Saturday, 16 July 2016

You're Safe Now

You’re safe now.

Your old coping mechanisms are not serving you anymore. They are holding you back. You don’t need them anymore to protect you.

Acceptance is a better way to live life.

The devil is not behind every bush, there is not somebody always watching and reading your mind who will punish you if you think a bad thought.

Nobody will physically hurt you if you accidently do or say the wrong thing. Others are not keeping track to punish you later or shove it back in your face to justify abusive behavior.

You didn’t know that you could tell someone and escape; you didn’t know you had the power to change things for those you love. It’s okay, you did the best you could with what you knew.

Nobody can forbid your best friend to talk to you. You are free to talk with whoever you like. You are not a bad influence, you are LIGHT. They were just afraid of your freedom to question everything.

Walking into a room will not produce anger in an authority figure. They won't say you’re a bad person because you haven’t measured up to their expectations of perfection and that you need to work harder and not waste time.

You don’t have to disassociate to escape your feelings, it is safe to focus on what you’re doing. You don’t have to remain hyper-vigilant thinking of the worst case scenario and prepared for another’s drastic mood change or something bad happening.

Everybody is not watching you, waiting for you to mess up so they can judge you. They don’t even notice what you’re wearing or if your hair is messy. They’re not talking behind your back that you’re not smart enough or that you’re not cool enough to be friends with them. If someone does that, it’s really all about them and not at all about you.

You don’t have to worry about what to say at a social event, you just have to listen and only give advice when they ask for it. Your opinion matters too, even if you don’t get a chance to get a word in edgewise.

It’s okay if others don’t agree with you, it doesn’t mean that they won’t like you anymore. Healthy people can agree to disagree and remain friends.

A misunderstanding does not mean the relationship is over. They are not obsessing about it and have most likely forgotten. You don’t have to apologize for everything.

It’s okay to be silly and have fun. Fun is not bad or wrong. You have a kind heart that not everyone understands, just keep shining and give others the freedom to come out of their shells too. It’s okay to not be perfect; there is so much beauty in imperfection.

It’s okay if someone is coming over or you were invited to a social event. You do belong, keep breathing, they won’t notice that you’re focused on breathing. Your responses to their conversation will not be overanalyzed. When someone doesn't understand you, it's not rejection; they just are not at the same place on their journey.

Care about what others are sharing with you about themselves instead of caring so much if they’ll accept you. You accept you, you are awesome. They think you’re awesome too. Everyone wants to be heard and understood, give them the gift of attention instead of staying in your little world of safety.

Loss is part of life, accidents happen. Everything changes, everyone comes and goes. Now that you hold them with an open hand, you don’t have to constantly worry that something bad is going to happen to those you love. It’s going to be okay regardless, and the good memories you made together are yours to keep forever. Continue being grateful for the good.

It is not your fault when someone else is in a bad mood. Everyone is responsible for their own feelings. You are smart enough to make your own decisions, mistakes are a part of life and each mistake is your teacher.

They only told you that you needed their advice so they could control you. Learn to recognize abuse. Nobody has the power to mind control you anymore. You are an adult, you are safe now. They have zero power over you. Nobody owns you. You don’t need permission to live, you can choose the life you want. Be an example of really living to those who look up to you.

It is not your job to rescue adults who choose to live under oppression. They don’t need you. Your courage to leave will help them more than staying because of an unhealthy emotional attachment.

It’s safe to tell the truth about and expose people who keep harming others. If they didn’t want a bad reputation, they should not have hurt people. Their negative energy can’t bring you down anymore, now that you’ve learned to vibrate higher and remove yourself from toxicity. Their rejection cannot affect you anymore because you now know how to accept and love yourself.

Your sadness will not overwhelm you, your anger is like flowing water, but on it travels little paper boats of acceptance and compassion. It’s okay to not have your shit together all the time, life is both the highs and the lows. Fighting feelings only makes them stronger, don't give them your energy. It's okay to feel bad. Those feelings are temporary.

You don’t have to keep running, you don’t have to distract yourself with entertainment or being busy or obsessing about other people’s lives. It’s safe to be here in the moment, alone with yourself.

