Categories
meditation mind and emotions witchcraft

Healing Energetic Boundaries and Uncovering False Beliefs

Last night, I did a beautiful full moon ritual written by Shea Morgan of The Spirit’s Edge Shamonial Temple. During the meditation portion, I decided to experiment with some new healing techniques I’ve been learning from Cyndi Dale’s book, Energetic Boundaries, and the experience was quite interesting.

In the book, Dale works with a system of twelve auric layers, which she groups into four types, each associated with a different color. Starting close to the body and moving outward, the groups are:

  • physical boundaries: red
  • emotional boundaries: orange
  • relational boundaries: green
  • spiritual boundaries: white

In the meditation, I set the intention to explore these different groups, starting with the physical auric layers, looking for any holes, tears, dense spots, or cords. What I experienced took me by surprise.

While envisioning my red physical boundary, I saw and felt a cord attached to my uterus, which is a hotspot for me right now, because I’m on a healing journey to release a uterine fibroid. As I grasped the cord and asked for insights, I knew that the other end was connected to my mom.

Using a technique from Energetic Boundaries, I asked that the Divine dissolve the cord, replacing it with a stream of grace. Once this process was complete, which happened much quicker than I thought it would, I felt a rush of liberation in my pelvic bowl.

As I moved to the orange layer, I saw two inky black pads, one on each of my feet. The pads were on the bottom, at the ball of my foot, and when I moved, they formed a trail of black marks behind me.

I asked for insight as to what these pads might be, and I received a stream of information. The pads create something akin to a trail of breadcrumbs, and as such, they provide me with a sense of safety, because I know that I can never lose my way as long as they’re functioning. The downside, however, is that the pads are connected to ways of dealing with emotional energy that I developed long ago, and these methods no longer serve me. So while I can always find my way back to the trail, the trail is a rut.

At the same time, this trail acts like an energetic beacon, allowing other people struggling with similar emotional dysfunctions to find me, which adds a new layer of understanding to my tendency to draw in the same type of person over and over.

When I came to a yellow layer, which felt connected to the solar plexus, something interesting happened. I noticed a density near my solar plexus, extending from just above my diaphragm to my belly button.

I physically moved my hands to that area, and through movement and “seeing” with my psychic sense, I touched the area with my fingers. It felt cottony and spongy. As I dug my fingers into the mass, I tried pulling it apart, and clumps of it came off, like sticky cotton candy.

I continued pulling it apart with both hands, tossing clumps of this mass onto the floor, but it kept going and going; there seemed to be no end to the stuff. At one point, I was ripping off handfuls and throwing them on the floor, almost in a frenzy, until I realized what I was doing and began to guide my awareness back to my breath, gradually slowing myself down as I continued to remove sticky clumps.

Eventually, I was able to stop tearing away at this mass, and I gently sunk my fingers into it and asked for insight. Images began streaming into my mind, the first a memory of a bowl of ice cream. As my focus zoomed out, I was in my grandparents’ kitchen, and I was perhaps four or five. I’d been crying and crying after my mom put me to bed, and my grandpa had taken me out of bed, brought me into the kitchen, and given me ice cream. My mom was furious, and the two of them were arguing behind me while I ate.

I felt my stomach fill with this overly sticky-sweet ice cream, lodging in my belly like a bowling ball, swirling with guilt and shame as I blamed myself for causing my mom and grandpa to argue.

The next image was of gummy bears swirled in oatmeal, which confused the hell out of me until I remembered eating that when I was about nine or ten. There was a fad of adding weird, sugary crap to oatmeal then, and in meditation I experienced the sensation of swirling these little bears into the hot oatmeal, watching them melt and turn into this gummy, sticky mess.

I then saw my mom, laughing and giggling in a strange way, and my dad hoisted her up like a child and carried her downstairs. It was the first (and perhaps the only) time I’d ever seen my mom drunk, and I remember being sent to stay with my grandparents for a few days.

