I was recently working with a client- a strong, big, man. You would never imagine that anyone could physically do him harm. He’s the kind of guy you would ask to walk you to your car if the streetlight was out in a sketchy neighborhood. But, as we were working together, he showed me what happened to him as a little boy. And that child? That child was hurt badly. That child was beaten, emotionally and physically. That little boy was powerless against the harm one of the people who is supposed to love him the most- his father – inflicted upon him. I have sat with it for days; the juxtaposition of the strong man sitting in the chair, superimposed on the small boy he once was.
It made me think about all the layers we hold within us. As you get older, it can be so easy to be dismissive of all you endured in your younger years. So easy to forget that some of those things happened to you when you were a very small child. Not the you of today, the strong man who can stop 90% of the people coming at you in their tracks. Or the strong woman who knows her worth and can no longer be emotionally manipulated. But that child you once were? The five year old? That version of you didn’t have the strength you have now. To that child, Father was a giant- you couldn’t have stopped the abuse no matter how hard you tried. To that child, Mother knew best- and if she said “You are worthless“, it must be true.
It is so easy to think that because you are now an adult and have outgrown your children’s clothing, you should also have simply outgrown your childhood established fears, pain, and programming. It took me a long time to fully acknowledge that the emotional torment I felt from my childhood was real, valid, and something that needed attention. I hid from it for so long- wanting to avoid the misery and shame, not just of the original trauma, but also because shouldn’t I just be over it already? It happened years ago, why am I still crying about it? A lot of talk therapy and time helped me become really good at rationalizing the entire experience. From a logical place, I could explain how, while I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, my childhood was useful because it turned me into a strong woman; showed me my own invincibility; gave me a depth of understanding and character I may never have otherwise developed. I understood why my parents were they way they were. But even after I was able to get to that point, I was still in pain. I wasn’t totally over it. Self destructive patterns were still holding me back. Why?
Because there was a disconnect between the rational understanding and the deep emotional wound. My brain had accepted, but my heart was still hurting. That was the part I hid from and refused to connect with- the feelings. I had some deeply entrenched programming that told me emotions are not to be trusted, acknowledged, or dealt with. They should instead be shoved far down deep into the crevices of my soul. Somewhat difficult to know how to handle them with that sort of training. But as Esther Perel says, “Where there is nothing left to hide, there is nothing left to seek.” My real healing began the day I finally allowed myself to feel all the feelings. The hurt, the anger, the shame, the guilt, the sorrow, the rejection, the abandonment, the longing. I spent ten days straight crying my eyes out during my yoga teacher training in 2016 and it was the catharsis and pivot point I had long needed. That was when I finally acknowledged that there was still a small child in me, desperate for the unconditional love of my parents. I finally brought her out into the open instead of tucking her away, ignorant, and then ignoring, the truth that you can not heal what you hide.
If you truly want to heal, you must allow yourself to feel.
Often, the ways in which you learn to deal (or avoid dealing) with painful experiences tend to become so second nature that you forget that they are even coping mechanisms. Food. Alcohol. Addiction in other forms. Avoidance. Maybe it’s how you shut people out of your heart, stop yourself from pursuing your dreams, or throw yourself into proving your worthiness through doing rather than from knowing that you are worthy of love even if those dishes don’t get done, that work project waits until Monday, or you don’t bake the perfect cake for every single one of your children’s birthdays. And often, so many coping mechanisms are put into place for one purpose- to help us numb or avoid our feelings.
And that makes a lot of sense, because who wants to feel pain? No one, especially when it feels like once you start to allow the emotions to flow, the hurting will never stop. Where do you even begin? Think about the layers of your life you willingly revisit and the ones you run away from. What makes it so easy to go back to some years, and so hard to think of others? Odds are, it’s because of the joyous or difficult emotions attached. What is it you’re hiding from?
I want to point out that, depending on how many skeletons you have in your closet, you may not want to do this process alone. Self introspection and revisiting difficult parts of your past can be exceptionally difficult. It is always best done with a trusted friend, a family member, a mentor, or a therapist. During my ten days of crying I had three women who stood by my side, hugged me whenever I needed it, and provided a truly safe space for me to be vulnerable. During the days that followed, I met with my Ayurvedic and spiritual mentor who helped me navigate some intensely rough waters. The inner development process is not meant to be done alone. I encourage you to tread lightly and hold someone’s hand, but DO go there. Do ask yourself which part of you do you love the most? Which part of you do you love the least? Why? Whose voice is saying “You are so amazing!”; whose is saying “You don’t belong and never will.” Did that programming get established when you were 15? 10? 5? a baby? Why does the age matter? Do this…
Imagine a five year old little girl or boy happily making something out of PlayDoh. They giddily walk over to their parent to show them their awesome creation. The parent smacks it out of their hand, telling them how stupid it is and yells at them to clean up the mess. They don’t move fast enough, so the parent shoves them down. The child curls up on the floor, clutching their smooshed PlayDoh, wondering what they did that was so wrong; knowing that they are the problem, that there must be something wrong with them to keep upsetting their parent so much.
