An Invitation

You can create a life you love… right here, right now.

You’re going to work with the raw material of your life… exactly as it is.

Start with a willingness to practice creating moments of
Peace, Joy, Empowerment, And love… in each day.

What would that look like?
What is peace? Joy? Empowerment? Love?
How does one live those qualities?

Peace is a deep inner quiet we each have within us, that can be accessed anywhere, any
time, by briefly pausing, breathing deeply and allowing one’s self to be still.

Joy is the exuberant feeling that comes from being aware and awake to the small miracles
and wonder of life in each moment.

Empowerment is recognizing one’s ability to take action, and taking action.

Love is making a choice in this moment to support one’s divine potential or that of
another with kindness and compassion. Love is not an adjective, it is a verb.

You can create a life you love by bringing these qualities to the circumstances of your life
as they are now. All you need is a sincere “yes” to yourself… and a daybook…

A daybook can be on your phone, I-pad, computer. It can be a big beautiful journal or a
little notepad that can be carried easily in a pocket or purse. It can be a graphic journal
where you draw instead of write.

Each day just take a moment to record:

When today did I create a moment of peace?
When today did I create a moment of joy?
When today did I create a moment of empowerment?
When today did I create a moment of love?

As you begin doing this right here, right now… your life will change and you will begin
creating a life you love.

Posts made in January, 2013

Take the Risk, Follow Your Heart

Take the Risk, Follow Your Heart

Life seemed pretty much perfect in my 50s after I followed my own advice to simplify and follow my inner urgings.

Those urgings were: Get out of debt so you can afford to work fewer hours. Slow the pace of your life. And do something about that dream to live on a houseboat instead of just reading the classifieds!

So I gradually did it. It wasn’t easy. It meant stopping recreational shopping, risking that I’d no longer be “taken seriously” at the paper if I worked part-time (and eventually made it just three, 10-hour days!), and plunging into river life, which I knew nothing about it. I was scared, but as my friend Susan Jeffers advises, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

I sold the Southwest-style condo I loved in the West Hills and bought an adorable floating cottage on Sauvie Island in the Multnomah Channel. Left my TV and microwave ashore, savoring the currents of a simpler life filled Cover-V4-Revisedwith nature above and below. Drove just three times a week to the paper, where the usual office politics somehow no longer mattered. Started work on a book, RIVER THROUGH MY SOUL. Entertained friends more than I ever had before; others loved my new home almost as much as I did!

What I lacked, though, was a sweetheart. Even though I advised others about love, a good marriage seemed to be one thing I was somehow incapable of managing. I’d been married and divorced twice, and decided that men just drained my energy.

But for years I’d fanaticized about the darling Swedish doctor I’d loved 20 years before and lost track of. I began having dreams about him, and when we got a new computer system at work I dared to type in his name and see what happened. Back came a message that he’d browsing for me for months.

Wow, you can imagine how excited I was to learn we were both available and had reached much the same places in our lives. I surprised him a couple months later when he attended a medical conference in Denver by showing up there. We discovered nothing had changed between us, and several months later he flew me to Sweden to meet his children and mother. My life had changed forever…

Yes, it was wrenching to sell my houseboat, bid my column fans farewell and wave goodbye to my understanding kids and grandkids. Before I actually moved to Sweden, we cruised the Nile in Egypt and trysted in Tanzania, where he’d worked for years doing HIV/AIDS research. There, I took another risk when I accepted a teacher’s invitation out to her village school – a handful of pre-schoolers in her three-room home. I vowed to Vol2-revisedhelp her build a real school, which we did with donations from both weddings. The kids called me “bibi,” Kiswahili for gramma, and Fatuma named the school for me. It grew to include more than 200 students pre-school through 7th grade. As I discovered other needs there, I created more programs: GRANDMA-2-GRANDMA to help the many grandmothers whose adult children had died of AIDS and were thus raising their grandkids, a bibi house for the families with nowhere to live, a bibi farm so they could raise crops and critters for food and profit, a SMART GIRLS club to keep pre-teen girls safe/healthy/motivated.  All this was accomplished because I held out my hand for money from generous people wherever I went.

Many times I’ve felt as if I’ve stepped into the pages of National Geographic. When people ask how many grandchildren I have, I answer, “Eight American, almost six Swedish, and more than 200 Tanzanian!”

