Let Your Self Shine

The other night in preparing for my youngest son’s wedding, we sat looking at old family pictures in my living room.  After my son left, I went outside to reflect on my feelings.  Looking back at the pictures, I was overcome by my beauty, but also a bit saddened by the fact that I didn’t feel attractive internally as a young girl. Then I felt a surge of gratefulness for my life and the lessons I’ve learned. I am no longer compelled to hold onto the emotional influence of my past and when it does surface, I am able to manage it. I’ve come to an age where I know real fulfillment comes from self- acceptance, from daring to be just as you are and expressing it. The sooner we are aware of our reactions the sooner we can find balance.

To grow and expand as a person of strength, we need to validate our feelings, fears, and struggles that we had. Understanding is the key to balancing and managing the experience of who we are. It’s a worthy endeavor to be familiar with those precious wonder children!

Continue reading “Let Your Self Shine”

Practicing Awareness

 “Our greatest instrument for understanding the world—introspection . 

The best way of knowing the inwardness of our neighbor is to know ourselves.”

                                                                                          Walter Lippmann

How well do you know yourself? The foundation and practice of awareness is about putting yourself first. By curiously becoming a witness of who you are; your thoughts, feelings, memories, needs, fears, and sensations, you can strengthen your natural ability to understand and know yourself.  It gives you a psychological edge in all areas of life. People who are self-aware are in the best position to see their choices more clearly,  rise above disagreement, and freer to find solutions that feel right.

When you practice awareness it nurtures the relationship you have with your ‘self’.  It cultivates acceptance, appreciation, and patience, not only for yourself but for others.  As C. G. Jung expressed,  “Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

When faced with disturbing situations, the key to breaking any negative downward spiral is stepping back from your emotional reactions. Attentively use your senses to explore what’s happening.  Notably, your behavior is mostly driven by your desire to achieve self-worth. Even a tiny bit of self understanding and compassion  can bring  a sense of relief, perspective and make it easier to get to the bottom of an issue. Continue reading “Practicing Awareness”

Obstacles

I walked into my office the other day after being away for two weeks.  I was weak and  healing from a surgery.  To my surprise, there was a pile high of what I think was sound proofing sheets.

When I first walked in and saw it I felt my heart race, and I could feel a tinge of adrenaline run through me. I then proceeded to take one off the pile thinking I could move them and place them one by one around the room before my client was to arrive.  As my energy level was really low I realized that it wasn’t a good idea. So, I sat down. I took a breath to gather my energy. I was amazed that in that moment I developed patience–patience for the moment of weakness and not being able to do anything about it. I then was able to sit for the moment and relax into whatever was arising in me.

 As said in, Pema Chodron’s book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, “Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okay-ness. When we resist what is happening, it’s called suffering.” When we can ease into patience with our struggle it awakens our freedom to connect to our fundamental goodness and our true nature to being perfectly human. Patience ignites friendliness towards ourselves and gives us more freedom to choose.

Well, this was a true test for me. How could I sit with a disturbance or obstacle in front of me without being affected by it? How could I have bits and pieces piled up in the middle of the room and just let it be without letting it faze me? It was difficult for me because I like to have everything in its place, and I also worried about the affect it would have on my client.

My client arrived and she walked around the obstruction to her seat and we began our session. I apologized for the mess and for my absence the past two weeks. This was enough to enable her to focus on what was important to her to discuss and to resolve. She was not concerned at all with the obstruction in the room. Indeed, the focus was on her own personal obstacles; she had her own agenda to resolve with me. As we spoke, we were totally focused on our conversation.

I had put the stumbling block of my day aside and gave my client space to deal with what was necessary in the moment. I was able to separate myself from my feelings until I could revisit the situation and do something about it. Of course, after my session, since I share the office suite with my son, I texted him to thank him for the sound proofing but also asked him if he can get them moved or at least stack them up neatly against a wall until we were able to install them.

What this demonstrates is how we have the ability to notice our feelings, thoughts and even body sensations and then let them pass until we want to revisit them in the proper time.

