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30 Apr

Are You Willing to Choose Peace?

An Excerpt from The Full Spirit Workout by Kate Eckman

A friend recently said to me, “I just want to feel at peace.”

“I understand,” I said. “That is the ultimate goal for all of us. Are you willing to choose peace?”

“Yes,” she said. Then I saw her eyes light up, like, Wow, that was easy!

And it is that easy. If you want love, choose to be in love, starting with yourself. I believe if peace and love are what we truly want, we will choose peace and love. Oftentimes, we think we want them but are still stuck in past wounds that make us feel more at home and “safe” in chaos, lack, and trauma. But just like we can decide to be willing to stretch before a workout because we know it will make us perform better and avoid injury, we can be willing to choose thoughts that empower us to get out of our comfort zone. That leads us into the life that’s waiting for us to claim it — a life where we get to live in our divine perfection.

I don’t think you have to move to a different city, change careers, start a new relationship, adopt a new workout routine, or go vegan to stretch your comfort zone, although I highly recommend all of that. It can be as simple (not easy, mind you, but simple) as choosing to look in the mirror and notice something you love about your body rather than thinking, Gosh, I’m looking older or Ugh, I have stomach rolls.

Say to yourself, I am willing to feel love, peace, and joy, instead of this. Make that a daily practice, and I promise you will start to think, look, feel, and be your most glorious self.

When we stretch our comfort zones, we automatically get to discover our greatness, our highest self. We find our true essence and desires, naturally attracting what lights us up and gives our lives meaning and purpose. Simply put, it is healing to stretch. And when we are willing to stretch, the universe responds to even our slightest invitation to assist us in our efforts. We are never alone. We are always cocreating.

If you’ve ever started a new business or family, I’m guessing it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t painless. (If you are a parent, you are my own personal hero!) But I’ll bet that allowing yourself to expand your personal boundaries and devote your most precious resource — time — to your cherished new venture opened up the space you needed to take on this exciting challenge.

When I recently took on a new project outside my comfort zone, I was able to keep taking steps forward because I first allowed myself to experience my heavy feelings and cry to a supportive friend. My tears washed the space clear for me to express myself. I’m learning that one of the worst things we can do is to pretend uncomfortable feelings like worry, stress, sadness, fear, and discomfort don’t exist — or that we’re somehow too precious, too positive, or too evolved to feel something other than pleasant feelings. When we are in that place of loneliness, fear, sadness, and discomfort, it’s important not to try to jump right to gratitude or “positivity.” Sometimes crying and acknowledging how much things suck, or how heavy our feelings weigh on us, put us on the fast train to returning home to ourselves, where appreciation and gratitude occur naturally. This certainty offers me peace, just as it did during that uncertain time.

The period of forced isolation we all experienced during the pandemic was a deep stretch for all of us, and while seclusion could feel uncomfortable, I also noticed benefits. For example, many of us learned, or relearned, how little we really need. It helped me remember to be more simple and minimal in my day-to-day living. We also had more time to reflect on and challenge old ways of thinking — giving us spiritual fitness workouts. I brainstormed new ways to help clients and, in turn, myself. I saw old problems in a new light and was able to devote energy to discovering new ways of being because, quite simply, why not?

And just like physical exercise has cumulative effects over time, so does spiritual fitness. Once we start stepping out of our comfort zone, it gets easier. We become more and more comfortable with our own discomfort. Awesome, right?

 

# # #

 

Kate Eckman is the author of The Full Spirit Workout and a Columbia University–certified executive leadership coach. She leverages her experience as a well-known communications, performance, and mindfulness expert, accomplished entrepreneur, and elite athlete to equip leaders with the tools, methodology, and energetic boost they need to excel. Visit her online at http://www.kateeckman.tv.

 

Excerpted from the book from The Full Spirit Workout. Copyright ©2021 by Kate Eckman. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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30 Apr

Claiming Your Gifts as an Empath

An Excerpt from Becoming an Empowered Empath by Wendy DeRosa

 

Do you feel other people’s energy — whether they are stressed, anxious, angry, or in need? You may even sense that you absorb their energy. When you enter a room, you can pick up on the energy present, how people are feeling, or what might be happening. You’re likely sensitive to what’s occurring around you — including injustice, political divisions, the effects of climate change, the danger of extinction of animals, and more — and to the pain of others in your community and in our world. You also sense the powerful energies that are emerging to bring about change.

This is the experience of living as an empath, a person who is highly sensitive and, as a result, feels and absorbs other people’s energy, emotions, and even physical symptoms. Empaths experience their world through their intuition and a felt sense of people and situations. They might not be able to define why they feel the way they do, but they sense that they are impacted by other people’s energy.

Empathy has become a popular topic recently, much of it inspired by the work of researcher and author Brené Brown. Empathy is a person’s capacity to understand or relate to what another person is experiencing. Brown describes empathy as a skill that can bring people together and make them feel included.

While it is natural to feel the energy around you and to connect with other people’s emotions, problems arise when you absorb these energies or take on these emotions as your own. You can likely recall an experience when you moved from attentive listening (hearing how someone is feeling about an experience) to taking on someone else’s experience (feeling it as if it were happening to you). People generally love talking to empaths because of this. They feel so much better and describe themselves as “relieved” afterward. That’s because the empath in their life just took on dealing with their problems for them!

Problems arise from being overly empathic. This experience of taking on the feelings and experiences of another person as your own can be described as “merging” with another person. It is helpful to imagine empathic nature on a spectrum: on one end, empathy and understanding operate with detachment, and on the other, being empathic and intuitive leads to merging.

For empaths, merging occurs because they are not fully present, or “inhabiting,” their own energy body — particularly the lower body and lower chakras, energetic centers within the body. (When I refer to “energy” or “energy body,” I am referring to the energetic field that is in and around your physical body. In the next chapter, we’ll discuss in detail the subtle energy body and the chakras and how they relate to our empathic intuition.) Not being fully present in your lower body area leaves a vacancy for other people’s energy to take over. Some of the physical and emotional symptoms of taking on other people’s energy include stress, agitation, depletion, and feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated. Depression, digestive issues, migraines, allergies, and other physical illnesses may also manifest. This pattern of taking on other people’s energy often starts in childhood, before one learns to maintain emotional or energetic boundaries. Perhaps as a child you were told that you were “too sensitive”? (And maybe you still hear this today?) You may have learned to take on other people’s energy as a way to help them or to calm them down. In fact, you likely developed this impulse to merge with others as a way to seek love and intimacy and to keep yourself safe.

