Tag Archives: Love

The Power of No

Danielle LaPorte says it so perfectly – No makes way for yes.

We live in a society of that feeds off an intense need for instant gratification and a fear of missing out. A society in which saying no is virtually out of the question. Saying no means you might miss out on something really big or it could very well result in a loss of or lack of something in your life.  You simply can’t say no and expect to live a full life…or so a rather vocal segment of our modern society would have us believe.  And let’s not forget that we, as a society, judge our level of success by how “busy” we are.  The more things you say yes to the busier you are, the more successful you are, right?  So again, saying no just can’t possibly be an option.

But here’s the harsh reality – unless you say the word no, at least on occasion, you can and will lose the ability to say yes at some point, very possibly at the moment when you really want/need to say yes. Why? Because you are human and can’t do it all.  Because there are only so many hours in a day.  Because no matter how close you get to being perfect, you still can’t be solely responsible for accomplishing everything that needs to be done at home, at work, and everywhere else in between.  It just isn’t possible.  You just cannot say yes all the time.

And let’s be clear – those are merely the facts as they exist, they do not represent a failure on your part. There’s no judgment. There is only the stone-cold reality that when we say yes too often we eventually reach a point when yes can’t possibly be the answer anymore.  If you are always saying yes you will inevitably reach the point where you cannot physically fit anything more into your schedule…into your life…and so it is then that no has to be the answer.  Something has to go before anything else can be added.  Quite a conundrum when faced with the opportunity to do something you have always wanted to do, but you can’t because of all the other things you previously said yes to (things that you may not even really care about).

And who does it hurt? Let’s be honest here – primarily you. And while overcommitting on your part can create problems for others as well, by and large you are the one who suffers from your inability to say no.  So what is the answer?  How do we find a balance between saying yes and saying no?

The key is to set and honor boundaries for yourself. If you follow any of Brené Brown’s work then you are likely familiar with this statement from her on the importance of boundaries, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” Your time, your health, your sanity, your talents, etc. are important so you need to be mindful of your “Yes’s and No’s” such that you are honoring your wants, needs, desires, and limitations.  Again, it is not about any kind of  failure on your part, rather it is about being honest with yourself and not overcommitting.  Saying no on occasion to things that don’t feel right, don’t resonate, don’t align with your personal mission is not only okay, it is essential to being able to say yes to all things that are meaningful to you.  Commit to the things that light you up, to the things you are passionate about.  Don’t say yes out of guilt or some misguided sense of obligation to someone else.  Say yes because it means something to you.  If you do that, not only will you find that you are no longer overcommitted, but you will also find yourself in a place of great joy and happiness.

The Double-Edged Sword of Life

To experience life, indeed to live it fully, one must open up to all it has to offer. But opening up requires being vulnerable, trusting, taking risks, and becoming attached, to some extent, to things that are impermanent, as all life is impermanent. The net result is either something amazing or something painful.  This is the double-edged sword that we call life – you can’t choose your outcome, so to experience life is to risk one or the other of these outcomes with no guarantee of certainty in any given moment as to which you will receive.

I imagine most, if not all, of us are familiar with this concept from our own very real and personal experiences. And despite how many times we find ourselves at the crossroads of life, feeling the pain or pleasure of this double-edged sword, we forget just how good, or how bad, it can be until we are once again in its midst.

When it is good we never want it to end. When it is bad, we can’t wish it away fast enough, though it tends to cling to us all the more. The quintessential example of course comes to us through our relationships.  When they are good we savor them, desire more of them, can’t get enough of them.  Yet when things go wrong or come to an end, the pain can feel unbearable.  Even when the circumstances are such that we have not personally done anything to directly cause the painful outcome…even when we can find no fault with the other person or persons involved or the choices they have made, we still wrack our brains as to what went wrong or what we could have done differently…we still feel the immense pain of the situation.  As a result we often feel a pull or desire to retreat or to withdraw from life – a natural reaction for a species still controlled by the fight or flight response to outside stimuli.

