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

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

When Pain Becomes a Companion

Recently it became apparent to me that I’d rather hold onto the pain of my past than to allow for something better, and to prevent from feeling lonely. It was something I did not realize that I was doing, thinking nor believing. In some ways, this recognition still seems somewhat surreal to me: who the heck would hold onto their pain? (well, me, that’s who…for starters).

In speaking with my creative life coach, Sam, I told her that I still felt there was something in the way of a fuller expression of my creativity. She had me sit back, take a few deep breaths and then she asked me for what I “saw” (as in visualized) when I went within the part of me that felt something was in the way. Immediately, I saw myself standing on a catwalk over a huge dam. The water was spilling over the top, yet there was still much of the river being held back.

Next, Sam asked me to allow the river to flow more readily in a way that was comfortable for me. The dam wall then began to retract downwards and the water was fully released. In fact, it was released to the point that I sat in a dried up river bed looking up at an empty expanse of “nothing.”

It really bothered me to be in this vacuity. It was not a complete vacuum, yet the space was immense and left me feeling utterly lonely. Almost immediately, I was looking up at the walls of the canyon, wanting to climb out. She asked me to stay and reluctantly, I did so. Eventually, I began to feel at peace in this inner landscape of my own making.

It was later in the week that I saw the pattern emerging that I was also more comfortable holding onto scraps than allowing myself to wait for something better. Again, pain was my companion.

Now when I feel that I’m hoarding my emotions, or my emotional responses to something, I am sitting with it and imagining the whole dam(n) wall retracting into the ground. All of the emotions are then able to move freely. Sometimes I am left at the bottom of the riverbed, other times I grow out of the canyon.

What I’m seeing is that in allowing the emotions to run their course internally I can then see things differently. I no longer need to hold onto my pain to avoid feeling lonely… pain no longer needs to be my companion.

May we each find peace with our pain, allowing it all to flow so that we can each live more fully again.

Namaste

It’s Okay to be Okay

This lesson may be just as, if not more, difficult to understand than “being okay with not being okay.” When things are going well for me, I find that I look for the “bad things” on the horizon. Why can I not be okay with what’s happening?

When life is going well, it’s as if I’m constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. I find that my eyes are on the horizon, searching for any potential storms, pirates, tsunamis or other “dangers” that could threaten my happiness. What?! How does this even make sense? Instead of being grateful for where I am and enjoying what I do have, my eyes focus on the potential negatives.

We get what we look for. I’m searching for issues so guess what? Then I’m going to get more issues. Those potential issues then become my focus instead of enjoying the calm waters and sunny skies that surround me now.

So here today, I choose to redirect the focus to where I am now, and away from seeking threats that are outside of my safe harbor; that are also outside of my control. Putting down the binoculars, I can now focus on the present. Even if the present is impermanent.

I extend this wish out to each of you: May we each find the peace and comfort in where we are, even if it’s rough sometimes, even when it’s easy sometimes. Knowing that it is all transient: it will change, so let’s be okay with where we are today.

Note: This is different from complacency, this is about acceptance of what is. Only then can we choose to change course. ❤️

Namaste

The Rise After The Fall: Having Fun While Overcoming Fears Part II

Last weekend, I went “surfing” again. This time I took along a friend who was inspired by my surfing story because she, too, had had a fear of “deep water.” She said that she would try surfing if she had a friend to go with her. So we gave it a go!

While the waves were somewhat small, we were having to fight rather hard to get past the “white water” to the surf line. There was a storm off the coast and the waves were fair to choppy and the sets were close together to where we were hit by another wave just after recovering from the wave before – it was as if we were treading water on surfboards!

The storm system was also creating “rogue” waves from time to time that would break much earlier than the others. Well, one grabbed hold of me and took me straight to the sandbar. Once I hit the bottom, the wave tumbled me much like a pebble.

What was amazing for me? Instead of feeling any sense of danger or fear for my life, I felt a sense of peace that everything was going to be alright. This is really, really huge for me. I feel I need to restate it: this is really, really huge for me. I had an inner knowing of peace, calm and that all would be okay. It was. When the Atlantic Ocean released her grip, I was literally on my feet without any real effort to get there.