My world expanded further: China. Thailand. The Philippines. Zanzibar. Mozambique. Most of Europe.

And then there’s Sweden. I took a kindergarten-level language class for newcomers, which managed to chase the Spanish out of my head but left me less blank-looking at parties. I discovered that one has to live outside one’s culture to understand it – both it attributes and deficiencies. Happily, I learned that love can be energizing rather than draining. Eventually, my kids and most of my grandkids came to visit, and my worlds became more integrated. But as I grew to love Eric’s children and the Swedish grandkids, it seemed the only place where I didn’t feel torn in half was mid-way over the Atlantic!

Never could I have imagined my life unfolding as it has!

For too many years I listened to what other people thought I should think and do. As I matured, what I thought of myself, what I wanted, mattered more than what others did: parents, editors, friends, etc. I believe that voice deep inside us is who we truly are: That crazy-sounding, yet insistent little voice that says, “You don’t want to be a lawyer, you really want to run a cake shop.” “You don’t really want to remain in this relationship, you’re just afraid no one else will ever love you.” “You don’t want to finish this degree, you want to bum around the world.”

I recall interviewing Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled. When I asked how we knew which clamoring voice inside our heads was the one to heed, he advised it was inevitably the path which demanded something of us, which felt a little frightening. I think he’s right.

In my third and fourth books, Home Sweeter Home and Love Sweeter Love (mostly RELATING columns), we dealt with some of these issues. In my new Where Love Leads Trilogy, the advice I’ve heard from the experts and the daring to follow my dreams comes to fruition. River Through My Soul chronicles the new life on the water and discovering Eric again. The School That Love Built captures the African adventures. And Love Refugee pokes a little fun at surviving among the slender Swedes!

And I hope they might help you to follow your heart…

Find books at https://www.amazon.com/author/findjannbooks

Learn about Bibi Jann at bibijannhelps.blogspot.com

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We Are All Creative

We Are All Creative

… “I have come to believe that creativity is our true nature, that blocks are an unnatural thwarting of a process at once as normal and as miraculous as the blossoming of a flower at the end of a slender green stem… In a sense your creativity is like your blood.  Just as blood is a fact of your physical body and nothing you invented, creativity is a fact of your spiritual body and nothing that you must invent.” Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

What if, instead of managing our lives, we began to create them?

What if we embraced the truth that we are all creative beings?

And what if we started living more from the creativity within and less from the noise without?

We are all in a constant state of creativity, but often it isn’t conscious creation. We create by the choices we make; the thoughts we think; the reactions we have; the way we problem-solve; the stories we tell ourselves; and by how well we listen to our inner voice, versus all the outer noise which surrounds us. These daily practices of life have enormous influence on outcome in our lives. And the more conscious we are about them, the more power we have in creating a life we love.

UnknownBeing able to paint the perfect setting of a hot pink sun; designing and planting a garden full of lavender Foxglove, startling blue Hyacinths, friendly white and yellow daisies; capturing with camera or pen the essence an elderly man in a brown tweed hat and suit sitting on the bus stop bench; baking fabulously delicious gourmet ginger cookies with fresh ginger and a sprinkling of dark chocolate — truly these are creative acts.  But the art doesn’t stop there.

What if our very life, is our art?

I’m  talking about taking the raw materials of our lives, exactly where they are right now, and not wishing them away, but looking them straight in the eye, shaking hands with them, getting to know them, and then working with them as your current creative material. This is the creative process: how we meet and use the everyday, raw material of our lives as they are right now.

How we live our lives is our most important creative unfolding. We are empowered when we become more mindful and authentic about what we think, the attitudes we adopt, and the choices we make. As we do we become conscious co-creators of our lives.

Blossom Midwifery-Portland Midwife

Often we deny our creativity.  Why?  Because we can’t paint, can’t sew, can’t throw a perfect ceramic pot!  Our view of ourselves as creative beings is stunted because of the narrow view we have been given about creativity, and in so doing we deny one of our most stunning features of being female.  Women are the essence of creativity. We are the life givers.  We are the part of the species that has the inherent ability to create a brand new human being within the walls of our own body.

