Do you find yourself looking outside of yourself for love, for comfort, for validation? Yea, you aren’t alone. We’ve become a culture of addicts: substances, porn, food, tv, sex, social media, love, people… seeking outside stimulation all in an effort to find “comfort” and regulate our emotional state.
Does gorging on pizza make you feel better after a stressful day? Sure, its an immediate, temporary reprieve from the chaos within. But what does it do to your long term physical and emotional health? Does having multiple one night stands help to fill the void deep inside? It’s true, having sex is instant gratification, but it doesn’t come close to the true intimacy and connection you’re relentlessly searching for?
What if instead of looking outside yourself for love, comfort, connection and validation, you looked within? When you feel the yearning to get external validation, that gold star or pat on the back, go ahead and give it to yourself. If you are restlessly looking for love and connection with another, love yourself first.
What you seek on the outside, your soul is asking you to cultivate from within. You hold the power inside yourself. Stop giving it away freely. You are your own teacher, healer, lover, friend.
What are you seeking outside of yourself? What do you need to carefully cultivate from within? I’m focusing on cultivating a self-love so deep, no rejection, or hurt can demoralize me. Feel free to share your thoughts below in the comment section. If this post resonates with you or makes you think of a friend, feel free to share!
“How would I describe my relationship with my Higher Self?”
Sitting in bed, snuggled in my lavender colored blankets, I read the journal prompt in Catherine Solange’s The Road to Intimacy Beyond Codependence and sat there stymied. Relationship? Non-existent. I gaffed.
In all honesty, though, I consider myself pretty lucky. For most of my life I’ve been in tune with my Higher Power (I called it my intuition). She’s kept in contact through different modalities. Sometimes she’s a still, small voice, like the one you hear in the movie Eat, Pray, Love when Julia Robert’s character, Liz, is on the bathroom floor crying and you hear a voice whisper “Go back to bed Liz”. Most of the time, she comes through as an overall sense of “knowing” and most recently she got through to me in a flash vision of a car accident, two stop lights before I totaled my Subaru. Startling to say the least.
Despite my Higher Power’s best efforts to keep me in line, I’ll admit I’m fucking stubborn. I’m well aware of my personality flaw: I buck the system, stick it to the man, disregard orders, typically do the opposite of what I’m told out of spite. My unwillingness to listen/trust my intuition has not been without headaches and misfortunes, some situations having a lasting impact from the resulting trauma.
Laying there, reading that question again, I pondered, Relationship?
I wasn’t wrong in thinking that my relationship with my Higher Self is non-existent. A relationship, I argue, requires a back-and-forth, give-and-take, between two entities. For 30+ years I have been the passive receiver, only hearing, knowing or seeing messages from my Higher Power.
So like I can talk to her?About anything? That’s when my epiphany happened!
What if she was my personal consultant? What if I conferred with her before every decision to see if I have her approval?
Had I used my Higher Power as my personal consultant in my 33 years, my life would be COMPLETELY different! She’d have steered away from toxic relationships, situations and places of work. I wouldn’t have sexual, emotional or physical trauma to have to work through. My therapist, Jennifer, would be making a lot less money! 😉
I know I can’t rewind the clock (cue Cher: “If I could turn back time…“). I also realize that my past has made me the resilient, empathetic person I am today, therefor I’m looking to the future. From this day forward I’ll start asking my Higher Self, “Is this in alignment with who I am?” and watch how my life changes. From here on out, I’ll be divinely guided.
Do you have a relationship with your Higher Self? Do you talk to her/him or does he/she contact you? What would you ask your Higher Self? I’d love to know! Please share in the comments below.
The start of the new year brings with it New Year’s resolutions, intentions of creating life changes within the next 365 days. Yet according to U.S. News & World Report, about 80 percent of people will fail to attain their resolution, most quitting around mid-February.
There are a host of reasons as to why some give up their resolve, from lack of discipline, lack of clarity, or the lack of belief of achieving said goals. But I argue, maybe it’s the way we look at resolutions, glorifying the end result, not the process.
