mind and emotions

Less Tolerating, More Conscious Choosing

In the past couple of months, I’ve been returning again and again to the difference between saying yes with a full heart versus doling out a half-assed yes with a side of resentment. The topic has been coming up in meditation, in interactions with other people, and in my internal dialogue and thought processes.

To pull the issue apart a bit, here are a some of the things I’ve been exploring:

  • Discerning between when I truly want to say yes to something versus when I feel like I should say yes or am caving in to pressure from the other person.
  • Learning new tools for saying no with love and handling the situation with grace.
  • Exploring the feelings that come up when I speak my truth versus when I slip into people pleasing.
  • Recognizing that deciding whether or not I want to say yes often requires time, and I’m free to respond on my own time table, even if the other person is feeling a lot of urgency around the decision.

One particular hot spot has been in the area of friendships. For most of my life, I struggled with feelings of low self-worth, and I was operating under the premise of, “Well, if someone wants to be friends with me, I’ll take it!” Even if “it” was crappy behavior, or just plain ol’ mismatched personalities.

Over the past couple of years, I have been on a slow but steady mission to release friendship connections that no longer light me up, and that brings up a whole new set of opportunities for growth, aka awkward challenges.

Part of the journey has been recognizing when I am letting go of a friendship because I truly want to be as far away from it as possible, and when I am letting go of it because I am afraid to risk asking for the changes that would make the friendship more fulfilling to me.

For example, I recently had a conversation with someone from whom I had been pulling away for years, because I often felt judged in our interactions. There was a moment in our current conversation where I felt this deep resistance welling up inside me, and I knew that I didn’t want to continue talking about a particular topic.

My initial reaction was, “Oh god, if you say something, it’ll be super awkward and rude,” but when I checked in and asked myself, if my only guide is “Is this an act of self-love?” then I knew I wanted to speak up. And I did.

It was momentarily awkward, because it brought the whole conversation train to a halt, but my friend was able to gracefully hear my request that we not continue with this particular topic, and it actually opened the door to both of us being able to express our needs for updating our “friendship rules” that had been established back when we were in junior high.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I had been having an ongoing interaction with someone else, and I could feel myself getting more and more uncomfortable as the conversation continued. In the past, I would find any excuse to invalidate my experience so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. Better to tolerate than rock the boat, said my subconscious.

But this time, I decided to tell my subconscious to go out and grab lunch while I dealt with this in a different way. I had no idea how it would turn out, but I knew that I wasn’t being loving to myself by not saying anything. And interestingly, to go back to what I wrote in this post about the question “Does being self-loving mean you sometimes have to be non-loving to someone else?” I felt like the Universe was delivering a situation where I could see this question in action.

I chose to tell this person that I no longer wished to communicate with them, and I told them quite honestly that I am very sensitive to energy, and the energy of this situation, for reasons I cannot explain, made me uncomfortable.

In the past, I would have demanded of myself that I submit “hard evidence” to back up my experience, but this time, I chose to accept that my experience was all I needed to take care of myself, even if the other person did not agree, which they didn’t.

I dealt with the uncomfortable feelings that came up (“Oh god, am I being really rude?”), and continued to ask myself, “Am I acting out of self-love right now?” (And I also tapped on the feelings that came up, which was immensely helpful). What came through loud and clear once my strong emotional response had calmed down, thanks to the tapping, was that forcing myself to engage in an uncomfortable situation was not only unloving toward myself, it was very unloving toward the other person.

Think about it: Would you want someone hanging out with you because they felt like they had to or because they genuinely wanted to? I think we can all answer that question without thinking twice. By releasing this connection with clarity and kindness, I was helping to create space in my life for people whom I genuinely want to connect with, and I was giving the other person the opportunity to do the same. (And whether they see it as an opportunity or an affront is not something I can control.)

