, circuitous, and often repetitive nature of reintegrating the stress of traumas big and small. We can learn to love all the twists and turns of this winding way.
Our challenge is to no longer fear, but instead get curious about what awaits us around the next corner. To become aware of all the ways in which we actually *are* growing and shifting. One of my favorite quotes is by Barry H. Gillespie, who said,
“The path isn’t a straight line; it’s a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.”
Each and every one of us has the capacity to learn how to adapt, survive, and thrive. It’s become very clear to me that while I want to continue working with people one on one, I am equally drawn to again offering more group courses and workshops to help people walk the path with as much grace as possible. Check out what I have coming up here; please let me know if you have any questions!
My last bit of exciting news is that I have begun training in Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BCST). This has long been a desire of mine, as I have personally experienced healing through BCST, and have felt that a hands on therapy geared towards physical healing was the one major tool missing from my practice. Click here to learn more about this!
I am so excited for what comes next; I hope you will join me in days ahead!
The past few weeks I’ve been spending a lot of time being brutally honest with myself about where I’m at vs. where I want to be. And truthfully, it stinks! Looking in the mirror is hard on a good day, let alone when you decide to use the magnifying mirror so that you can really see every blemish and imperfection.
But… it’s also illuminating. It’s laugh while you cry. It’s the excitement of that “aha!” moment when you finally, after all these years, connect the dots from trigger A to life long reaction B.
“If you can’t be honest with yourself, you can’t heal yourself.” Ed Latimore
As many of you know, I spent my childhood being told I wasn’t good enough. That I was unlovable. The root of all problems in my mother’s life and in my parents’ marriage. Not to mention the fact that I was adopted, so there’s a strong undercurrent of fear of rejection that has always run through my psyche, and a belief that it will happen eventually in all my relationships because if my own mother didn’t want me, who would?
I have spent years working through this. Really diving in and trying to exemplify the adage that “trauma is unintegrated resource”. I’ve been integrating! Healing, learning, meditating, getting curious- doing all the things. And it’s been brutal. Every time I think I’ve finally healed that primal wound of being undeserving, I realize nope, not quite yet… there’s one more layer.
I’ve always struggled with taking care of myself physically- specifically exercising and eating healthy food. Part of the reason why I stayed in fitness for so long was because I knew if I wasn’t required to show up to teach the class, I probably wouldn’t show up. This has proven itself to be true in the last year since COVID hit- I’ve essentially stopped exercising, and my body is paying the price because my other downfall is food. One of the few ways my Mother showed me love was with her cooking, so I am a deeply committed comfort eater. Where are the cupcakes, the pizza, the fried chicken- if I’m down, those are my go-tos.
But my husband took a picture of me with our little one a couple months ago and what a wakeup call that was- is that really me? That’s not who I want to be. Glennon Doyle was on a podcast with Brene Brown and she was talking about the importance of not just telling her children about how they should live, but modeling it- that she asks herself “Would this be the type of relationship I would want for my daughter?” and if the answer is “No”, then something needs to change- no matter how hard or messy it might be. This idea flashed through my mind as I saw that picture – “Is this the relationship with his body I want Charlie to have?” And the answer was an emphatic “NO!”. And so, something had to change. But what? and how? I’ve tried so many times to change my relationship with taking care of myself, how am I going to make it stick this time?
So I did what I always do, I dove headfirst into my Meditation practice and began listening to any podcast that struck my fancy.
I began just going for a walk every day (it’s not exercise, it’s completing the “Exercise” ring on my iWatch- for some reason, this I can do, whereas telling myself just to exercise creates major resistance).
And I began asking myself how much I was allowing myself to Feel, and how much I was choosing to tap out. How often do we numb our bodies against feeling the effects of all the things we do to challenge them, like eating poorly, not getting any exercise, and putting sleep as a low priority? How often do we choose to compartmentalize our emotions because they are uncomfortable; far easier to just put them in a box on a shelf and lie to ourselves that we will “deal with it later”?
The truth is, emotions are just energy in motion- and if we don’t allow that energy to flow, it gets stuck. The fear will come out in some other way, perhaps GI issues. The anger will come out at someone else, maybe at the person who cuts you off on the way to work, instead of the partner who barely acknowledged a milestone birthday. If we ignore our steadily gaining weight, we develop knee pain. If we pretend we don’t need sleep, the inflammation in our bodies slowly builds until all sorts of problems crop up.
One of the biggest components of finding true health is allowing ourselves to be present with every part of who we are. With our physical bodies, the energetic, the emotional, the mental, the intuitive, and the spiritual self. To that end, we need to be willing to truly confront how these different aspects feel and be honest with ourselves.
In what way do you not take care of yourself?
Here are some questions to ask:
- Do you exercise?
