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 February, 2014

The Transforming Power of Love

From Sorting the Pieces of Your Life: A Woman’s Guide to Simplicity, Order, Renewal, and Trust

“That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy . . . all these are undoubtedly great virtues. . .  But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself – that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness–that I myself am the enemy who must be loved–what then?” –Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology

The days of February are fleeting and I couldn’t let the calendar page turn without reflecting on love.

In this book we are exploring ways to simplify our lives, clear our clutter, establish order, and then add practices that will help maintain order and accomplish the necessary tasks of life. This is the practical, physical level, but underneath lays the emotional component.  We have already talked about letting go of the past and forgiving both self and other.  Future chapters will talk about change—addressing the Bermuda triangle of bad habits, compulsions, and addictions.  This is difficult work, not for the faint of heart.

1395268_618583691542010_127180600_nWe can create a secure foundation for clearing our homes, our lives, and our souls by turning to love.  Love is the soil that sprouts the seed of change. In my years of work as a mental health therapist I have seen one factor that has always preceded healthy change: coming to believe that we are worthy of something better.

Recently a 14-year-old girl who had been bullied sat in my in office. I was saddened by her account of a vicious emotional attack by another girl she had counted a friend. And I was amazed by the wisdom of her youth.

Where do you want to go from here,” I asked. “What do you want to have happen?”

She explained to me that she had seen her part in the unfolding of what happened and had apologized. Yet her taunter had minimized and lied about her actions, and had refused to take responsibility or offer an apology. Trust had been broken, not once, but twice.

“I have decided not to be friends anymore,” she said. “I deserve to be treated better than that.”

I was reflective after the session ended. I was considering my own inner bully—how I can be too hard on myself or make choices that don’t support healthy self-love.  I am working on having a more healthy relationship with food and eating and recently discovered, The Love-Powered Diet, Eating for Freedom, Health, and Joy, by Victoria Moran.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe book is actually not about dieting. (Side note: The ‘diet’ industry is one of the most financially successful enterprises in this country with the highest failure rate!) It is about learning how to support ourselves with healthy choices for our well-being by practicing love.  It is one of the most encouraging and kind books I have read in a long time. And it has reinforced for me the power of love to create change. We cannot bully ourselves into change, but we can love ourselves into transformation.

Last February, I wrote about the death of my mother when I was a child. I wrote of my own therapy many years ago and how my therapist taught me that all of us at one point need to learn how be our own mothers. (See Grieving Loss, Mothering Ourselves, 02/04/13, in the archives in the side bar next to this chapter). Victoria Moran and my young client have reminded me of that again.

rslbibleI arose early one morning recently and sat down at the computer to consider, ‘What if I was my own loving mother, what would I do?’ This is my list of self-mothering affirmations that were created in support of tending to my own well-being by truly loving myself.

Self-Love Affirmations

I will I get enough sleep so that I can awake refreshed and revitalized.

I will make sure my body is receiving vital nutrients every day and that I am not overburdening my body with food that is harmful.

freedom-girl-happiness-heartI will not push myself so hard that I am tired and worn out.

I will carefully groom and take care of my body honoring it as a precious resource.

I will encourage myself.

I will treat myself with compassion.

If I am stressed or anxious I will practice self-soothing.

If I am tired I will rest.

If I am hungry I will eat.

If I am lonely I will call a friend or will do something I enjoy.

If I make a mistake, I will learn from it and move on.

If I do something that is wrong I will make amends to whomever I have hurt, and then will forgive myself and let go.

I will protect myself if another is acting harmful to me by removing myself from the situation or standing up for myself.

truetoherselfI will identify what is true for me and honor that.

I will practice patience with myself by trusting my process.

I will listen to myself.

I will appreciate myself.

I will not withhold love for myself.

I will speak kindly to myself.

I will honor my passions and dreams.

I will trust myself.               

We may know intellectually the value of self-love, but it is often difficult to practice it. As we attempt to offer empathy and love to ourselves, we may notice fears or resistance arising.  Many of us received messages that we are unlovable and may be blocked to giving and receiving self-love.  Change comes as we reaffirm our worthiness daily by practicing positive reinforcement for ourselves, and acting in ways that nurture us. This will lead to the renewal and trust in ourselves. It is love that will transform us.            