I know I’ve only explored the tip of the iceberg with this issue, and I already have ideas for a guided meditation that I’d like to create on the topic, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot more on the blog about saying no, clearing out things and relationships that you’re merely tolerating, and creating space for what you actually want in your life. Stay tuned.

meditation mind and emotions

What Downton Abbey Taught Me About Money

My adventures with money continue, and I’ve been experiencing interesting things, both in meditation and in daily life, that are shining light on my dysfunctional relationship to money and how to go about healing it. My overall strategy looks a little something like this:

  1. I’m reading books on the psychology of wealth and the Law of Attraction as it relates to money.
  2. I’ve been doing a lot of meditating, asking my Guides for insights that will challenge me to grow in this area.
  3. I do a lot of journalling about anything that comes up, like collecting pieces of a puzzle that I’m confident will make more sense as time goes on.

There are two things in particular that I want to share today: insights that came while watching an episode of Downton Abbey and the shift that then occurred in my meditations.

For those of you not familiar with the show, here’s a bit of context: I was watching an episode in season three in which one of the characters, Tom, is grappling with his own prejudices and changing attitudes toward the upper class and wealth.

Tom was formerly a chauffeur at Downton who was very politically active and ardently against the wealthy living high on the hog at the expense of the poor. He falls in love with and eventually marries the family’s youngest daughter, after a long, hard journey, he has now been accepted into the family and is reevaluating his beliefs both politically and personally.

The episode introduced a character, a schoolteacher from the village who, in essence, is a picture of Tom’s former self–politically active, views the wealthy as lazy and entitled–and in his relationship with her, he is being confronted with his former beliefs and questioning their validity.

There are a handful of scenes in the episode where Tom, in response to the young woman’s arguments, defends the family, saying that, in fact, running the estate takes quite a bit of work–it’s not all lounging around sipping tea–and it provides a livelihood for many people. He also defends the family, asserting that they are good, loving people.

This really resonated with me, and I actually paused the episode to witness all of the thoughts battling it out in my mind. I realized how I, too, carried around these beliefs that all wealthy people are corrupt, that they must have done something evil and manipulative to get to where they are now, that they just laze around and let everyone underneath them do all the work, etc.

And I saw how, particularly when politics were a huge part of my life, I would search for examples of this type of wealthy person (and to be sure, they do exist!) to confirm my beliefs about money. And, not surprising, I didn’t want to be anything like these people, which meant I couldn’t see myself as having any more money than just what I needed to get by. If I made more, somehow I would be corrupted.

Much of this was occurring below the level of consciousness, but it was having an extremely powerful effect on my finances. If I did something to earn a nice windfall, I’d find a way to get rid of it as quickly as possible, before it had a chance to corrupt me, all the while bitching and moaning about my constant state of broke-itude.

In my meditations, my Downton realization was paralleled by a change in imagery. At first, when I did a meditation seeking advice on how to heal my relationship to money, my Guide took me to a small cottage where I met my future self. My Guide and Future Me gave me insights on the changes I need to make right now to lay the foundation for future success.

What’s interesting is that the next time I did this meditation, to check in on my progress and to ask what my next task was, my Guide didn’t take me to a little cottage in the woods; he led me to an imposing castle at the edge of the forest. It had a friggin’ moat, for heaven’s sake!

When we entered, it became a more modest home, not a castle, but it was still far, far bigger than the tiny cottage, and it had much richer amenities, from a state-of-the-art kitchen to the side building where my reiki and tarot practice was situated.

Being in this home, and realizing that it was my home, brought up very intense feelings of worthiness and fears about the work involved in order to make something like this a reality. But the more my Guide showed me around the house, the more I felt my heart opening wider and wider, allowing more desire and excitement to pour in. I want this! This is what I want! I could feel my spirit shouting these things with joy.

Being in the presence of my Guide helped me create a container for these desires, allowing me to experience them fully for the first time without judging myself as superficial or money grubbing. And this, I truly believe, is the first step in manifesting these desires. I’m so very excited to continue on this journey, and I hope you’ll join me as I share what unfolds next.

meditation mind and emotions

Do You Secretly Hate Money?

I recently read a book called Financial Alchemy: Twelve Months of Magic and Manifestation (Volume 1)* by Morgana Rae. Initially, I was a tad skeptical. The author’s rolling around in a cascade of bills on the cover, and the book has a lot of exclamation points. But then…I did the first exercise, and something interesting happened.

