Exposing & Accepting Imperfections

Much of the first half of my life was spent hiding my perceived flaws and imperfections, even from myself. While it helped me to survive childhood, I’ve found that hiding was keeping me miserable. Through unmasking myself, blogging has gifted me with connecting with others who have also suffered by hiding their perceived flaws. It also helps me gain a new level of understanding by writing the process out further than I would in a paper journal, where I would most likely just vent. Finally, I have found there is transformative power within vulnerability for everyone.

What I share here are personal experiences which more often than not leave me feeling vulnerable in posting. These are first-hand experiences of what I’ve learned through exposing my flaws, often in day-to-day interactions that lead to a new understanding or awareness.

For instance, in the post The Right to Exist, I shared an experience I had that I would have avoided altogether in the past by either not going to such a busy place at a busy time or parking way out of the way to better suit others. Instead, I chose to go there during Starbuck’s morning rush hour and park where it was convenient for me, so that I could meet my needs for a meal. In the process, I also calmly stood up for my right to be there to the person who very rudely cussed at me; all things I’d have avoided before.

In its rawness, this incident allowed me to more clearly see where I and others have not felt the right to exist and take up space. Even though I’ve made many strides in the past 4+ years, I’ve come to recognize that this may well be an ongoing healing theme for me throughout the remainder of my life; a theme that is overcome by degrees. Yet I fully intend to keep chiseling away at it by continuing to live more and more authentically, exposing myself especially where I feel vulnerable.

In a recent dream, Christ showed me where our cracks are actually our strengths. With this in mind, I end with the following prayer:

May we each see our imperfections in a new way, for in exposing our vulnerabilities, we each can benefit by reaching new levels of potential by living life more authentically, by connecting more deeply with others through our shared courage and through supporting each other in living our individual truths. In living through our truths, we set ourselves free.

Namaste

Coming Soon: Wabi-Sabi: Imperfect Perfection

The Right to Exist

Do you feel the need to prove yourself (worthy)? Do you go out of your way to make things easier for others, while making things harder for yourself? Do you frequently apologize to others, even when something is not your fault or something is beyond your control (as if apologizing for breathing)? Do you feel bad for meeting your needs? OR do you feel bad when someone gives you something, expecting nothing in return (and it’s not your birthday)? Do you feel bad for having a full grocery cart and the person behind you in line has just a few items? Does it bother you when you do not feel you are helping others in some way? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, chances are that you struggle with the right to exist.

Personally, the right to exist has been an ongoing issue with which I struggle. When things are going well and I’m contributing to a situation, then I feel comfortable being where I am. If, however, I feel that I’m only taking and not giving, I can struggle with my right to be here on earth. Recently, I have begun to see this pattern in others in my daily life where for so long I thought I had been alone in this.

This “right to exist” issue came to the forefront for me this past week when I felt the need to justify my right to park my car in a public parking lot!!! Another driver had an issue with traffic being stopped while I backed into a spot. Had her daughter not have been with her, she probably would have come at me with fists instead of angry and insulting words. I spent less time parking that she spent cussing at me (while she herself was blocking traffic) when I stood up to her to tell her I had the right to park (and exist). While I felt the right to (temporarily) take up space, later I saw where this incident still triggered my issues with my basic right to exist.

May we each see that we are on this earth for a reason, that we each have the right to exist and take up space. May we each be at peace with being. 

Namaste

Coming Soon: The Right to Receive

2018: Celebrating Wholeness & Completion

For 2019, I’m choosing to celebrate the New Year differently. For the first time, I’m going to ring in the New Year solo. In the past, I would have been in a panic to be alone. While I do have places where I could celebrate, I’m actually looking forward to the solitude. This desire is quite a shift for me and I believe the lessons I’ve learned from 2018 are a large part of it, having lead to a new experiences of wholeness and completion.

Overcoming Fears & Seeing my Strengths
As I look back over what brought me to this place of desiring solitude on New Year’s Eve, I can see the road was tough at times. In 2018, there were several significant events that lead to lessons in compassion, forgiveness and realizing my strengths.