After putting my worry aside and getting on with what needed to be done, regardless of the obstacles in front of me, I realized that as long as I allow myself to be bothered, everything else seemed to be an obstacle to overcome.  As we patiently move through the art of mastering our personal obstacles we gain clarity for what is truly important.

Quality Moments

People say quality moments are hard to find. We spend time working and undertaking daily responsibilities.  And we also use up moments drawing our own conclusions or creating a story of judgment about what we are doing, who we are with and the emotions that we have.  What we neglect to realize is that each moment we spend is a quality moment.

Imagine spending more time capturing who we are in any particular moment without categorizing it or wanting to improve or edit it.  Imagine just being with whatever we are feeling in that moment without critiquing it or doubting it.  Imagine trusting the process of life and recognizing that every moment of its unfolding is beautiful and perfect in its own way.

“Sometimes we like what we’re feeling and then suddenly we don’t like what we’re feeling. And then we like it again, and then we don’t like it again.”  It’s fine for it to be like that.  The problem is we become accustomed to doubting, negating, or evaluating our moments and not seeing the beauty in them.

Often our fleeting feelings are just as irrelevant as our momentary thoughts. We don’t need to get hooked into every thought or feeling that we have.  They just are.

Moods come and go. Some days are cloudy or even rainy, while other days are sunny. Some days we wake up with a headache or a heavy feeling in our heart.  But then there are other days when we feel everything is just right, when there is a certain lightness to the moment. There are moments when we smile. And then there are moments when it feels as if everything has all come together.

So let’s begin to have an appreciation for where we are in each moment and an acceptance for what is. And let’s not get caught in a flood of judgment. To accept is to say ‘yes’ to life in its wholeness.  To accept is to have the wisdom to experience what is happening in the moment and to believe that it doesn’t have to be different. It’s never too late to begin to appreciate all the moments of our lives-the warm breezes, the sunny days and even the passing storms.

Does ‘It’ Get Better ?

A common question many people ask me is, “So does ‘it’ get better?”  I guess the important word here is ‘it.’ What is ‘it’?

To me ‘it’ is the ‘freedom to choose.’ Freedom to choose to gather our courage and confront whatever situation is at hand.  And when I say confront, I don’t mean to go to battle. I mean to look at things honestly. We look at things honestly by choosing to respect and validate our feelings. At any moment, we can choose to step back from a situation, to pause, take a breath and reflect. We have the freedom to choose to view a thought or  situation from a different perspective.  We can choose to change our thinking at any moment.  Changing our thinking may even change how we feel about something. We have the freedom to choose how to respond to or what value we want to place on someone else’s judgments or criticisms. We can choose when  to communicate our concerns or feelings. We have the freedom to choose what actions to take. Sometimes we have the freedom to choose to change something, and sometimes it takes courage to accept things as they are.

When we are children, we are reliant on the actions and decisions of those around us. We don’t have a choice, nor do we fully understand the whys of our experiences. A lot of the time we conform, obey, and even become submissive to avoid further hurt. In so doing, we discount ourselves. We subconsciously build a barrier as a defense to protect our feelings, and then it becomes habit to neglect or doubt them. But just because we’ve experienced disappointment in the past does not mean it has to continue.

How long we stay stuck in what happened in the past is our choice. We often expend our energies blaming people from the past or holding onto resentments, but the reality is,  they may have done the best they could, given their shortcomings.  With  freedom, we are no longer victims. Blame subsides and turns into personal responsibility.

So, ‘it’ does get better when we acknowledge our freedom to choose.  With ‘it,’ we gain the freedom to honor and have trust in the expression of who we are; our deepest feelings, thoughts, desires, aspirations, hopes, and even our fears. We gain the freedom to take responsibility for ourselves, for our thoughts, our feelings and our actions.  When we become true to our self ‘it’ becomes easier and we can relax into being who we are. When I talk about things getting better,  being true to ourself  is at the heart of it. 