I was never told what happened that night, but I recall it leaving a huge impression on me and feeling so confused and scared. Last night, as these images streamed into my head, I felt sadness and anger toward my mom, and the reason that flowed into my awareness is that I was angry at her for allowing her abusers to remain in her life.

I don’t want to go into any more detail about personal issues that don’t belong to me, but suffice it to say, this memory brought up a lot of my habitual childhood thoughts. I recall looking at my mom and sensing her vulnerability and victimhood, and I was so afraid for her that it would cause me to feel panicked. I never told her this as a child, and now as an adult, I can see how I expressed that fear as anger toward her, which was much less scary for me to deal with than believing that my mom could be hurt.

All of this came back to the sticky, cottony mass at my solar plexus. With my fingers still stuck into its dense web, I realized how my defense mechanism when I was abused was to giggle and act “girlish” and overly sweet, in the hopes that the abuser would like me and stop hurting me. This “sweetness” had created this cotton candy mass covering, and attempting to protect, my solar plexus.

I will likely write much more about this in the future, once I’ve had time to process the experience, but for now, I’ll go over the last energetic repair that occurred during this meditation.

When I reached the spiritual layer, I saw two oval-shaped holes in my boundary, running up and down either side of my abdomen. As I explored them gently with my fingers and asked for insight, I saw that they were connected to my false belief that I must suffer in order to “earn” Divine grace and love.

I recently read a book called The MindBody Code, and there’s a chapter about stigmata that discusses commonly held beliefs about suffering and worthiness. I’m very eager to work through the meditations after my experience last night to see what more I can uncover about my relationship to learned suffering.

Just to give you an idea, here are some of the meditations presented in the book: Unlearning Self-Imposed Suffering, Freedom From Your Atonement Archetype, and Unlearning Illness. Pretty juicy stuff.

Thanks to Shea for sharing such a wonderful ritual! I’m looking forward to gaining more understanding about energetic boundaries, how they work, ways in which they become damaged, and the effects of repairing them, and I’ll be sure to share my journey with you here.

Categories
mind and emotions yoga

The Number One Lesson I Learned in 2014

I just hosted my first family Christmas, and amidst the turkey spatchcocking, attending my first Catholic Mass in over a decade with my grandma, and discovering one of the weirdest Christmas cartoons (why does Santa have hairy lips?!), I learned a very powerful lesson.

Now, this lesson is something that I’ve read about, thought about, and talked about many, many times in the past, but it had never really penetrated beyond an intellectual knowing; I still found myself resisting the idea in many ways emotionally, physically, and even spiritually. What’s the lesson? In a word: self-care.

I’m self-employed, which means that my work flow (and income) can vary from month to month. Usually, the ups and downs aren’t terribly significant, but one seeming constant has been that, every holiday season, I get crazy busy.

But not this year, for some reason. I had enough work to pay the bills but not oh-my-god-crazy amounts of it. For three days, I was dealing with a lot of anxiety and self-doubt, and I could feel myself on the verge of my habitual response whenever I’m stressed about finances: work myself into the ground with an attitude of panic and stress. Great plan, right?

Well, something shifted this year, and after my three days of wallowing in clownshit craziness, I decided to try something new: calming the eff down. I didn’t allow my fear to undercut my normal yoga and meditation routine, I didn’t use it as an excuse to eat crappy food and stay up too late, and I decided to use my newfound free time to put glitter on things.

No, seriously. I have this great set of Martha Stewart glitter that doesn’t get used nearly as often as it should, and I took full advantage of every color in the glitter rainbow this year. I glittered wreaths, I glittered little cardboard houses, I glittered gifts. And then I looked around the apartment for more things to glitter.

Amidst all the poofs of glitter that plumed into the air every time I got up from my crafting chair, I noticed something even more sparkly: a deep feeling of relaxation and general…okayness.

As a result, days before my family was slated to arrive, I was able to, rather leisurely, plan out a tasty menu, go grocery shopping, and cook in relaxed shifts, rather than cramming it all into one last-minute panic fest. And it was really, really enjoyable.

