The Paradox of Achievement: How Excellence Requires a Return to Building Block Basics

If you are anything like me, you have the desire to excel. Whether it’s yoga, cooking, your job, relationships or personal growth, it’s more fun to do things when we are good at them than it is to struggle along doing poorly and feeling inept. And once we find something we’re good at, it’s fun to get better and learn more, because success is satisfying! So for many of us high achievers the question becomes:

How do we get better and continue getting better at the things we love?

The answer may surprise you!

In order to get better at anything we must go back to the basics and not push ahead to the next level. If we truly wish to develop mastery at anything, we must repeatedly and consistently go back to the building blocks of whatever it is we are trying to master. No matter how much of an expert we become, and especially when we are expanding our skills and taking our knowledge and competence to the next, higher level, it is imperative for us to rewind and relay our foundation.

Because the higher and more glorious the tower, the stronger the foundation that’s required.

Take yoga, or any kind of physical pursuit. In order to progress to the advanced moves we must fully master the base moves. Why? Because the base moves provide the necessary strength, flexibility and skill to accommodate the next level. When we cheat or take shortcuts we may win in the short run, but we never master the skills necessary to sustain or move through to the next level.

In yoga, wheel pose (a backbend) is a pose that people sometimes wish to accomplish because it looks good. Never mind the spinal balancing qualities, the heart, throat and belly opening properties, many people simply want to do it because it looks impressive, which is fine, if it’s done properly.

Among other things, executing a safe backbend requires flexibility in the hip flexors, abdominals and shoulder girdle. It requires strength in the glutes, triceps, lats and shoulders. Meaning that one should become adept at doing a glute bridge before attempting the full backbend. And cobra. And up dog. And wheel pose with the head resting on the ground. And fish pose. The list goes on and on!

When people rush into a backbend, sure they may be able to whip one out, but the benefits of the pose are lost. They may end up overstraining a muscle or injuring a disc in their spine, meaning they will be shut out of all of yoga or other physical pursuits while they heal. Additionally, unless their wheel pose is strong and solid with a good foundation they cannot progress further in that pose because the integrity of the form is missing.

The same is true for any skill. We must first master the basics if we hope to excel.

No matter what you are seeking to accomplish in 2019, my challenge to you is to spend time going back to the basics before launching ahead. If it’s better relationships, go back and review and practice some basic communication skills. If cooking is your jam, consider mastering basic recipes and reconnect with simple flavor combinations. If you want to knit a sweater, begin with that first perfect stitch. The same is true for personal growth. Before getting too fancy or overly ambitions, take time to tune into your own heart and listen to the rhythm of your own soul.

Make this month your time to return to the basics. Check in on your mental, spiritual and physical foundations and make the necessary adjustments. Take down and rebuild what’s crumbling. Choose stronger materials this time around or change where you build your foundation in the first place. Give yourself permission to pause and check back in with the basics.

Begin again, knowing that the work you put in this time around will succeed because of the strength of your foundation!

ABC’s of Holiday SPARKLE!

ABC’S of Holiday SPARKLE!

