Being Kind to Yourself

I’ve been thinking about self-compassion lately, and was reminded of this post I wrote in 2017 about this topic. As I re-read it, I realized that (once again!) I have failed to follow my own advice. I’m still beating myself up for mistakes and being critical of most of my efforts. So I’m sharing this post again to help me remember (and help you too, if you need it) to treat myself more kindly.

I recently took Session 1 of Write into Light, an amazing teleclass by Martha Beck (a new session starts in May 2019; check it out here). In the second call, she was outlining a writing exercise where we visualize our home and pick our least favorite spot, then see what it has to tell us. She did the exercise herself as she was describing it; she picked her master bedroom closet because it was filled with stuff she didn’t know what to do with. She described it as cluttered and disorganized, then asked what its message was for her. In the pause before she conveyed the message, I was anticipating something like “you have too much useless junk in your life and you need to clear it out”—something that would point out a problem and how she should fix it. But what she actually said flabbergasted me. She said, in the softest, kindest voice: “Oh, go easy on yourself, please. Let the clutter be today … Everybody’s got clutter, sweetheart. Let it go.”

I sat there with my mouth open, astonished. A message of pure compassion? It was the exact opposite of what I expected. We’re always told clutter is bad and we should clear it, and yet here was this world-famous life coach saying it was OK—because she was speaking from love. And love never criticizes. Real love is unconditional; you are loved no matter what. No. Matter. What.

How often do we truly experience that? How often are we able to truly give that? It’s extraordinarily hard to practice—but it’s essential that we learn how. We can’t possibly experience any kind of lasting happiness or joy if we don’t give ourselves a break. And we can’t offer others unconditional love if we don’t give it to ourselves first.

At the root of unconditional love is compassion. Understand, and forgive, like Martha Beck’s closet. “It’s OK, sweetheart. Everyone has clutter.” Not, “You are so lazy, why haven’t you cleaned me up already? What a loser. You can’t even keep this tiny space straight; how will you ever be a success?” No. Acceptance and love. Try alternating those statements to yourself—first the kind one, then the negative one. Isn’t it incredible how different they make you feel? An imaginary statement from a room can make you feel loved or ashamed. If you are gentle and compassionate with yourself, it completely changes everything. It feels like sinking into a bubble bath of peace. Imagine being as kind to yourself as you’d be to your dearest friend. When our best friend screws up, we’re always quick to tell her it’s OK. But when we screw up, oh boy! Bring on the banshees!

Most of us have that voice in our head that criticizes almost everything we do and constantly judges situations. Often, it’s not even our own voice, but one we absorbed from a parent or teacher. We don’t even notice most of the time, but it’s always carping at us. Never satisfied, always complaining. Start listening; it goes on and on. How can we expect to feel good with that constant barrage of criticism?

I recently began re-reading “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron (an excellent book which I highly recommend), and one of the first activities is to write a positive statement about yourself several times (like “I am genuinely talented”) and then note all the criticisms and objections that surface in your head. She calls those blurts, and she recommends writing them down, then reframing them as positive affirmations. This was so difficult for me. I felt silly saying nice things about myself, but I had felt totally normal saying mean things! That is messed up. But I think that’s how most of us are. Cameron points out that this inner critic is precisely why so many people don’t pursue their dreams. They self-sabotage before they even start. It is essential to quiet that inner judge if we want to accomplish anything, and I think it’s necessary in order to find true joy.

It’s important to realize that the critic inside you is not you. It is a separate voice that you can politely—or not so politely—tell to shut up. You can even give it a name, like Mr. Judgypants or Bossy Bee, to help you take it a little less seriously. When Bossy Bee starts bitching, say, “Hey, Bossy Bee. I know you want to help, but I’ve got this. Goodbye now.” (Or “Buzz off,” lol.)

When you screw up, instead of letting Bossy Bee berate you, consider what love would say. I don’t know, maybe give love a name too. Lucy Lovebug? Love understands, love accepts, love encourages. Lucy Lovebug would say, “It’s OK sweetheart; I’m here for you no matter what.” Treat yourself like you would a wounded child. Because that’s what we all are inside, really. Even those with “good” childhoods picked up some scars along the way. We need comfort and cuddling, not criticism and cruelty. We need forgiveness and kisses and treats.