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Revealing Radiance

Revealing Radiance

From Sorting the Pieces of Your Life: A Woman’s Guide to Simplicity, Order, Renewal, and Trust

“Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” -William James

 My cleaning continues, both outer and inner. I have little projects I attack one at a time around the house—yesterday it was all the clutter that has gathered on a closed-in front porch.  I like it to be a welcoming entrance to our home, but over the holidays and a family reunion it ended up strewn with grocery bags, a few straggling Christmas decorations, the first aid kit from the car, and far too many pairs of shoes!

As I removed the clutter an item or two at a time, it was striking what emerged: the hearty spring green succulent plants in their bold colored pots; broad branches in a tall ceramic vase; a tiny mirror in a turquoise sea glass frame adorning the wall.  Eliminating the junk made the porch come alive in its simplicity and order.

Recently I read an old article I found in my paper cleanout.  Uncover Your True Self, Yoga Journal, Dec. 2008, by elephant2252Eknath Easwaran, tells the story of a sculptor in ancient India who was renowned for life-sized statues of elephants. Daring in their authenticity—the trunks, curled high, looked so real one expected the triumphant elephant call to fill the air—many wondered what was the secret of his work.

The sculptor described how he focused undisturbed attention on the blocks of granite he worked from until he began to see a faint outline of an elephant. With concentration, the image within the rock would become more definitive and then his physical labor began. “With an utter singleness of purpose, I chip away every last bit of stone that is not elephant,” he said.

As I read, I realized that whether we are cleaning out a house or a heart, our power is found not in focusing on SadieandStellaLCD8the extraneous, superfluous clutter that camouflages the beauty of our inner and outer dwelling, but seeing the jewels that await.

It is known in psychology that when we focus on the behavior we want to stop it becomes more embedded. Rebellion rears her fierce head and digs her heals in stubbornly. Change happens instead when we take steps toward what we want to create, focusing on the beauty, simplicity, and order that we desire.  The sculptor was successful because he saw the elephant, not the debris that needed to be chipped away.

This is exciting because it means there is beauty and satisfaction waiting to reward the painstaking step-by-step work of sorting and removing, as well as a potential for pleasure in the process of clearing itself.

40a00cb6d5da0961abaa570547922101Easwaran, author of Timeless Wisdom, wrote in her article.  “We do not need to bring our real self, our higher Self, into existence.  It is already there.”  Once we have become attentive to the presence of this true Self, then all we really need do is resolutely chip away at whatever is masking it.

 

Here is a short set of suggestions for reclaiming our inner and outer radiance.

Imagine What is Possible:  Use the creative power of your mind to visualize how your home will look as you continue cleaning out and organizing.  What will it look like, what scents will you smell, how will you feel when you walk in the door?

Identify Your Values:  When we reclaim our dwelling places, we also reclaim our true selves. What do you 5-Light-and-Airyknow about who you really are? What are your gifts and strengths? How do you want to live? Remember times you have seen those values emerging. Forgive yourself for times you lost track of your values and remember that wasn’t your authentic self, but ironically brought you closer to the full and wise expression of it.

Include Small Steps:  As you go about your daily rounds, remove a pair of shoes you like, but not enough to wear, and add them to your charity box. Throw away the stale candy from Christmas still sitting on the counter. A few items a day add up. If you’re tackling an inner weakness, practice one small step today.  Just for now hold your tongue when you know that’s best. Enjoy a moment of quiet reflection even though your ‘to do’ list is too long!

And remember to find joy in the process. There is a perfection to every part of the path.  Through self-compassion and patience, you will see that the revelation of your most radiant expression has its own timing, and you are a work of art at every stage!

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The Freedom of Forgiveness

From Sorting the Pieces of Your Life: A Woman’s Guide to Simplicity, Order, Renewal, and Trust

“Your journey isn’t complete until you’ve forgiven yourself.” –Amanda Lynn Allred

Forgiveness frees us. Forgiveness dispels misperceptions of others and ourselves. Forgiveness is the medicine for the pain of our injuries and errors.

In the last chapter we talked about a man who had forgiven his offenders, but was struggling to forgive himself for his own past offenses, despite the fact he had done all in his power to make amends.

Forgiveness is a powerful healing balm in sorting the pieces of our lives.  We all have physical clutter which makes life more stressful.  But we also suffer from the burden of emotional clutter–regret, resentment, shame, unresolved injuries and mistakes, etc.