*Click the TITLE above to download your FREE guide with Pretty Pictures, or read it in text below!*
ABCD- Take care of your health by following the ABCD’s. Every night before dinner – yes I do mean every night – whether you are going out or staying in:
A – Apple.  Eat an apple. It doesn’t matter if you slice it, dice it or eat it whole. Remember the old adage, an apple a day keeps the doctor away? There’s a lot of truth to that, so start eating your daily apple!
B – Beverage.  After eating your apple, drink a no-calorie beverage. As in, tea or water. You can flavor your water any way you’d like or you can drink it plain. Still or sparkling, just drink an 8 oz. beverage.
C – Clock.  Watch the clock. Wait 15 minutes after eating your apple before you eat dinner. It takes 15 min. for the feeling of being full to register in the brain. Give yourself the chance to feel how full you already are, before you even start eating.
D – Dinner!  Time to eat your dinner.
E – Exercise!
Exercise DAILY, no matter what. I don’t care how busy or sick or tired you are, you DO have 10 min. and that’s truly all it takes. (Six 10 minute Exercise videos-10 Minute Miracles will be posted on my YouTube Channel between Thanksgiving and Christmas and I post a full hour yoga every Monday and a full hour boot camp every Wednesday! @noexcues! https://www.youtube.com/loracheadlelifechoreographer)
F – Fiber
High fat Holiday food WILL happen. There’s no way to deny that. Plan ahead! Buy a bottle of Fiber Gummies, (some have prebiotics AND fiber, BONUS!) stash a few in a zip-loc and keep it in your purse. When you are at the party and they are passing around finger foods or desserts, eat a gummy and drink a full glass of water.
Please note, this is not an excuse to over-indulge! Some people are sensitive to fiber, so be sure to be careful and note how you feel when you have fiber. DO NOT abuse this, this is something to be used on an infrequent basis, it is NOT a daily excuse to pig out.
G – Groceries
Yes, you are extra busy, but skipping out on groceries is a big mistake. Why not make grocery shopping into a Zen-inducing experience? If you think of grocery shopping as a chore, it will be. If you think of it as an adventure, that’s exactly what it will become!
First, make sure you have time to enjoy your shopping adventure. Remember, this is self-care! Start by having a healthy snack or meal. You never, ever want to shop hungry!
Then, begin by shopping the produce section. Buy 5 things that are familiar to you and one thing that is not. You have a smart phone. Right there, in the produce section, Google a recipe. That way you can be prepared with all the ingredients you need to cook your new veggie or fruit.
Next, explore your staples. Pick two or three of the items that you buy often and see if there is a healthier alternative out there. If you always buy a pack of chips, great. Read the label on your regular brand as well as on a couple of other brands. Does one brand have less fat? More Fiber? More protein? Pick the healthiest alternative. Same with healthy foods. Not all yogurt is created equal! Read the labels, compare, learn and have some fun in the process.
Lastly, as you shop, think of ways you’d like to treat yourself. Many of us use food as a treat, and that creates some really terrible habits! As you explore the grocery, be on the lookout for non-food treats. Peruse the book and magazine section. Look at the bath and beauty section. Lavender Epsom salts are a low-cost treat for your bath. Are there any flowers or plants that catch your eye? Balloons, cards, pretty napkins, cute stickie-notes or pens make a nice treat too. Your job, every time you shop, is to find, and treat yourself, to something deliciously wonderful that is NOT something to eat!
H – Happy Thoughts                                       s
This is so simple, yet so difficult. Choose happy thoughts. Yes, even if your in-laws are driving you crazy. Even if you despise work functions and holiday cheer. Choose to be happy. The holidays will get here whether you like it or not. Parties will be thrown, money will be spent, and people will pressure you to do or to be different than you are. You can fight the season, guaranteeing your misery, or you can flow with the season and at least be peaceful.
Choosing happy thoughts means making the best of what is. Your in laws are who they are and being irritated and disgusted won’t change them. Choose to think happy or at least neutral thoughts about them. You will spend more than you want to spend. Choose to focus on how happy the receivers of your gifts will feel. Focus on the positive; the thrill of giving, the joy of having a first-world budget in the first place. Whatever you hate, whatever irritates you, choose happy or neutral thoughts and feel the stress roll off of your back.
You are in control of your mind, it does not control you. Choose your thoughts wisely.
I – Increase your heart rate
Not only does increasing your heart rate burn more calories, allow you to take deeper breaths and think more clearly, but also keeps you warm! Whenever you are cold, don’t grab for a blanket or sweater. Do something physical instead! Focus on large muscles, like your legs and core, and in no time flat, you will be toasty warm.
Sun salutations, walking up several flights of stairs, even a few jumping jacks or squats will do it! Bonus points for burpies! My YouTube Channel, listed above under E will have videos of easy ways to increase your heart rate! Check it out!
J – Joint Circle
As simple as it is, joint circles are one of the easiest things we can to do to increase our comfort and prevent accidents and injuries. Each joint has bursa sacs nearby, that secrete fluid that is designed to lubricate the joint. Just like the Tin Man, lubricated joints feel better and move better. Before getting out of bed in the morning, take a few seconds to circle your joints! Ankle circles, wrist circles, knee, hip shoulder, elbow and even gently move your neck by looking left, right, up and down.