A simple way to get into that mindset is lovingkindess meditation. Close your eyes and silently say, “May I be well. May I be loved.  May I be free from all suffering. (Or, May I be filled with peace.)” Repeat three times (or as much as you need). That’s it! If you’re like me, even doing this will make you uncomfortable at first; but try doing it every day, maybe first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Over time, it will help you be more gentle and loving with yourself—and others.

We are not perfect. No one is. I repeat—no one is perfect, no matter how they seem from the outside. Everybody messes up. That’s part of being human. And when we mess up, compassion feels a lot better than anger, and helps us recover better too.

The next time you make a mistake, laugh. Feel solidarity with the billions of other people who are probably making a mistake at that exact same moment. No judgment, no self-flagellation. Look for the positive:  Well, I wrecked the car, but no one got hurt. If I hadn’t gotten lost, I would never have met my new best friend. Sometimes what looks like a disaster turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Give yourself a break. I will be right there with you, trying to remember to choose kindness.

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Will You Be Your Valentine?

It’s Valentine’s Day, which encourages us to show our love for our romantic partner. Where is the holiday that encourages us to show our love for ourselves?

Truly, this is so important that we should be reminded every day, not just one day a year. We can’t fully love others if we don’t fully love ourselves. And yet we often treat ourselves terribly. Our needs are always last on the list. “Oh, I don’t have time to _______, I have to work/take care of my children/clean the house/go to the store/cook dinner/do laundry, etc. etc.”

However, as many of us have found out, if we focus solely on taking care of others and neglect ourselves for too long, it will eventually have a negative impact. We get sick, or are constantly tired or irritable (or are sick, tired, AND irritable). Often when this happens, our instinct is to push through, because we are needed. We’re not making it up—we do have tons of obligations and people who depend on us—bosses, coworkers, children, spouses, parents, friends. But our first obligation should be to ourselves. I know it sounds radical. But it’s true.

It’s important to note that we’re worthy of love, just as we are. We don’t have to be constantly productive to prove our worth. We are each born a magnificent soul, deserving of unconditional love. When we give ourselves that love—not demanding anything in return, not trying to “be better,” just appreciating ourselves as is—it makes a huge difference in our lives.

I’ll admit, showing myself unconditional love is something I struggle with daily. I’m a perfectionist and highly self-critical, and as I’ve discussed before, I have the urge to always be doing something to “earn my keep.” But running around like a hamster on a wheel all the time doesn’t feel good. No matter how hard I work, I never cross everything off the list (gah, how I hate that fact!). I never reach that mark of “enough.”

I always feel like I come up short when I tie my value to what I’m accomplishing. If I can wrap my head around the idea that I’m inherently worthy—that I was born enough, and don’t have anything to prove—that feels SO much better. I feel open rather than constricted. Relaxed instead of clenched. Happy instead of apprehensive.

There’s a common saying: When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. The converse is absolutely true: when I’m happy, I can spread that happiness. I’m more likely to be kind and patient with those I love—and even with strangers. So when you tend to your own happiness, you’re really doing others a service.

What if we all devoted time every day just to showing ourselves some love? Paying attention to our needs and our wants; taking a moment to sit and listen to our inner voice, which often gets drowned out in the cacophony of modern life. I’m not talking about hours each day—just as much time as you can comfortably fit into your schedule. Maybe five minutes, sitting outside while you watch the clouds float by, or fifteen minutes of meditation or yoga or reading—whatever lights you up and makes you feel whole.

Today, take a moment to show yourself some love. Do something you enjoy, or give yourself a treat that that makes you feel amazing. Book that massage! Steal away and read that book! Savor the chocolate! Do it just because—because you are a miraculous, incredible, gorgeous soul who deserves all the love in the world. XXXOOO! 