In reality, who really enjoys the process? It’s difficult to get excited about heading to the gym for a strenuous workout and sticking to the routine for an entire year. It’s a challenge to commit to a budget day in and day out. The process is uncomfortable, mundane, repetitive, boring, a struggle. But what if this is where we can change our mindsets, to embrace the process wholeheartedly?
In the age of insta-everything, the world literally at our fingertips, its a natural impulse to want to jump straight to the end, but that isn’t where we grow and develop our character. Our character is molded in the deep trenches of the process, fighting the urge to splurge on a “treat yo’ self” milkshake, or not abandoning yourself during a grueling rep of 20 burpees at the gym. These are the successful little wins that make up the collective victory, and I argue those moments are more important for lasting success than the sweet taste of triumph conquering the resolution.
Plus end results are are fleeting. Once you hit that target weight, it’s possible and even probable that the weight comes back. After obtaining the set dollar amount in your bank account, the endorphin rush of spending that moolah dissipates almost instantly. I’ve reached summits of mountains, and without even enjoying my summit snack or the gorgeous view, I’ve decided on the next peak to conquer.
So let’s not create resolutions but create life style changes by falling in love with the process. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Get intimate with repetition and routine. Be open to the struggle. Embracing the process means accepting that mistakes and setbacks WILL happen, but how you recover from them is where strength and grit are forged. Loving the process means, you get more enjoyment out of each moment. When you fully focus on the process, the results and resolutions will come naturally.
What process are you ready to fully embrace this year? What obstacles have you come across so far? Feel free to share in the comments below!
Nothing is as exhilarating as starting off on a brand new adventure! Roused with anticipation, a combination of nerves and enthusiasm, untarnished by failures or mistakes, it’s an idea in its purest form. With any new adventure there are inevitable unknowns that prompt cautious excitement as your mind attempts to fill in the blanks, an evolutionary physiological response to anticipate what lies ahead. The suspense, it’s what ignites the flight of butterflies in your stomach, your heart to race, your breath to become shallow, terrified yet fixed on the heightened state of arousal.
Often though, long before the adrenaline high of a new adventure, one must mourn the loss and grieve the death of the past self. It’s the natural duality of beginnings, they are prefaced by an inevitable conclusion, at times sneakily disguised as painful endings. Could that be why we are scared of change?
Yes, letting go can be painful, especially when we are clenching tightly to a life that no longer serves us. But letting go can also be gloriously invigorating, as if diving bare ass naked, head first into a polar plunge.
Whether you are stimulated with excitement or you’re still learning to gracefully release with gratitude, I invite you to embrace that which lies ahead of you with enthusiasm and courage. Now’s the time to proceed with curiosity and wonder. Here’s to a new year, a new decade, and all of the unknowns that you’re sure to encounter.
Happy New Year! May 2020 bring you bountiful blessings beyond your wildest expectations.
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Lao Tzu
For the last few years I have been on an inadvertent journey of self-discovery and reflection. I’ve spent an embarrassing number of years avoiding those topics out of fear of what I might find. What little I did know about myself, I didn’t really like because it would mean confronting some hard truths that my insecure sense of self and pride might not be able to weather.
I can write that now with the spark of clarity that comes from two years of various forms of therapy: licensed therapists, self-help books, Youtube videos, journal writing, and most surprisingly Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).
BJJ is a martial art that focuses on grappling maneuvers and the magic of physics and human anatomy to apply joint locks and strangulation to subdue sometimes larger opponents. When a person concedes the roll (sparring session), they will tap.
I started training a little over two years ago, when a friend, who was a competitive purple belt, and who taught and trained BJJ, suggested I check it out. I was immediately hooked. The physical demands were challenging but what kept me coming back was how BJJ reflected my personality back to me in ways I couldn’t ignore. I learned more about myself in training than every personality quiz, test and assessment I had ever taken combined (and I’ve taken them all). Seeing how I reacted when I felt cornered, what I resorted to when I got desperate, and most importantly what I was willing to put my body through just so I could win was truly eye-opening.