K – Know Your Limits
Yes, this applies to alcohol, but it also applies to everything else too. Sending out Christmas cards is not required. If you can’t handle one more thing, then don’t. It’s better to calmly back out in advance, than to attend an event, act grouchy, and end up embarrassed by your behavior. Making amends is always more difficult than preventing the situation in the first place.
L – Love Yourself
Following the over indulgent holiday season comes… New Year’s Resolutions! Oh boy! A built in excuse to beat ourselves up over how terrible and out of control we’ve been the past couple of months. This is NOT healthy OR effective.
If you were taking care of children or animals or anyone else that you loved, how would you treat them? This is exactly how you should treat yourself – with love! If you have been eating terribly, don’t punish yourself, declare that it’s all over now or punish yourself by going on some ridiculous diet. Nurture yourself! Read, take a bath, use sparkly lotion, buy flowers or a candle for your house, watch a movie, call a friend, journal, take a walk, sit in a coffee shop and people watch. Consider taking a day off and doing something you want to do, not something you need to do.
Silly as it sounds, in the summer I nurture myself with smoothies, and in the winter I nurture myself with soup! Both are easy ways to stay warm, healthy and nourished. Of course you can follow recipes if you’d like to, but I simply use broth, and then any and all left over veggies I have in my fridge. I even use canned or frozen veggies if that’s all that I’ve got. Add some pasta, rice or chopped up meats, stick in the crock pot and voila! Dinner is served.
M – Meditation
Umm-humm. Do this. I cannot say it enough. Meditate. Let’s get clear right now. Meditation changes everything, period. Also, meditation is not about having an empty mind! I teach meditation, and without fail, people come in and say, “I tried meditation, but I can’t empty my mind. I can’t stop thinking!” EXACTLY! If you stop thinking it means you are dead! Meditation is not about having an empty mind! It’s about managing your mind. Reach out if you need help or schedule a session with me and several of your friends or family members. What an awesome way to connect, ground and get centered for the holidays. We can meet in person or via Skype. It all works!
Feeling too busy for even that? Check out my guided meditation downloads. These are truly stunning, because they have custom music and were recorded on super-amazing equipment! http://www.pyramidfusion.com/shop
N + O= No
Yes. This. Just say no. Unless you are excited about something, you should probably not do it. Parties, decorations, foods, who should be invited or what you should say or wear or do. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you don’t want to do it, don’t. And remember, you do not need to explain why you are saying no!
P – Posture
This is so huge I can’t even emphasize it enough. We have terrible posture and it creates a myriad of physical, emotional and mental problems. Seriously. Our entire modern-day society reinforces bad posture and we are all paying the price.
Let’s start from the beginning. We are skeletons. Our bones are strung together by ligaments, tendons and muscles, which are soft tissues. The goal is to keep our bones stacked, as perfectly as possible in order to minimize stress, tension and pulling on our soft tissues. When we stick our head forward, we put an enormous amount of strain on our neck, shoulder and back muscles, ligaments and tendons. Then the rest of the body is forced to compensate for the misalignment of the head. Sway back is exacerbated, which messes up our hips. Which messes up our knees. Which messes up our feet. Our entire body is one giant kinetic chain, and everything impacts something else.
Here is an exercise to do several times a day that will help correct postural misalignments:
Think of yourself as a skeleton, without ligaments, tendons, muscles or bones. Like a giant Jenga game, how would you have to stack your bones in order to keep them from toppling over? Left to right, front to back, stack your bones from the bottom to the top, making whatever adjustments necessary to keep your bones in place.
No time to do that? Put your knees over your ankles, your hips over your knees, your shoulders over your hips and your ears over your shoulders. Crown of the head flat against the ceiling and jaw parallel to the floor. Ta-da!
Q – Quiet time
Seriously. Remember kindergarten? Quiet time helps us to relax, center and get grounded in ourselves and our day. TV is not quiet time. Listening to the radio is not quiet time. Talking on the phone or to friends is not quiet time. Quiet time IS quiet time!
Our brains have a limited capacity to process information. It has nothing to do with intelligence or strength, when our brains are full, they are full and they either need to dump out that which is not deemed important, or they simply quit processing any further incoming material.
Have you ever completely forgotten to do something? Have you ever sat there and listened to someone tell you something, and had no idea what they said to you five minutes later? Your brain was full.
The Holidays provide a lot of extra stimulation. In terms of visuals, decorations and lights are stimulating on the brain and processing those extra sites takes brain power. Auditorily, listening to Christmas music everywhere and extra laughter and discussion, being at more events, having family stay with you, everything adds up to more. More sites, more sounds, more smells, more parties, more luncheons more things to keep track of. And it leads to overload.