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Make 2019 the Best Year Yet

I can’t believe it’s already December! The holiday merry-go-round is spinning in full force here, so I’m going to take a break from posting for the rest of the month. But first, I want to share with you an article I recently wrote for Hers Magazine titled “Do’s and Don’ts to Make 2019 Incredible.” If you can, try some of these ideas this month. Taking a few moments for ourselves each day can really help keep us calm and centered amidst all the hustle and bustle

I hope you have a happy, magical holiday filled with love and light. See you next year!

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The morning sets the tone for the rest of the day, and each morning is an opportunity for a fresh start. It’s like pressing the reset button—and you get that chance every twenty-four hours.

A morning ritual enables you to make the most of every day. Here are some “do’s and don’ts” that will help you master your mornings and steer your life with purpose toward a clear vision of what you want.

Don’t put yourself last. This is especially important for women. We tend to get up and immediately start handling external obligations, whether it’s for family or work. If we take a moment to care for ourselves first, we fill our own well and have more to give.

A morning ritual is one of the highest forms of self-care. We’re literally putting ourselves first. When we do this each morning, it helps train us to put ourselves first throughout our life. This is not selfish, it’s necessary. If we keep putting others’ needs ahead of our own, never taking the time to replenish our reserves, we will eventually run out. A morning ritual refuels us every day, keeping our life running smoothly.

“Having a morning ritual, I believe, is the key to stepping up to the starting line of a new adventure. Every day is full of possibility. [Mine] gives me the ability to meet the day’s activities in the best possible way.”—Char Cooper, business owner and marathon runner

Don’t use an alarm clock. Try training yourself to wake up without one; this allows your body’s circadian rhythm to wake you up when you’re naturally ready so you feel alert instead of groggy (as can happen when your alarm goes off during deep sleep). In order for this to be possible, you need to get enough sleep; make sure you go to bed early enough the night before.

If you want to keep using an alarm, don’t hit the snooze button—it only makes you sluggish. And once you’re awake, don’t get up immediately. First, take a few deep, slow breaths; doing this will calm and center you.

Don’t check social media or email first thing. Feed your mind with positive input and determine your priorities for the day first, instead of distracting yourself or getting waylaid by others’ needs.

“If I wake up and look at the phone right away, my whole day is wrecked. I have to meditate first. Meditation needs to happen before anything else; that’s my time.”—Jeanne Geier Lewis, start-up entrepreneur and co-founder of Capsure and Creativebug

Don't multitask.

It’s tempting on busy mornings to juggle three things at once, but resist. It might feel like you're getting more done, but studies show that we’re less efficient when we multitask, and it will scatter your energy. Strengthen your ability to focus by putting your full attention on each activity in turn. This also makes your morning feel much more peaceful, and you can carry that feeling of peace with you throughout your day.

Do go outside.

Getting sunlight first thing makes you more alert and spurs production of the mood-booster serotonin; it also helps regulate your sleep cycles. Take your morning coffee or tea out with you and enjoy.

Do what makes you happy and fills you up.

Ask yourself, “What do I need today?” Not “What do I have to do” or “What do others want me to do?” but “What do I need to do for me?” Whatever works for you is right for you.

Do try something creative.

Starting the day by “playing” may seem like slacking off, but it can actually boost your productivity. Ideas include meditative drawing, painting, knitting, writing, and singing. Or, have a short dance party—it’s more fun than exercising, easy to fit into a busy morning, and will rev up your energy while putting you in a good mood.

Do take the time to listen to your inner voice.

Overall, I think the most vital thing is taking quiet time for yourself. That’s when you hear your own voice and find your own truth.”—Tonya Lewis Lee, women’s wellness advocate, entrepreneur, filmmaker, and author

Women often have difficulty achieving the lives of our dreams. In fact, we often have difficulty even knowing what our dreams are. Centering ourselves with a morning ritual helps us access that inner knowing. By connecting to our core self, the one who is often drowned out by the world, we are able to know ourselves better and see clearly what it is that we want, then map out how to achieve it. And when you create the space for inspiration to come to you, you can realize solutions to problems and receive insights that will make life easier.