By the time my family walked through the door, I had Christmas lights and glitter gleaming from every corner of the apartment, delicious food smells were wafting through the Christmas-y air, and, more importantly, I was brimming with love and energy that I genuinely wanted to share with my family. I didn’t feel put out or resentful; I was just relaxed and happy to share my time with them.

Three days later, when my family loaded into the car and drove off, I was so filled with tenderness and love for all of them. I didn’t feel my usual resentful, exhausted self after family time, and I was so grateful for all of the little ways in which I’d connected with each of them: watching my little grandma at Mass and feeling her lean against me while we sat side by side in the pew (adorable), watching my mom get progressively more and more relaxed until she looked as if she would melt into the couch cushions, and discovering a dozen things I never knew that my aunt and I had in common.

This was the big learn for me, though: In the same way that taking care of myself prior to my family’s visit resulted in not only a much more enjoyable experience for me, but also in what my mom called “a magical Christmas” for my family, this same practice of self-care will likely yield juicy benefits when applied to my work life.

Sounds pretty obvious, I’m sure, but I have spent so much of my life unlearning the idea that work has to be an arduous chore in order for it to “count,” and that if you’re not striving and driving yourself into an early grave then you’re probably slacking, that it’s easy to forget that forcing myself to just “push through it” with work doesn’t give me any better results than if I were to run myself ragged and “push through it” while my family was visiting.

It’s so clear that in the latter situation, I’m following a recipe for a cranky, dysfunctional time with my family, but it’s sometimes harder for me to see the equally direct relationship between my work performance and self-care.

In this culture, we often look up to the driven, dogged businesspeople who burn the midnight oil and other cliches of stress and exhaustion, because it seems like a requirement for success. But this Christmas, I finally learned that, in order to bring my best self to my work–the self that can intuit and manifest creative solutions to problems, the self that knows how and wants to treat everyone with compassion–I have to take care of that self.

I have to prioritize treating my body to yoga; carving out time for meditation; and going out for hikes on nice days (even when I’m tempted to just watch a movie), because I always feel great when I spend time in the woods.

Forcing myself to work late night after night, skipping meals so I can finish projects, and working myself up into a state of high stress–sure, I can still get projects done on time in that state, just like I could still slap food on the table for my family even if I was an anxious basket case leading up to their arrival. But do I believe for one second that the quality of that experience, the quality of my work, would be the same in both scenarios?

Not any more.

Here’s to 2015, a whole new year of beautiful opportunities for self-care, in both my personal and my work life. Care to join me?

Categories
mind and emotions

Are You Carrying Around Someone Else’s Baggage?

I remember as a teenager sneaking into my parents’ book collection and reading all of their how-to books on raising an adolescent, just so I wouldn’t be caught unawares by any of their ploys. 😉

This sneaky habit became a love of self-help books as I grew older, and so I was very aware of the process of learning self-destructive patterns from one’s family and the many ways this might play out in one’s adult life. For years I carried around a crippling fear I’m sure many can relate to, of turning into my mother or father. And somewhere along the way, I really began to identify with these dysfunctional patterns. They were no longer merely something I had learned in childhood and continued to play out in the present; they were who I was. They were a core part of my identity.

Or so I thought.

One pattern in particular has had a profound impact on my ability to accept gifts, both physical and emotional, and the ways in which I shun abundance in my life. Here’s the nutshell version: As a kid, my grandma loved to give me gifts. She would take me shopping at the mall, she bought me a gym membership when I was in high school, and she would frequently send me money.

This caused a great deal of conflict between me, my mom, and my grandma. My mom felt that my grandma was interfering with how she was trying to raise me and that I was manipulating my grandmother to get what I wanted. I distinctly remember not being permitted to speak to my grandma for months during one particularly inflamed feud; that’s how bad it could get at times.

There were two key things that I learned from this experience as a child:

1) Every gift came with strings attached, making me beholden to the giver.

2) If anyone gave me anything, I had manipulated them in some way in order to get it.