Creativity is about trusting that which is unseen, but possible, the mystery of life’s synchronicities and miracles.  Creativity is deeply spiritual and connects us to our creator.  The call of creativity is a call to life as a process, life as a way of entering a deep flow, of learning to surrender and trust and to connect with that which is held most deeply in us – our own infinite intelligence, with its wisdom and power of creativity.

As a child, I lost both of my parents. Their deaths were devastating and required discovering and relying on the deepest internal resources I could find to survive such a profound loss. (See my “About the Author” page). I also grew up in a low-income family.  We had enough to eat, a warm and pleasant home, and adequate transportation.  That in itself is prosperity.  But there was not enough for extra.  As a result I learned resourcefulness and hard work early to meet my needs.  I made some of my own clothes and dyed and decorated hand me downs to feel good enough about how I looked to go to school. My life was a bit of a patchwork quilt as I gathered and stitched together pieces of the fabric of survival – a little bit of tenacity here, a little scrap of creativity there.

I actually loved high school. I had amazing friends and began to bloom as a writer while working as co-editor of my high school newspaper – The Spud Tri-Weekly! (I grew up in Idaho.)

Tamera Website 003After getting a degree in communications/journalism in college I became a newspaper reporter for a large daily newspaper in Salt Lake City, Utah. The resourcefulness, ability to work hard, and also the courage, curiosity and compassion I had developed as a result of the experiences of my youth became incredible assets in creating amazing success early in my career.

When I was assigned, by mere happenstance, to cover my first court hearing – an arraignment for a man being charged with two murders — my attention was drawn to his girlfriend, a small, red headed elf of a girl who was wearing a dress and make-up for this chance she had to see the man she loved.  After the hearing I followed my instinct – not as a reporter, but as a human being — to ask her if she would like to talk over a bite to eat.  She consented.

Less than six months later, the case had turned into an international story.  Gary Mark Gilmore had been found guilty of murdering two young men and was given the death sentence.  If carried out, it would be the first execution in the United States in 10 years.  Utah was besieged with press from all over the world, trying to get any kind of scoop on the story.  They wanted to know why he had committed the murders and why he wasn’t appealing his sentence.

By this time his girlfriend Nicole was visiting him in prison several times a week and became the target as a source for the story.  She refused to talk to The New York Times, The National Inquirer, and a host of others.  She said yes, to 22-year-old me. Why? Because of our innocent casual connection.  In our first six- hour interview she lent me over 1,000 pages of letters Gilmore had written from death row, a scrapbook full of his artwork which was eerily amazing, and confessed she had entered a suicide pact with him.

Tamera Website 004I was taken off all of my other reporting work and assigned specifically to her and to the Gilmore story.  The day my front pages stories about the case hit the newsstands, my life changed literally overnight.  Barbara Walters held up my stories and quoted me on The Today Show.  Numerous media outlets contacted me to interview me for a story.  I worked with the BBC on a documentary they made about the case. I was offered a contract with the movie producer who had bought the rights to the story and spent a lot of time with him. He introduced me to Bill Moyer over dinner which led me to interview him. Later, I met and was interviewed by Norman Mailer several times for his book The Executioner’s Song. And at age 23, I was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for my stories.

I could not have imagined what lay in store for me. One might have imagined a lifelong successful career in journalism, but my life had its own unique course.  Despite being accepted to Columbia’s University’s Masters of Journalism program in New York City, I chose instead to take a leave of absence from my job and sought refuge in the home of my oldest brother who lived in the Pacific Northwest, adopting a quieter life and giving myself time to sort things out. I was in search of the soulfulness I had lost in the fast pace of my career and the world into which my success had thrust me.  Much later in life, I would also realize that I had been traumatized by what I was exposed to in reading the letters and covering the execution when Gilmore was killed by a firing squad.

I had not been prepared for the deep waters in which I had been swimming.  I made some big mistakes, lost an important part of myself for a time, and needed time to recover.

Slowly, over time I reconnected with my own voice again, my own truth.  I had to make a decision about returning to the newspaper as my leave of absence ended.  I had no idea what I was going to do next.  What I did know was that going back was not right for my life.

Very shortly after that I met the man I have now been married to for 35 years, Brian Allred. We both knew almost immediately that we had met the person we were meant to spend our life with.  It was a deeply spiritual experience in which I felt I somehow recognized and knew him even though our paths had never crossed before on earth. We got engaged after our second date; married three months later and soon after began our family.  The family we have created together eventually grew to include six daughters. It now includes eight grandchildren; four sons-in-law and is still growing!