The fighting to get past the whitewater had worn me out, especially since I was still recovering from feeling quiet worn out from my workweek. So I did not feel like fighting the waves anymore. Instead, I retrieved my board (via the leash) and caught a wave that safely took me all the way to the shoreline.

This surfing adventure was a new level to my understanding of Spirituality. Sometimes life takes us down to the bottom, yet by surrendering and being in trust, we can quickly rise back up. When we stop fighting the forces, we can easily get back to our peace. 

This analogy also works emotionally and physically. It was in fighting that I wore myself out. It was in allowing that I was set free of my fears. It was in faith that I knew all would be okay, and I’ve used that analogy of being the pebble when a “life wave” takes me under and threatens to overwhelm me. Then it is in allowing that I was given rest, reprieve and the greatest leap forward.

Namaste

Changing Money Strategies: Financial Healing

Back in January, I posted Changing Money Strategies, a post that was out of my comfort zone at the time. Since then, I’ve made some significant shifts that have helped me to improve my credit score and reduce my debt load. Being that many healers have hang-ups about financial issues and “net worth,” I felt it may be helpful to share what I’ve learned.

New Mental Outlook: Helpful and not Initially Required

Prior to the work I did leading up to the “Changing Money Strategies” post, I believed that I did not have enough money. It was a constant thought process on my mind. In making the shifts that I outlined, I now feel far more comfortable with my income and how I choose to spend it. It is in our discomfort and fear that we make choices based in fear. When our minds and hearts are open, we can make choices that are more aligned with our big- and small-picture desires.

Consider a Personal Loan for Debt Consolidation – even at a high interest rate. Here’s why: 

Taking out a personal loan to consolidate my debt was one of the best choices I could have made. While the interest rate was high, and caused a lump in my throat at 16.99%, it was still lower than the ones on the credit cards. In moving the debt from the higher interest cards and to the personal loan, I lowered the amount of money that was being paid to the lender while paying more to the principal. An additional bonus, which I did not expect (again, I was non-financially minded) was that this also helped to improve my credit score tremendously and nearly overnight.

Credit Score Factors

When credit bureaus calculate your credit score, they use several factors. One involves the percentage of credit utilization on credit cards. Basically, we get “dinged” harder for credit on cards versus on loans because the higher the amount of money on credit cards, the lower your credit score.

Credit Bureaus also look at the percentage of your available credit that you are actually using. After I found this out, I left my credit card accounts open instead of closing them. This helped to bump my score up, too. Note: This can be tricky! The temptation may be to use your cards, so if you know you’ll just run up the credit again – it may be best to close the accounts as you pay them off. 

With these strategies, my credit score rose 76 points between December 2017 and February 2018, just by shifting the majority of my debt from the credit cards to the personal loan. Seven months later and my credit score has risen by 117 points, putting me in the “Good” category!

These shifts were very fruitful for me, as I am now approved for a new personal loan with a <6% interest rate (>10-percentage points less than the January loan), and with a lower monthly payment and a shorter term. Though my score may drop next month due to getting “dinged” by both a new loan and the credit checks, in the long-run this will help me to pay my debt down faster!

Personal Loan Payments: How & When

During the last 6 months, I also paid as much to my personal loan as I could each month; adding on extra funds when I had windfalls AND paying early when I could, too – as the interest accrued was reduced when I made earlier and larger payments.

While I still have a bit of time before I am “out of the woods,” I am in a much better place now financially than I was just half a year ago. Now, I am allowing myself to begin dreaming about home ownership again; it’s on my horizon at least – something I really wasn’t even able to think of just a few months back.

I’m hopeful that this information will help those of us who also struggle with the fears of financial burdens and decision-making. Prior to January, I was feeling helpless and hopeless. These shifts have been a game-changer!

Namaste

The Antidote to Fear

When we bury, push against or deny our fears, we ultimately give them more power. Our fears then unconsciously control us, keeping us from peace. That is, until we choose to face our fears. Our willingness to face our fears is the first step.

Fear is held in place by holding our breaths, and contracting when the emotion reads its head; whether we’re gripping the fear, pushing it away or hiding from it.

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.

~Ephesians 5:13

You see the antidote to fear is light. When we allow the fears to surface, while breathing and allowing the emotions to move through us, we release our fears. To face our fears means to walk into the very places we have avoided, to open sealed doors and allow the emotion to move into the light. It is then that it can move through us and away from us.