Awareness that your thoughts and emotions are not you, has given you freedom and power. You are divine and can manifest whatever you feel.

You are learning how to take care of yourself every day so life doesn’t get overwhelming. You no longer need to search for a home, for love. What you need was inside you all along.

Monday, 6 June 2016

The Ego vs. Our True Self

“When I connect with my true self, I understand life. When I believe what the ego says, I get lost and fall apart.”

I used to wonder what people meant when they said they were trying to “find themselves” and I recently went down that path. First looking outside of myself, seeing where I fit in this world. I thought how others viewed me, would define who I was. The life lesson came from understanding the difference between the ego and my true self.

I struggle with social anxiety and have to remind myself that I don’t need to be afraid of other people, I’ll be okay no matter what they think of me. I don’t have to talk or act the same way as the last time I came in contact with them or over-analyze what they might think of me. I’m learning to be aware of my fears and talk myself out of them, shifting my focus to love instead of fear. The ego is entirely based on fear. It traps people in the story of their past.

The ego is a fairly new concept for me. Of course I had heard the word, I just didn’t understand it. The ego is a person’s sense of self-importance, your social mask, your titles and roles. The ego is an illusion of the mind. I’ve been learning how to recognize it. I think that it’s something very important to have a basic knowledge of.

The ego tells us that we need to make others think we are important. It is something we all have to live with but we don’t have to believe what it has to say, because it’s not who we are. Deep down below all the labels, roles, social masks and expectations, we can find our true selves. Our very existence in this world makes us beautiful, valuable and amazing.

Even though a different part of my personality comes out, depending on the person I’m spending time with, I’m still being true to myself. All of the roles I play are true because I am limitless. My true self cannot be defined and it trumps the ego. I can reinvent myself every day if I want.

Never confuse self-love with the ego. The two are entirely different. The ego requires a person to think they are better than others and will put others down in order to keep that perception. Self-love means you are your own best friend and that you are able to give that gift to others indirectly, by inspiring them to do the same for themselves.

People seem to need to feed the ego by identifying and bragging about where they fit in life, with a certain group, as if where they are from makes them more important. I feel that every human being on the planet has equal worth and that the world belongs to all of humanity.

“There's no race, no religion, no class system, no color, nothing, no sexual orientation, that makes us better than anyone else. We are all deserving of love.” ~ Sandra Bullock

All suffering is ego-created and caused by resistance. The ego will always be there, but it doesn’t have to rule our lives. The key is to carefully be aware of the thoughts circling your mind instead of getting lost in the thoughts themselves. Happiness is slowing down and listening to the conversations in your head without believing them.

When you hear the ego start to cut yourself or others down, or trick you with scare tactics, address it immediately “I know you’re trying to protect me from a future pain that you think is coming. I appreciate your desire to protect me but I will not dwell in fear” If you can remember to do this, your true self will prevail over the ego. Yes you can allow feelings to wash over you like a wave, as long as you recognize that it’s temporary, accepting instead of fighting it, knowing that life can be tough, but so are you. You are resilient.

There is a counter force to the ego. It allows you to overcome all of the ego’s fear and anxiety. It is your true self. Maybe you have caught glimpses of it? It is different for all people, but they are the same, in that for a brief moment, we catch a glimpse of our true selves and the ego disappears completely. In that moment there is no fear or worry, there is only you: infinite, kind, beautiful you. Perhaps it is while riding a bike or driving down the road with your favorite music, maybe you were on the treadmill or taking a walk outside and you felt: This is it. This is my peace, my happiness. Centered and grounded.

In addition to recognizing and overcoming the ego, we must embrace our true selves. Seek out those moments where you feel alive, create more of those moments. When you feel that sense of calm infinite peace in your soul, capture that feeling and dwell on it often. Stop living in the painful shadows of your past and allow your true self to begin guiding your life.

When the ego is in charge we will be caught thinking about the same things over and over, consumed by negative emotions, focused on anxieties, fears and doubts. When the ego is in charge our worth is dependent on external things, a partner, friends, career, family, outward appearance, home etc. When the ego is in charge, validation from others will be a desperate need and we’ll be easily bruised when people let us down and life doesn’t go our way.