And so it is, this dance we do with life and the double-edged sword that follows life wherever it goes. Do you dare to accept the dance? Do you trust that what you fear will be the very thing that will somehow set you free, or do you play it safe and not take the chance?  And after you get stabbed by that sword, do you dare to try dancing with life again?  How many times do you allow yourself to be stabbed by that sword before you call it quits?  All good questions, but none come with easy answers, hence the struggle surrounding this dance.

I’ve done the dance. I have been stabbed by that double-edged sword more times than I care to count. It hurts the same now as it did the first time I was pierced by it.  The fact of the matter is that no matter how many times you get stabbed by the double-edged sword of life, it will still hurt, immensely.  And each time I find myself asking the question, now what?  Surely it would be easier and safer to just curl up into a ball and shut out the world.  It would be so much easier and safer to say no the next time life asks me to dance.  And there are moments when I seriously consider these two options – there’s comfort in them for sure.  But those are the easier answers…and I am not so sure opting out of life really is an option, as life always seems to find a way to coax us back onto the dance floor.  It may take a little time.  I may have some wounds to lick, lots of  tears to shed, and an aching pain in my heart that needs time to heal, but I’ll come back to the dance floor again in time because in the end I know in my heart of hearts with each dance, regardless of the outcome, I am learning and growing…I am becoming a better person, hard as it may be to believe in that moment of pain.  Oh but if only it didn’t have to hurt so much along the way, but such is the journey called life I suppose.

It’s easy to become bitter and angry when that double-edged sword stabs you. But I choose love. Love for the person or persons who made the choices that caused the hurt…love for life in general despite this never-ending dance it makes me do…love for a universe that would have me continually experience this roller coaster of the highs and the lows of life…love because in the end that is all that really matters.  Life may challenge me, life may try to pick me apart at times, but I will be strong, I will learn from what life gives me, and I will work hard to find the lessons in it all.  And so, give me some time to rest, to feel all the things I am feeling, and to catch my breath and then go ahead and cue the music maestro…so that we can begin our dance once again, as this dance with life is all we really have and I have no choice but to make peace with it.

Broken, But Fixable

So often when I look around I see so many signs that point to the fact that we are a broken society.  Life in general is hard these days and living our purpose and acknowledging our true self can be near impossible in this crazy, modern world in which we live.  And I recently sat through a presentation that thoroughly reinforced these thoughts and feelings.  The presentation included some alarming statistics about suicide, the number of people with mental health issues who are not seeking treatment, and the overall impact of such things on our work and personal lives.  Depression, drug & alcohol abuse, anxiety, etc.  The effects are wide spread.  I was struck by just how far reaching this mental health epidemic has become and by how broken we are overall as a people – not just because of the statistics themselves, but because part of what fuels the increase in those statistics is the societal messages we all receive about what it means, according to the society we live in today, to seek help.

We are all doing the best we can with what we have been given, learning from those around us who are doing the best they can as well…but still we find ourselves in this place.  So many people in our society are dealing with challenging things in their lives while at the same time lacking a knowledge of the tools that could help them better navigate those difficult times.  Instead, most people struggle to work things out on their own.  Sadly, this is something I see all too often in my work – so many people struggling to deal with any of a number of issues both personally and professionally, but unwilling to seek help, be it counseling or coaching, because they have been taught to believe that in seeking help they are indicating they are unable to handle things on their own…that they are weak or somehow flawed.

One in four people struggles with some type of mental health issue. What’s even more upsetting than that statistic is the stigma society places on seeking treatment. The societal messages are that you should just ‘learn to deal with it in your own’, “suck it up”, “get over it”, and “everyone else can handle it so why can’t you”.  Such shame and humiliation is cast upon those already struggling with so much.

The “shame of it all” is both in terms of the shame that the people struggling to decide if they should seek help or not feel as a result of those societal messages, but also that we as a society allow that stigma to perpetuate. Rather, we should acknowledge that life is hard for all of us, that we all could use a little help from time to time, and that seeking that help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

So what causes this societal stigma? Is it a lack of love and understanding of our fellow humans? Is it because we do not teach resiliency?  Is it just the chaotic, fast paced life we live in?  Is it the high expectations held for us, real or perceived?  Is it because we have not been taught how to ask questions and to make our own choices?  Is it because we have not been taught how to stand tall in the decisions we do make?  Or is it because of a loss of creativity and curiosity?  I am not sure we will ever truly know the exact cause(s), but one thing that is for certain is that the societal stigma attached to seeking help for even the mildest of stressors in our lives, such as every day stressors like finances, relationships, work, or caregiver stress, is slowly killing us.  We need to find a better way.