The basic premise of the book is as follows: Look at your current relationship to money and ditch negative patterns, create a new relationship with money, and nurture that new relationship like you would one with a super hot lover. The interesting part is that Rae asks you to give your negative view of money (and your positive view, later in the book) what she calls a personhood.

Sketch out a character based on your negative beliefs around money. What is this character wearing, saying, doing? How do they smell? How do you feel around them?

As is my usual go to with these kinds of exercises, I went into meditation, and I asked to meet my Money Monster. I found myself in the apartment my family lived in while I was in high school. The apartment was empty, save for my room where I met my younger self sitting on the bed looking awkward and unhappy.

I sensed that younger me really needed some comfort, and what spontaneously came out of me was that I forgave her for making poor choices. I forgave her for shoplifting. I forgave her for never saving any money. All of these unhealthy habits she had around money, I told her that she had been taught these things as a child, that she wasn’t a bad person who just couldn’t help herself from doing “bad things.” I told her that she was in a lot of pain, and that she was choosing these things as a way of self-soothing. I told her that things really do get better, that she stops stealing, that she stops feeling so empty and miserable.

And then, my Money Monster appeared.

At first, he looked like something out of a cartoon, a bit like Spy vs Spy, only much, much creepier. But the longer I looked, the more he took on a three-dimensional, fleshy presence.

He was wearing a too-tight black suit and a greasy top hat, and his jet-black hair stuck out like rod-straight sticks from under his hat. He had beady, black eyes; a long, hooked nose; and a protruding chin. And his smile. Oh god, his smile. Was that ever creepy.

Just being in the room with him was deeply unsettling. I felt as if I couldn’t turn my back on him for a millisecond, because he wouldn’t hesitate to steal something. And he would do anything to get money, even if it meant hurting people–in fact, if people got hurt, that was just an amusing little bonus.

Eegads! No wonder I didn’t want anything to do with Money. My version of him was a foul, lying lech.

In the meditation, I knew that I had to get rid of this man. I got up in his face and started yelling; all of this anger came flooding out. “I hate you! You disgust me! I never want to see you ever again! From now on, you no longer have any control over me, you foul creature, you!” And then, I threw him out the window.

My younger self and I peered over the ledge and watched him splat unceremoniously on the sidewalk. And then, there he was again, standing behind us in the bedroom! I threw him out again. Yet still he was there, leering and chuckling.

We went out into the hall, and I saw in my parents’ bedroom an entire crowd of these men, packed in there like stinky sardines. In the living room they were lined up on the couch, shoulder to shoulder, sneering.

I took younger me by the hand and said, “There are too many of them in here. We need to leave, and we need to burn this place to the ground.”

And we did. We stood on the sidewalk and watched as the entire building turned into a blackened, smoking heap of rubble. And it felt soooooo good.

* This is an affiliate link. If you purchase the book through this link, I will get a small percentage, which will help me keep YogiWitch up and running. Thank you!

meditation mind and emotions tarot

The Number One Thing to Know When Making Any Decision

Life recently handed me a big growth opportunity (Latin name: Shit sandwich). I believe that in the process, I sadly may have lost a friend, but I do know that I’ve found a once-missing part of myself. This situation was a direct result of my recent work on strengthening my boundaries and releasing codependent patterns in my relationships, so if you struggle with people pleasing when you really wish you could speak your mind, this post is for you.

The context: I’d come to realize that I’d been suppressing anger and frustration in a friendship, and rather than being honest about those feelings, I had chosen to behave passive-aggressively. When I was able to see my behavior, I knew that something needed to change if I wanted to put an end to hurting my friend and myself, and that change required me to be honest about those bottled-up feelings, rather than relying on my go-to passive-aggressive tactics.

While things seemed to be heading in a positive direction after I came clean about my feelings (which involved being honest with my friend about the ways in which their choices had been affecting me) and I apologized for my half of the equation, this week, things took a sideways turn.