This year, I lost out on a relationship because I felt emotionally left out and alone when he was over-scheduled and his life demands kept him away physically and especially emotionally. In my fear of rejection and abandonment, I grasped more strongly thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It has taken me most of the year to both see my own part more clearly and to have compassion and understanding of where he was coming from. Uncovering this process has lead to forgiveness for him, and even more so for myself. Through this loss, I learned compassion and forgiveness.

The breakup was untimely in that it was just a few days before my father had a brush with death. It was a one-two punch that threatened to take me under. I found that while my father was drowning in the bottom of a bottle, that legally I could do nothing if he refused care or treatment. Part of my lesson was one of surrender.

Once he chose to detox, due to his medical conditions, he was ineligible for inpatient rehab at any local facilities! He almost lost his life during the process when he had several detox seizures. Later, he fell and broke his back, further complicating his recovery. It was a difficult process for him, we’re all fortunate that his will helped him through.

This situation showed me both my strengths and weaknesses. I saw where my skills and tools both as a PT and spiritual traveler were called into action. Surrender showed up again when I saw where I needed help and turned to Al Anon. It was there that I learned that my father nor his addiction were my problems; my problems came from my own within.

It was up to me to focus on myself while having compassion for him; not fighting him to quit drinking. In trying to control my father, or a lover for that matter, I only lose control of myself and in so doing, steal from them their ability to recognize their own need for accountability. Much like the adage: you can lead a horse to water, you just can’t make him drink, I had to see where my tendency to help can be perceived as similar to waterboarding. While a bit of an exaggeration, the idea still stands. 

Later, still working through these circumstances, I witnessed a man tragically taking his final breaths. This rocked me to my core and lead me to a new understanding that life is brief, best enjoyed fully and that suffering is optional. This situation helped me to take the edge off of my need for perfection for perfection’s sake, recognizing the wasted energy in it.

My recent work with The Enneagram System has furthered my understanding of the struggle within each person and personality. While I am very much just on the river’s edge of understanding here, the take home message has been one of compassion, a form of surrender that leads to forgiveness. I see now where the vast majority of people are really doing the best that they can do. Our responses to others are often based on unconscious fears. As such, it is up to each of us to uncover these hidden fears, so that they no longer control and drive us. 

2019 Wholeness
For so long, I have felt this indescribable irredeemable deficiency* and sought external fixes to my internal lack. My personal fears whisper of lack, shame, rejection and abandonment. It is my duty to recognize these fears and the clues when they crop up so that I am not ruled by them. Writing has been one means to understanding and sharing my process to uncover the shame of my perceived deficiencies.

Through meditation, self-care (including writing) and a deeper spiritual understanding, I now see that I have been complete all along. Now I’m in a place where I can surrender into the truth that I am (and have been) whole and complete all along, as Unity intended. Now I see the feeling of an irredeemable deficiency is my blessing as much as it is my curse for it drives me into greater degrees of compassion and forgiveness.

May we each see our fears for what they are: our gift to propel us forward, or our curse if we allow it. May we see and experience ourselves in our highest truths, as we are each truly whole and complete. Through self-compassion and self-forgiveness, we see.

Namaste

*Irredeemable Deficiency is a term coined to describe The Enneagram Four’s Experience

Understanding Personalities with The Enneagram

I have spent much of my life feeling that there was something inherently wrong with me, having felt haunted by some “deep dark secret” that I could not touch nor fully understand. This feeling has been both a blessing and a curse. It both drives me forward into greater levels of self-exploration while at times it weighs me down and can inhibit my connection with others. Writing has been one of my vehicles for self-exploration and understanding. Then recently a friend of mine shared his experiences with The Enneagram System. In delving into the system, my self-understanding and sense of inner peace has greatly accelerated, helping to “lay to rest” some of the gnawing sense of shame from the unnamed “deep dark secret.” It is my hope that through The Enneagram that you will discover a greater understanding and peace, too. 

The Enneagram System
The Enneagram is a unique personality typing system that shows the interconnection between the nine basic personality types. Through this system we see how we are interconnected with all personalities, even though our basic personalities form the foundation of who we are. Each personality has 2 variants called wings, which reveal how the same basic personality can have variable expressions. The system also includes a continuum of how stress and wellness can affect each personality. We can use this information to move towards greater wellness and peace.