Tamera Website 005-1

So what happened after that quick and amazing transformation from girl reporter to wife and mother?

The minute I held my first daughter in my arms, red-headed Annie, I fell in love all over again and knew I had a lot more to write about!  I fell in love five more times as each of the rest of our daughters were born over the next 12 years. We raised our daughters in a blue 1920’s house in a neighborhood rich with ethnic and cultural diversity in Portland, Oregon.  A stay-at-home mom, I wrote about larger lessons of life drawn from the simple Tamera Website 002moments of motherhood in a weekly column called “On the Homefront,” which was published in a Portland magazine with a circulation of over a million readers.  I was blessed to have the privilege of hearing my daughters say their first word. Later I would help them edit their written words for school papers.  I helped them learn to ride their bikes and later drive a car.  Having been deprived of mothering for so many years I relished the joy of loving and nurturing these six little girls and getting so much love back. My favorite word, out of all of the million words in this language, is still “mommy.”  Mothering, though not bringing recognition or acclaim, felt like the most import work I would be doing – helping these little women develop their individual potential. This is work all mothers do whether or not they work outside the home!

By the time my last daughter began middle school I entered a new season in my life, and heard yet another call.  It was finally time to get the master’s degree I had considered so many years earlier – but in a different field – counseling psychology. In a way my life had come to its own full circle.  Now over 30 years later, with much more experience and understanding, I was again drawn to the art of story, but it would not be just the reporting of stories. Now I would be helping others to heal and expand their stories, by honoring their deepest sense of self and purpose.

My vantage point now at age 58, affords an observation and an appreciation of how our lives unfold and are created over a lifetime – a concept that is often lost in our fast-paced world.  I have learned the lesson that my life is my art, that it is the most creative undertaking I have ever embraced.  This perspective has given me permission to make mistakes, take risks, experiment and to accept whatever was on my spiritual plate as an opportunity which, if seized, led not just to windows opening, but new worlds revealing themselves to me. I am a co-creator of my life.

Looking back now at the acute moments of choice when my career was accelerating and I chose NOT to go to Columbia, NOT to continue my career as a journalist may defy logic.  But, logic did not hold the deeper call of intuition that I heard and responded to.   My life has unfolded into a rich tapestry created with small, but important stitches holding together both the beautiful pieces of life and the shadows, mistakes, and adversity which have been such important teachers. For me, it has been the perfect creation, an ever evolving work of art!

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The Mansion Within

The Mansion Within

 “. . . the treasure house of infinity is within you.” Dr. Joseph Murphy

IMG_1910As we come home to ourselves, we begin to realize we are in a mansion with many rooms. And yet most of us live within the narrow borders of our busy minds.

We all have unlimited inner parts to explore and bring into consciousness that will expand our life. We can go deeper and begin to notice our passions and our pain; our triggers and our trials, what makes us feel alive, and what numbs us; our night dreams and our waking dreams.

In my work as a professional counselor I have occasionally worked with clients suffering with Dissociative Identity Disorder. The critical feature of DID is the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states that recurrently take control of the person’s behavior.  There is an inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness. The person’s psyche is split off from the other personalities, and has no memory when one of them takes over consciousness. The disorder reflects a failure to integrate various aspects of identity, memory, and consciousness. It is often brought on a childhood scarred by severe physical and sexual abuse. It is an enormously creative way the “self” survives.

A young college student, suffering from DID found her way to my office.  Although responsible and determined, the disorder was causing havoc in her life.   She had long blank spaces of accounted time where “she” was gone. She missed classes and didn’t recognize people who seemed to know her. Shopping bags of items she had no memory of purchasing showed up in her house, some with receipts, some  not.  Occasionally she would discover a fresh batch of raisin bread cooling on her counter that she had no memory of making.  She hated raisin bread.

As she became comfortable with me, the other personalities started coming to therapy — each talking, gesturing, and dressing differently than her or the other personalities. But it was always evident, that really they were just “disowned” parts of her.  As we worked to integrate all the parts, I became increasingly aware of the IMG_2026many rooms of self I possessed–the difference was they were not separate entities. But I could be blind to them, especially if they held a part of me I didn’t want to see. I realized the healing methods we were using for her could be beneficial to anyone in accessing valuable parts of ourselves of which we are unaware, are in denial about, or have disowned.