Being overly empathic is common when a child is raised in a household with unclear boundaries, projected emotions, suppression of self, or no feeling of safety or belonging. Children learn to survive by prioritizing other people’s needs and energy while disconnecting from their self and their own needs.

These survival and coping mechanisms take root in the first chakra area of the body and, once formed, create energetic imprints in your body that can lead to unhealthy patterns in a number of areas in your life — your health, your relationships, your work, and more. Largely unconscious, this response becomes ingrained as a default setting, influencing your worldview and how you interact with family, friends, and coworkers. You may not intend to absorb the energy around you, but your subtle energy body is responding in the only way it knows to keep you safe. In addition, Western culture often views sensitivity as a weakness or a liability, so as children we’re taught to avoid, dismiss, or suppress our feelings and needs, ultimately invalidating our intuitive sense. This causes us to disconnect from ourselves and our inner guidance and creates a lack of trust in our instincts and intuition. The disconnection is not just mental, emotional, or energetic; it is spiritual as well, sometimes referred to as being disconnected from one’s Soul.

Though you may have tried different methods to heal these patterns — perhaps therapy, workshops, self-help books, or various spiritual practices — you likely found that these tools alone were not enough to shift lifelong patterns or to help you set and hold healthy boundaries.

To stop taking on other people’s energy requires not just an understanding of your physical body and symptoms but also an understanding of your energetic body. The lower chakras are the main power centers in the energetic anatomy. They house the primary conditioning for every human being’s survival imprints, coping mechanisms, personality traits, and personal power. They are responsible for how you relate to yourself, others, and the world. A “reparenting” of the lower chakras (nurturing yourself and inhabiting your energy body) will help you shift from being overly sensitive to empowered.

These lower chakras are closely tied to the empathic power of intuition, feeling, and self-expression. Throughout Western culture and history, these aspects have been subjected to collective and societal shaming. The shaming of sensitivity, vulnerability, truth, emotions, and creativity has limited the power of our true selves, causing us to suppress our true feelings, true voice, true being, and true sense of belonging.

Empaths need not be victims to the world around them. I know it can seem that way when you are feeling everyone’s energy, but when you feel triggered by another individual’s energy, think of it as an opportunity to address the deeper layers within you that need to be seen, healed, and brought into alignment. The good news is that empaths are awakening and learning about their empathic nature so they can heal their early-life wounds and fully express their gifts.

Your gift as an empath is that you feel what’s true. You are connected to the subtle and can see beneath the layers. By expanding your capacity to embody your empathic gifts, you become uniquely equipped to show others how to experience their authentic feelings and help heal the planet. This is a critical step at this time: we need empowered empaths who can give voice to what is unspoken, bring to light what is hidden, and heal what is suppressed.

With the proper framework, empaths can transform the effects of their past and come to understand the true nature of their empathic power. You will finally be able to show up with your gifts in your relationships, work, and other parts of your life. You will find that it’s possible to feel nourished and to thrive as an empowered empath. You will be able to restore your energetic boundaries and align with your true light and power. This is a most profound experience of self-love and is essential for establishing an uncompromising and loving connection with yourself, regardless of external circumstances or challenges and throughout your daily activities and interactions with others.

 

It is time to fully express and embody your empathic intuition and power.

 

# # #

 

Wendy De Rosa is the author of Becoming an Empowered Empath. The founder of The School of Intuitive Studies, she has been helping people develop intuition and experience personal transformation for over two decades. Visit her online at http://www.SchoolOfIntuitiveStudies.com.

 

Excerpted from the book from Becoming an Empowered Empath. Copyright ©2021 by Wendy De Rosa. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

 

 

 

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05 Feb

Role of Communication: Friendship v/s Relationship

Post by: Shweta Gautam

Communication is an important part of our life. I believe without communication, humans are no less than animals. The power to think and express our thoughts is solely what separates us from them. But, do we understand the impact, effect, and role of communication concerning the people in our lives?

We all have heard, read, and studied about the importance of communication in our lives. Though I have always seen people talking about communication from a professional perspective. I rarely see people share their views or rather initiate a conversation about the importance of communication in our personal lives. I don’t see people talking about communication with family, friends, and relationships. But, I do know it is extremely important to have it.

As the literal definition of communication reads, “Communication is a two-way process. It includes a sender and a receiver”. Hence, it is important to analyse communication from the personal front as much as we do it for our professional world.

My experiences about communication in both my friendships and relationship have taught me a lot in life. I now resonate and understand the similarities, the differences, and the potential impact it has on an individual. Having friends who understand your relationship and a partner who understands your friendships is a true blessing in disguise. Not all are fortunate to find both at the same time. While I have been lucky to have found friends at an early stage of life, my experience with love has been bitter-sweet. And as I’ll recite the stories of the two important aspects of my life, that have given a lot to me, I am sure you all will relate to my personal experiences at some or the other level. So, let’s begin with what came first – friendship.

 

Role of Communication: Friendship

My experience with friendship began very early in my life. And, I feel I am quite fortunate that I have my first friends as my present friends too, i.e. almost 21 years later I am still friends with the very first people I called my ‘friends’.

I have always been the girl who is too shy and uninterested in talking to strangers but once we know each other I am an unstoppable chatterbox, quite literally. I met both my childhood friends in my school. Because our fathers were their childhood friends, all three of our fathers happened to send their children to the same school. And, we practically carry forward the legacy of their friendship. We went to the same schools, went to the same institutes, attended each other’s birthday parties, shared our lunch during the school recess, and created a lot more memories together every day without actually taking any effort in doing so. The seriousness of our friendship can be measured from the fact that the three of us don’t have a single picture together from our childhood. Because we were too busy living in the moment.

Two girls and a boy sitting together and eating lunch raised some frownings. Especially for our guy friend, he was teased by his friends for having lunch with two girls. Well, I don’t blame them, the credit for the mentality goes to our society.

After sharing almost every big milestone, my friendships with both of them has only grown stronger. Moreover, if someone matters to me, I’ll do all that I can to keep them in my life. And, communication is the very first step to that. Growing up together, we have had our misunderstandings.

As children, the arguments were as mere as misplacing each other’s things or maybe snatching something or just random fights. As teenagers, it was the typical adrenaline rush that acted upon and led us to fight on things that didn’t matter. Most of the time, the fights then happened because of the people who are not even a part of our lives today. And, as adults, we have had some serious issues. Sometimes it is our respective relationships and sometimes it was a pure miscommunication. Because text messages are so strong today to create any misunderstanding and not convey the right information.