Believing the ego means you get your identity from others, it means a second-hand life. The moment you realize you don’t need to depend on others and that you have your own intelligence, you can look within. When someone says something about you, don’t internalize those words, to be hurt implies you believe what they said. When you stop believing negative self-talk from the ego, you’ll also stop believing hurtful things that others say about you. You won’t need their acceptance or understanding if you truly accept and love yourself.

When our true self is in charge, we accept ourselves, others and circumstances completely, our preferences and desires bubble up from within us, not from external influences like society and the expectations of others. When our true self is in charge we feel in the flow and lose ourselves in our hobbies, connect with nature, a sunrise, a starry night, or quotes that resonate. Life feels effortless, and we feel free and empowered to live a beautiful life, our purpose in life is to follow our heart’s song and share our unique gifts with others.

Forgetting our true self comes from seeing through the eyes of the ego. This is why there is so much unhappiness. But those negative feelings are sometimes the reason for the awakening of the desire to return home to who we really are.

To be fair, it is incredibly challenging to dismiss the allure of the ego and be led by your true self, but even if you manage to connect with this deeper part of yourself a few minutes a day, your life will improve in a beautiful way. The smaller you make the ego, the easier it is to escape your prison cell and find freedom. When the ego is lost, limit is lost. You become infinite, kind and beautiful. Even a teaspoon worth of love, wisdom or courage coming from your true self is a thousand times more powerful than negative messages coming from the ego. Try to remember this, beautiful soul.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

An Empty Cup of Self-Love

If you were raised in a culture similar to my own, you were probably taught to put others before yourself, and not give much consideration to your own needs. Self-denial and self-sacrifice were two of the main values taught in my childhood. Those values brought the deep pain of being a martyr, with little understanding of what love really is. Love is more about acceptance than sacrifice.

A few days ago, I was driving with my teenage daughter, discussing relationships with her friends and possibilities of making more friends. There are so many young people wearing masks because they’re afraid of rejection and so desperately want approval. We talked about the analogy of the cup of self-love. I told her that relationships do not mean, going from person to person asking them to fill your cup for you or expecting they will guess what kind of drink you like. Helping others can only happen after we fill our own cup. The self-love that I’m talking about is simple, it shows you that you love and accept yourself, just the way you are. Imperfectly perfect, and worthy of love.

Every toxic belief out there, teaches us fear instead of love and that it's wrong to become too familiar with who we are. As long as we are convinced that we need something from the external, we will always be lacking. If you want to be happy, start appreciating yourself and others instead of expecting perfection from yourself and others. “I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival” ~Audre Lorde.

The most important relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself. You are the only one who will understand and love you for who you really are. You'll never find a mind-reader who can guess exactly what you need and give it to you, even if they wish they could. This means getting to know yourself, the gifts and desires that are uniquely yours and choosing to take care of yourself like a Mom takes care of her young children. Making sure you get enough sleep, healthy food, time outside for fresh air, sunshine and exercise, and a routine that includes free time to do what you enjoy doing. It also includes taking several deep breaths when life gets overwhelming.

To fill your cup every day, means getting in the habit of self-care and being aware of your thoughts instead of have them run on autopilot. Don't believe every thought that travels through your mind. Anxious thoughts can overwhelm your ability to have healthy relationships. Be honest with yourself and others about what you need, instead of sacrificing everything unnecessarily. This means incorporating healthy boundaries to maintain a balance of empathy, compassion and vulnerability.

The concept of becoming your own best friend at first seems foreign, but it feels like coming home. People laugh at the idea of talking to yourself silently, but everyone does it. Thoughts that flow through our minds are not ours, they are just ideas that we’ve been exposed to. The mind does what minds do best, it comes up with random thoughts. We can heal ourselves if we become aware of the negative self-talk of the worrier, the critic, the victim and the perfectionist. The thoughts about ourselves, that we mistakenly believe are ours, are things we would never say to an innocent child. That’s what we are, an innocent child, worthy of love and compassion.