And I suppose a third belief would be:

3) I don’t deserve to receive anything unless I’ve properly “earned” it.

While these beliefs have had many effects on my adult life, two key consequences are:

1) I get very uncomfortable when people give me things, whether it’s a physical gift or a compliment. And if they do, I then feel like I owe them and will often put up with a lot of shit as a result.

2) When abundance does enter my life, particularly in financial form, my impulse is to get rid of it as soon as possible so I don’t have to experience all of the uncomfortable feelings that come with it, like unworthiness, anxiety, shame, etc.

I could write a novel about all of the things I have done over the years to gradually unlearn these beliefs (and I’m still very much in the process of doing so), but I want to focus on one area of these changes that I find especially interesting. In the last few months, I’ve noticed a growing detachment from these issues.

I use the word “detachment” in an almost physical sense, because it feels less like an emotional or mental state and more like I’ve pried off this encrusted barnacle that’s been feeding on me for years. (As I wrote that sentence, I immediately felt a sensation in my hips, so I’m interested to explore the connection between these habits and emotions with that specific area of my body.)

One of the things that led to this shift was a passage I read in Mark Mincolla’s book Whole Health. He shared a story of a man who had a very difficult relationship with his largely absent father, and as a result his relationship with his own daughter was suffering. In particular, his inner child was competitive and jealous of his daughter, because he felt as if she was stealing attention and love that he wanted for himself.

Reading this, a lightbulb went off in my body. Not my mind, my body. It was as if something I’d known intellectually for over a decade had finally sunk into my cells. This dysfunctional dance between my mom and my grandma when I was a child was exactly that: their dance. I had merely been swept up in the choreography, but I could have been any bystander, because it wasn’t about me, it was about them. My mom didn’t get the things she needed and wanted from her mother when she was growing up, so her subconscious wasn’t going to stand idly by while my grandma showered them upon me.

Again, this was something that I had recognized intellectually years before, but it wasn’t until reading Whole Health that my entire being finally understood that this issue originally wasn’t about me at all. I had taken it up and made it my own, which means that I also have the power to cast it off now that it no longer serves me.

This experience has really driven home how strongly I identify with my issues (similar to my experience with being vegan). They become a core part of who I am, and like any core part of my being they feel very hard to let go of, even when they’re making me miserable.

It’s like the distinction between switching into an entirely new body and changing your shirt. When I believe that these issues are central to who I am, getting rid of them is like shedding my own flesh and blood. But when I recognize them as patterns that I have learned, casting them off is no more threatening than changing my shirt. And I can definitely say that this particular shirt is covered in mustard stains and holes, and it’s high time I put it in the wash. Or the trash.

What issues have you been dragging around that no longer serve you? Do you believe that these issues are who you are or what you do? What does it feel like when you think of no longer identifying with these beliefs?

Categories
meditation mind and emotions yoga

Reading Your Body’s Messages

For years, ever since I began practicing yoga, I believed that my body could hold onto emotions, which would then manifest in physical ways, but I never had much luck seeing this in my own body beyond the obvious connection between, say, stress and my tight shoulder muscles.

For the past few years, though, I have been on a journey of hormonal and digestive healing, which was initiated by the onset of hellish menstrual cycles. The first time I experienced The Epic Cramps, I ended up in the emergency room, because I thought my appendix, or possibly every organ in my body, was bursting. It was that painful.

As the saying goes, pain can be a very potent teacher, and these cramps led me to discover a uterine fibroid and an ovarian cyst, along with a cascade of hormone and digestive issues. In future posts, I’ll talk more about some of the dietary and lifestyle changes I made that have had a significant positive impact on my health, but for the moment, I want to concentrate on one aspect of this pain that taught me a particularly memorable lesson.

Heads up: We’ll be talking about sex and biology, so if either makes you squeamish you might want to read something else. 🙂 So, one of the frustrating issues that came along with my cysts was pain during sex. I’ll spare you the details, but the key, here, is that it was specifically the act of allowing anything to enter my body that caused the sharpest pain, and along with it, a wave of vulnerable emotion. And no, in case you’re (understandably) wondering, I do not have a history of sexual abuse.