When you see that happen in your minds eye, what do you feel? What do you think? Is it the dismissive rejection that bothers you the most, or the physical violence? Both are damaging. Most importantly- switch the image so that the child is now 20. How does it change your reaction? Age matters. The level of hurt a 20 year old would feel is completely different from a 5 year old. Could the parent even have the strength to push down the 20 year old? Either physically OR emotionally?
Remember this when you think of your own past. Remember that some of what you experienced may have occurred when you were a small child instead of the grown adult you are today. You were only able to process it as completely as that undeveloped, child brain was able to at that age. This doesn’t just pertain to abuse- it could be any difficult situation like being in a car accident, moving away from family and friends, or the loss of a parent. Glennon Doyle says “You are a nesting doll of every age you’ve ever been.” So what would you say to that little child in that moment? If you could swoop in and send the parent away and tell the child what they need to hear, what would it be? What would you say to yourself as a child? What did you most need to hear? How would you coach yourself through the hurt? Give to yourself now what was withheld from you then.
I would alter Esther Perel’s quote by one word and say…
When there is nothing left to hide, there is nothing left to escape.
I suggest this exercise because with awareness comes power- the power to feel, the power to heal, the power to step away from everything that’s holding you back, and the power to step into a life far from the tree from which you fell.
Love & Light,
It’s a New Year! Resolutions are flying fast and furious. People are flocking to the gyms or to buy a Peloton. New gratitude journals have been opened, classes signed up for, and subscriptions to healthy meal plans bought. And all of that is wonderful. New chapters are exciting, the energy of change can be exhilarating. But what if it doesn’t work out? What if a month from now you’ve slipped back into all your old habits and you realize… nothing’s changed?
My newest favorite phrase is “Pursue passionately but hold lightly.” Dr. Steven Hayes said it in one of the Being Well podcasts, and I’ve been using it (probably too much) ever since. Why? Because if that isn’t a phrase to get you through life I don’t know what is.
I’ve been really excited about 2023. Throughout December I set about planning some very realistic, attainable, smart goals for myself and my family, both personally and professionally. Jan 1 was the day it would all begin! Throughout the holiday I waited with such anticipation to get back home from visiting family in NH so that I could begin the new chapter. And then what happened? Biscuits.
My husband and I have long intended to get a dog, even before our son turned out to be as obsessed with them as I am. We were planning to get one next Christmas, but have kept our eye out just in case something came along we couldn’t resist. Whelp, it happened. Too cute to handle 9 week old Bernese Mountain Dog puppies. For a multitude of reasons, we went “just to see them”, and 24 hours later Biscuits joined our family.
Most of those plans of mine? Out the window. Gone in a puff of fluffy adorableness. I had my moment of meltdown, of incredible frustration. And then I took a deep breath and said “ok”, and began to pivot. And that’s why I’m writing this newsletter- to remind you all that Life Happens. Sometimes we get a curveball that we voluntarily choose, is super sweet even though it pees on the floor, and brings joy on the regular. Sometimes we get the more difficult kind- loosing a loved one, unexpected career changes; health concerns. And really that’s where the rubber meets the road- in those moments where all the plans and goals and intentions you have are met with a curveball. That’s when you get to decide how you want to move forward.
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” Abraham Lincoln
When we “fail” at our resolutions, it is so important to remind yourself that it is not YOU failing, it’s either the uncontrollable winds of life making you need to adjust your sails, or the structures in place to support attaining your goal were faulty in some way. It sounds like semantics, but how you speak to yourself about it actually matters a great deal. “I’m failing” hits your subconscious differently than “Something about my plan isn’t working, let me figure out what it is.” The only failure here is if you don’t learn, pivot, and move forward- pursue passionately– your original intention. Hold the process lightly. If you hold it too tightly, you eliminate the flexibility that is so often necessary for us to succeed in any endeavor.