In order to let go of something, you first need to pick it up. Our defenses are trying to protect us and we must identify the voice of the negative thoughts. What is said to a child becomes their inner voice, and in cases of verbal abuse, we have to do the work to reprogram our mind with truth. Finally believing that I’m worthy has been a turning point in my depression, and I've learned the habit of replacing negative thoughts about myself to positive affirmations.

Falling in love with yourself is the best thing you'll ever do. Some people don’t know how it feels to have a full cup of self-love and don’t understand how to fill it. People who struggle with their own worthiness, have a lack of self-love because they find it hard to believe they are deserving of love. Our automatic response to abandonment becomes “was I not good enough for them to stay and love me?” We don’t hold the cards to anyone’s feelings or judgments, if they reject us, that is about them, not us. One of my favorite quotes is: “To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own” ~ Jack Kornfield.

For as long as I can remember I have been searching for a best friend, for someone else to fill the gaping hole in my heart, to love me no matter how much I mess up. I am the person that I’ve been searching for. I’m not my worst enemy any more. I’ll always be there for me. My thoughts and feelings are not me. I am simply awareness. I watch myself and others with compassion and it brings me inner peace. When I feel down and my first response is to look to someone else to make me feel better, I realize what’s happening and look within instead, I ask myself what I need. I breathe and accept to recharge.

The other person in whatever relationship (family member, friend or lover) needs to feel free, nobody should own another or be owned. We are not a half that needs another half to be complete, we already are complete. Every relationship has give and take and sacrifice but it should never cause us to lose ourselves, to give everything in order to earn the love of another. A person who is afraid of abandonment, eventually turns relationships into a negative, self-fulfilling prophecy. “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are. ~ Anais Nin. 

"The key to life is acceptance. Stop pretending to be someone you're not, you are a vast open ocean of awareness, in which all the movements of life: success and failure, happiness and sadness, joy and pain, certainty and doubt, all of life's energies are all deeply allowed to move through you. In our false self, we've pushed away life's energies and fell into the idea of opposites and reject the negative or dark aspect and only seek the positive. It is so exhausting being at war with half of life. Life is all of those things, good and bad waves. Never forget that depression is an invitation of Deep Rest, remember who you are now, a vast ocean of waves to welcome and accept. Stop the exhaustion of fighting negative feelings and find peace in acceptance. Let it be, accept others choices, accept your thoughts and let them pass through you." ~ Jeff Foster

I’ll leave you with something I learned while grieving the death of my siblings (Aline 1990~2015 from Cystic Fibrosis, and Nathaniel 1994~2016 from Suicide.) It has helped me get and stay out of the dark hole of grief and depression. I imagine sitting at a train station, watching the trains arrive and depart. My awareness is the station and my thoughts and feelings are the trains. If I’m not mindful, I will hop on a train to who knows where. But the moment I realize I am on the train, I choose to leave the train and stay at the station, just watching the thoughts and feelings go by, without judgment, but with compassion and acceptance instead. 

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Acceptance from Myself

I used to hate washing dishes. I can't say that I love it. My dishwasher has recently stopped working properly and it’s been more of a blessing than a curse because it’s allowed me to contemplate in silence, after the kids have gone to school. I’ve enjoyed the past few months off work to recover from surgery. I’ve learned some deep life lessons during this time which has felt like an Awakening.

These lessons actually began to be “birthed” while grieving my sister’s recent death. Lessons like: Let it be, (regarding family relationships that can’t be fixed and not being able to say goodbye to her) Really LIVING life, Being Present, Just BE (not constantly “doing”) and that I’m already worthy without having to do or be anything in particular, that imperfection doesn’t make me unworthy of love. 

As I wash each dish I have to focus on what I’m doing temporarily and of course my mind does what minds do best - come up with thoughts. In the past I have tended to get carried away with multiple off-shoots of thoughts or think negatively if I’m feeling tired or down, especially if all I can think of is that I don’t want to be doing the dishes and would rather be doing something else.