By forgiving both ourselves and others we find renewal in life and are able to trust again.

Years ago I was struggling to forgive a person who had injured me. I was filled with resentment and on my worst days rage. The fall-out from what I had suffered at this person’s hands had permeated my life for years. I had gone to both individual and group therapy; I had done as much personal work as I could to take back my life.  But I hadn’t forgiven.

I reached out to my brother Cardell, 14 years my elder and a national personal growth workshop leader, for insight. I wasn’t prepared his shocking wisdom.

I recounted to him in painstaking detail what this person had done. He listened attentively and then said, “That’s none of your business!” The hot fire of anger filled my chest.  “What are you talking about?” I demanded. “It happened to me!” “Yes,” he replied calmly, “and your focusing on it is keeping the injury alive even though it happened many years ago. Now you are injuring yourself!”

letting go“You have no control over that person’s actions,” he continued. “That’s why it’s none of your business, it’s his business. What you have control over is your reaction. You can’t get the feeling you want from your injurer. It’s up to you to give it to yourself by taking care of yourself and letting go.”

What a bitter truth!  Where was justice?

The irony was, I had my own shadows, my own wrongdoings. And I had been my own enemy in how I dealt with my injury. By keeping it burning with the fuel of resentment, I was punishing myself versus my offender.

As they say in Twelve Step Recovery meetings, “Resentment is a poison we swallow to hurt someone else!”

Part of forgiving is acceptance.  Acceptance doesn’t condone harm, it simply acknowledges it. It allows us to end our struggle with reality. Denial on the other hand, ignores or covers up the truth or believes somehow we can change what has already happened.

Forgiveness is not an event; it is a process that comes and goes all of our lives.  To forgive ourselves and others is spring cleaning for the soul.

But how do we forgive?

Over many years, wise teachers, especially the teacher of life, have given me some key tools in how to forgive self and others.

Relinquish:  Our first step is to practice giving up our focus, even our obsession with the injury and injurer (obsession isn’t the same as doing healing work via therapy or spiritual paths). We stop ourselves from going down the path of rumination by gently distracting ourselves with creative, healing, action such as art or craft projects, gardening, retreating to nature, and other soothing or stimulating activities. One of my favorites is puttering around picking up the house or cleaning out a drawer.  It gives me focus, distraction, and action and is a tangible, useful way to sort the pieces of my life. The second part of relinquishing is grieving.  This means noticing the emotion we feel inside and allowing ourselves to cry, throw rocks, and mourn our loss.

Refrain:  This step is to restrain ourselves from punishing—whether self or other. It is a natural human tendency to long for justice.  Sadly, we rarely get justice.  Gladly, justice is not required to heal. The irony of punishment fantasies is that we are the one having them! When the urge to punish either through our thoughts or with actual action arises, redirect that energy into physical action–run, dance, swim, bike, shovel, kick box, lock yourself in the bathroom and yell, throw rocks at trees or glass jars in a safe place.  I have found that after an urgent physical engagement I feel a release, and then the tears come — carrying toxins in their tiny drops– out of my body.  This is self-cleansing after all.

136460068741bdcReclaim:  We reclaim our power by living our injuries into irrelevance. We aver from memory that which is harmful to remember.  We put one foot in front of the other in walking away from that which is best left behind. We refuse to give our power and our life to another person or the past.

Release:  This is another word for forgive.  To forgive is to let go, to no longer require compensation or punishment. We release the toxins of non-forgiveness. In its most powerful form forgiveness may be transferred into service –for example Mothers of Drunk Drivers was started by women who had lost children to drunken driving.  Sometimes we humans are even able to offer pardon or a compassionate perception to the injurer.

I love the description of what forgiveness feels like by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run with the Wolves: “You are not waiting for anything .There is no lariat snare around your ankle stretching from way back there to here.  You are free to go. It may not have turned out to be a happily ever after, but most certainly there is now a fresh once upon a time waiting for you from this day forward.”

Forgiveness-and-Freedom

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Letting Go of the Past

From Sorting the Pieces of Your Life: A Woman’s Guide to Simplicity, Order, Renewal, and Trust

“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”  Brene Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, author

The client sitting in front of me is berating himself.  He is angry.  His two youngest children are in their late teens and he is full of self-loathing and regret for the mistakes he made as a father. The missed road trips he had promised; times he was so drunk or high that he was absent during important moments in their lives; and that he didn’t teach them how to play the guitar. He is mired in the muck of shame and self-loathing over his past.