You don’t need to meditate for an hour—simply sitting in silence for a few minutes can be transformational. Journaling is also an excellent way to get in touch with yourself. If you find it difficult to be still, try a moving meditation with walking, Qi Gong, or yoga.

Creating a morning ritual is about taking charge of your day from the very beginning, gently, with purpose. When you start the day on your own terms, you are better prepared to live your life that way. You are mindful and calm. You can see more clearly the path that you genuinely desire to take—the path that leads to your happiest, most fulfilled life.

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The Joy of Little Things

So like everyone else in the country, I bought a Mega Millions lottery ticket—and like everyone else except one person, I didn’t win. It was really exciting to imagine what I would have done with all that money, and I was disappointed not to win.

I had to remind myself that while more money would be fun, I don’t need it in order to be happy. (In fact, most lottery winners end up less happy than they were before they won!) As the poem below illustrates so beautifully, what is truly important and valuable in life are the “little things,” which are actually not so little: love, companionship, and the comforts of home.

We can have all the money or fame in the world, but if we’re alone, it doesn’t matter. And as long as we’re safe, we don’t need a large or fancy house to be happy. The tiniest things can bring us joy—a hot cup of tea or coffee in a favorite mug, a lovingly tended plant, a cherished heirloom from a grandparent. We tend to take them for granted. So in praise of those “little things,” here is this wonderful poem.

The Joy of Little Things  

--Robert William Service

It's good the great green earth to roam,
Where sights of awe the soul inspire;
But oh, it's best, the coming home,
The crackle of one's own hearth-fire!
You've hob-nobbed with the solemn Past;
You've seen the pageantry of kings;
Yet oh, how sweet to gain at last
The peace and rest of Little Things!

Perhaps you're counted with the Great;
You strain and strive with mighty men;
Your hand is on the helm of State;
Colossus-like you stride . . . and then
There comes a pause, a shining hour,
A dog that leaps, a hand that clings:
O Titan, turn from pomp and power;
Give all your heart to Little Things.

Go couch you childwise in the grass,
Believing it's some jungle strange,
Where mighty monsters peer and pass,
Where beetles roam and spiders range.
'Mid gloom and gleam of leaf and blade,
What dragons rasp their painted wings!
O magic world of shine and shade!
O beauty land of Little Things!

I sometimes wonder, after all,
Amid this tangled web of fate,
If what is great may not be small,
And what is small may not be great.
So wondering I go my way,
Yet in my heart contentment sings . . .
O may I ever see, I pray,
God's grace and love in Little Things.

So give to me, I only beg,
A little roof to call my own,
A little cider in the keg,
A little meat upon the bone;
A little garden by the sea,
A little boat that dips and swings . . .
Take wealth, take fame, but leave to me,
O Lord of Life, just Little Things.

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Sharing the Load Makes it Lighter

This week I feel compelled to share one of my very first posts again. So many people today seem to be struggling and in need of support. The world can be a difficult, overwhelming, and isolating place. We often think that we are the only ones who are having a hard time, but that is definitely not the case. If this post helps you, I’m glad. If you don’t need it today, it’s likely that someone you know does, so feel free to share.

You Are Not the Only One

Your fear, your pain, your secret shame—whatever wakes you up at 2 a.m. or keeps you from falling asleep—you are not the only one to experience it. If you were to share it, someone else would understand. Someone would say, “Me too.” It may not be your spouse, or your parent, or even your best friend—it may be a stranger whom you’ve never met face-to-face. But rest assured, they are out there.

Yes, they, because there’s probably more than one. This burden you carry feels all the heavier because you think you carry it alone. That is not true. If you speak the secret in a safe place, others will speak up too. They will say, “I feel the same way,” or “I’ve done that too, and I’m so ashamed.” The relief you will all feel when you find each other is enormous. Sharing the load makes it easier to carry, and sometimes bringing it into the light makes it disappear.