The process involved a lot of waiting with no response, and this gave me an opportunity to examine the feelings that came up. I discovered that I was equating a lack of response with low self-worth. As in, my friend choosing not to respond means I’m not worth responding to. Wow, no wonder I felt like crap! And it had nothing to do with the other person; this entire drama was unfolding in my head.

This, then, led to a huge lightbulb going off. As a child, I was surrounded by adults who:

  1. Were very uncomfortable around emotional expression.
  2. Were typically uncomfortable with open communication.

A passage I read recently by Danielle LaPorte speaks to this well: “We hold on to our bad habits of relating. I’ll be weak so you can feel strong. I’ll be strong so you won’t see me weak. I’ll do it so you don’t have to. I’ll confuse things because if clarity happens, things will have to change.” [Emphasis mine]

When I expressed my natural emotions as a child, and the adults around me were uncomfortable with that, they taught me that I was doing something shameful. They showed me that if I chose to experience my emotions and communicate what I was feeling in an honest, open manner, people would no longer love me, and my punishment for my “bad behavior” would be abandonment.

Throughout my life, I chose friends and partners who could help me affirm this truth by entering into an unconscious agreement that said we were not allowed to express what was really going on under the surface, and if I chose to speak up, they would leave me. I’ll admit that I’m disappointed in myself for having entered into that agreement again with my friend (really? I thought I was done with this!), but I also recognize that there is great strength in the fact that I didn’t force myself to maintain the status quo this time around.

Last night, I hit a rough patch, and I found myself doubting how I handled my end of things. I wondered whether I had been too open, too honest, too everything. And that old familiar shame around expressing myself and asserting my needs sat down on the couch next to me. But this time, I decided to call in some reinforcements. Rather than hanging out with Shame, I chose to meditate and ask my Guides.

This is what happened.

I pulled a tarot card to focus my meditation with the question: What lesson is being given to me in this situation with my friend?

The Guide who appeared was Selene. She was clearly in Get Shit Done mode, because she answered a number of questions all in one session.

First, she told me that I had permission to heal her. In the meditation, we were linked together with handcuffs, and she released us both.

Second, she spoke to my worries of “did I open up too much?” “should I have toned down my truth?” Her words wrapped me in a deep state of calm. She reminded me of the first part of her original lesson for me (again, you can read about it here), which was, in order to heal, I had to come into right relationship with myself.

She said, “This is not about perfection. This is about loving yourself as fully and as deeply as you can. Do not judge a situation by the outcome; evaluate it based on whether or not you loved yourself as fully as possible.”

She went on to show me that, instead of asking, “Should I not have sent that last email–was it too much?” to which I could not come up with a satisfactory answer because it was dependent on how the other person responded (which is out of my control), I needed to ask, “When I sent that email, was I loving myself?” Wow. I immediately knew the answer to that: “HELL YES.”

But then I had another question, because my friend’s response to that email was pretty abysmal. “Selene, what if loving myself isn’t good for the other person? Is it possible that self-love conflicts with loving others, and if it does, how do I choose?”

She replied, “When you are truly acting from a place of self-love, and you are making decisions based on loving yourself, it is impossible to act toward another in any way but love. By acting from love, you are serving the Highest Good of the situation, and your Highest Self and the other person’s Highest Self will recognize and honor that. Your lower egoic selves, on the other hand, might put up a great deal of resistance, and you may get feedback from the other person’s egoic self (or your own) that you’re being anything but loving. Let it go, and focus all of your attention on finding that place of self-love, and continue to make your decisions from this space.”

What a gift.

I came out of the meditation feeling clear and light, equipped with a powerful compass to help me navigate future decisions. As I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was the tarot card in my lap, the Five of Coins from the Alice Tarot deck.

From the deck’s author, Karen Mahoney’s, description of the card: “The scene in which Alice walks with the Fawn through ‘the wood where things have no names’ is one of the oldest and most touching in the whole of Through the Looking-Glass. It’s also one of the most frightening, because Alice…actually loses her identity completely and can’t even remember her own name. It’s a rather chilling idea, though there is at least one good aspect to the wood–it makes the Fawn forget that he should be afraid of people and so he walks happily beside Alice.”