What I see is a very brave man—someone who fought and clawed his way to sobriety from alcohol and cocaine.  Here is someone who became a good father and helped hundreds of other men find their way to sobriety through his tireless work as an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor. This is also a man who is taking his kids on a road trip this summer and is now teaching them guitar.

“I’m curious about the underpinnings of this shame.” I say.  “Let’s talk about some of the losses in your own life.”

Tears fill his eyes. “I remember how many times I waited for hours for my father to come home for promised activities, but he wouldn’t show up because he was out on another bender,” he tells me.

We identified that his work is to grieve his own losses. As he does he can explore how he wants to father now.  Part of that journey is releasing the shame he felt for his past hurtful behavior, but also acknowledging his strengths.

“Can you forgive yourself?” I ask him.

“How in the world would I ever do that?” he asks.

IL_LowRez_8.5x11_72dpiIn the last chapter we talked about cleaning the clutter out of our closets. Today we explore clearing our emotional clutter—the regrets, the mistakes, the injuries. Sorting both the contents of our closets and our hearts, require a good light! In her best-selling book, Daring Greatly, How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown, reminds us that “Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

Why do we avoid the ‘spring cleaning’ of the soul? Usually fear, pain, guilt, and shame. Guilt tells us we have done something wrong.  Shame tells us we are wrong.  Shame recedes when we are willing to see our wrongs and “humbly admit them” as they teach in Twelve Step Recovery Programs.

I still remember my first recovery meeting many years ago. I was afraid and embarrassed. But like every person in that room, I named my addictive behavior out loud. It took me a long time to understand that I was an addict and to admit it. I had just thought I was weak and bad. Like many of us in recovery, my shame was a heavy coat whose burden I had born for years.  By finally flinging open the door on the darkness of my hidden truth, I felt an exhilarating sense of freedom and hope.

Prayer-Confession1When we own our humanity we acknowledge that we are capable of thoughts and actions that can feel shameful, and that we are not alone. Facing our shadow can help remind us that we are “engaged in a perpetual process of becoming,” as Emerson wrote.  That ‘becoming’ involves mistakes, relapses, and terrible judgment at times. Every mistake is an opportunity for humility and staying aware of our humanity.  We can replace our judgment with curiosity, both for our selves and others.

Letting go of the past shadows requires us to see what was, say what was, grieve what was, and move on. Just like we use containers such as boxes and bags to remove our physical cutter, there are containers for our spiritual housecleaning as well. They can include journaling, meditation, prayer, speaking with a trusted friend, advisor, or counselor, or attending a recovery meeting,

Mark Matousek, a journalist and writing teacher recommends writing as a way to “reframe our stories. Stories can imprison us,” he says.  In his writing workshop, Writing as a Spiritual Practice, he teaches that we can write ourselves to freedom, not by just lamenting the past, but by writing about what we learned from our experiences. This requires telling the “full unvarnished truth” he says. “Do not lie to the page,” he instructs.

WritingHe also encourages surrendering to the story, allowing it to reveal itself with fresh insight and understanding.  This requires dismissing our ‘inner-editor’ and just letting our story spill out. There are insights to be gained from the writing process.  And it can become a pathway not only to self-discovery, but recovery.

I have been journaling since I was 14.  When I am completely present to the experience, emotion arises with the written word.  It becomes a time not just to recount and explore, but to cry, mourn, laugh, sigh, and release.

With the client mentioned above, we found the root of his work as we went deeper into his ‘emotional closet’ with the light of curiosity and compassion.  We used paper and writing to track the common theme in his family of origin. We discovered that addiction and abandonment had been a family theme for four generations at least.  We also noted that with each generation recovery efforts moved forward with increasing success.

Instead of judging the sins of his father, and himself, he used curiosity to understand the context in the family that contributed to creating addiction and abandonment.  As he already knew from his years of recovery work, telling the truth and taking action empowered each generation to leave the past a little bit further behind.  He had forgiven his father and made amends to his children.  But how does one make amends to oneself?

In the next chapter we will explore how to forgive self and other. It is a crucial step in cleaning the house of soul.

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