Enneagram testing* sites:

  • Enneagram Test with Instinctual Variants (free, no personal info required). This was my personal favorite, as it offers a broader continuum for each response with fewer questions making it “short and sweet.” 
  • Enneagram Test (free, no personal info required). This offers 3 options for each question: yes, partly and no.
  • The RHETI by The Enneagram Institute: ($12.00) This test was “either or” for each of 144 questions, which can be a challenge to choose between at times. 

*The challenge with the Enneagram test is that we can reply differently depending on where we are on the wellness-stress continuum, causing misidentifications. This is why the test results are reported with options and reading the various descriptions can be helpful.

Brief Descriptions of The Enneagram Personality Types, with links from the Enneagram Institute:

  1. The Reformer, Type One: The Rational, Idealist
  2. The Helper, Type Two: The Caring, Interpersonal Type
  3. The Achiever, Type Three: The Self-Oriented Pragmatist
  4. The Individualist, Type Four: The Sensitive, Introspective Type
  5. The Investigator, Type Five: The Intense, Cerebral Type
  6. The Loyalist, Type Six: The Committed, Security-Oriented Type
  7. The Enthusiast, Type Seven: The Busy, Variety Seeker
  8. The Challenger, Type Eight: The Powerful, Dominating Type
  9. The Peacemaker, Type Nine: The Easy-going, Self-Effacing Type

For more detail about the Enneagram types:

  • The Road Back to You: The Enneagram Story of Self-Discovery (book) by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. Offers type-specific ways to become more heathy and to grow spiritually.
  • Enneagram Personality descriptions with Wings/variants
  • Typology Podcasts Hearing others describe their experiences within the same personality type resonated far more deeply for me than reading the written descriptions. The panel also gave insights into what the written descriptors meant, again giving greater acceptance.
  • How Enneagram and The Myers-Briggs Temperament Sorter Compare

The Types and Relationships
Once you know your own and another’s Enneagram types, you can look up the overview of potential strengths and weaknesses within all types of relationships, here.

Freedom in Understanding
It is my hope that you will have a greater sense of self-appreciation and understanding through “seeing” your own personality through the podcasts, descriptions and interactions with other personality types.

May we each find greater peace through greater understanding and appreciation of ourselves. 

Please feel free to share your type & what you discovered! My Enneagram: Type 4 wing 3.

Namaste

 

Maybe We’ve Got Christ Backwards

Religion is personally a very tough topic for me, having felt burnt in most churches. Yet, here I find myself on Christmas Night writing about Christ and how I believe we’ve overlooked a very important message…

If Christ truly died for our sins, then that is where the martyrdom should end. Right? Then why do so many of us attempt to emulate Christ-the-Martyr in our everyday lives? Confused? Look at how we: downplay our successes, feel it is wrong to be “too happy,” fear God, fear abundance, and fear our own inner light and guidance (etc). How are we honoring the sacrifices (yes, plural) that Christ made for us when we are ourselves acting as martyrs?

After many years of spiritual practice and soul searching, I firmly believe that we’ve got this Christ thing completely backwards. His death and resurrection were to get our attention. His real message was to show us The Way back to our own Divine and Sacred Hearts. To me, he states this very clearly in The Sermon on the Mount found in both Matthew 5:43-48 and Luke 6:27-36

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? … And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? … Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Perhaps we fear this Love because we fear what it commands us to do. It is easy to love those who love us, and here Christ questions what reward do you have from this type of love?

Many of us habitually hide behind masks which once removed would unearth our own disdain for ourselves. How can we love our enemies when we can barely stand to look at, much less to love even ourselves? Yet, we see day in and day out that God still sends sun, rain and blessings to those who do both “Good and Evil.”  Here Christ is telling us that God, who is perfect/whole/complete loves EVERYONE. For you to be as God, perfect/whole/complete, then you must love your enemy, as there is no reward for only loving those who love you.

May we each open our hearts more today to love ourselves, to accept Our Divinity and to begin to love our enemies.  