While breathing and feeling where your body is physically supported:

  • Acknowledge the fear – open the closet doors where it has been hiding
  • Keep breathing while you allow the fear to move through you
  • This may cause you to feel physically, mentally and emotionally uncomfortable. Please stay with the breath and where your body is physically supported
  • The emotions will then move through and release you from its grip. When this happens, you will feel a great sense of peace.
  • Do your best to allow this process to unfold, this will bring you a greater freedom from your fears when you do.

Know that healing happens in layers. This same feeling may come back again to be revisited and released on a deeper level. As much as you can allow the process, the faster you can return to peace. When we question what we’re feeling, we’re questioning our own experience and creating conflict within ourselves.

When we are at war with ourselves, no one wins.

Fear is an emotion. Emotions are energy. They only get stuck when we don’t allow them to be. Facing our fears frees ourselves and others.

Namaste

Image: Inner Conflict by Koby Feldmos

Meet Creative Life Coach, Sam

At different times in our lives, we need a helping hand (or two or more) to help us to grow. In the past, I’ve shared my experiences with how life coaches have helped me in “letting go” and today I’d like to introduce you to my creative life coach, Sam!

I’ve worked with Sam for over a year now on how to expand my creativity. She has helped me to face many of my internal barriers to expressing and being myself. I’m now poised to introduce new avenues of expression that I’ve been working on. (Well, at least in the next month or so, I hope).

There has been an ongoing unfolding of the fears that have kept me from being myself. She was also behind my post on facing my fear of heights. My current assignment may be the toughest yet, ironically, it’s my fear of being my playful self.

I hope you will take the time to check out her site and even to take the leap and contact her. With all she’s helped me through, I’m confident she will be able to help you, too!

Sam, Creative Life Coach

Namaste

Escaping from the Prison of Perfection

Some of us believe that if we do everything right, or just so, that we can be more happy. That to be in control of our emotions, our thoughts and our actions will lead to greater riches or success. The truth is that perfectionism ends up controlling us and keeps us locked in a prison of our own making.

The escape hatch is within our grasp. It is in identifying the underlying fear that drives us to feel that we must control the external aspects of our lives. The key to the lock is understanding that the freedom and bliss is in letting go of our grasp on the need to control our realities.

When we attempt to control or manipulate the world around us, and the people in our worlds, we essentially place ourselves into a prison of our own making. Our belief in our ability to be happy and free then becomes entangled in what the world and everybody else is (or isn’t) doing. With this external focus, we give away our rights and access to our own peace; for it is in focusing within, on the messages carried within our own hearts, that we find our freedom.

Breaking free of perfection means becoming aware of where we feel we need to block our emotions, to control others, to rush from one activity to another or to rush to complete the next deadline and where we feel afraid to spread into new territories. It means taking off the mask that says, “I am more than human.” It means being moved by our emotions to spread our wings into the winds that carry us into new territories: within and also outside of ourselves.

I write this during a time where I am expanding by breaking small controlling habits by parking in a different place everyday, wearing clothes that are unusual for me, driving to work in different ways, and leading more by example.

And as a human, I’m making many effing mistakes. However, with each detour I also see life from a different view. I’m willing to be more accepting of my emotions and passions.

I also write this at a time where I have seriously stalled on a new project that just a few weeks ago I found great joy and excitement in creating. In some ways, I don’t feel I’m good enough to move forward with it. Not everything is right and so I’ve become stagnant.

While I have expanded in some areas, I’m at a contracted standstill in others. To contract is to hold on while letting go of control is to open into new ways of living and expressing. To “make mistakes” leads to new discoveries. This is something I’ve found here with the blog, now to allow what skill in my new project.

So now I ask of you: What project might be stalled out for you because of your feelings of inadequacy, that you’re not ready, that you don’t have what it takes? Or just simply put, your need for perfection and control? Or maybe a fear of making mistakes? They are all quite similar, indeed.

What are other areas in your life where you can allow for greater expansion? It’s important in some ways to push our own boundaries. This is called growth. To continually contract and hold on is to stagnate.

Please, will you join me in expanding into new territories?

Namaste

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