Over the course of a few months, I kept talking with my partner, journaling, and meditating on this issue, and I began to see all sorts of connections between painful sex and my rigidity around my food choices (another example of controlling what does and does not enter my body). And this, then, led to realizations of an important area in my life where I have serious trouble limiting what does and does not enter: relationships.

I’ve always struggled with creating and maintaining healthy boundaries, which can easily be traced back to my family history, which both did not model what healthy boundaries looked like nor supported–or in many cases allowed–me to create boundaries of my own. I’ve come a loooooong way in developing these skills as an adult, but there are still people in my life who so closely resemble key family members that they fit into my dysfunction lock like a key, and I slip back into old patterns.

In these situations, I feel like my subconscious is working off of an entirely different game plan than my conscious mind. Subconsciously, I’m seeking out self-absorbed, overt or covert narcissists who will suck up my energy like a vampire, giving very little or nothing back. My role is to be the energy source, allowing them to drain me dry, and my only retaliation is to passively resent them. Sounds fun, eh?

Knowing my self-destructive tendencies around this type of person, I tried for years to distance myself from these relationships, only to replace them with people who were nearly identical, or to assert myself within the relationships, only to fall back into resentful silence. Clearly, something wasn’t working.

And then, in this process of healing my body, I had an insight after meditating one day: My body was trying to protect me in the only way it knows how–in the physical domain–by creating boundaries. The only problem is that my body doesn’t need any more boundaries on that level right now; it needs boundaries on an emotional and spiritual level. It was if my body was saying to me, “If you’re not going to do this, I will.” If I was unable to draw these boundaries in my relationship and take care of myself, my body was going to get to work and start creating boundaries, whether they were in useful locations or not.

With this realization came a wave of tenderness and compassion for myself, which also carried with it great strength and resolve. I could feel my spirit and mind saying, “Don’t worry, body. We’re in this together, and I’m not going to let you shoulder this burden alone. I’m going to take care of you, just like you take care of me.”

Over the next few weeks, I pulled away from toxic relationships and felt liberation flooding into the space they had previously occupied. When I was in unavoidable situations with these people (e.g. running into them at the store), I was able to politely yet firmly make an exit without feeling beholden to the energy vampires.

While I still have much to practice, I feel myself getting stronger with each interaction in which I stick up for myself and take care of my own needs. If guilt crops up out of habit, I can gently recognize it, honor it, and release it. I feel optimistic that, with continued practice, creating these boundaries will become second nature, just as the self-destructive habits have been for so long, and I thank my body for being a wise teacher who made sure that, come hell or high water, I learned this lesson!

Now it’s your turn: What is your body trying to tell you right now? Are you ready to listen?

Update 1/5/2015: I recently finished reading Cyndi Dale’s Energetic Boundaries, and one passage in particular helped validate my intuition on this issue. She says:

Our energetic boundaries are our first line of defense in regard to our health. If working correctly, they’ll deflect or transmute energies that can make us sick. They’ll also release and cleanse us of physical and psychic toxins…But…once our energetic field starts to splutter and work at a less-than-optimum level, out bodily system becomes overtaxed and has to assume the field’s job. This depletes our body, leading to [numerous health issues].

Categories
mind and emotions

How to Give and Get More Love in Every Conversation

In an earlier post, I talked about a beautiful conversation I shared with my grandma about Catholicism and witchcraft. I was later talking to another family member, marveling at how well the conversation with my grandma had gone, and he said something that has stuck with me ever since.

But first, some context. This conversation with my grandma was by no means flawless, but what was interesting is that even though she said a few things that could have been misconstrued and blown out of proportion, in the conversation, it never even occurred to me to interpret them in a negative way.

In the past, it was as if my mind was hyper alert to any word or phrase that I could conceivably take offense to (what a great way to approach conversation, eh?), and once a trigger phrase was uttered, my mind immediately shut down and retreated into, “This is bullshit; she doesn’t understand me.” And communication ground to an unhappy halt.