Namaste

Recovering from Heartbreak: Taking it to the Next Level

Healing from heartbreak can be a drawn out and difficult process. It can seem to take forever because we don’t like feeling hurt or that we are broken. Often we suppress our feelings and try to rush the process in our desire to feel “A-OKAY” which can further prolong the process.

Idealizing the person and the relationship keeps us stuck and from moving forward. These thoughts become an addiction. It is up to us to choose when we no longer wish to ruminate, when we would like to move forward. Just as with changing any habit, to be successful, we must replace our old habits with new ones. Initially, this takes effort and near constant redirection. Here are some of the tools I have found helpful in breaking the habit of idealization:

  • Burn Letters – This can be very transformative. Pour out your emotions onto paper. Say whatever is on your mind, or that needs to be gotten off of your chest. Then place the paper into the fireplace, or fire pit and let your feelings be transformed. The stronger the feelings, the more times this may need to be done. For some, it may be one and done. For most, it may require repeated efforts.
  • Sh*t List – List out the things you did not like or that went wrong. Yes, focus for a little bit on the negative. When we are idealizing someone or something, then we are avoiding the negatives.
  • Gratitude – Each time you think on the ex lover or relationship, mentally thank your ex for showing you what you want in your next relationship. In relationship, we experience examples of what we liked while learning through contrast what we do NOT want again.
  • Wish List – List out all the things that you want in your NEXT RELATIONSHIP. Feel into as many items as you can as you list them out.
    • Additional suggestions:
      • Make an A to Z list. Challenge yourself to find at least one thing for each letter.
      • Read and feel this list everyday.
      • Record the list in your own voice. Listen to it daily.
      • When you start to think about the ex-lover or that relationship, look at the list.
      • Share the list with a trusted friend who will NOT ridicule you.
      • Allow this list to live in your heart.
  • Radical Self-Care – What have you not been doing for yourself? Were there good self-care habits that fell to the wayside when you were in relationship/grieving?
    • Some ideas:
      • Love & forgive yourself more. The Ho’Oponopono Prayer* is amazing: “I Love You. I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.”
      • Change your schedule.
      • Tidy your home, office or car.
      • Drive to work differently.
      • Exercise your body. This helps to get the emotions moving, too.
      • Fast (safely).
      • Eat foods that are right for your body.
      • Meditate.
      • Take a salt bath.
      • Go to the spa, get a massage, or have some energy healing done.
      • (Re)Connect with friends.
      • Journal.
      • Seek counseling or hypnotherapy.
      • See an Acupuncturist.
      • EFT

Fasting for Focus, Plus More

Just over 2 months ago, a friend was telling me how intermittent fasting (IF) had helped his focus. Intrigued, I started researching IF while trying this new way of eating on for size (pun not originally intended). Mind you, I am the woman who (before this) would not have skipped a meal without … consequences. “Hangry” had my picture next to it in the dictionary. So I was initially very cautious about IF as well as … skeptical. Now, over 2 months later, I am well into skipping breakfast, and sometimes more as I have found my focus is better and so are my energy, stamina and overall attitude towards life (yes, I know, it can seem unreal). Along the way, there have been some surprising, some not-so-surprising and some interesting side effects of IF to share. Then at the end, I’ll share some tools and links to science-based articles and posts, so you can explore more if you’d like.

As a result of my first-hand experience and the research I’ve done, I see IF as giving my body a break from digesting, assimilating and (improper) storing of food energy. This post touches briefly on the many positive “side effects” of fasting. I encourage you to keep an open mind as you read. Fasting offers different physiological responses than restricted calorie “diets.” As many of us have experienced dieting and the perpetual low blood sugar that results, we equate dieting with fasting. These are two very different beasts. Please treat them both with respect. 

Less Sleep
Overall, I sleep less and I wake up more easily in the morning – this is with less caffeine, too. Most nights, I sleep between 5-6 hours and feel energized. As such, it is easier for me to get out of bed, yes, even in the (almost) winter! In the past, I was “sleeping in” until the last minute most fall/winter mornings. Now, I’m up before the sun even on the weekends.