The reality is that everything is connected – we can’t leave our problems at home or at work. The mind/body connection is real. Pretending otherwise only makes things worse.  We need to begin recognizing how hard it is to admit the need and/or desire for help.  We need to see it as a strength and not a weakness.  If we are going to help each other through this life, we need to start by creating awareness of the problem and then developing a culture of caring.  We may be broken, but we are still fixable.  A good place to start is to become more mindful of our words and the messages we send with them.

“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” – Yehuda Berg

Thinking vs. Feeling Your Feelings

I was recently talking with a friend about the topic of feeling your feelings vs. thinking your feelings. Then I began seeing things on social media these past few weeks on this topic as well. Clearly it is time to write a little something about it.

This is certainly something most, if not all, of us are guilty of doing. I know I have become a super star in the field of thinking my feelings instead of feeling them. I think in many ways we are trained by society to do this…to think our feelings rather than actually feeling them.  First of all, there is no time to stop and feel anything.  There are too many things to do and never enough hours in the day (both personally and professionally), so merely thinking our feelings is much more efficient and fits better with our lifestyle in today’s world.  Plus, to actually feel feelings usually gets translated into you being weak (a common perception we ascribe to people who take the time to feel their feelings).

Thinking your feelings vs actually feeling them is easier, neater, cleaner, and nicer for everyone involved in the process. We just think about them and move on – it is that simple. Feeling them, on the other hand, requires that we get messy and deeply experience emotions we don’t like (pain, loss, sorrow, regret, etc.).  Feeling our feelings can take time and can uncover more things for you to address too.  It just is not convenient or efficient by today’s standards.

In addition to thinking our feelings, we are also quite good at talking about them rather than feeling them. Many people think because they have talked about them they have processed them (and therefore felt them), but that is not necessarily the case. If the talking about the feelings is more of a venting or complaining session then you are not processing/feeling them.  Granted, talking about your feelings may be more of a step toward feeling them than just thinking them is, but you still haven’t felt them in most cases if you are just talking about them.  Talking about them can even help you push them farther away making it harder to be able to feel them.

Feeling them takes time and can be inconvenient in this fast paced, modern world. We are expected to handle things gracefully and not show emotion in many avenues of life. There are such high expectations for all of us (real, imagined,s or self-imposed).  The question to ask is are you just finding ways to cope with your feelings or are you actually allowing yourself to feel them?  Are you getting by without feeling them?  Are you burying them and moving on?  If you are doing any of those things, they are still there.  They haven’t gone away, though we tell ourselves that they have.

“We fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else can inflict.” – Jim Morrison

We have to learn to address them for good. If you don’t feel them they get buried deep inside of you and can manifest inside you in the form of an illness or it can negatively impact your life externally via your relationships, etc. We need to feel and process them so they dissipate, otherwise they build up and get worse.

Let them out, express them, feel them, own them, and above all take action. Do something active with your emotions so you can truly feel them and work through them – journal, cry, draw, punch a pillow, etc. Find ways that work for you, but by all means take the time to really, truly feel your feelings.

It may get darker before it gets lighter but real growth and transformation can only come through allowing yourself to feel those feelings inside of you. True light only can come if you let yourself feel your feelings and you work through your stuff.

Feeling “Out Of Sorts”

Maybe it was because of the full moon. Maybe it was because of turning the clocks back an hour. Maybe it was because it was a crazy week at work.  Maybe it’s because I am facing a bunch of big decisions in my personal life.  Or maybe it was a combination of all of those things.  Who knows?  Regardless of the reason or reasons, I felt terribly out of sorts this week.  I haven’t been sleeping right.  My meditation practice has been all over the place – I had little to no focus.  All my normal routines were out of sync.  I even ended up with a migraine mid-week (and I don’t usually get those).  I just couldn’t seem to find my groove.  Everything felt off.