Having both a girl and a boy as close friends teaches you a lot about life. These two people beside me, I have never felt the need to search for friendships outside. Yes, I do have other remarkable people who I can call friends too. But, who are your true friends? The names you remember in the most adverse situations. Well, these two are exactly that to me.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that our friendship would have ended a long time ago if we have not been vocal about our feelings. Our first school only had a middle school education. Therefore, I was separated from my best friend. She went to a different high school. And, the guy friend and I luckily went to the same high school.

On the first day of the new school, it was the first time in 14 years that I wasn’t going to see my best friend waiting for me in the school outside the class. Though, at least we had the same institute to spend the other half of the day together.

A new place meant new people. It meant new friends. But, none of us ever saw our new friends as a threat to our old bonds. We knew it was irreplaceable. And that is the very essence of true friendship for us.

A true friend will understand the how and why behind your deeds and will never question you. If they find it wrong, they will stop and guide you for sure. And, today it’s been 21 years since the three of us have been friends. We have had a lot of people come and go. But, irrespective of whether we meet or not, whether we talk daily or not, whether we celebrate occasions together or not, we are connected at hearts.

Adulthood is filled with breaking our expectations. It is the time of life that teaches us some of the hardest lessons. And, one such truth to life is – you don’t get to spend your life with your friends. You spend your life with your partner.

Therefore, if there is one thing that strong and real friendships don’t rely on – it’s communication. We don’t talk to each other daily rather we do it rarely. But, even then we know we will be there to double each other’s joy and half the sorrows when needed. We know that we have a lot of people coming and going in our lives, but we will always find each other besides when in need.

Real friendships rely on trust, understanding, and respect. They are all about picking up from the same place where we left it last time, with the same emotion and thrill.

And, it is not only my childhood friends, as I mentioned I have been fortunate in the matter of friendships. Both my girlfriends from my graduation and post-graduation years are proof of that. Ever since I received my graduate degree, I only met her twice and we are perfectly strong without regular communication. We barely talk on phones, we wish each other on occasions, we support and celebrate each other’s win on social media with a simple share and as a friend, this is everything we expect from each other.

I am not the kind of person who can be kept within boundaries. And hence, I prefer being friends with people who understand that as we grow and move forward in life, we meet new people as well. But, meeting new people doesn’t mean forgetting the old ones. Every single person I have ever called a friend resides inside my heart with many strong and beautiful memories, some bitter ones too. But, in the end, they are all my experiences and my positive outlook on these experiences makes me the woman I am today.

 

Role of Communication: Relationship

Now since you know my experience with friendships, Let’s continue to the most important aspect of my life.

I am an old-fashioned lover when it comes to romantic relationships. Probably this is the reason why my present relationship is the only relationship I have ever been in. And, to my belief, it will be the only relationship I’ll have.

My love story might rather sound like a movie. But, while I prefer my friends to understand me even without any regular or daily communication, I have a contrary opinion about communication with respect to a relationship. I believe that as much as relationships require love, trust, and loyalty, communication is the fourth pillar that makes it strong.

How am I the right person to advise you on anything about a relationship? Well, we have been together for almost 7 years now. And to top that, we are in a long-distance relationship.

Told you, it sounds like a movie. We met on Facebook while we were in high school. Living in two different cities that we didn’t even knew exist. 7 years down the line – in a long-distance relationship- both of us have learned a lot about each other, about love. And, one of the most important lessons is, if you don’t communicate with your partner, you can’t have a relationship going smoothly.

Whether it’s an LDR or a normal relationship if you don’t speak your feelings, you are ultimately risking your relationship and your well-being. Because, when things matter and you keep them inside, they bother you like hell. They can get onto your mental health. I have been there and I have felt that. And, the only way to deal with it is to be vocal about your feelings.

Being in a long-distance relationship, trust issues, jealousy, possessiveness are some of the factors that are sure to come, you simply cannot resist it. And, they are sure to come when you know there are a lot of people waiting for you both to break up. So, how do you deal with all the insecurities and that am-I-not-worth-it feeling? Well, you let your partner know how you are feeling, you let them know what’s going inside your head and heart.

But, is that so easy? Is it so easy to just call and speak out every word? No, it isn’t. While I am the person who believes in talking out to untangle the knots in a relationship, my partner wasn’t this expressive always. As a writer, expression of thoughts is an embedded trait of your personality. But, my partner is the 360 degree opposite to me. He is quiet, reserved, take things to his heart, prefers to keep them inside to not “bother” anybody with his perception, and chooses to communicate when things are completely out of his powers.

It is a fun and learn ride when you are head over heels in love with someone opposite to you, stays 200 km away from you, meets you once in 6 months but loves you more than anything in his world. It has taken me 7 years to make him comfortable with communicating himself especially when I do something that bothers him. After all, we are all humans and mistakes are a part of our existence.

The one secret behind every successful relationship is that it has touch rock bottoms and still survived. We had the worst phase of our long-distance relationship about 2 years ago. This was the time when we felt it was all over and we have lost each other. We even did this “final talk” before parting ways. But, even if life screws you, it always has a backup plan too. Our back up plan was communication. Being away from each other, we didn’t have anything else in our hands. The only thing we could do was talk about the unprecedented times. Hence, we decided to not call it quits and stay together for the sake of the beautiful past we had, for the sake of the potential future we had planned. And, we stuck through it. While a lot of people did everything in their power to separate us, we had them failed at every attempt all because we were up, front, and clear that we wanted to stay together, talk to each other and get through it.

The worst and the best part of the entire scenario was we dealt with all of it from the distance. It gave us this very important lesson of “whatever is meant to be will be yours”. Though, I have a different perspective on that. I believe we have lived it all and will live for a few more years before we finally seal the deal with a kiss because we want to be together.

Every time we are asked about our relationships, the response to being in a long-distance relationship is just this thing – Is he/she loyal? While we always answer the question with a prideful yes, we know this question isn’t leaving us for the next 2-3 years at least. That is how long we plan to take it forward as a long-distance relationship.

My relationship with my man is the most beautiful thing about my life. It is the very reason why I am a professional writer today. I am the artist (writer) and he is my muse forever. I began writing as a way to express my feelings to him. His love, even from the distance, has me bloomed into the woman I am today. Once he was this quiet and not-preferring to communicate kind of a person but seven years down the line, I am happy to admit he has finally begun to be vocal and open about his feelings.

Communication is the strongest pillar of any romantic relationship. While we expect the other person to know us better than ourselves, we often forget that building that bond and level of intimacy takes time. As I mentioned, I am an old school but a hopeful romantic. I fantasize a lot about dreamy getaways but at the same time, I know our reality of the present as well, which is nothing but distance. Hence, while we are working every moment to make this relationship a success, while we are hopeful about our future as a couple, we stay grounded to our reality. We are aware that we still have time to reach there, and along with love, trust, and loyalty, communication is the fourth wheel of our vehicle. And, we can’t lose either of them to not just reach the destination but enjoy the journey as well. After all, we want a good love story to recite to our babies in the future.