Putting a paint brush in the hands of the different parts and asking them to paint their inner experience helped us access feelings and memories that had been buried.  Using a journal to write to the other personalities, inviting them to write back (which they did) helped her to reconnect with these lost parts. Traits she had disowned that another personality embodied were identified. She discovered what tasks they carried out for her. One paid the bills.  One shouted at the landlord.  One shoplifted.  And, they all had their reasons which led to a deeper understanding of what she needed to own and why.  She learned that SHE could be assertive with her landlord, take more responsibility in areas of life she neglected; and find legal ways to get a thrill!

IMG_1940The task was to bring all of these parts of herself into the light of day by laying out the welcome mat and throwing open the door of consciousness with curiosity and compassion.  We used play therapy with a closet full of Fisher Price Little People and their accoutrements to tell all the stories that needed to be told.  We used inner body awareness to identify stored pockets of grief, fear, and rage. Over time she got to know each personality and herself better – their needs, their passions, their sorrows, their joys, their idiosyncrasies. We utilized these pathways to visit and integrate the many rooms of self.

The miracle of integration did occur.  She quit splitting off– something that had previously felt entirely outside of her own control.  The memory of her sitting in my office as an integrated self still brings tears to my eyes for this reason:  All of the personalities were still there, but now they were present.  Her true essence shined brighter than ever and now joining that was a new found strength from the part of her that had carried the pain, the lively sass of the teenager, a new wonder for life from the young self. Her work was courageous and tenacious.  The word that describes what I felt at the honor of witnessing both her journey and “their” joining: Reverence.IMG_2014

We each have numerous doors we have not opened. The key that opens them is curiosity, inquiry, and a willingness to see that which we may resist.  A door is thrown open when we mindfully explore our judgments of others and the possibility that our reactions are pointing to disowned aspects of ourselves. Behind that door is a IMG_2017mirror, waiting to show us what we have projected onto another. The expansion of self continues when we notice and pursue an unexpressed desire – to learn how to make artisan cheese; explore fabric art; learn Kundalini yoga; try our hand at photography or filmmaking; or get married in a fairytale castle on our grandparent’s anniversary.

Another door is thrown open when we notice what upsets us in life and explore it to find the closeted emotion behind the agitation. That can lead to insight about ourselves: a need to stand up for ourselves, create more down time, forgive ourselves, quit blaming, or resign from shame.

Instead we may hide, ignore, over-eat, under-eat, and over-spend. It takes courage to tend to the rooms of self that are hidden in the shadow. As we do we allow their stories, secrets, and insight to come into the light. And then we can create a space to allow those disowned and hidden parts of self to be consciously integrated into our lives. As we throw back the drapes and open the doors to our inner experience, life responds in liberating and exhilarating ways.

We leave the shack behind and allow ourselves to fully inhabit the mansion of self.

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Copyright 2012 Tamera Smith Allred. All rights reserved.

Photos by Maria Allred

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Coming Home To Our Self

Coming Home To Our Self

“May the long time sun shine upon you, all love surround you, may the clear light within you, guide you, on your way home . . .”  Traditional Irish Blessing

At its purest essence, life is about relationship – how we relate to others, how we relate to our experience in life, but most importantly how we relate to ourselves. 

What is relationship?

Simply put, relationship is our connection and response to self and other.  It can be a connection and response rooted in strife and struggle or compassion and trust.

IMG_6925Creating a life we love is not about setting our sights on our dream home, our ideal weight, or winning the lottery.  It is about changing how we relate. It starts with changing how we relate to our self, coming home to ourselves.

It may be a difficult journey as we traverse an inner terrain pocked by the sharp pebbles of self- loathing, the harsh bark of an inner critic, or the relentless chiding of the cultural “shoulds” we have absorbed.

Take the story of a woman we will call Susan.  She was raised by an image- conscious mother, who’s subtle, sugar-coated, but mean spirited- criticism made Susan feel she wasn’t enough. Her father was indifferent, detached, and uncomfortable with women. “It was not okay to be me,” she told me.  Any inner connection she might have experienced with herself was replaced with a constant quest for approval from parents who were incapable of giving her what she so desperately needed.