I realized that I had lived many years of my life not knowing what I wanted. I approached my rolls with no plan. I just spazzed (technical term) and grabbed whatever I could and tried to hold on for dear life. Unfortunately, that didn’t work against anyone but the least experienced opponents. BJJ taught me that if I wanted to win, I needed to know what I wanted first so I could develop a plan to get there.
This was the first of many lessons BJJ had to teach me. BJJ became an outlet for me to prove to myself and others that I was tough. I harnessed my emotions, and used them as fuel for my training. I pushed myself, increased my pain threshold and my ability to withstand and adapt to all kinds of situations. I learned to breathe, and to approach my training with plans and goals in mind. And I learned that sometimes to gain a better position, you have to let go.
Even though BJJ is an individual sport, you can’t train alone. You need partners, ideally a community of people who push each other to work hard, support each other and improve. The people I trained with became my community. These people have helped me through some tough times and for that, I will forever be grateful. It’s a strange sport where the same people who tried to break my arms and strangle me with my own clothing were also my teammates and teachers, who helped me grow both mentally and physically. Though it might hurt for a while afterward, each injury taught me a valuable lesson and I’ve accumulated a few.
Sadly, my body doesn’t bounce back the way that it used to when I was younger. As I write this, I’m still nursing an injury from a dislocated finger from several months ago and a reverse cervical lordosis diagnosis. Training now would mean pushing past the limits of my body and mind only to satisfy my pride. Of all the injuries I’ve sustained or gotten since starting BJJ, my ego is the one that takes the longest to heal, and it’s been the hardest lesson for me to learn.
In addition to the physical limitations I’m confronting the fact that the anger I used to feed my training is now scarce. When I first started in the sport I was working through a lot of personal challenges and trying to figure out what I wanted. As I learned to spazz out less on the mats I have learned to spazz out less in life too. I’m identifying more of what I want, which has led to a less angry version of myself.Brazilian jiu-jitsu taught me about myself in ways I never would have imagined. I learned many hard lessons along the way, not least of which is that progress is rarely linear. Sometimes moving forward means taking a step back. In my journey to better understand myself and keep myself in balance, I need to respect where my body and mind are at right now. Which means that for now at least, I’m tapping out.
I distinctly remember when I noticed something wasn’t okay. I was sitting in a beginner’s meditation class, focusing on my breath, attempting to do a body scan. My normal pitfall, monkey brain (racing thoughts, the inability to stay present) wasn’t the issue. In an attempt to scan my body, I noticed a disconnect, an inability to feel my chest or from my navel on down. Rationally, I knew my chest, hips, pelvis and legs were in tact, but I looked down just to get a visual confirmation.
Curious to understand, I brought it up with my massage therapist. She stated that maybe my body had experienced trauma and was shut down as a result. She recommended I see psycho-somatic trauma release therapist named Jennifer, and the rest became history.
For my first appointment with Jennifer I was excited yet anxious. Going to multiple therapists before, both in my hometown and current city, and I knew it could be hit or miss. It all came down to “can I open myself up to her, allow myself to be vulnerable?”, ultimately, “Do I trust her?”
Walking into the office, I looked at her set up, her chair in one corner, my chair in the other. “Can I lay down?” I asked her.
“Absolutely!” she responded, “whatever your body needs.”
I paused and took note: whatever my body needs.
I ended up snuggled among pillows and blankets, laying on a pad on the floor.
She asked me where I wanted to start, if I had any physical traumas I wanted to unpack.
“I had a traumatic brain injury in high school,” I commented.
I began talking about my concussion that ended my promising soccer career. I gave her details of the field, what position I was playing, who I saw, what I saw right before I landed. I described feeling out of body afterwards, and how everyone mentioned that I looked drunk running around the field, running in the opposite direction, stumbling.
Taking notes, Jennifer paused and asked the simple question, “Did anyone tell you you were safe afterwards.”