 

This is what words do to you, once you begin, it’s hard to stop. Well, we have finally reached the destination of this article. For me, the bottom line of communication for love and friendship with respect to my personal experience is:

“True friendships can survive with or without daily communication but true love requires communication to survive.”


Shweta is a Lifestyle and Wellness blogger and writer. She provides writing services for businesses and coaches in the niche. When not working, she is usually found feeding her passion for braids. She is also an English language enthusiast. Follow her on Instagram to know more about her and her business.

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10 Jan

Now You Can Live a Spark-filled Life

Guest Post by Stephanie James

What does it mean to live a “spark-filled” life?  It means being lit up from the inside, learning how to befriend yourself and make yourself a priority in your own life, and it means being fully alive and living your life full of authenticity, purpose and passion.

But how do we get there? We’ve all heard the expression, “Just be your own best friend!” but after 30 years in the mental health and personal development field, I know, it just isn’t that easy.  It truly starts with the art of learning to befriend yourself first.

Just imagine when you meet a new friend.  You don’t instantly trust them with your deepest, darkest secrets, nor do you automatically feel you can rely on them to be there for you when times get tough. A friendship like that takes time to cultivate.  The same is true when you are growing a relationship with yourself. You have to begin by being someone that you can rely on; to know that you have your own back and will show up for yourself when you need to.

A great way to do this is to establish a morning routine that is focused on self-care.  Use the first hour or half hour of your day to exercise, meditate, and write in a gratitude journal. Write the things you are thankful for each day, even if they are small and seem the same each day. We can be thankful for our warm bed, having hot water in the shower, and having food to eat. This doesn’t have to be big things. Then, when you are finished, put your hand on your heart and allow yourself to marinate on these good feelings.  By focusing on these feelings, you are actually telling your brain, that likes to purge information unless it is useful for our survival, “Hey! Pay attention! This is important! File this!”

Make this sacred time. I use a wall calendar to mark off when I show up for myself like this and instead of crossing off the day, I put a heart on the calendar. It is wonderful to see a full month filled with hearts and see how I have been truly loving to myself. When you show up for yourself each morning in this way, you begin to build a relationship with yourself; you begin to build trust with yourself and can begin to rely on yourself to have your best interest in mind.

I have worked with hundreds of people who find the simple act of establishing a morning self-care routine truly transformative.  It is one of the least selfish things you can do.  By making yourself a priority and taking care of yourself, you are giving to yourself in a way that will create more resiliency, calm, and well-being and you will be sharing with others from a place of fulness, rather than from a place of lack.

The next thing, I find that is really important in igniting your sparks, is to take time to truly explore what it is that lights you up! One of the ways I encourage clients to explore this, actually might seem a bit counter-intuitive at first, but it is amazingly helpful.  I encourage people to first get in touch with what their limiting beliefs are that prevent them from living the kind of “spark-filled” life that they would like to have. We often don’t realize that our words and actions are being driven by these unconscious beliefs, that are often pick up in childhood when we were in theta brain wave state and we took others opinions of us to be the truth. These beliefs can go so underground, that we don’t even realize what they are, we just know the outward manifestation (such as, I don’t have the job, relationship, self-esteem, etc. that I desire in my life.)

The way to begin “unearthing” these limiting beliefs, is to grab your journal and write a list of the areas in your life: relationship, career, finances, friendships, health and fitness, body image, spirituality, and self-concept.  Now, write down where you see yourself in all of these areas in one column and in the next, write down where you would like to be. When you look at each area, begin to notice the beliefs that come up in-between these two columns.  I worked with a man whose father had told him as a child, “Rich people are really unhappy!” Without realizing this, my client had internalized his father’s words and they had become a self-limiting belief that had kept him from being truly wealthy. Subconsciously, he had adopted the belief that if he were to become rich, then he would also become unhappy. When he became aware of that limiting belief, he then had the power to change it.

Now the fun part.  Take each of your limiting beliefs, and on a totally separate page, write down what you would like to believe about yourself instead and put a couple steps of action underneath each. An example would be:

“I am healthy and fit.”

  1. I work out 30 minutes per day.
  2. I eat healthy and nutritious foods.

This then becomes an Affirmation Action Plan that you read out loud to yourself each day that begins to prime your mindset and change your belief structure. Research tells us it takes 21-30 days for something to become a habit; that’s why so many exercise plans and diets are 30-day plans. In 30 days, your brain begins to automate the information and it becomes easier and easier to follow through (and believe.)

Lastly, one of things that can help you ignite the sparks within yourself, is to write out a list of the things that bring you pleasure. With all that is going on in the world today, it is easy to get distracted and forget some of the simple things that bring joy to your life.  I have clients begin their list with bringing in all of their senses; such as, “What tastes bring me pleasure? What smells bring me pleasure? What sights bring me pleasure? Etc.” As you begin to write your list, let yourself marinate on the good feelings that arise.  When we hold up images in our mind, our mind experiences them as happening “Now”; just as when we are thinking about the future and we feel anxious- it’s not happening now, but physiologically we are experiencing it as “Now.” The same is true for our pleasurable memories.

Let yourself write as many things as you can think of, utilizing all of your senses.  The first morning’s sip of coffee, petting my dog Jewels, and opening the curtains in the morning so the light floods my house, are all simple but wonderful pleasures in my life. It is also a principal in physics that whatever you focus on expands. What you focus on, you will notice more of it. When you focus on noticing what lights you up, you will find yourself feeling more illuminated internally.

The spark is truly who we are inside; our true essence. Sometimes we just have to do a little excavation to let that light truly shine through.  Through befriending yourself, rewiring negative beliefs, and focusing on what truly brings you pleasure, you will be well on your way to experiencing greater well-being and creating a more meaningful, spark-filled life.


BIO

A seasoned psychotherapist, a dynamic public speaker, published author, and filmmaker, Stephanie James delivers her message in a powerful way to help others find their own internal sparks and create their best lives at the next level. Nominated for Fort Collins Woman of The Year in 2014 and a graduate of the University of Denver, Stephanie has an unrelenting commitment to help others ignite their best lives and to become the best versions of themselves.

The Spark with Stephanie James is a world-wide weekly radio and podcast created to help you live your best life. Her guests are luminaries in the fields of psychology, inspiration and motivation, science, entrepreneurialism, and more!  

Her book, The Spark, Igniting Your Best Life, is available on Amazon. A compelling and inspiring book, The Spark is an excellent guide.  Step by step, Stephanie James shows how to examine beliefs that don’t serve us, ways to develop more authentic and rewarding relationships (including with ourselves), and how to approach each day with zest. 