- Do you eat a well balanced diet?
- Do you get at least 7 hours of sleep every night?
- Do you spend time in nature?
- Do you take care of your appearance, or have you let COVID assist you into a slide of sweatpants and twice a week showers?
- Do you pay attention to what your body tells you, or do you ignore it? i.e. If you are utterly exhausted, do you force yourself to go to that high intensity aerobics class, or do you allow that maybe a walk would better serve you? Do you burn the midnight oil even when you’re dying to go to sleep, because your mind tells you the work is more important?
- Are you able to describe what different emotions actually feel like in your body? If someone asked you to explain to an Alien what Joy, Fear, Anger, Sadness, Disgust *feels* like- could you do it?
- Do you analyze everything?
- Are you constantly making lists, and then beating yourself up when you don’t get everything done?
- Do you second guess yourself or have a hard time making decisions?
- Do you tend to ignore gut feelings, and go more with your head?
These are just a few questions to get you started. The fact is, we all have coping mechanisms. Some of us run to the mind to help us sort through difficult times, and do everything possible to ignore the related emotions. Some of us pour ourselves into work in order to avoid taking care of our bodies (and can give you very logical reasons why this is the right thing to do). And so often we put the hard and scary work of putting ourselves under the spotlight, really scrutinizing just how well we are showing up for OURSELVES, on the back burner. Too many other things to do, people to take care of, work that needs to be addressed. But if we can’t learn to be honest with ourselves, learn to spot all the ways we are ignoring what our bodies, our minds, and our hearts are trying to tell us, we risk it all. We risk disease. We risk being so easily triggered we hurt the relationships we care about. We risk not showing up as the professional we wish to be because we’re exhausted. So please, take the time to honestly look yourself in the mirror and figure out what you’ve decided you don’t deserve- whether it’s sleep, nice clothes, or taking 20 minutes a day to meditate. And then do the *real* work and figure out why you aren’t giving yourself the life you deserve. I promise you, if you can do those two things, your world will change.
Love & Light,
So- who has that person in their life they honestly can’t stand? You know who I’m talking about- the one who triggers you every time you interact. Who bothers you on a deep level. Who says things you can’t believe just came out of their mouth. Who you joke (or are super serious) about making sure there’s wine to be had if you have to spend time in their presence.
Sometimes we are lucky in that we can cut ties with these people. We can simply stop having them in our lives- just walk away and never look back. But what about the people we are “stuck” with? Maybe it’s a boss or a co-worker who is the single downside to a job you love. Or a family member.
I have one of these people in my life right now and I have to say, it’s been one of biggest relational challenges I have come up against in a very long time. I’m trying so very hard to overlook how malcontent, vicious, and childish this person is, because I understand that she’s coming from a place of insecurity and fear. I’m trying to rise above, to do and say the “right” things. But she’s making it SO HARD. And what feels even worse is that she’s got me so wrong- no matter what I do or how I say things, she seems hell bent on misinterpreting them to the worst scenario. Sound familiar? I speak from the bottom of my heart when I say I feel for all of you who have one of these people in their life. So what do we do?
Step One: Vent. Seriously. We are human. Don’t try to pretend it doesn’t bother you. Call a friend who will agree with you that this person is heinous and ask you where the body should be buried. Let it ALL OUT. Every bit of frustration and anger and disappointment and hurt that you are feeling. Don’t bottle it- what we resist, persists. So get it out of your system. Side note: make sure this is someone who is 100% yours. Don’t pick a mutual acquaintance, or someone who is going to get stuck in the middle. That can make everything far worse- you don’t want your confidante running back to the object of your frustration trying to make things better or mediate. This is about getting all the energy of your emotion OUT with zero chance of consequences. If there is no one in your life who fits that bill- write it out. Write them a letter saying absolutely everything you wish you could say in real life. Get. It. Out. Second side note: DO NOT SEND THIS LETTER. Burn it, throw it out, but do not send it.
Step Two: Shake it off. The point of the venting is not to whip yourself into a frenzy… it’s to truly let the anger/frustration/negative energy out so that it can dissipate and you can come back to a more rational place. So take time to now to meditate or calm yourself in some way. Of course, I think meditation is always the best answer, but maybe it’s going for a long walk, or taking a bath, or hitting up a BodyCombat class. Watching some bad TV. Retail therapy. What do you do when you need to de-stress? Do that, until you are able to say this person’s name without seeing red or feeling your blood pressure rise.
Step Three: Honestly assess what, if anything, you can do to change the situation.
- If this is a miscommunication issue, step back and see how you can be more clear. Good time to reference Non Violent Communication skills. Keep in mind that there’s a good chance no matter how clear you are, this person might not be able to hear you…but that’s a topic for another newsletter.