Selene’s voice sounded in my mind again, and she explained how, just like Alice and the Fawn, when we enter this place of self-love, we forget the illusion that says we are all separate and our personal needs and wants are mutually exclusive from another’s.

Instead, we enter our true state of being, which is to say, we forget all that “separates us” and we recall our Oneness. It is only when confronted with the world around us that we find it hard to remember this lesson. We often revert to me vs. them, and we feel like loving ourself is a selfish endeavor that must equate with hogging up love that could be spent on someone else, when this couldn’t be further from the truth.

I challenge you to join me in experimenting with this approach. The next time you’re faced with a decision, ask yourself, how can I best love myself right now? If I was choosing self-love, and I wasn’t worried about what other people might think or how they might respond, what would I do? And then…do it.


A Supermoon Tarot Reading

On the first 2015 supermoon, January 20, I performed a reading for someone who has generously allowed me to share the results here.

As mentioned in this post, I’ve been experiencing some exciting changes in my readings, and while before I felt as if I was relying a great deal on memorized card “definitions,” now the cards seem like a gateway to receiving messages from the Oracle, messages that I don’t at all fool myself into thinking I’m clever enough to be coming up with on my own.

For this supermoon spread, I chose three positions that I felt corresponded with the energy of this particular moon and the needs of the querent. The positions are:

  1. What do you need to understand about your past in order to break free of limiting patterns?
  2. What do you need to open the door to in your life right now?
  3. What will aid you in walking through this door?

I should also note that I was using the Alice Tarot by Baba Studio, as this heavily influenced the reading. And, interestingly enough, this is not a deck I use often for other people, so I feel it was significant that I was strongly drawn to use it for this reading.

Here are the results…

For position one, what do you need to understand about your past, I drew the six of swords. 

If there is a situation or situations that have ended or need to end, focus on your active role and choice in the matter. You are choosing (or have chosen) to move on; you are making a decision to release what no longer serves–these are not events that are happening to you.

If you find that you are ever slipping into a victim mentality, stop what you’re doing and shake things up–literally. Get up, move your body, do a silly dance–whatever you need to do in order to break this mental pattern, not only by interrupting your thoughts but with physical movement as well.

You have not embarked on this new chapter of your life alone. You already have guides and support, and you will be pleasantly surprised to find help in unexpected places. Look for seemingly small gestures that signify deeper assistance on your path.

Remember that your willingness to reflect on your inner truths has brought you this far. Trust that you are making positive change and are moving toward increasing stability and happiness in your life. And while the waters may be choppy at times, you might be surprised at how remarkably smooth the sailing is when you are the one consciously rowing your boat, and not letting someone else drag you in their wake.

Finally, the water lily is a reminder that many resplendently beautiful things grow out of the mud. Don’t get mired in the muck of past mistakes or hurts, but use them as fodder for powerful growth.

For the second position, what do you need to open the door to, I drew the two of coins reversed.

Give yourself permission to take a break from the juggling act. If you’ve been trying to keep certain areas of your life perfectly in balance, know that this isn’t always possible (or even ideal) at all times. Sometimes you really need to dig in and focus on healing, or play, or study, and other areas will naturally take a back seat for a time.

You might also have been doing your work (be it literal work, or spiritual/emotional work) and someone else’s, and it’s time to release what isn’t yours. By doing another’s work for them, you are keeping them from learning and growing, and you’re setting up a never-ending high-wire juggling act for yourself. And who will be there to pick up the mess when the balls come tumbling down? You.

Time to bow out gracefully and welcome the newfound energy that this frees up–energy that can now be directed toward your life, your growth, your fulfillment, rather than being siphoned off by someone who isn’t pulling their own weight.

You might feel like you are distancing yourself from love by doing so, but know that a “love” that asks you to take responsibility for another person’s journey is not honest love. It is a way to keep both people from living out their full potential, and you have the strength and inner light to choose better.

And finally, for the third position, what will aid you in walking through that door, I drew the Hierophant.

Like the first card, I’m again seeing assistance coming from an unexpected, and easily overlooked, source, so keep your eyes (and heart) open to help in unlikely places.