When I first met her she was depressed, anxiety-ridden, and went through life feeling “wrong” and disconnected from herself and others.  Her inner narrative was, “I’m never enough. I’m not acceptable.”

This was not her true identity, it was an ego story, the result of her response and interpretation of her life so far, and based on false information she had been given.  As a child her parents emotionally abandoned her. As an adult she was abandoning herself.

treestairsWe began the work of creating inner-intimacy – the golden path that leads us home to our self.  This includes five simple practices that add nothing to our “to do” list because they are a new way of “being.”

The first practice is attention.  We take some brief moments throughout our day to turn our attention or focus inward.  This is especially helpful when we experience difficult emotions.  Basically we begin to pay attention to ourselves.

Once we have our own attention we begin to notice what it is we are experiencing internally.  We become aware of our internal world.  What kind of self-talk is going on in our head? How is that affecting us now? What are we feeling?  Where are we holding that feeling in our body? What are the sensations?

IMG_6750This powerful practice of simply observing shines a light on the “true self,” the observer.  If part of us can observe, the question can be asked, “Who is thinking these thoughts?”  In other words, there is another part of us beyond our thoughts with a deeper knowing and a peaceful presence.

Once we are aware, we practice acknowledgement.  This is simply stating what is.  “Oh, I’m feeling really anxious right now and I have this tension knotting up the muscles in the back of my neck.  And I’m telling myself I shouldn’t be feeling anxious!”

Acknowledgement helps us identify what our real experience is. It gives us our material to work with in life. And it can help us detach.  If we have a tendency toward over-thinking, or self-criticism, we can acknowledge it by saying “Oh, there’s that again.” Or, “Oh there’s that thing I do.”  It takes some of the power out of those thoughts.

IMG_6910Next we practice acceptance of what is happening right now.  Acceptance is neutral.  It doesn’t judge. It faces reality. It can easily become a default to pay heed  to the inner critic in our heads. It has an opinion on everything we do and spends a lot of time being negative and judgmental. The escape hatch from this danger is simple – replace the judgment with curiosity as in “Hmm, I wonder what part of me is having a problem with the fact I’m anxious.”

Our emotions are not a problem to be solved, but an opportunity to give ourselves the gift of our own presence. This is exactly what Susan and many of us were lacking as children, a witness to our experience. This is one of the most potent practices we can bring to all relationships – with self, others, time, and life – because it offers transformation.

As we become more present to our inner experience, we will find that the body and spirit know what to do and will help us pass through the storms of difficult emotion, washing us up on the infinite shore of insight.  A feeling arises, we ride it through its cycle, we catch our breath and perhaps in that moment or perhaps later, an insight reveals itself.  We have touched the well of self-knowledge.

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The next practice of assistance, offers us the opportunity to help ourselves in healthy ways.  Often we cope with a difficult inner landscape by turning to compulsions, or addictions.  As we come aware of and present to whatever experience we are having at any moment of life, we can offer ourselves the balm of our own compassion.  We can think of ourselves as a small child needing mothering and nurturing.   Soothing phrases, self-encouragement, and rocking ourselves, are some of the ways we might do this. ( A summary of these practices is below this chapter.)

As Susan practiced new ways of relating to herself, her confidence increased, her anxiety slowly began to relax, and her depression became much more manageable.  Then she had what she called a “pivotal moment.”  She said she had felt so alone all of her life and then one day she realized she wasn’t alone because she had herself.  “I felt connected,” she said, “I felt attached to someone and it was me, and it was my body, and I felt like I had something that was finally grounding me. It had always been with me and I just didn’t realize it.  But now I was really here, I had finally caught up with myself.” In other words, she had finally come home to her true self!

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None of us had perfect mothers and none of us are perfect mothers.  And this is the way of this world. The wounds we bear and the wounds we bequeath are both our burden and our blessing.  This is the way in which each daughter receives her work.  As we embark on the “The Path of Inner Intimacy Practices, “ we learn to nurture ourselves back to life. We learn to be our own mothers, and in so doing find our way home.

Copyright 2012 Tamera Smith Allred. All rights reserved.