- If this is more about perspective, see if you can see theirs. Literally try to put on their goggles, no matter how difficult or impossible it may seem. What are their most common complaints or issues with YOU? See if you can understand how they might be reaching their conclusions about you. This one isn’t fun, because it may force you to face truths about yourself you do not particularly like. But try to do it, because the greatest growth comes from confronting these shadow aspects of ourselves.
- Face facts. There might not be anything you can do. They might be set in their ways as firmly as you are set in yours. This is the hardest conclusion to reach, because you end up feeling even more stuck. You’ve done all this introspection and concluded…. that you’re in the same place you were before and feel even more certain there’s nothing you can do to change it!
Step Four: the final step. The hardest step. The one you have to come to regardless of all the steps before. In fact, some might say you could skip all those other steps and jump right to this one. Ask yourself “If I were capable of unconditional love and forgiveness, how would I treat this person?” And then start doing that.
Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? It’s not easy. Probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I’m still ping ponging between this and Step One. Multiple times a day, usually. I go from being spitting mad with venom, to stepping back into my heart and trying to lead with compassion. Some days venom wins, some days compassion. But I try to only interact with my personal nemesis when I can do so from a place of love. Because at the end of the day, would I rather know in my heart that I have done the best I could, and that I entered every interaction from a loving place… or that I sunk to her level and rolled in the dirt and slung mud pies in her face? To be honest, it’s a close call some days. I admit to fantasizing about calling her out and leveling every barb I can think of in her direction. But then I ask myself who would that hurt? Only me. Because I can promise you, it would just roll off her back and become more reason for her to lash out at me. She wouldn’t learn from it, she wouldn’t grow; it definitely wouldn’t change her behavior. And I would end up being ashamed and feeling guilty. So as much as it might feel good in the moment (like eating a whole box of Girl Scout Cookies)… I know I would pay for it in the end.
“Show respect to people even if you don’t think they deserve it; not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours.” Dave Willis
All that said – your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to pick one person in your life who greatly challenges you and try to make things just a little better. I’m not saying you need to be best buds with this person, by the way. That’s not realistic. But is it possible for you to change how you interact with them just enough to make it not so horrendous every time? Can you find some common ground? Can you calm yourself enough so that you are able to remain soft and stay in the heart versus lash out and take the bait? You might not want to pick your archenemy, by the way. Best to start with someone who is only of mild annoyance versus your personal nemesis. Take this month to challenge yourself to see what you can do to better your interactions…. you might be surprised how changing your attitude may influence theirs!
Light&Love…. and Good Luck!
p.s. I feel obligated to say that as much effort as you put into this… sometimes it doesn’t work. People can only meet you as far as they’ve met themselves, so there is a chance you try this and it feels like a complete failure. But I promise you, there is never any effort lost in an attempt to learn about yourself or cultivate compassion. So even if nothing in how you interact with this person has changed by month’s end… notice what has changed in yourself and celebrate *that*!
Long time, no communication! I hope this newsletter finds you all well and enjoying your summer. The baby slept through the night for the second time last night and I’m sitting here feeling like an actual human being. More importantly, I finally have the time and the headspace to connect with all of you. Believe it or not, I’ve been wanting to write this newsletter for the past month. I kept on saying to myself “today will be the day”… and then it wasn’t. And that’s actually a good segue into what I want to talk about.
“When you release expectations, you are free to enjoy things for what they are instead of what you think they should be” Mandy Hale
What happens when you do all the right things to set yourself up for getting exactly what you want… and then you don’t get it? Remember our visualization practice? And how I was visualizing the kind of birth I wanted, and I said I’d let you know how that went? Some might argue it failed miserably.
Let me describe what I visualized: Peacefully laboring at home for a time before driving to the Birth Center. I knew which room I wanted, so I saw myself there with Chuck, occasionally walking out into the peaceful courtyard with the fountain. I really liked all the midwives (except one who reminded me so much of my mother I had a hard time interacting with her), so that part didn’t matter, though I hoped it would be the first midwife we met when I started my prenatal care. I saw myself with no monitors, no IVs, no drugs, experiencing labor as women have through the ages. Overall, it was simple. And I did everything I could to give myself that vision. I ate right during my pregnancy, I rested while also staying active. I meditated and visualized daily. I prepared our bags, went to the birth class, asked a billion questions. There isn’t anything more I could have done to give myself the birth I wanted. Did I get it? That would be a definitive no.