I had never heard about Mindfulness until my therapist told me about it and it’s slowly changing my life, as I retrain my mind to be present instead of in another world. I used to be constantly distracted by someone else’s story, either in real life, movies, music, TV or novels, as coping mechanisms. The best definition I've found for Mindfulness is by Jon Kabat-Zinn: Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. 

Rather than being zoned out most of the time, I want to be present. Not stuck in the past, the future or another world. It’s not an overnight thing, but rather a change of focus. I am determined to learn how to stop the cycle of not being able to connect with immediate family members because everyone is in their own world. This is why I'm so passionate about awareness and I’ve been reading everything I can on the subject. 

Mindfulness is kind of like meditation, the meaning of meditation that I go by is emptying the mind while remaining still and focused on breathing. A thought will come and then we return our attention back to our breath. What makes mindfulness different than meditation is that you're not still, in this case, I return my attention back to washing the dishes. It’s easier than brushing my teeth, I’ve not been successful about being mindful about that yet, but I’ll keep trying. Even in the shower, I have this order I follow so I don’t forget to wash my hair (yes it’s happened) because it’s so easy to let the mind wander while in the shower, like my mind has just wandered as I write. 

“The day you decide that you are more interested in being aware of your thoughts than you are of the thoughts themselves – that is the day you will find your way out” ~ Michael Singer

As I started washing dishes today, I’ve been thinking about Acceptance as another deep life lesson during my awakening. Awakening is how I describe how I’ve finally become aware of my thoughts and that I am the observer of them. I feel like I’m conscious for the first time. I can entertain a thought and then choose to accept or reject it. To some that may be common sense, but to me it is a fairly new and fascinating concept. 

I get misunderstood a lot and I think this may be another thing that others won’t understand but I just want to say that I’m learning and I have by no means arrived. It’s not a religion in any way and I’m not following anything or anyone in particular, it’s just a shift in my consciousness in which thinking and awareness become separate. It was a long process of many years rejecting my cult upbringing and leaving the religious doctrine behind. 

I was shunned when I left because being a free-thinker is seen as a bad influence and also because I took a stand against abuse, resulting in me being seen as a threat. I’ve always lived my life around kindness and the golden rule. My soul didn’t belong in a cult. It was excruciating to go through the loss of most of the family I grew up in and everyone in my church (which was my only circle of friends being homeschooled) but now I see it as the best thing that ever happened to me because it left me with nothing to lose as I ventured forth to freedom. It gives me compassion for most people I know who still are bound to what the people in their circle would think if they dared to become who their soul is calling them to be. 

Here I was trying to find myself, having skipped that stage by getting married and when I turned 18 and having kids right away. Becoming independent as a wife and mother was a challenging situation. I was raised to be a only a servant and to put my needs last. Practicing self-care and figuring out what I wanted in life had me feeling conflicted as I tried to live an autonomous life. My mind was blown when I came across the following quote from Feverborn that explains how I wasn’t able to communicate my needs before because, I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted:

“Boundaries were necessary for a successful relationship. Most relationships aborted in the boundary-defining stage. Not because people demanded what they needed, but because they didn’t, then got resentful about it”

Acceptance is not only “Letting it be” It is also about accepting thoughts instead of fighting them. After being honest with myself I decided to be honest with those closest to me about what I needed. It was a very scary thing to do because I was afraid of rejection. I was pleasantly surprised with the understanding I was met with. It gave me complete freedom and made me re-evaluate what it was I was longing for in the first place, which turned out to be Acceptance and Unconditional love. 

Once I had this acceptance, it was painfully clear that I needed acceptance from myself. Instead of fighting thoughts off because I was trained they were bad and it made me a bad person to think them, I started accepting and even welcoming the thoughts as I became aware of them. I began to label the thoughts without judgement, realizing that I am only the observer of the thought. Visualizing myself as a young child and comforting her, not as a parent or boyfriend figure, but actually ME (the observer) loving my own soul. Treating the mind almost like a separate person, that needs a ton of guidance to mature. 

Words cannot express how wonderful it feels to realize that I am not my past. When people want to get to know me, that I don’t have to tell my entire life story in order for them to understand me. Every day is a new chance to re-invent myself. I’m much more interested in what a new person in my life can teach me rather than listening to myself talk and having acceptance be the only thing I care about. 