I witnessed this on a private forum for a class about writing through your pain to the love on the other side. These women—complete strangers at first—gradually began to share their most secret secrets, and the acceptance and understanding is overwhelming. One will post a gut-wrenching admission of something which has smothered her in shame and guilt for years, and within minutes, others are posting. Forgiving, commiserating, sharing their similar experiences. Each one feeling like she alone had done that or felt that way—until the dozens of others spoke up.

It is powerfully uplifting to witness the healing that happens when you share what you think is the worst part of you and it is met with compassion and love. It opens the way for peace and joy. Feeling afraid, ashamed, or guilty blocks joy from entering your life like a clot blocks blood flow—and it can be just as life-threatening. Dissolving that clot by sharing your truth will clear the path for all the goodness that is waiting for you.

If you are suffering, I encourage you to seek out a safe place to lay your burden down. Look for support groups, classes, or organizations that might yield a space for you to share. Your tribe is out there, I promise. Online classes are great because it can be easier to be truthful when you’re not actually in the same room—or city—as the other people.  I have a special love for Martha Beck’s classes because I find they tend to draw people who are either also in pain and seeking to transform, or those who are or want to be healers.

Be cautious about the group you choose—speaking up only to be met with judgment can be devastating. I’m not a huge fan of most religious groups because judgment just seems to be built into organized religion, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t wonderful congregations out there.

If you aren’t ready to share yet, you could try reading memoirs by authors who have had similar experiences. Maybe start a journal or write a letter to an author you feel a connection with (you don’t have to send it). Sometimes getting everything on paper helps you release it, and imagining a sympathetic response can help you feel understood.

Whatever you do, know that there are others who feel like you, who have experienced what you have. What I am learning is that none of us is truly alone. We are part of a collective love, if we will only open up and welcome it.

 

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Resolution #3: Choose Love

The more I read about happiness, the more I see how closely related it is to love. When we come from a place of unconditional love, we can make ourselves and others happy, because really, that’s all each of us wants: to be truly and completely loved. It’s hard to think of a situation where “choosing love” would not make me—and anyone else involved—happier.

Love in action takes the form of kindness and compassion. Love accepts. Love supports. As the Bible verse says, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

In daily life, I can choose love by asking myself, “What is the most loving response or action?” For example, if I’m in an argument that’s unimportant, I can decide I’d rather be happy than right. I can show myself (and the other person) love by choosing to end the conflict rather than prolong it. Or, if I’m tired but pushing myself to keep working, I can be kind to myself by taking a break.

An area where I’ll really need to pay attention is judging. I can be extremely self-critical. Beating myself up when I fall short is most definitely not kind. Instead of getting upset when I make a mistake, I can show myself compassion and understanding. And since I often hold others to the same high (read: unreasonable) standards that I hold myself, I can do this for them as well—making all of us a LOT happier!

It’s not always easy to show someone else compassion, especially if they’re angry. But I remember that when my son was little and got upset, I felt instant compassion. I could identify with that feeling of frustration—of not being able to communicate clearly, or get what I wanted, or do what I felt like. I was able to connect with him, see behind the behavior to the cause, and soothe him. And really, aren’t we all still little kids inside? When you get upset, how old do you feel? I feel like I’m about three or four. If I can picture that small child inside another, I can access a sense of compassion for their pain, and react from there rather than meeting anger with anger.

And imagine being able to do this for ourselves! Usually when I get upset, I then get mad at myself for being upset! I’m both the small child and the angry parent. Ugh!!! Even typing that makes me feel awful. What if I could instead be the compassionate, kind, loving parent to myself next time? Wouldn’t that be something? I wrote a post about loving yourself in February (see below), and I’ve been slowly improving at it. But when I’m upset, my good intentions tend to fly out the window. I plan to refocus on this—and be compassionate with myself when I forget, of course! J

Love Yourself (originally posted 2/18)

Wednesday was Valentine’s Day, which encourages us to show our love for our romantic partner. Where is the holiday that encourages us to show our love for ourselves?