This isn’t something that happens often, but when it does it can wreck me for a good week or two…and I don’t like it. As with most people I imagine, I like when things in my life flow nicely, naturally, smoothly…and this week there wasn’t much flow at all.

I have tried, in the past, to just sit around and wait for it to blow over, but I have never been one to sit idly by and wait for something when I had the power to do something about it. Besides, that tactic has never seemed to help it move along very quickly. And so, I chose to rely on some strategies and techniques that I consider to be my “go to’s”…and they slowly, but surely, helped me move back into a place of balance.  Here’s what helped bring me back from the depths of feeling out of sorts – and I highly recommend them to anyone struggling with that sense of being out of balance in your life:

  1. Be patient with yourself – Becoming upset, irritated or angry with yourself (or anyone else for that matter) when things just aren’t feeling quite right in your life won’t solve anything. Having some patience and understanding with yourself can go a long way. Be loving and compassionate toward yourself.  Know that feeling out of sorts happens to everyone from time to time and that only through patience, understanding, and self-compassion will you rebound successfully.  As with many things, this too shall pass.
  2. Meditate – Even though my meditation practice is not at its best when I feel out of sorts, I know it is important to keep trying to meditate. And I know and accept that some days will be better than others. Some meditation is better than no meditation, to be sure.  The act of sitting quietly, being in the moment, and breathing goes a long way towards bringing yourself out of a state of imbalance or “ungroundedness”.  Using specific meditations which focus on or promote becoming more grounded can be especially helpful.
  3. Take time for yourself – I have found that when I feel out of sorts, the best thing I can do is take time for myself. That might mean curling up with a book, or sleeping in, or watching a movie…anything that is not part of the normal routine but feels good and supportive. Taking time for yourself is such a powerful way to help bring yourself back into alignment in the present.  Go ahead and give yourself permission to just do what feels good in the moment…it might just be the thing you need to turn things around.
  4. Take naps – Naps aren’t just for children, you know. In fact, I highly recommend them for adults, especially when we feel out of sorts. Being able to stop, take a break and rest can really help you collect yourself and get back to being grounded and feeling in balance.  And while this could technically be considered just another way of taking time for yourself, I have found naps to be so helpful that I put them in a category all their own.
  5. Walk away – Sometimes I just have to walk away from what I am working on for a while. I have found it is often better if I can come back later when my head is clear and focused. And while this is not always an option, when it is don’t be shy about doing it if it is helpful as you navigate the murky waters of being out of balance and out of sorts.

Truth be told, this past week I used all of these and then some and still struggled to shake that “out of sorts” feeling. Sometimes it is just like that. It happens to all of us.  But the important thing is to work through it- find the things that help you get back to feeling in balance with yourself.  There are so many things that impact us in the world – the weather, moon cycles, other people’s energy, interactions with others, emotional responses to situations, etc.  We may not be able to control those things, but we can control how we choose to respond to them…even when we are feeling out of sorts.  It’s worth repeating…this too shall pass.

Meet Me Here

One of the most important things I have learned in the past few years is the importance of meeting myself where I am. Whether that’s in the realm of my career, my personal relationships, my spirituality, my skill levels in various things, my finances, etc., one of the most impactful and positive things I can do for myself is be where I am with each of those things. Where else would I be you ask?  Well, often times I show up where I want myself to be, where I think I should be, or where others are…not where I actually am in that moment.

For example, the other day I downloaded an app for my phone to help me practice my French (I really want to be able to use some conversational French when I travel to Paris in a few months). The app starts by giving you an opportunity to either start with the basics or try to test out of that section. Well, I had been studying French on and off for several months now, so surely I could test out of the basics.  Not the case.  I failed the “test out” quiz and had to start the program from the very beginning.  Big deal, right?  Well, immediately my “ego mind” went to town – “You failed the “test out” quiz for the basics!  The basics!  You are never going to learn enough French to speak conversationally at this rate.”…you get the idea.  I (my “ego mind”) was located over at the place where I wanted to be in my French language acquisition not where I really was with it.  Where I really was located with my language skills was needing to start back at the basics and build from there.  The truth was I did know a lot of the vocabulary but my grammar and verb tenses were my trouble spots.  I had made some good progress in the few months of irregular study that I had previously committed to, so how unfair was it of me to stand in such harsh judgment of myself from a place other than where I was in that moment.