Free does not accurately describe what it’s like to not be stuck in the past and not present an angry persona when I’m with others when a subject comes up from my past that brings out my fight or flight reaction. My mind allows me to “Let it be” If others don’t accept or understand me, I just accept that they don’t accept. It's helping with my social anxiety. 

Practicing self-care for my inner child is much like babysitting. Making sure the child gets to bed on time, spends time outdoors and has healthy food and drink options accessible. It also means setting up a routine so there is free time in addition to school, chores or work. 

The best gift you can give another person is the gift of attention, so that means paying attention to your inner child when she reacts to a situation, figuring out why she had the response and how to deal with it. A therapist can be helpful with this also. If you can't afford a therapist, the book Complex PTSD by Pete Walker is the next best thing. 

My therapist made me aware of how much I got caught in the thought trap of what I “should have” done or said. Viewing my thoughts as separate from who I am as a person, took away the shame I used to feel. I don’t have to believe or act on everything I think. I also don’t have to decide “who I am” and be a certain way. I can shred the script and live an entirely different way whenever I choose to do so. 

We need to respond to our thoughts with compassion and acceptance to help our inner child heal, and always remember to be gentle with ourselves. Acceptance from myself is the key. 

Thursday, 10 March 2016

The box was an illusion

Growing up, we’re told who we are. Our parents seem to have all the answers of what is right and wrong, and their ideas about us can become our identity, and in cases of abuse, even our means of survival.

When we become adults, we have to decide for ourselves what we believe. We often assume that we must follow the same path we were taught, or at least pick a path and stick to it exclusively.

What I’ve come to realize is that each person is constantly learning and growing, and this means that beliefs change as new ideas are presented. Nobody believes exactly the same as another.

But for some, the concept of entertaining ideas with an open mind is scary.

For me, coming from a background of spiritual abuse, raised in the same homeschool cult as the Duggars, I tend to steer clear of religious ideas, because to me they represent pain.

For my parents, fear was the motivator for most things they taught us were evil or bad. These things included rock music, birth control, girls wearing pants, going to college, even playing with innocent toys that they burned.

But strangely enough, since I kissed religion goodbye, most of my own fears have disappeared. There are so many new things I’m excited to learn every day. New thoughts I am ready to explore. Now I know that the box I was put in was an illusion and I see possibilities I never dreamed existed.

What if we really did live life to the fullest? What if it didn’t matter what other people thought? What if what we were taught to believe isn’t really truth?

Freedom to create the life we choose is a reality, but most people live their entire lives with blinders on, believing that for one reason or another they must remain trapped in their own box.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my past doesn’t matter as much as I thought it did. For years I was stuck living in the past, with the beliefs I was taught were the only option. I never thought I could go from Victim to Survivor.

Today have hope to thrive, not merely survive. Life is still full of ups and downs, and I’m sure that panic attacks, depression, and addictions will still be a struggle for me to deal with. But now I know that it’s okay if I don’t feel okay. I don’t beat myself up any more. I see life through new lenses.

There are helpful things that I'd never tried until recently, because I had been taught to believe they were bad. But despite what I’d been trained to think, I’ve learned many helpful coping skills from professional counseling, yoga, and meditation. They have enriched my new life and clarified my perspective. By realizing that nobody belongs to me, and everything comes and goes, I finally was able to make peace with the past and let it go.

Life and people are constantly changing and I’ve come to a place of acceptance of things as they are, without trying to change them. I simply remove myself from toxicity while feeling compassion for them and let others be the way they choose to be.

I’m learning to love myself, to be as gentle with myself as I am with an innocent child. I don’t have to do anything to be worthy, I just have to be. I’m not perfect, and that’s okay. What a revolutionary concept: Imperfection doesn’t make a person unworthy of love.

I used to think that if only I had my shit together, that life would be great. Now I know that it’s safe to think outside the box. It’s safe to feel uncertainty. It is safe to question things.

We will never have life all figured out and that’s okay, because mystery is part of the beauty of life’s adventure.