More free-time and money
Cooking and preparing fewer meals means more free-time and less money at the grocery store…well, and less meal-prep stress. While this makes complete sense to say now, these were initially unexpected side effects for me. I’m also snacking less, which means less money on expensive snack bars. Most of my calorie intake is now from more savory meals, and some sweets.

LESS Hunger
This one surprised me. Well, it still does. After the first few weeks, I’ve found that my hunger has actually decreased, as long as I am eating enough. It will make more sense if you have time to read this article about the hunger hormone, Gherlin, which increases weight gain while it increases your appetite! 

More energy and desire to work-out
While this all sounds counter-intuitive, I have MORE energy for the gym. Research even suggests it is better to workout while fasting. Honestly, if I had not experienced this myself, I would not have believed it. So I understand if you are also skeptical.

Now I look forward to working out. I’m hitting the gym more regularly and I feel so much better about myself and my body. WIN-WIN.

I will say, however, that I would personally refrain from starting a new workout routine during the first few weeks of IF (new meaning not already a well-established routine), as it can take some time to adjust to the IF regimen. 

Fat Loss and Muscle Definition
While I have lost some “scale weight,” most of my weight loss has been in inches of fat –  particularly fat around my waist, thighs and upper arms. Yes, I still have a “belly,” however, it is much more slim than it was just a few months ago. AND, I can also safely say that this is the smallest it’s been since before graduate school (and kids) with the added bonus that IF has required easily less than a quarter of the effort of a caloric-restricted diet (like WW). For the most part, I have not consciously changed my diet, just the time that I eat. In fact, I’ve even stopped tracking my foods.

Again, weight loss has not been my focus, it has just been a nice side effect to look and  feel better in my skin, well, and jeans.

More Desserts, Yet Fewer Sweets
While I buy more cookies and treats (I rarely trusted myself to have them in the house before), now I find that I eat fewer of them as my sweet “sensitivity” is greater, so I do not indulge in as many sweets as I did before. In other words, I enjoy the sweets I do eat more, consuming less of them. 

Heightened Senses & Intuition
Perhaps this is also part of why I enjoy fewer sweets; my senses of smell and taste are more sensitive. After a fast, especially longer ones, I find that the food tastes so incredible that I eat less of it and enjoy it more.

Intuition can be more challenging to quantify. Suffice it to say, my intuitive voice is louder, more active and accurate.

My Personal IF Steps
When I first started, I was doing a 16-hour fast followed by an 8-hour feeding schedule. It took me about 1/2 the first week to feel comfortable with not eating for 16-hours straight.

In fact, the first few days I really had to “breathe through” the belief that I was literally going to starve to death if I waited another minute to eat. This is a sure sign of psychological hunger, by the way. As such, it can be easier to fast initially when one’s schedule is more busy, starting 3 or so hours before bedtime to take advantage of our normal sleeping fasting routine.

About a month of so into IF, I began to extend the fast to 18-hours after I read research that the benefits of IF really “begin” after about 16 hours. On kid-free weekends, I also extend the fasting periods for as long as I feel comfortable without allowing it to feel like a punishment.

Strategies That Support IF

  • See IF as a break from eating instead of as starvation. Starvation is when you’re not eating and you have NO idea when you’re next meal may be. 
  • Drink lots of water. Sometimes I add a pinch of salt to give it some flavor.
  • Herbal (non-caloric) Tea helps. Matcha has also been ranked as a good hunger suppressant.
  • Know the difference between physical and psychological (or emotional) hunger.
  • Avoid punishing yourself with extending the fast for too long OR overeating when you break your fast. Think the long haul here, if you punish yourself with it, how long are you really likely to stick with it?
  • Be flexible with your feeding and fasting schedules. This can go a long way to support your success. Rigidity here may lead to failure of your program.
  • Avoid boredom, or you’ll quickly find out how much you eat to fill the time.
  • Meditate or keep busy during fasting times. I find that too much down time can make for a difficult fast (late-night TV is the WORST with all of those food ads; those marketing companies know what they’re doing….)

Yes, My Morning Routine Still Includes Coffee & Some Unsweetened Almond Milk
When I first started IF, I was drinking black coffee only, then I read this article that talks about how caffeine can actually support your fast. The author also states small amounts of unsweetened nut milks do not break the fast. While reviews of this practice have been mixed, for me, I’m still maintaining the positive benefits of IF WHILE also enjoying my AM coffee more.