 

The Path to Inner Intimacy Practices

By Tamera Smith Allred

Creatingalifeyoulove.net

Attention – Note Where Your Attention Is and Turn Inward

Awareness – Notice Your  Inner Experience

Acknowledgement – Name Your  Inner Experience

Acceptance – Nod to Your Inner Experience

Assistance – Nurture Your Inner Needs

Photos by Maria Allred

Copyright 2012 Tamera Smith Allred.  All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Lost Self

The Lost Self

Recently, I was at the grocery store replenishing our bare cupboards after our hearty brood, home for the holidays, had depleted them. Six daughters, three son-in-laws, eight grandchildren, a couple of passing boyfriends, and a partridge in a pear tree were gone. Like a march of starving ants they had cut a wide swath through the refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards.

At the store, the check-out lines were at least six over-flowing carts long under the bright, fluorescent splendor of the expansive supermarket. While waiting my turn in line, I was greeted by a flank of bright glossy women’s magazines, the new January issues, and decided to make a little game of doing a quick survey – fieldwork in the cultural current.

First I noticed that half of the magazines were adorned with flawless celebrity faces coiffed with great hair. They were wearing the latest style trend, or in some cases, very little at all. Clustered around them were bright article titles competing for attention.

Shrink Your Fat Cells – Flush up to 10 lbs. in a Week

Melt 10 lbs. in 10 Days – Eating the Four Fat Burning Foods

When Bad Muffin Top Happens to Good Women

(I’m not making these up by the way.)

Surprisingly close to the weight loss article titles were tempting pictures of desserts with recipes promised inside.

IMG_1499Milky Way Mousse Pie! A Mouthwatering Treat

Guilt Free Gourmet Desserts

And then there were the article titles on “potential.

Unlock Your Inner Superstar – Our 4 Step Plan

With a 22- year- old celebrity as my guide? I wondered, reading on.

Extreme Closet Makeover – One Woman Many Shoes!”

Next I noticed article titles about getting more energy.

Feeling Drained? – The Cellular Slowdown That’s Making 1 in 4 Women Tired

The Get-Real Guide to a Happier, Thinner, More Energetic You!”

Of course we’re drained! We’re hungry from the diets we’re on, burdened by the unrealistic expectations that hit us from every angle, and mentally exhausted from trying to sort our shoes!

The only thing more daunting than the message I had just been served while standing in line, was the total amount due for my groceries.

Our culture breeds self-loathing in women. Surrounded by vibrant images of women who are thin, young, and airbrushed into perfection, the message sent is that normal is not enough.

There are conflicting messages – that we can have it all and that we are not enough. The list grows with pressure to have our homes in perfect order and superstar kids. The impossibility of cultural expectations held up against reality can lead to always striving, but never arriving.

This creates conflict and profoundly affects our inner narrative. We find ourselves at war with ourselves or at least in a constant state of inner struggle. The struggle is further complicated by the negatives beliefs we have adopted from our personal histories. We may have an inner script of lack, of feeling unworthy or undeserving. Our true self becomes lost.

Preparing for this post was actually amusing. I saw in the light of day, how I still stand in the shadow of our culture. As I reviewed the photos with my photographer (my daughter Maria), I said to her, “Is there any way you could edit out that extra skin under my neck? My hair looks mousey, could you brighten it up?” And then it dawned on me – the point of having me in the grocery store shoot was my desire to portray a normal woman, not the perfect model or celebrity. We both laughed.

Our lives as women bear remarkable similarities, and each of us is remarkably unique. This is a truth that is not honored by our culture, and often ignored by ourselves. Quiet longings within us are silenced by our striving to measure up. Our lives are often a grueling and hectic response to a list of “shoulds.” The media messages are a self- fulfilling loop, creating impossible ideals that leave us in a constant state of dissatisfaction, always needing more, and never at peace.

Healing from exposure to our cultural disease requires returning to our inner experience. We can begin to notice when we disregard our needs, discount our wisdom, give away our power, or engage in self-criticism. We can notice the theme of our own narrative. Slowly, we can create a new narrative of self-compassion, support, encouragement, trust, and worthiness.

We don’t have to be at war with ourselves. We can let go of the struggle. We can make a peace treaty with ourselves.

We can take our cues from our own inner light, where we discover our own authenticity, authority, and truth. We turn can down the volume on the blaringly bright cultural noise. We can claim our right to choose for ourselves. As we do, our true voices are found. And the inner messages they give are far more potent, powerful, and ultimately satisfying.

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