Truly, this is so important that we should be reminded every day, not just one day a year. We can’t fully love others if we don’t fully love ourselves. And yet we often treat ourselves terribly. Our needs are always last on the list. “Oh, I don’t have time to _______, I have to work/take care of my children/clean the house/go to the store/cook dinner/do laundry, etc. etc.”

However, as many of us have found out, if we focus solely on taking care of others and neglect ourselves for too long, it will eventually have a negative impact. We get sick, or are constantly tired or irritable (or are sick, tired, AND irritable). Often when this happens, our instinct is to push through, because we are needed. We’re not making it up—we do have tons of obligations and people who depend on us—bosses, coworkers, children, spouses, parents, friends. But our first obligation should be to ourselves. I know it sounds radical. But it’s true.

It’s important to note that we’re worthy of love, just as we are. We don’t have to be constantly productive to prove our worth. We are each born a magnificent soul, deserving of unconditional love. When we give ourselves that love—not demanding anything in return, not trying to “be better,” just appreciating ourselves as is—it makes a huge difference in our lives.

I’ll admit, showing myself unconditional love is something I struggle with daily. I’m a perfectionist and highly self-critical, and as I’ve discussed before, I have the urge to always be doing something to “earn my keep.” But running around like a hamster on a wheel all the time doesn’t feel good. No matter how hard I work, I never cross everything off the list (gah, how I hate that fact!). I never reach that mark of “enough.”

I always feel like I come up short when I tie my value to what I’m accomplishing. If I can wrap my head around the idea that I’m inherently worthy—that I was born enough, and don’t have anything to prove—that feels SO much better. I feel open rather than constricted. Relaxed instead of clenched. Happy instead of apprehensive.

There’s a common saying: When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. The converse is absolutely true: when I’m happy, I can spread that happiness. I’m more likely to be kind and patient with those I love—and even with strangers. So, when you tend to your own happiness, you’re really doing others a service.

What if we all devoted time every day just to showing ourselves some love? Paying attention to our needs and our wants; taking a moment to sit and listen to our inner voice, who often gets drowned out in the cacophony of modern life. I’m not talking about hours each day—just as much time as you can comfortably fit into your schedule. Maybe five minutes, sitting outside while you watch the clouds float by, or fifteen minutes of meditation or yoga or reading—whatever lights you up and makes you feel whole.

Today, take a moment to show yourself some love. Do something you enjoy, or give yourself a treat that that makes you feel amazing. Book that massage! Steal away and read that book! Savor the chocolate! Do it just because—because you are a miraculous, incredible, gorgeous soul who deserves all the love in the world. XXXOOO!

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Go For It

In honor of the new moon tonight, and fresh beginnings, here are three poems (from three incredibly wise and wonderful poets) that inspire me to take bold action in pursuit of my dreams, and to live life fully. May they inspire you as well!

If It Is Not Too Dark

by Hafiz (from I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy /

Renderings of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky)

 

Go for a walk, if it is not too dark.

Get some fresh air, try to smile.

Say something kind

To a safe-looking stranger, if one happens by.

 

Always exercise your heart’s knowing.

 

You might as well attempt something real

Along this path:

Take your spouse or lover in your arms

The way you did when you first met.

Let tenderness pour from your eyes

The way the Sun gazes warmly on the earth.

 

Play a game with some children.

Extend yourself to a friend.

Sing a few ribald songs to your pets and plants—

Why not let them get drunk and wild!

 

Let’s toast

Every rung we’ve climbed on Evolution’s ladder.

Whisper, “I love you! I love you!”

To the whole mad world.

 

Let’s stop reading about God—

We will never understand Him.

 

Jump to your feet, wave your fists,

Threaten and warn the whole Universe

 

That your heart can no longer live

Without real love!

 

Moments

by Mary Oliver (from Felicity)

 

There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled.

Like, telling someone you love them.

Or giving your money away, all of it.

 

Your heart is beating, isn't it?

You're not in chains, are you?

 

There is nothing more pathetic than caution

when headlong might save a life,

even, possibly, your own.

 

Don't Go Back to Sleep

by Rumi (from Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks)

 

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.