Stunned by the question, I hesitated then answered with a single word: NO
Jennifer had me hold the part of my head that hit the ground, and tell it, and my body, I was safe.
Taking a deep breath in, gathering confidence, I stated “You’re safe.”
In a dizzying frenzy, the room spun out of control, I felt nauseous, I closed my eyes. Immediately, Jennifer had me open them and pick out five things in the room that were blue.
In rapid fire, I spit out, “the wall, the tapestry, the light, the vase, the bottle.” My body slowly returning to the present moment with each blue object I found.
That session ended, not before making sure I felt safe emotionally and physically after the reorientation. The rest of that week I felt pretty raw and vulnerable. I equate it to a scab being torn back open to scoop out the festering, putrid rotten insides, to then have the burning sensation from the rubbing alcohol to ensure its proper healing. Although I wanted to do nothing but hide from the world to address my wound in private, I noticed that my generalized anxiety, that heightened sense of alertness, always on edge, had dissipated.
My thoughts were clearer. I was present in the moment. Emotional triggers lessened. I could make decisions faster and with less worry. I felt… myself again.
Over the course of the year in therapy, I’ve had similar experiences where my body reoriented, or re-calibrated itself. After I sent my mom to the moon in a sound proof box (I love you mom!), my hips magically relaxed. After I turned my boundaries, that I originally described as an “open field of grass with a flowing breeze”, into a fortress with locks and motes and alligators ready to attack, the lump in my throat disappeared and I was able to state my physical and emotional boundaries more easily. Each time, I began to feel more and more present, less anxious, less depressed, less triggered. I felt I could give genuinely, from an authentic place, to my students at school, to my friends and family. I was less tired, had more vitality and my creative energy emerged.
Now I pay more attention to my body. I pay attention when it shuts down around certain people and when it feels at its best around others. I pay attention to the still, small voice of my intuition. Now after a year with Jennifer, more often than not, its a loud, decisive voice telling me what I should do or shouldn’t do.
I’m eternally thankful for Jennifer. I no longer call her my therapist but my healer. She has helped me return to my authentic self after two solid decades in hiding. I’ve recommended her to several friends, some of whom have taken my advice and called her. If you are in the Colorado Springs area, and looking for a therapist I highly and strongly recommend her. If you are outside of the Springs and looking for a form of therapy to relieve anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, or addiction, then I recommend looking into psycho-somatic trauma release.
If you are looking for resources about psycho-somatic trauma release, read Peter Levine’s books, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma and In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. Somatic Trauma Release helps relieve trauma symptoms such as anxiety, depression, OCD, ADD, addiction andothers by relieving physical tension/stored energy that haven’t been released since the original trauma occurred. By safely and properly releasing tension/energy, the somatic symptoms of trauma are greatly reduced and in some cases eventually dissipate completely.
(Editor’s Note: Jennifer Kelly is a somatic processing therapist in Colorado Springs, Co. You can inquire about therapy and book an appointment with her at her website Divine Insight . This article was written independently of Jennifer and her business, and is not intended to be an advertisement. I have her permission to publish her contact and business information, at no cost to her. It’s merely a resource for those who may be looking for a therapist in the Springs area.)
I’ve had people question my intentions of going out on adventures, especially outdoor solo travels.
“You’re running away.”
“You’re fleeing from real life.”
They’re not always wrong.
Some of the times I’ve gone backpacking, or kayaking, or back country camping or climbing, I’ve gone because I’ve wanted an escape from my everyday life.
BUT there are times when I NEED to get away.
You see, working in a profession where I’m expected to give, give, give everyday (I’m a special ed. teacher), there are times when I need to replenish my cup to continue giving.
Being outside, getting away from people (except other like-minded outdoor adrenaline junkies like myself) lets me recharge.
After a hard week of teaching the neediest of scholars, I feel overwhelmed, overstimulated and need to get outside, in nature, and get back in touch with me.