There is a person (or people) in your life who have been expecting you to suppress your own truth in order to submit to their control. They might be subtle (quietly failing to support your endeavors) or quite obvious about it (openly criticizing and/or abusive).

Either way, you must understand as fully as you can the ways in which they are attempting to control you, or the ways they have controlled you in the past if this situation is no longer active. Once you gain clearer understanding of these mechanisms of control that you are vulnerable to, you have the choice to reject them.

Without this understanding, you will be rebelling against forces you do not understand, and sometimes this undirected rebellion can unwittingly be turned inward, at yourself. But when you understand the control dynamics and how you are/were affected, you are able to make a proactive choice to break free. In other words, truly see the chains for what they are so you can throw them off!

Keep in mind that, sometimes, the most damaging part of a controlling situation is the part that we internalize. For example, when we don’t realize that we’ve adopted the critical voice of our controller as our own mental soundtrack, or when we’ve subconsciously taken on their expectations for us as our own. Then, even when we meet these expectations, we wonder why we’re still not fulfilled–it’s because they were someone else’s goals for us, not our own dreams and desires.

Two more important points arose throughout the reading:

First, there is a toad in two of the cards–the six of swords and the Hierophant–and this felt very important to me. The message I received was that this toad represents the ability to see situations and people clearly. In the six, the toad is small, but she’s still there. This represents what you were able to see about the situation that compelled you to leave it behind. There are still things you have yet to fully understand about that situation and your role in it, and those will be revealed over time with further self-inquiry, but don’t forget to celebrate the vision you already possess that enabled you to break free.

By the third card, the Hierophant, the toad is much bigger, and she looks out of the card directly at you. This ability to see situations and people clearly will serve you well, and as you grow in this capacity, you will be better able to train this wise gaze inward and see yourself for who and what you are.

More specifically, as you learn to see past any confusion and drama, you will be gazing directly into yourself. Get ready to connect with a powerful source of inner strength that, when applied to your life goals and paired with the clear seeing of the toad, will bring you good fortune, indeed.

Second, I had a powerful message come through at the end of the reading, and it wasn’t until then that I understood why I was called to use this Alice in Wonderland deck, which I typically don’t use when doing readings for other people.

The Hierophant in the form of the caterpillar wants you to pay attention to situations in your life when someone else seems to be in a position of superiority or control. This is likely what they want you to think, but in reality, their view is clouded and inflated and they only have as much power over you as you give them.

If you find yourself acting out of fear or caving to external demands that require you to sacrifice your own best interests, try tapping into your inner strength by introducing some whimsy: Picture the other person’s face on the body of the caterpillar, smoking his hookah and wearing his odd little hat, trying desperately to look distinguished and important. See if this helps you to gain perspective and lovingly but firmly stand your ground.

mind and emotions

What Your Fantasies Say About You

Last summer, a friend whom I don’t see very often and I were having an epic, late-night conversation about our issues, channeling our inner Woody Allens and offering up all of our neurotic tendencies for careful inspection. Yes, this is actually what we do to have a good time. Go figure.

I was sharing my frustration over one of my behaviors that felt as if it had been plaguing me, if not most of my life, at least since junior high. It was the source of a lot of internal turmoil, hence I was eager to kick it to the curb, but nothing I had tried so far seemed to be working.

Since you probably don’t want to stay up until 4 in the morning reading this post, I’ll condense our saga-length conversation into the nutshell version: You know the clownshit crazy intensity of a new romantic relationship? Well, I was really hooked on that experience, and it was incredibly difficult to make long-term relationships work, because I’d invariably get bored and want to abandon ship, no matter how awesome the person might be, because I was no longer getting a hit of my emotional drug.

That’s not all that surprising, since I’ve met a kajillion other people who share the same struggle to some degree, but when I began to dig deeper, I started putting together the pieces of why recapturing this experience again and again was such a powerful motivator for me (aside from the potent cocktail of chemicals flooding through my “love”-sick brain, of course).