Similarly, I could offer examples related to my yoga practice, to my overall health and fitness, to my writing, etc. – in each case I am looking back at myself from either that place where others have already reached or that place where I want to be personally with those things. Rarely do I meet myself where I really am with those things.

Those are simple examples, but the reality of it is we all do this to ourselves over all sorts of topics…our job, how much money or debt we have, how we look, the material possessions we have (or don’t have yet), where we are in our lives at our current age, our relationships, our skills and talents, etc. We can be quite relentless with ourselves in this arena. I am sure you know what I mean.  How often have you done this to yourself?  And at what cost?

Whether we are looking back at ourselves from the place we want to be or from that place where someone else is already at, we are laying unfair and hurtful judgments on ourselves. We are judging ourselves for not being “there” yet, for the slow speed at which we are moving toward that place, and for our inability to get there like all the others before us have. And what’s worse is that the place we are trying to get to is a moving target.  Despite the progress we make, we never “make it” because that benchmark keeps moving (because other people keep progressing too or because our “ego mind” just keeps raising the expectations).  Such negative thoughts, belittling, shame, and anguish bestowed upon us by our own selves!  It is an incredibly sad state of affairs.  It is so easy to stand in judgment from those other places.  It is much harder to find the courage, self-compassion, and understanding to be with ourselves in those places where we actually are in those moments.  We don’t give ourselves the credit for the progress we have made.  We don’t love and support ourselves for all our hard work.  And what I find even more interesting is the fact that we would never think to treat a friend or family member like that, yet we do it to ourselves all the time.

What we need to practice is more love, compassion and understanding toward ourselves and less comparison, judgment, and unfair expectations. Be in the moment with yourself, wherever you are. Embrace the journey and the progress you have made.  And if some days you take one step back for every two steps forward, that’s okay too…it is all a part of your journey.  It’s not easy.  And it is a practice that I continually work on every day…but it is so worth the effort…you are worth the effort.  Chances are you’d do it for a friend or family member, so do it for yourself too.  Be there with yourself.  Support and love yourself.  One step at a time.  You will get to that place where you want to be, but only through love, self-care, and understanding.

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” – Lucille Ball

My Heart is Breaking

This is not the blog post that I had originally planned to share this week. But, in light of the events in Paris, I felt the need to share something different than I had initially prepared.

I have had the privilege of visiting Paris twice so far in my life time…and my third trip is set for this coming May. Simply put, I love Paris. I love the people, the culture, the food, the history, the language, the architecture.  I could live at the Louvre if they would let me.  The vibrancy and beauty that one experiences when visiting Paris is unparalleled in my opinion.  It is just such an amazing city – words alone can’t capture it adequately enough.  So to hear the news of such tragedy in this beautiful and beloved place is absolutely heart breaking.

My heart is breaking for the people of Paris, breaking for the state of things in the world, breaking at the sight of what we are capable of doing to one another in this world. The past few days I have found myself struggling to shake the heaviness and negative energy that seems to have fallen over us as a result of these events. The usual meditation, prayer, and energy cleansing rituals have just not been enough to help me bounce back as quickly as usual.  I suppose it has something to do with the fact that I have such a personal connection to Paris…but I also think there is something to be said for the fact that such events release unsettling energy into the universe that can be hard to get rid of in general.  We all feel it, we just describe it and deal with it in many different ways.  Nonetheless, I have been comforted by the number of calls to prayer, meditation and gatherings for the sake of oneness in the world on all the different social media channels though, as the first step to getting rid of the negative and replacing it with the positive is for masses of humans to come together in more positive, productive thoughts.

Peace and love start inside you and then expand outward. And while sometimes we tend to think that one person doesn’t have that big of an impact in the world, in cases like this I absolutely believe that we do. Start with yourself so that your impact on others and the rest of the world is one of peace and love, for that is how I think we will ultimately overcome and triumph.  Peace, prayers, and blessings to all those impacted by the shootings in Paris.