In the outdoors, my ego is stripped down and my true authentic self can emerge. This is when I am at my most happiest. This is when I am my most raw. This is when my inner voice is loudest. This is when I heal. This is how I recharge…until the next time I can go out into the wilderness, to lose my mind and find my soul.
“Oh my god! I love your sunglasses and your phone!” A little girl the age of five came running up to me in the doctor’s office waiting room. “You’re so beautiful!” She excitedly remarked. She gave me a hug and I complimented her on her tie-dyed mermaid dress. She was glowing with pride.
Her parents were behind her, smiling watching the interaction. I smiled at them and commented on how that was the sunshine I needed this morning! “Keep on shining that sunshine, lady! Don’t dim that light for anyone,” I said as I shot her parents a smile. I thanked her and her parents before they left the waiting room.
Just before she radiated her positivity, I was texting my best friend Rachel with tears in my eyes, “I’m not okay.”
That morning I had woken up in a panic at 2 am, cried myself to sleep, woke up at 6 am and again had a panic attack before heading to my Dr. appointment. I was overwhelmed with stress from work, house work, and adulting, feeling hopeless and helpless, with a bum knee as icing on that shit-cake.
Shortly, after texting Rachel my SOS, I texted her how this little girl brightened my morning. Rachel texted back “the universe knew you needed that!” Indeed, she was right.
That little girl embodied everything I’m working on becoming. She brought the sunshine to that waiting room, radiating positivity no matter who she interacted with. A quote I saved put it best: “Influence the energy in the room!” This little girl definitely turned my bad morning into a brighter one.
So how can I start brining my own sunshine? First thing I’m working on, undoing all of the negative stories I tell myself that originate from previous traumatic events and social conditioning. There was a certain time in my childhood when I knew who I was and I unapologetically acted and expressed my authentic self. Second, I’m identifying my triggers so I can lessen their impact on staying present and positive, ensuring I can hold space for others. Third, I’m working on my self confidence. When I’m more confident I enjoy interacting and conversing with other people. When I’m more self-confident I can give authentically of myself without feeling depleted.
I’m pretty sure this little girl and her parents could tell I wasn’t having a good morning and she put it upon her toddler self to do something about. Her positivity, her sunshine was infectious and for that I was greatly appreciative.
Today’s post transports me back to a time when I was still living in Philadelphia, working in Camden, New Jersey as a special education teacher, hating my life, feeling stuck. I worked a job that had little regard for a work-life balance, working ten hour days, 50 hour work weeks and bi-weekly Saturday schools. I’d come home with little to no energy to take on any personal projects of my own. My. Soul. Felt. Empty.
It was a time when I was searching for something, anything, as a sign for what was next. I got that sign in the form of the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It was the second and third pages of the Introduction that became my “sign”. Here Paulo writes about a personal calling (what you were put on earth to do, igniting enthusiasm within you) and the obstacles that one has to face in order to achieve it. But what really stood out to me was this:
“Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable; the later goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away at our soul, until, one day, we are no longer able to free ourselves from the bitterness…”
Upon reading this, I wept uncontrollably. I was living the bearable suffering, too scared to chase my personal calling. I felt my soul being eaten away by my job and by my place in the world. Bitterness had started to creep in.
I read that on a Sunday. By Thursday of that same week, I walked into my job and resigned. It was such a quick decision I hadn’t even called my mom for fear of her talking me out of it. After I had given my letter of resignation, I called her to state my plan.
My plan: I move home for two months, backpack Australia for a few months and then head off to Colorado to start a new life. As much as I was adamant about this plan (deep down I knew it needed to be done), somehow I felt like a failure. Maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a special ed teacher? Maybe I wasn’t good enough to be successful at that school? Maybe I wasn’t good enough to continue with the life I was living?
NOPE. N-O, shit naw. Wanna know what ACTUALLY happened?
I FINALLY FIGURED OUT MY WORTH!
I was worthy of so much more than what I was getting out of my job and my life back in Philadelphia. That was no longer my path and I sensed it. Kudos to me, because as Paulo stated in his introduction some people never figure it out. And I’m so very thankful for the friends, family and my therapist at the time who helped me to remember my worth.