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Love Yourself

Update from the last post: I did walk away from the computer, and I got a marvelous massage, and I took the weekend off. And on Monday, I received new files that uploaded perfectly, so I could move forward. Ha! How about that! So, I will soon be sharing the news that my book is done! Until then, here are some thoughts I had this week:

Wednesday was Valentine’s Day, which encourages us to show our love for our romantic partner. Where is the holiday that encourages us to show our love for ourselves?

Truly, this is so important that we should be reminded every day, not just one day a year. We can’t fully love others if we don’t fully love ourselves. And yet we often treat ourselves terribly. Our needs are always last on the list. “Oh, I don’t have time to _______, I have to work/take care of my children/clean the house/go to the store/cook dinner/do laundry, etc. etc.”

However, as many of us have found out, if we focus solely on taking care of others and neglect ourselves for too long, it will eventually have a negative impact. We get sick, or are constantly tired or irritable (or are sick, tired, AND irritable). Often when this happens, our instinct is to push through, because we are needed. We’re not making it up—we do have tons of obligations and people who depend on us—bosses, coworkers, children, spouses, parents, friends. But our first obligation should be to ourselves. I know it sounds radical. But it’s true.

It’s important to note that we’re worthy of love, just as we are. We don’t have to be constantly productive to prove our worth. We are each born a magnificent soul, deserving of unconditional love. When we give ourselves that love—not demanding anything in return, not trying to “be better,” just appreciating ourselves as is—it makes a huge difference in our lives.

I’ll admit, showing myself unconditional love is something I struggle with daily. I’m a perfectionist and highly self-critical, and as I’ve discussed before, I have the urge to always be doing something to “earn my keep.” But running around like a hamster on a wheel all the time doesn’t feel good. No matter how hard I work, I never cross everything off the list (gah, how I hate that fact!). I never reach that mark of “enough.”

I always feel like I come up short when I tie my value to what I’m accomplishing. If I can wrap my head around the idea that I’m inherently worthy—that I was born enough, and don’t have anything to prove—that feels SO much better. I feel open rather than constricted. Relaxed instead of clenched. Happy instead of apprehensive.

There’s a common saying: When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. The converse is absolutely true: when I’m happy, I can spread that happiness. I’m more likely to be kind and patient with those I love—and even with strangers. So, when you tend to your own happiness, you’re really doing others a service.

What if we all devoted time every day just to showing ourselves some love? Paying attention to our needs and our wants; taking a moment to sit and listen to our inner voice, who often gets drowned out in the cacophony of modern life. I’m not talking about hours each day—just as much time as you can comfortably fit into your schedule. Maybe five minutes, sitting outside while you watch the clouds float by, or fifteen minutes of meditation or yoga or reading—whatever lights you up and makes you feel whole.

Today, take a moment to show yourself some love. Do something you enjoy, or give yourself a treat that that makes you feel amazing. Book that massage! Steal away and read that book! Savor the chocolate! Do it just because—because you are a miraculous, incredible, gorgeous soul who deserves all the love in the world. XXXOOO!

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The Freedom of Forgiveness

Forgiveness Is The Cash

Forgiveness
Is the cash you need. 

All the other kinds of silver
really buy just strange things. 

Learn from those addicted lovers
of gold and opium - 

they cannot jump high or
laugh long. 

Forgiveness is part of the treasure you need
to craft your falcon wings. 

Everything has its music.
Everything has genes of God inside. 

--Hafiz

I’ve been reading The Lotus and the Lily: A 30-Day Soul Program by Janet Conner, which draws from the wisdom of Jesus, Buddha, and the mystics to help you “unveil and create the life you really want.” The book is divided into weeks with different themes: first you look at your past and work on letting go what might be holding you back; then you look toward the future.

On the first day of week three, which focuses on forgiveness, the author quotes the poem above by Hafiz. It really struck me. I want falcon wings! I want to be able to soar high above, unencumbered by anger, resentment, and regret. I’ll be honest—week three, which I’m currently in, is kicking my ass. I never thought of myself as one who holds a grudge, but I’ve come to see that I’ve retained a lot of anger over things that happened in my past, and I’m finding some of it very hard to let go.