What happened: There was no labor at home. My water broke at 10pm on a Monday night and we called the midwives and they told us to stay at home until I couldn’t talk through contractions. Well, the contractions never started. Chuck and I slept and walked and watched TV, all the while waiting for something to happen but it never did. I even took a castor oil cocktail to help get things going and all it did was make me throw up. Due to fear of infection, my delivery turned high risk which meant no Birth Center- I was required to go to the hospital. And who met us there? The only midwife I didn’t want- the one who triggered me. And what was I required to do? Have the belts that constantly monitored me and the baby, as well as an IV for the Pitocin. Things started moving along around 6pm Tuesday, but really kicked into high gear around 8pm. Honestly? I was excited. This wasn’t what I pictured, but “here we go, let’s do this!” was my attitude. I had a hard time holding on to that attitude as I went from wondering why people complained about labor one moment, to experiencing extreme, pain level at a 9 out of 10, back labor for 7 hours. Around 3am I was feeling intense pressure… the kind that everyone had described to me as being what you feel right before you start pushing…so the midwife decided to check how dilated I was. I’ll never forget her sitting next to the bed, looking me in the eye while holding my hand, and saying “Honey, you’re at 3cm”. I died a little inside. I glimpsed Chuck’s face turn ashen. And we decided to get an epidural, because honestly the thought of being at that level of pain for hours upon hours longer was untenable. If I had been at even 6cm I would have pulled it together and soldiered on… but 3? That’s 7 more cm to go. I just couldn’t, and sometimes epidurals help you relax enough to get things moving, so I succumbed and got even more drugs I hadn’t wanted. (That said- I’ve never felt such relief!) I fell asleep for an hour and a half and when I woke up I knew something wasn’t right. I felt like I had the flu, and sure enough, I was spiking a fever and both the baby and my heart rates were elevated. (This is the concern with prolonged breakage of waters). And so, a c-section. The last on my list of things I definitely didn’t want. Thirty three hours after my water broke, Charlie arrived, which of course made it all worth it and was the best moment of my life thus far.
Now, I could be bitter about how my labor went. I mean, I literally had the exact opposite birth experience I wanted. Everything went wrong, right? It is the polar opposite of what I had spent a month visualizing, nine months preparing for, and countless hours thinking about.
However, I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing because in retrospect, I actually got exactly what I hoped for.
Every time I thought about laboring at home, I imagined the feeling of enthusiastic anticipation. That happened- I was so excited and couldn’t believe the time had come! I just didn’t have contractions at the same time as the excitement.
Every time I thought about being at the Birth Center, I imagined what it would be like going through labor with Chuck by my side. Not just the walking or all the other logistical suggestions we had learned during our birth class, but the connection we would have while we welcomed our child into the world. I imagined feeling supported and cared for. That happened tenfold…I have never felt more loved and in such deep partnership with my husband than I did during those long hours. It just wasn’t in my location of choice.
And when I pictured the midwife I really wanted by my side, I brought in the feeling of being calmly helped and guided as I navigated this foreign territory. And the midwife I ended up with did exactly that. She was the epitome of the eye of a hurricane, and was so matter of fact and clear with what was happening, why, and what our options were, I was reassured in all the ways I needed to be.
And the thing I wanted more than anything- a natural birth- included me staying grounded and centered. Being present with the moment, without fear or regret. I was. All I can remember is feeling connected to myself, the baby, and Chuck, as we navigated each stage and challenging decision.
I share this story to say, sometimes we are so focused on the nuts and bolts of what we want to happen that we fail to see the hidden gems of the experience when things don’t go exactly as we planned. We miss the ways in which we *did* get what we wanted, or the unexpected ways something worked in our favor. Maybe you join a singles meetup group to find your next partner, but can’t stand all the guys that show up so you bitterly say it was a total waste of time- and forget that you met your new best friend who was similarly disappointed with the options. Or you apply for a job and it gets down to just you and one other person and you don’t get it…so you feel like a failure and wonder for weeks what you did wrong. But then 8 months later you apply for a different position at the same company and you are pushed straight to the top of the list because they remember you and want you on their team. You might have spent months harshly judging yourself about the rejection, to only then realize it was just a delayed happy result.
I’m not saying we have to be immediately happy when things don’t go as we hoped. I definitely shed a few tears during my labor as one thing after another didn’t go as I had wanted. But instead of focusing on that, and swearing off visualization practices because they “don’t work”… I’m choosing to see all the ways it did. Charlie had a 14” head and was a 9.5 lb baby… I think I may have gotten the better end of the bargain by not delivering him naturally. And I will never forget the love I felt for my husband as he so perfectly loved me during the one of the most momentous occasions of our lives.
So, for the rest of August and September, I ask you to think about something in your life that has gone all wrong. Whether it is now or in the past, choose an event that didn’t turn out nearly how you hoped. Where visualization failed. See if you can find the silver lining- the ways in which it *didn’t* fail. The nuggets of good. Sometimes all you have to do is look and you may realize the worst was actually the best thing that ever happened to you. Granted, I got a perfect, adorable, wonderful baby out of my deal!