Stephanie has a passion for connecting with people from all walks of life and continues to fulfill her personal mission to bring as much love and healing to the world as possible. Her soon to be released film, When Sparks Ignite, is about the challenges we all face and how those challenges can actually become the match point that ignite something amazing within us that then can become our gift to the world. 

https://www.stephaniejames.world/

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24 Nov

The Grief Path: Mourning the Love of Your Life

by Barbara Abercrombie, author of The Language of Loss:
Poetry and Prose for Grieving and Celebrating the Love of Your Life

I thought I knew about grief. I had been through the death of my parents. I certainly knew how much grief could hurt, how it could knock you flat like a wave sneaking up behind you. The difference is that when you’re an adult and a parent dies, you go back to your own life. When your spouse or partner dies you can’t do this, he or she was your life.

There’s no way to prepare for this kind of grief.  There’s no way to imagine what it’s like when the person you’ve loved and shared your life with vanishes. No way to comprehend the long journey ahead of you. How do you find a path for it? Can there even be a path through grief? And where can it lead?

With the first step into this new, unwanted future, I discovered the busyness of the newly bereaved – the necessity of things to be done. Decisions for a service and burial, an obituary to write, miles of paperwork, juggling a stepfamily, my own family, and friends. Then the service was over, family went home, many friends went back into couples, thank you notes were written, the paper work got done, and I felt more alone than I’ve ever been in my whole life. There was no path, only getting through it day by day, sometimes hour by hour.

One of my daughters thought I should join a grief group, which sounded like an oxymoron. My grief felt too singular, too deranged for a group. A stepdaughter wanted me to move out of the house so it could be sold. Blended families can add another layer of grief.

Reading and writing have always been my way through bad times. In the echoing silence of the months after my husband died, I looked to poetry and stories for solace. I wanted company –  poets and writers who had lost the love of their life and could put the chaos into words for me. “Help me. Remind me why I’m here,” is the final line of a poem by Kim Addonizio that I read over and over during those first few months I was a widow. This poem said exactly what I was feeling but couldn’t say to anyone, and though I wept every time I read it, I felt I wasn’t alone. The writer of this poem knew exactly what I was going through. That was comfort.

Mark Doty wrote in his memoir that while grieving for his partner he learned that “Being in grief, it turns out, is not unlike being in love.” I wrote pages and pages in my journal about my husband, us, our life – lovestruck as well as griefstruck. I started writing a memoir about his final year. I talked to him, not only on paper and in my head but also out loud. I would go into his closet and touch his shirts; his shoes made me cry. I couldn’t stand silence, yet music – whether country or opera – was too emotional to listen to, so I kept talk radio on day and night. When I was writing and I heard someone say on the radio the same word I had just written, I thought my husband was trying to reach me in code.  Hope. Voice. Time. Self. Paper. I made lists of the words and tried to turn them into poems.

Jack Gilbert wrote a poem about his belief that his wife came back as the neighbor’s Dalmation.  Jan Richardson wrote in her memoir that the sudden appearance of sparrows signaled her dead husband was sending her a sign. Doriannne Laux ended a poem with a plea: “Give me a sign if you can see me./I’m the only one here on my knees.”  Reading these poets and writers made me feel less crazy for thinking my dead husband was sending me messages in code via the radio. 

How do we get through this time, with or without signs from our beloveds?  What we can’t see in the beginning is that there is indeed a path – most likely twisted and full of sharp turns and potholes, but one that takes us forward.  Sometimes my path was a sidewalk; I walked my dog for hours every day covering the same territory. I went through the motions of living my life – yoga classes and inviting friends over for potlucks, going back to teaching, but I wasn’t myself and it didn’t feel like my life.

I realized that time was pushing my husband into the past, further and further away, but I wasn’t ready to let him go. I kept writing, I kept reading. I wasn’t ready to let go of my grief; it kept me connected to him. Writing about him kept him in the room. I continued looking for poetry and memoir for solace, and also to justify feeling narcissistic in my grief, because the writers and poets I found were just as grief obsessed as I was, and grief after all is about the griever.

I found company in Hafiz who wrote “Don’t surrender your loneliness/So quickly ….”  And in Kevin Young who wrote, “what’s worse, the forgetting/or the thing/ you can’t forget.”  When I read, I felt part of a world that made meaning out of pain. 

After two years I began to realize that the tears, the pages of memories that I wrote, the miles I walked with my dog, the hours on a yoga mat, the time with students in my classroom, the potlucks in my kitchen, the volumes of poetry and memoir that I read – all of it was a path into the future. A path I had walked without knowing it was leading somewhere.

Finally, and this happened only gradually, I found myself remembering grief. Grief as something that I had felt in the past, no longer the wave that used to flatten me, no longer feeling grief in every bone and muscle of my body but thinking about how it had felt in the past. I still missed my husband deeply, but missing isn’t grief. Missing is a feeling that can go on forever while you begin a new life. Whatever shape that new life takes, there’s the possibility of joy again, even love. In the space hollowed out by grief there is room for your heart to expand, to open to the world, to grow and to give thanks for the love you once had. At the end of my path I was amazed by gratitude.

# # #

Barbara Abercrombie has published over fifteen books, including The Language of Loss. Two of her books were listed on Poets & Writers Magazine’s “Best Writing Books of the Year” list. Her personal essays have appeared in many national publications and anthologies. She has received the Outstanding Instructor and Distinguished Instructor Awards from UCLA Extension, where she teaches creative writing. She lives in Pasadena, CA with her rescue dogs Nelson and Nina. Find out more about her work at www.barbaraabercrombie.com. 

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04 Nov

Sleep Quotes and the Wisdom (or Not) Behind Them

Sleep is one thing we all have in common. No matter where you live, how old you are, or what language you speak, if you’re alive, then you sleep. Since we’ve all been doing this sleeping thing our whole lives, we might just have some thoughts to share on the subject. And if you happen to be a celebrity, these thoughts might be shared with the public. Let’s look at some of these famous quotes about sleep, and see if we’re getting good advice.

 

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”  – Benjamin Franklin

 

Franklin was likely speaking from experience. His routine was that he would sleep from 10 pm to 5 am. Today, that’s the same routine for other successful people, including Jeff Bezos and Arianna Huffington. Ellen DeGeneres gets in her eight hours from 11pm to 7pm. However, Elon Musk and Barack Obama get to bed later, at 1 am, and then sleep until 7 am. So, can we thrive on less sleep?