Some of the science
Does Coffee Break an Intermittent Fast? by Mark Sisson
YouTube: Dr. Satchin Panda
YouTube: Optimizing Your Workouts While Fasting with Thomas DeLauer
Study finds fasting 72 hours regenerates the entire immune system

Tools
Tracking App: Zero – keeps track of your fasting times and you can set to count up or down to feeding times, customize the time that’s right for you.
Instagram: @Fastingnews “for all things fasting”
Facebook: Also has moderated support groups including: Intermittent Fasting and Delay, Don’t Deny.

Epilogue
Intermittent fasting has been an interesting journey for me. I’ve learned a lot about myself and find that I am snacking less, have more energy and am less weighed down: literally and figuratively.

The first week may require some adjustments and yet I feel if you find these side effects intriguing that it would be good to do some research. It would also be a good idea to check in with your physician first, too, especially if you are taking prescription meds that require food.

May we each find the dietary regimen that works best for us. 

Namaste

UnHome for the Holidays: Breathing through the Holiday Blues

When I was younger, several family friends found the holidays depressing. This perplexed me, I wondered how people weren’t joyous during the holidays. Now I understand. This year marks the 4th Winter Holiday Season since separation, and eventual divorce. Having two young children who are now “forced” to split their holidays between parents, this time of year brings to the forefront the loss of the “Norman Rockwell” image of family that I have held since a young age (sometimes with a white-knuckled grip) in my mind.  So while I can still find joy in the holidays, there is an ever present longing that I am keenly aware may never be filled…and part of me blames myself.

Breathing in, I feel the grievances of childhood ideals. Just for this moment, I choose to not question them, for to do so would be to question my right to feel the losses; losses which are palpable for me at the moment. 

Breathing out, I feel my grasp on the ideals slowly slip away.

Breathing in, I allow this cycle to repeat: allowing the feelings and the ideals to be, then allowing my grip on them to release.

So now I feel better about Christmas, at least. Now to move onto New Year’s Eve, another year in which to celebrate being single, while grieving the vacancy at my side. 🙂

May we each find a greater sense of peace about where we find ourselves in life during this more sensitive time of year. May we further allow our grievances to surface, so that we may acknowledge and honor them, then allow our grips on them to soften, freeing us to enjoy greater degrees of freedom from our suffering. Peace begins within.

Namaste

Know that you are not alone in this. If your emotions are overwhelming and/or preventing you from activities that you normally enjoy, please reach out to someone who can help: 

  • National Suicide Hotline (US) 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or chat available 24/7
  • Mental Health Referral Hotline (US) 1-877-726-4727 available 8 AM – 8 PM EST Monday-Friday

Seeing Love as if for the Very First Time

Love and compassion are the soft whispers of a heart that is given the permission to fully express its truth. Many of us have learned that love is conditional, and out of fear we believe we have to manipulate others to gain their love. These beliefs are the furthest from the truth.

Much like the air we breathe, Love is ubiquitous and an invisible presence that can easily be taken for granted. Yet Love is vital for our survival, without it we cannot thrive.

Love accepts life and others “as is” and whether others Love us or not. Just as we have compassion for others when they are suffering a loss, we accept them for their range of emotions and sad or angry faces, Love is accepting others for who they are right now, in the present. While we can see the potential of others, our Love for them is not based on who they “could be,” it is based on who they are right now. Today. In sickness and in health.

If we force the process of Love, rushing into it at break neck speeds, then this reveals our fear that we cannot be loved. It is as if we believe we must have someone “fall for us” before they can see “our flaws.” Charming is not Love. Charming is manipulation.

When we believe that we must make ourselves into something or someone different for someone else to Love us, then this reveals where we do not Love ourselves.  When we accept and allow ourselves to be ourselves, then we show ourselves our own Love. It is then that we can begin to accept the Love of another, as we are then strong enough in ourselves to be who we are, to shine our own lights and allow those whose lights match ours to become closer to us.

Simply put. Love is.

Namaste

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