“It gets better” does not mean we can take a back seat and wait for things to happen. The ‘it’ puts us in the driver’s seat of life.  ‘It’ sets us in motion.  The roads in life are not always predictable nor smooth, but life flows much easier when we have the ‘freedom to choose’. Choosing to be ‘real’ and to accept life as it is will lead us on the road to creating a life that feels good.

Our Personal Holding Pattern

Have you ever been stuck in an airplane circling around your destination until it’s safe to land?  An announcement comes on that says it’s necessary to be in a holding pattern due to fog or air traffic. At first, you are okay with it, knowing that an experienced pilot is in charge. But after a while you become annoyed being stuck in the air. You start worrying about what could happen, and then you wonder when your plane will finally land safely.

How often do you feel stuck in your own personal holding pattern?  Fear is a natural instinct when you feel unsure or confused.  Predicting an impending negative outcome or being uncertain about the future and resisting change can put you in a holding pattern. It’s natural to be rational and to look at all angles of a future scenario. Sometimes, though, you fabricate a scene that ignites apprehension. This causes you to linger about in a cloud, and you stay there in your holding pattern, afraid to move or take any action.

Eventually, circling around and around in uncertainty and fear becomes uncomfortable.  When you feel like you are hanging around in the clouds for too long, that can be your signal to formulate strategies for finding a safe place to land. Consider what actions you may need to take in order to sort out  any confusions or conflicts. What information do you need to gather?

Sometimes you don’t have the answers, so the key is to walk softly, one step at a time. This way you can discover the solutions as you go. Taking time to pay attention to each step helps you to recognize that the answers may be right in front of you or close at hand.

As long as there is no imminent danger  you can move forward beyond your trepidations by taking a moment to breathe. You breathe to center yourself. At your core is your goodness and strength. Sometimes you need to remind yourself of this. So take a deep breath to soften the tension and defenses around your core. Gently center yourself and proceed with courage to stand on solid ground.

Staying “real” is an ongoing process.  So, it’s important to accept all that you are. Honor your stuck-ness, fears, imperfections, and worries along with your strengths and positive qualities.  Once you do that, you can genuinely find your way through your problems to solutions that feel right to you.

Putting Our Feelings Aside

We all have emotions. It’s healthy  to  express them. Yet, there are times  when putting too much emphasis on our feelings can be detrimental. To avoid outbursts or unnecessary confrontations, it is better to express our emotions carefully. In order to avoid unhealthy confrontation, we can knowingly choose to “compartmentalize” or “put our feelings aside.”

We can identify and fully sense the inner turbulence of feelings in a situation without having to get swept away in them. By paying attention to the situation and wanting to stand our ground, we then can consciously choose to put our feelings aside for the moment. We are not denying our feelings, we are merely postponing the expression of them. As astronaut Mark Kelly stated in the Associated Press, “Ignore stuff going on in your personal life and just focus on your mission. The key word there is being able to compartmentalize things.”  Putting problems and personal feelings aside in little boxes and zeroing in on the task at hand is what astronauts, military personnel, firefighters, business professionals, nurses and surgeons do all the time. No one needs to know what’s happening inside our minds unless we really want them to.

We certainly have the right to be angry, hurt, etc., but how we handle these feelings is what counts. It is okay to hold back in order to keep peace for the moment or to get something accomplished. Having staying power in the face of adversity, or exercising great self restraint in expressing emotion takes courage. Consider a performer hearing bad news or having had an argument with their spouse right before a performance. They take a deep breath and “put their feelings on the back burner” until the performance is over.

Postponing our emotional upsets is easier than attempting to turn them off completely. In order to avoid becoming totally stressed and anxious, though, we must revisit and process our feelings when it seems safe and appropriate.

Knowing when and how to express our-selves takes honesty and courage. Keeping a stiff upper lip for a certain amount of time is okay, but it’s also very important to give our-self space to honor and express our feelings. When the time is right, journal, pray, meditate, create, talk to a friend and cry if need be. As Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”