 

There’s more than comes into play, including how people spend their daytime hours. Are you getting enough exercise and sunshine? Are you eating healthy foods? The quality of sleep you get it also very important. A study at John Hopkins University found that short but uninterrupted sleep is better than long hours of interrupted sleep. This is because interruption doesn’t allow the brain to go through all the sleep stages we need for energy and mental alertness. So, if you are getting that deep, uninterrupted sleep, even for fewer hours, and you are functioning optimally during that day maybe you don’t need as much sleep.

 

Research has shown that a good night’s sleep does make us smarter – or at least perform better on tests. A study at KU Leuven University in Belgium found higher test scores for students who slept seven hours each night during the exam period than those who got less sleep. The research accounted for differences in study habits, health and socioeconomic backgrounds.

 

Work eight hours and sleep eight hours and make sure that they are not the same hours. – T. Boone Pickens

Here’s a successful guy who believed in balance. Work, sleep, and then also live your life. Good advice. If you’re working too much and not giving the mind some downtime to rest before sleep, you’ll have a more difficult time getting to sleep, and probably not sleep as well.

 

I need nine hours of sleep because of all the activity I do. It doesn’t always happen, but I really try. – Ana Ivanovic

 

8 hours sleep is average – the ballpark for most of us. But some people need less, like Elon Musk, apparently! And some of us need more, like pro tennis player Ana Ivanovic. You don’t have to be an athlete, either – expending mental energy also requires a body-mind reset through sleep. If you find yourself yawning in the afternoon, or feeling like you need a nap, you might just need more sleep at night. When you’re getting enough quality nighttime sleep you shouldn’t need to take a nap. Young children and the elderly are exceptions, they usually need a nap in the day.

 

I don’t sleep enough, and it does… what is the opposite of wonders… horrors. It does horrors for my skin. – Kate McKinnon

I think my biggest tip – and I consider it a part of my beauty routine – is getting my sleep, without a doubt. I do a true eight hours. – Tracee Ellis Ross

 

There’s a reason why we call it “Beauty Sleep” and these actresses will tell you! It works both ways. Get good sleep and it shows on your face – your skin, your eyes, your smile. Or stay up too late missing those precious sleep hours and that will show up on your face, too. There’s only so much that make-up can do to hide the signs of lack of sleep. Who better than an actress to confirm this?

 

I drink a ton of water. And I never go to bed too full. – Chrissy Teigen

 

Chrissy Teigen has the right idea when it comes to eating. It’s best not to go to bed on a full stomach, because then your body is busy digesting instead of focusing on getting you into a sleep state. But it’s also not good to go to bed hungry either. Chrissy posts on her Instagram account about her “night eggs” that she swears by for sleep. She eats one lightly seasoned hard-boiled egg before bed, and it give her just enough protein to get her through the night without being hungry. But when it comes to water – it’s great to drink water during the day, but definitely limit your intake after 7 pm or your sleep will be interrupted when you need to get out of bed to visit the bathroom!

 

Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight. – Phyllis Diller

Make sure you never, never argue at night. You just lose a good night’s sleep and you can’t settle anything until morning anyway. -Rose Kennedy

 

I think we’ve all heard this from marriage and relationship experts: “Never go to bed angry.” Worst advice ever! What is the alternative? Like Phyllis Diller says, stay up and fight? I’m sure Phyllis was joking – how can anyone possibly sleep after getting all riled up in a heated argument? I think Rose Kennedy has a better idea. Never argue at night. Table the argument, go to sleep and figure it out in the morning. Chances are, after a good night’s sleep, the argument won’t seem so important anyway. You’ll be able to think more clearly and may even have dreamt up a solution to the problem!

 

Nothing makes you feel better than when you get into a hotel bed, and the sheets feel so good. Why shouldn’t you wake up like that every day? Spend money on your mattress and bedding because these things make a difference on your sleep and, ultimately, your happiness. -Bobby Berk

 

Bobby Berk is an interior designer and television host. He travels a lot for work, so he knows about staying in hotels. Many people experience a great night’s sleep when they stay in a hotel. And when they come home it’s just not the same. The difference? The mattress. Hotels are really good about getting fresh new mattresses all the time so that their guests are comfortable. So, Bobby is giving us really good advice. A new mattress is an investment in both our health and happiness. And of course, the bedding should feel good when you’re in bed, and look good enough to make you smile when you’re out of bed!

 

 

https://podcasts.hopkinsmedicine.org/2015/12/18/december-24-2015-interrupted-sleep/

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/11/13/the-sleep-habits-of-highly-successful-people-infographic/#1459a7376d7f

 

https://nieuws.kuleuven.be/en/content/2014/for-better-marks-get-a-good-nights-sleep

 

 

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30 Jan

A Bigger Yes

We are the luckiest.An excerpt from We Are the Luckiest by Laura McKowen

Before Laura McKowen got sober, she had a long, successful career in public relations in the Mad Men-esque drinking culture of the advertising industry, where “liquid lunches were frequent and drinking at your desk in the late afternoon was perfectly normal.” In the five years since she stopped drinking, she has become one of the foremost voices in the modern recovery movement.

In her new memoir We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life (New World Library, January 7, 2020), McKowen flips the script on how we talk about addiction and encourages readers not to ask, “Is this bad enough that I have to change?” but rather, “Is this good enough for me to stay the same?”

We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

# # #

For so long, all I could see was what I would be losing by giving up drinking — love being only one representation of many. Despite all the aphorisms and positive thinking and stories I’d heard from other sober people promising me otherwise, all I could feel was the loss. Augusten Burroughs, in his book This Is How, said that what worked for him in getting sober was to find something he loved more than drinking. I understood that intellectually, and it sounded awfully catchy and inspiring, but it just didn’t feel true for me.

Being in that room with Seane, feeling whatever had been sparking up in me — even in the midst of all the emotional angst and discomfort — I started to get it. For the first time, I could imagine chasing something bigger.

# # #

Here’s what is true, for you and for me: the grief and the sadness are real. When you give up something you’ve relied on as heavily as I relied on alcohol, even when that something is actively destroying your life, it is a true loss. You can’t deny that, and more importantly, you don’t have to.

I thought there was something wrong with me for feeling so heartbroken. How could I actively miss a thing that had nearly cost me everything, including Alma?

There was nothing wrong with me, though. Alcohol had been my friend. It had carried me through a lot of pain I might have otherwise not been able to withstand. It had softened experiences that needed to be softened. It had been there for me always, without question. My drinking — and whatever it is you do to feel better — was born of a natural impulse to soothe, to connect, to feel love. And although alcohol hadn’t actually delivered those things, it was absolutely yoked to them in my mind. In my heart and body, too. It was just what I knew.