Conner talks about having a “dungeon” deep inside us, where we’ve imprisoned all of the people we’re angry with. One of the exercises is to visualize this dungeon, to descend the cold, dark stairs, see who you have jailed, open the cell doors, and let them out. Then fill the space with white light so that it is no longer a dungeon. I was amazed to find who I had trapped down there! People I hadn’t thought of in years! Some were very easy to release. Others, not so much. And then finally, I came to the last, worst cell—and in it was me. Of course! Because at the heart of all I can’t forgive is my own actions, or inactions. All of my judging, criticism, regret, and resentment starts at home, in my head, directed against myself.

If you’re anything like me, you criticize yourself constantly, without even realizing it. We’ve internalized the voices of external figures in our childhood, and now they berate us all the time. I’ve talked about this before, and the need to show yourself compassion and love. Now I really get it. If I can’t stop criticizing myself, I can’t stop criticizing others. If I can’t love myself, I can’t fully love others. If I can’t forgive myself, I can’t forgive others. Conner talks about this in depth, and has some wonderful ideas for achieving self-forgiveness.

It is my goal to get through this week in the book and finally be able to completely forgive myself, and then to be able to forgive everyone else I need to. Because I can feel it holding me back—all this anger, and frustration, and resentment is like a giant black vampire inside me, sucking up my energy. I’m tired of lugging all of that around. I’m ready to release it, to forgive, and to earn my falcon wings so I can soar into 2018.

How about you? Do you have prisoners stashed away inside you? Have you imprisoned yourself? Perhaps it’s time to open those doors and free everyone. I wish for you unconditional self-love, self-forgiveness, and self-compassion. I wish for you the most glorious, healthy, happy, abundant holiday season and New Year you could possibly have. Here’s to the freedom of forgiveness!

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What if?

What if you believed you are worthy?

What if you accepted the praise rather than deflecting it?

What if you embraced the joy as much as you wallow in the pain?

 

What if you agreed that you are special,

that inside you lives a gorgeous spirit nothing can break,

that you are more than enough just as you are,

and that the only person you need to hear that from is you?

 

What if you trusted in the love that yearns toward you,

in the light that others to seem to see?

What if you believed that people you admire could admire you?

 

What if you stopped holding yourself back,

pushing yourself down,

making yourself small?

 

What if believing in yourself was as natural as believing in the sunrise?

 

What if you allowed the glory biding its time offstage to step into the spotlight?

 

What if you felt the terror and did it anyway?

What if you faced the pain and kept on going?

What if you took that leap of faith despite your crippling fear of heights?

 

What if you understood that mountains in your path are not meant to block your way

But rather to elevate you to a higher vantage point

From which you can see more clearly?

 

What if you gave up needing to know,

insisting on being right,

being afraid to fail?

 

What if you stopped hiding your tears—and your joy?

 

What if you opened yourself up,

laid yourself bare,

made yourself vulnerable,

and stayed that way without resisting

in order to feel the triumph of surviving your worst nightmare?

 

What if you shared it all,

gave everything away,

and expected nothing in return?

 

What if you LET GO?

What if you kept letting go every second of every minute of every day—

what do you think might come to you?

 

What if you relaxed,

and rested,

and laid down your heavy burden of "shoulds"?

 

What if you stopped trying so hard?

What if you stopped trying at all—and started allowing?

 

What sort of miracle do you think might brush against your cheek? What magic might land on your fingertips?

 

What if you opened the faucet all the way?

What if you unkinked the hose?

What do you think might pour forth?

 

What if you stopped insisting that you're all alone,

that you have no power,

that you're less than,

that you’re ordinary?

 

What if you believed you could make a difference?

What if you believed your life was vital in some way?

What if the teacher you seek is inside you?

 

What if you gave up?

What if you gave in?

 

What if you stopped swimming and started floating, trusting in your natural buoyancy and the path of the current?

On what golden shore might you land?

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