Most importantly… don’t forget that life is meant to be enjoyed. All these goals we set- if we hate every minute of them, of course they won’t be sustainable! We are designed to move towards pleasure and away from pain. So you said you were going to exercise for an hour every day and by the end of that hour you’re miserable and you stay miserable. Stop it! Just stop it! Shift, switch to doing 30 minutes that maybe you have to push through but at the end you feel good and positive. Same with healthy food choices… if you take every ounce of what you enjoy out of your meals, what is the point of eating?! Add in something that’s better for you, even if it’s just for one meal a day to begin with. So you want to get up at 5am so you can get things done first thing… well if you’re used to waking up at 7am that’s a big shift to go for right out of the gate. How about gradually changing it, so that you don’t just give up Week 1? If something isn’t working- stop, figure out the pain point, and change what you’re doing so that you can pursue your goals passionately with joy.
As for me? I’m figuring out a new plan this week. Seeing exactly how much I need to shift of what I’d intended. Letting go of a lot of “shoulds”. And soaking up every moment of watching my son play with his puppy.
Happy New Year!
In Biodynamic Craniosacral therapy, there is a concept called the state of balanced tension. It is the point between what has been and what can be… it is a dynamic pause between conditioned reality and the unconditional possibilities that are available to us. I was immediately captivated by this term with all its implications, and it continues to fill me with a sense of excitement. For while it is applicable in every Craniosacral session, it is also pertinent to life itself.
Too often, we rush through our days. We spend all of our time thinking about the next thing we have to do. The holidays bring this out even more in us- the checklist of task after task growing ever longer, the stress of getting it all done increasing as the inevitable deadlines approach. What happens to the joy of the season when we allow ourselves to be swept up in the business? What happens to the wonder? When is the last time you sat down and actually looked at your beautiful Christmas tree or the shimmering candlelights of your menorah or really smelled the cookies baking and slowed down enough to feel the quiet delight this time of the year can bring?
And what about the New Year? It’ll be here before you know it. Do you meet it with a sense of dread- just another thing on the to do list? Do you get a sinking feeling thinking about the resolutions you didn’t fulfill over 2022, and a sneaking suspicion you’ll be just as successful with any you make for 2023? OR… are you excited? Are you thinking about all the potential happiness and fun this next year might bring? Are you holding yourself in that state of balanced tension, hopeful and anticipating the unconditional possibilities that are in front of you?
Too often, we forget that we are in charge of how we experience our lives. We can choose to be stressed this holiday season. We can choose to just wish for it to be over. We can look ahead to the New Year and feel despair that it will just be more of the same life we maybe aren’t enjoying all that much. Or we can choose to set a new course. To view this as a pivot point- a moment of aligning with our best selves and deciding to move forward in a different, more life affirming way.
Of course, it sounds so simple and yet I know it can be so hard. Our brains, in fact our whole selves, are accustomed to maintaining homeostasis- change on all levels can be difficult. Which is why we have to set ourselves up for success. We need to put in place structures and plans to help us shift in the direction we want to go. We have to be active participants in creating the right conditions for us to live the life we want.
As I’ve sat with what I want 2023 to look like for myself and my family, I’ve filled the calendar already with mini weekend adventures, vacations, continuing education classes, and visits with friends and family. I’ve also been planning what I’d like to offer you – my clients and meditation community… and there’s a lot!
I want to highlight three offerings in particular-
- The January Meditation retreat. If you have not yet done a five day Meditation retreat- here’s your chance! Yes, you can still do just the weekend if time is tight and you want to start the New Year off right, but if there is any way you can swing doing the five day retreat, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Equivalent to meditating twice a day for six months- it will change your life.
- For the first time since before Charlie was born, I am offering small group mentoring. This is an affordable and supportive way to receive consciousness based mentoring and fast track your spiritual development. I’m very much looking forward to getting this group started at the beginning of the New Year!
- Heart Centered Living Classes. So many of you have asked for the opportunity to dive deeper into the facets of the heart- now is your chance! Every month I will be offering a 90 minute workshop on one of these essential spiritual tenets: Acceptance, Alignment, Presence, Invincibility, Gratitude, Forgiveness, Compassion, Generosity, Joy, and Radiance. I can’t wait to go on this journey with you!
Let this moment, right now, be a reminder that you can have a state of balanced tension at any time. You are in charge. You get to choose your own pivot points. You get to recognize your current conditioned reality and decide which unconditioned possibilities you want to pursue. If you ever feel stuck, like you don’t know how to move forward- follow the joy. Follow what lights you up. It could be anything from a cooking class to a podcast to a paint your own pottery night. Those moments of dynamic pause, of being uncertain, always hold the potential to be the moment you look back on later and say to yourself “That was when it all changed for me.” I’m excited for you; my hope is that you get excited for yourself and embrace stepping into your own possibilities.
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!