So of course I was terrified without it. Of course I missed it. The absence of it was terrible. And necessary. Maybe it’s helpful to linger there for a minute, in the terrible and the necessary. To start to see them as the same. Maybe in this way, pain is not such a problem.

When I saw Seane up there, doing what she did, I realized it wasn’t in spite of her pain that she was doing these things but because of it. She knew exactly what it took to walk through the fire. That is what I recognized in her. That was why I believed her.

Because that strength was in me, too.

I had always quashed my pain and cut it off before it could burn all the way through. I drank it away or ate it away or disappeared into another person or work. Being there over those four days, without contact with Jon or Alma or the comforts of home, had given me a taste of what it was like to just let it burn. I felt it. I felt it all over my body. And although it was excruciating most of the time, there were a few moments when I surrendered the fight and simply allowed everything to wash over me. In those moments, I found that right alongside the sharp intensity and unease, there was some small part of me willing to stay, another voice softly saying, I am willing to be here.

Behind all those nos and never-agains is a much bigger yes. It might not seem clear now, but it will be clear soon. Listen to the voice. Listen to your body. This is in you already.

There is a life that is calling you forward, begging you to meet its eye, to glimpse its vision for you. You can get only so far by running away from what you do not want. Eventually you will have to turn toward what you do. You will have to run toward a bigger yes.

# # #

 

Laura McKowen is the author of We Are the Luckiest. She is a former public relations executive who has become recognized as a fresh voice in the recovery movement. Beloved for her soulful and irreverent writing, she leads sold-out yoga-based retreats and other courses that teach people how to say yes to a bigger life. Visit her online at http://www.lauramckowen.com.

Excerpted from the book We Are the Luckiest. Copyright ©2020 by Laura McKowen. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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18 Jan

Defining Self Care

“Self-care” has become somewhat of a buzz word lately. So many people are talking about it, especially online. In most of the discussions, self-care is used to describe taking a bath, getting a massage, having some aromatherapy, and the like. It kind of comes off as prioritizing yourself, maybe to the point of being selfish. But let’s really unpack this, and understand what self-care really means.

 

This is my definition of self-care: Being responsible for your own happiness and well-being. We can’t “get” happiness from any outside source. That means we can’t buy it, and we can’t rely on anyone else to provide it for us, or give it to us. So, if we’re not happy or well, we can’t blame anyone or anything – the buck, so to speak, stops with ourselves. When we can understand that, then we can make more informed choices about what we do, and how we do it.

 

For example, let’s look at the three pillars of health in Ayurveda, and how this relates to self-care.

 

1) Food: Food is anything we “eat” through any of the senses. What do you put in your mouth, what do you smell, what do you touch, what do you watch, what are you listening to? If you’re stressed out, yet continue to watch violent television shows, or listen to argumentative talk shows on the car radio, you need to make different choices. If your digestion is poor, and you’re eating junk food late at night, you need to be doing something different. This is self-care – knowing how to take care of yourself body, mind, and spirit… and actually doing it. No one else can do it for you. You absolutely have control here – so we have to look at our habits, and stop being on auto-pilot.

 

2) Sleep: You’ve heard me talk about sleep for years as the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council. What could be easier than going to bed at a reasonable time? And yet, we don’t do it! We have every excuse to stay up later than we should. We’re on our screens way too late, we don’t invest in our sleep by making sure we have a new mattress and pillow. It’s like we see sleep as a chore, something more to fit into our busy day. Like a little kid, we don’t want to go to bed because we’re afraid we’ll be missing something! It’s time to change that mind-set and understand how important sleep is in every area of our lives. Self-care means being disciplined about your sleep schedule, and sleep hygiene so that sleep can actually work for you!

 

3) Activity: Activity is everything we do in our lives – work, exercise, relationships, our daily routine and habits. It’s not just what you’re doing, but also what you’re thinking about. Where is your attention focused? Self-care is also knowing our limits. Are you taking on too much? Are you being too active, is life too hectic? Or are you not active enough, is life too slow? There’s a beautiful “Goldilocks” amount of activity that’s unique to each of us, and “just right” for each one of us. Find yours and take care of yourself in this way. You might have to say no when you feel obligated or pressed to say yes, or say yes when you’re a bit uncomfortable jumping into something new. Tune into your intuition and do what is best for you.

 

Take good care!

Lots of love,

Lissa

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20 Nov

Paradigm Shift

Over the past two decades, there has been a quiet revolution in the fields of psychology and neuroscience challenging two fundamental assumptions. The first is that humans are hardwired to experience emotions and that emotions happen automatically. Unless you’re a saint, if you’ve been honked at by a rude driver, you will have seen this firsthand. You will have experienced reacting in a way that feels completely automatic (and likely regrettable). This is certainly what seems to be happening. The proximity between stimulus (the honk) and reaction (anger) is so close that your perception was that you had no choice but to react in a certain way. To make sense of this experience, you likely have attributed this phenomenon to the myth that humans are emotion- ally hardwired.

This is understandable. Early humans who were able to band together effectively increased their likelihood of survival. Evolution favored traits that let people be accepted by and remain part of the clan. In essence, get- ting excluded from the tribe was an almost certain death sentence. As a result, your brain has evolved to recognize threats to your social status and to respond in ways that protect you from risk to your psychological safety. In fact, brain scans show that when you feel excluded or rejected, the part of your brain associated with physical pain—the anterior cingulate cortex—lights up. Hence, as we saw in chapter one, when someone looks at you a certain way or makes a disparaging remark, your amygdala is triggered and institutes a fight/flight/freeze response, releasing the hormone epinephrine and instigating a series of physiological responses. This reaction, known as the amygdala hijack, in turn impairs your most sophisticated mental capabilities—your ability to think rationally, to be creative, to problem solve, to exercise self-control. What started out as an essential survival adaptation—to keep you safe from physical harm or to keep you included in the tribe—has become a major limitation to effectiveness in modern-day life.

So while there may be something to the notion of hardwiring, the truth is far more nuanced and interesting. Your brain is a prediction machine, continuously comparing new stimuli to past experience and making guesses about what action your body should take based

on those comparisons. Beginning in early infancy, your brain begins to construct rules or beliefs for each cate- gory of experience, and they get embedded in your pro- gram. Over time, these rules solidify, and you think it is just the way things are—the way you are wired. Driver honking at you equals someone treating you unfairly, which means you must be angry.