Two years after moving home for two months, backpacking Australia for four months and then moving to Colorado I can tell you I am that much closer to realizing my personal calling. I still have a few hurdles to jump, some decisions to make but I know it’ll be worth it AND that I AM WORTH IT.
So if you are living your life thinking that this current path just doesn’t feel right, but you think you’d be a failure for quitting, please know, please deeply understand and feel that you aren’t a failure. You’re coming to realize your worth. You’re starting to understand your path, your next steps in your journey, following your own personal legend.
Coelho ends the introduction of The Alchemist with this:
“But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become and instrument of God, you help the soul of the world, and you understand why you are here.”
Help the world by following your personal calling, by knowing your worth, by knowing when to walk away.
It was one year ago today I dropped my life savings into purchasing a pair of house keys worth about a quarter of a million dollars. For a commitment-phobe like me, a house meant more than just owning a home. First off, I did it on my own (All the women, who are independent, throw your hands up at me!) Secondly, I was ten years old when my parents’ divorce rocked my world, and I hadn’t felt like I had a place to call home. Yes, I had a structural roof over my head, but I no longer had a warm, safe, inviting physical space and I no longer had the cohesive family unit to go with it.
After my parents divorce, I hating spending time at my house. Luckily I had one friend whom her house became my second home, and I spent lots of time with her intact, albeit dysfunctional, (written with love) family. Holidays became dates I yearned to escape as I still continue to travel during most family holidays to avoid confronting painful reminders of my broken childhood home.
But buying my house became a symbol of taking back control of my security, ensuring I had a safe space, physically, mentally and emotionally. What I didn’t know was that my emotional healing would be accelerated after buying my home.
Two months after purchasing my house, I decided to try a more intense form of therapy called psychosomatic trauma release. I discovered it after discussing it, with my massage therapist, an experience I had while meditating, attempting a full body scan.
“I didn’t have monkey brain (layman’s terms: my mind consistently ruminating on thoughts throughout the meditation). But I couldn’t feel my chest or the lower half of my body while doing the body scan.”
“Maybe your body is holding onto something you haven’t fully processed yet,” my massage therapist mentioned, speaking about my childhood experiences. She referred me to my current therapist and the rest was history.
Jumping into therapy required diving head first into traumatic scenarios that I hadn’t revisited since childhood, most memories repressed along with trapped emotions. After revisiting those traumatic experiences and creating new storylines attached to healing and growth, my general anxiety melted away, my emotional triggers now have less of an impact and I can finally feel my legs, hips and chest.
Having my safe space to take refuge post-therapy was vital to my healing process. In fact I argue without my house I would have been less than willing to explore the deepest, darkest depths of my own personal psychology.
Human developmental psychology supports having a sense of personal safety in order to achieve self actualization or a person’s full potential. Abraham Maslow, the originator of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, theorized that humans must reach a level where their personal safety is met, (i.e. shelter, job security, health, and safe environments). Maslow claimed that if a person did not feel safe in a particular environment, they will continue to seek safety before they attempt to meet any higher level of survival (love and belonging, esteem (accomplishments), and self actualization.
My own healing has taught me the value of a safe space, and my willingness to offer it to others. I intend for my home to be a warm, inviting, safe space for anyone who enters, and I’ve even adopted the safe space mindset to employ in my classroom for my students. But safety doesn’t only come in the form of a physical space. It can be as simple as being someone’s safe space to vent, a non-judgmental friend whom you can share some deeply personal information or the occasional SOS text, “I’m not okay.” Being that’s safe person can be instrumental in someone’s personal healing process.
I’m grateful for the handful of friends who are my safe space when I need them, and I hope to think I reciprocate in kind. If you want to see someone transform their life, to reach their fullest potential, provide them with a safe space, physically, mentally and emotionally. A year ago I unknowingly took back control over my safety by purchasing my house. Although it cost me a quarter of a million dollars, it’s value, to me personally, was and continues to be priceless!