I started picking apart the experience with my friend, describing precisely which part gave  me the strongest emotional high, and the image that kept playing over and over in my head was of the object of my affection looking at me with a consuming stare of total desire and lust. That look made me feel 100% unconditionally seen and accepted, which was indescribably wonderful. Again, not that surprising, right?

But where things started to get interesting is when I asked myself why this could only be experienced with someone new, preferably someone who barely knew me. My friend said, “Maybe it’s because if someone who hardly knows you wants you this badly, it means that your awesomeness is so blindingly overpowering that people can recognize it a mile away, before they’ve even met you.”

In accepting this, I could only laugh at myself, because when you actually think about that it sounds incredibly gooberish, to put it mildly. And at the same time, understandable for someone who struggles with feelings of low self-worth at times.

Fast forward to last night when I was reading a book called The Energies of Love (which is awesome, by the way), and something triggered a memory of that conversation with my friend. But this time, I felt another layer of interpretation revealing itself.

Let’s do this stream-of-consciousness style…

My deep fears of being unlovable and unworthy are really running the show when it comes to this issue. With someone new, it’s quite easy to project a perfected image of myself onto them, partly because I don’t really know who they are yet, and partly for another reason that I’ll cover shortly. This projected image is composed of all the qualities I want to see in myself–I’m funny, sexy, confident, self-sufficient, flexible, honest, never triggered by jealousy, wicked smart, and creative.

What’s interesting is that I actually do possess quite a few of those qualities, but they become marred in my mind by my very human (aka, imperfect) expression of them. Yes, I am smart, but I also say and think stupid things on a regular basis. Yes, I am very self-sufficient, but I also have to rely on others for help at times.

In the new relationship bliss, however, I can project these qualities in all their ideal glory, without the taint of imperfection. And because I don’t really know this person and they don’t really know me, pesky reality doesn’t interfere with this blissful fantasy. Until it does, and then I have to move on and find another person on which to project my ideal self.

To top it off, because I’m focusing on all this surface-level stuff (the way I appear to be, not my authentic self), the other person doesn’t get to see the deeper side of me that really is wonderful (and not so wonderful at times, too–but human), and this reinforces the false belief that these superficial qualities are the only aspects of myself with value, perpetuating the never-ending struggle for outward perfection.

Before I paint a completely dismal picture, here, let me catch you up to the present. I’ve been in a very satisfying relationship with my husband for six years and counting, so even without having complete understanding of the issue and what’s driving me, we’ve been able to create real intimacy and love. Yet another reminder that perfection is not a requirement for happiness.

And yes, I have made mistakes. There have been times when I’ve wanted that superficial validation so badly that I’ve made poor decisions (nothing too terrible, thankfully!), but what has been the greatest teacher for me has been pausing in those moments of longing. I sit and I feel the longing. I let it wash over me, and once the emotions subside a bit, I ask myself what it is that I’m craving.

Without fail, the answer has never been the temporary object of my affection. It has always been a deeper need for being seen, heard, loved, or accepted. And what has been truly transformative is the realization that–as cheesy as it might sound–this must start with me. My husband can tell me until he’s hoarse that he loves and accepts me, but until I can hear that from myself, he might as well be talking to a wall.

A simple practice that has dramatically changed how I feel and act around this issue: Once I’m aware that I’m in one of those hot-button moments, I identify exactly what it is I want. And for me, the easiest way to do this is to check the fantasy that was just running through my head, the fantasy in which the object of my desire was fulfilling this want for me.

So, for example, if the fantasy involved the other person telling me how amazing my work is, then I know that I’m craving validation in that area. And then, I give it to myself. I look myself in the mirror and I say, “You are doing a great f@*#ing job. That piece you just sculpted? It’s awesome; you should be really proud of yourself.” And then, in true crazy-person fashion, I answer myself with a smile, “Why, thank you.”

P.S. While you might feel like a total goon at first, this practice gets easier over time, I promise. And if my dramatic change in behavior and emotions is any indication, it can be incredibly powerful. What do you have to lose? Now, step away from the screen, and go talk to your beautiful self in the mirror.

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.

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?

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?

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].