This time, however, even though some of the same trigger phrases were used, all I felt was the love and enthusiasm my grandma was sending. Her word choices might be different than mine, but I could feel this overwhelming vibration of love underneath those words. Which brings me to what my family member said that really hooked into my soul.

He said: “You were listening to the music, not getting hung up on the lyrics.”

Wow.

It has always amazed me, given how much we filter reality through our own layers of experience, and then have to somehow, miraculously, transmit that experience to others in the form of limited language, that we’re able to communicate with other human beings at all. It’s like a machine with a bazillion parts, each one representing a potential source of error.

As George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” And yet, somehow it does happen. Every day. With many different people who have walked completely different paths up to this moment. It really is amazing when you think about it.

And perhaps listening to the music, really opening yourself to what another person is intending to convey, even if they’re failing (miserably), can help prevent all of us from getting overly hung up on the lyrics.

 

Categories
mind and emotions

How to Stop Resenting Everyone

It can be really difficult to ask for what you need. Or rather, I should say, it can feel really difficult to ask for what you need. The actual asking isn’t, in the grand scheme of things, rocket science, but our minds can trip us up and have us believe otherwise.

I come from a long line of codependents who aren’t good at expressing their needs. But nonetheless, if you failed to meet those unspoken needs, you could be sure of punishment in some form or another. It was like being trapped in the non-whimsical version of Wonderland where up is down and down is up. Except for when it’s not. Confused yet?

Growing up, I watched most of the women in my family care taking for other people. Most of this energy was focused on the significant man in their life, but it certainly carried over to just about everyone, including neighbors, coworkers, and friends. What I took away from this was that other people did not have to take responsibility for themselves, because it was my job to take care of them. And while I wasn’t allowed to express my own needs, I sure as hell could resent the world for “placing” this burden on me.

Along with this false sense of responsibility came a false sense of control. If you regularly find yourself thinking, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself!” with an air of resentment and superiority…well, you may have a touch (or a bushel) of codependent traits. Step on into the Club House.

While this control can give you the illusion of power and safety, it’s a house of cards. Everything is dependent on what other people do, say, and think, and one wrong look or word can cause the whole thing to come crashing down, leaving you feeling insecure and panicked. Because the truth is, unless you’re dealing with an infant (and I mean an actual baby, not an adult acting like they’re still in diapers), you can never control another human being. It’s impossible. Stop trying.

We can construct all of these elaborate systems in our heads that “prove” how much control we have over another person, but it’s just that: in our heads. True power comes from having mastery and healthy control over ourselves. No one else.

If your internal state is a mess, it’s much “easier” to focus on other people’s problems. If you seem to be drawn to drama like gum to hair, you might be using the constant crises to distract yourself from what’s going on in yourself. And if you surround yourself with people who always “need” help, it’s easy to feel superior, because, on the surface, it looks like you have it all together in comparison to those walking train wrecks.

For me, the end result of all of this dysfunction was a feeling of isolation, resentment, and exhaustion. This started to manifest in my body in myriad ways: migraines, an incredibly tight jaw and shoulders, lower back weakness, etc. My body was becoming encased in rigid layers of control, and my back was, quite literally, feeling the burden of all this excess baggage that I was dragging around.

If any of this resonates with you, there are plenty of resources available, because there are a lot of us codependents out there! Books like Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Caring For Yourself can be a great way to gain understanding of your own thought and behavioral patterns and learn tools to create healthier habits. There are Codependents Anonymous groups in many areas, and talking with a qualified therapist can also work wonders.

If you take anything away from this post, know that as much as it may feel as if there is no other way to live (“if I stop taking responsibility for this stuff, everything will fall apart!”) or that you’d rather die than relinquish this control (I know the feeling well), you do have choices. They may be hard to see right now, but there are an infinite number of options waiting for you. The more clouded mental layers you peel away, the more options you will see, and choice by choice you can create a new way of life free from the chains of codependency.

It all starts with one step.