One of the leading researchers in this area, Lisa Feldman Barrett, has arrived at a profound and revolutionary conclusion challenging the myth that humans are hard- wired:

Our emotions aren’t built-in, waiting to be revealed. They are made. By us. We don’t recognize emotions or identify emotions: we construct our own emotional experiences, and our perceptions of others’ emotions, on the spot, as needed, through a complex interplay of systems. Human beings are not at the mercy of mythical emotion circuits buried deep within animalistic parts of our highly evolved brain: we are architects of our own experience.8

The second fundamental assumption being challenged is the view that what you perceive through your senses—primarily sight and sound—dictates the way you feel. In reality, it is mostly the other way around. We touched on this notion in chapter one with the introduction of polyvagal theory—the idea that your central nervous system is constantly scanning your internal state to detect physiological markers that suggest potential threats to your social safety. You continuously experience countless sensations in your body—the result of your glucose levels, breathing rate, lack of sleep, etc. Your brain’s process of registering and integrating changes in

these sensations is known as interoception. Interoception influences what external sensory input you pay attention to. If sleep-deprived and hungry, you will experience the same situation completely differently than you would if well-rested and fed. Again, Barrett does a wonderful job of summarizing this for us:

You construct the environment in which you live. You might think about your environment as existing in the outside world, separate from yourself, but that’s a myth. You (and other creatures) do not simply find yourself in an environment and either adapt or die. You construct your environment—your reality—by virtue of what sensory input from the physical environment your brain selects; it admits some as information and ignores some as noise. And this selection is intimately linked to interoception.9

The implications of this paradigm shift in under- standing human behavior are massive. The sum of your genetics, childhood experiences, culture, neurophysiology (including the anatomy of your brain and, more importantly, your physiological state) all help shape your program and, in turn, how you behave. Your brain uses the rules of your program to make predictions about what actions are most appropriate for any given stimulus. This understanding is revolutionary, and it’s good news. While it is certainly understandable to feel as if certain behaviors are automatic, you nevertheless have the capacity to control every response to every situation. The question now becomes what you can do to master your code (including your physiology) so that the actions you take are more consistent with the choices you would like to make. Since you are truly the architect and author of your experience, you have the possibility (and dare I say responsibility) to create the conditions that will allow you to construct a different way of perceiving and reacting to your circum- stances. The bad news? No more excuses!

 

Darren Gold is a Managing Partner at The Trium Group, where he advises and coaches CEOs and leadership teams at many of the world’s most innovative companies, including Roche, Dropbox, Lululemon, Sephora, Cisco, eBay, Activision, and Warner Bros. He is the author of the new book Master Your Code: The Art, Wisdom, and Science of Leading an Extraordinary LifeLearn more at www.darrenjgold.com.

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19 Nov

Authenticity

BOOKcover-LiveTrue-hiResCHAPTER 21: Authenticity

But above all, in order to be, never try to seem.

—Albert Camus

 

This above all:

To thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

—Shakespeare

 

Who are you really, if not who you really are? That may sound like some kind of Zen koan, which is a paradox, or a puzzle for Zen Buddhist monks to meditate on to gain enlightenment. Perhaps we won’t reach enlightenment by contemplating that question, but we can certainly find out who we are by knowing who we’re not. If we ask ourselves, “Who am I?” we will automatically answer with our name, or what it is we do for a living, our role, or our persona, such as “I’m a mother,” “I’m a doctor,” “I’m an actor,” “I’m a carpenter,” or even, “I’m an addict.” We may be any one of those things, or a combination of them. But unless we know who we are other than just our “identity,” or what we do, we might not know whether we’re

being true to ourselves, or authentic in whatever identity we’ve taken on. Maybe somewhere in your role as a mother, you’re conflicted about having given up a career to be a parent, or maybe torn about working and leaving your children at home or daycare. Or, maybe if you were/are an addict, you were once on top of the world but lost confidence in yourself at one point in your life, and couldn’t handle failure so you numbed yourself with drugs or alcohol. Or maybe you became a doctor because it was expected of you to be one since you come from generations of physicians, as I spoke about in the previous chapter on honesty. Who we are might not be what we wanted, or intended to be at all, but we’ve been that person for so long, who would we be otherwise? Some people just fall into being who they are, or inherit being who they are, or are told to be who they are. Others knew who they wanted to be when

they spoke their first words. But whether you announced your identity at your first dance recital, or you smiled compliantly when your father announced at your Bar Mitzvah that you were going to be a lawyer just like him, somewhere on the “Who am I?” train, you woke up and realized that you got on the wrong one, became inauthentic to yourself, and don’t know how that happened. There’s a great song by The Talking Heads, called “Once in a Lifetime,” which really sums it up:

 

And you may find yourself

Living in a shotgun shack

And you may find yourself

In another part of the world

And you may find yourself

Behind the wheel of a large automobile

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house

With a beautiful wife

And you may ask yourself, well

How did I get here?

 

It’s very conceivable that you can wake up one day and ask yourself, “How did I get here?” A good way to avoid that from happening is to ask yourself, “Who am I?” long before

you end up somewhere you really don’t want to be, or flummoxed by how the hell you let yourself get there. Mindfulness helps us not forget who we are. It keeps us present and aware, and if, or when we might feel an impulse to be inauthentic, it reminds us immediately that falseness of any kind feels wrong with every fiber of our being. When we’re mindful, we have heightened awareness, and with heightened awareness, it’s hard to be dishonest with ourselves. It’s like having an inner lie detector, as I’ve spoken of, or truth barometer that goes off inside us, and makes it almost impossible not to pay attention to it. Even if someone is suggesting what we should do, or who we should be, as I mentioned, we get a signal loud and clear that no one can decide who we are, and only we can determine our authenticity.  But whether you decided who your authentic self was long ago, somewhere on the life path you can either forget it, doubt it, turn away from it, give it away, or even make a decision that you dislike or hate who you really are, and deny ever being that person. It’s like an identity swap, only instead of taking on a role that isn’t you because you felt you had to, you gave your authentic self away gladly, and after living so long as someone you’re not, you’re now desperately looking for who you are, like a mother trying to find the baby she gave up for adoption. The good news is you can always find that person you once were, and when

you become reunited with your authentic self, it can be the greatest and most freeing day of your life. it’s not easy living a life trapped in inauthenticity, and it takes work to pretend to be someone we’re not. It can also be very painful to be seen, liked, or even loved for a false self, and terrifying that if, or when you’re found out that you’ve lived dishonestly, not only can you be met with tremendous anger and resentment, but you can also be blamed or accused for harming others in some type of way, be it emotionally or psychologically.

Ora Nadrich is founder and president of the Institute for Transformational Thinking and author of Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity. A certified life coach and mindfulness teacher, she specializes in transformational thinking, self-discovery, and mentoring new coaches as they develop their careers. Learn more at theiftt.org and OraNadrich.com.

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