The only way to combat overload is to provide yourself with sensory deprivation. Which is silence. Ideally, you should spend at least three to five minutes a day in a totally quiet, softly lit space, just being.
TV, music, talking, reading, all the things we normally do to unwind merely add more stimulation to your already over-stimulated mind. Just. Stop.
R – Recipes
Have a couple of go-to recipes on hand for the next couple of months. By memorizing a few recipes, and always keeping those ingredients on hand, you will always be prepared for a meal. You will be much less likely to make bad choices or to default to eating out. Even if you eat them weekly, it’s only for the season!
I’m attaching my favorite Holiday Crockpot Clean Eating Plan to this email!
S – Snacks.
Prepare snacks on the weekend and carry them with you wherever you go. I ALWAYS have healthy granola-type bars stashed away in my glove box, purse and gym bag. Having snacks on hand means you can keep your energy up and your blood sugar stable. It also saves money because you don’t need to buy food on the go, and the snacks you pack are much healthier than any on-the-go options that are available from snack machines or fast-food restaurants.
T – Tupperware.
It sounds silly, but invest I a few pieces of Tupperware, or any other Tupperware-type of containers. Always keep a Tupperware in your car and/or your bag. Keep an empty Tupperware by your keys or your wallet, and whenever you leave the house, grab your Tupperware.
Why? Because every time you go out to eat, I want you to take half of your meal, and put it in your Tupperware. No matter what! Snap it up, and put it away. Voila! You have just created two healthy-sized potions and you have saved the planet by not using Styrofoam!
U – Undergarments.
Yes, I hope you giggled! I know we need to love ourselves exactly as we are, however, there’s no better motivation than seeing ourselves as we wish we were. Wearing Spanx, and other such undergarments, can give us the visual reminder of what we can and will look like when we drop weight and firm up. Additionally, they compress the stomach, reminding us not to overindulge!
That said, they do compress the stomach, intestines, liver, etc. which inhibits digestion and be very dangerous over time. I do not recommend tight lacing, waist shapers or wearing any type of corset or other compression garments overnight or for an extended period of time ever. Can the make the waist look smaller? Yes, but only because they weaken the core muscles! Trust me. Long term back pain and organ damage is not worth it! Do it the healthy way, with diet and exercise!
V – Vitamins.
Whether or not you routinely take vitamins, now is the time to invest in a good multi vitamin. Vitamins ensure that any nutritional deficiencies are being met and keep your energy, strength and immunities up.
Sugar, fat and alcohol deplete your system. Vitamins are not a cure-all, but they will at least help keep you going until you get back on track.
W – Water.
I am not kidding. Drink your water! Water wakes you up, keeps you full, helps you think faster and makes your skin and hair look better. It also keeps you from bloating. Over the holidays you will probably eat foods that you are not used to eating. Which means, that you may have a tendency to bloat. Drinking water helps with digestion, but it also keeps the bloating away, helping you to look your best in your Holiday dress!
Not sure how much to drink? Take your body weight, divide it by two. Drink that many ounces of water a day.
TIP: To make sure you are getting it right, find a water bottle or picture and measure. Once you know how much you need, it will be much easier to stay on track.
A Nalgene bottle is 32 oz. I weight 130 lbs. which means I need to drink 64 oz. of water, or two Nalgene bottles per day. Every morning I fill up my bottle and I take it with me wherever I go. I make sure that I’ve drunk one bottle by lunch time. Then I refill, and make sure I’m done with that bottle by the end of the day.
X – Xanax, or relieving Holiday anxiety without drugs.
Alternative 1. Rhodiola rosea is one of the best alternatives to Xanax. It’s a powerful adaptogen that helps the brain adapt to stress. Meaning that this supplement can lower (or heighten) the bodies level of cortisol depending on what you need.
Alternative 2. N-A-C (N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine) is a powerful antioxidant amino acid and precursor to glutathione that can help sufferers of anxiety and ADHD. N-A-C lowers oxidative stress, detoxifies the liver and reduces anxiety symptoms.
Alternative 3. Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogen that helps the brain adapt to chronic stress, and overcome anxiety symptoms. It has also been shown to produce hormone-balancing and anti-depressant benefits.
Natural Alternative 4. L-Theanine is found in green tea, and can instantly make you feel much more at ease. It helps with motivation, getting and staying focused, and with racing thoughts or monkey mind.
Alternative 5PharmaGABA-250 is the only natural source of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) available, and, medical professionals agree that supplementing with GABA once or twice a day is an excellent way to naturally relax the brain.
Alternative 6. Magnesium is amazing for sleep, cardiovascular health, athletic performance, and of course – anxiety. It makes your brain feel a little bit soft, calm and comfortable. It’s a truly amazing natural mineral that just about anyone can benefit from. It’s also worth noting that magnesium deficiency is a major problem across the United States. So, you may want to take magnesium just for the sake of your general health.
Alternative 7. 5-HTP acts as a precursor to serotonin, and, serotonin is one of the most important brain chemicals, as it plays a major role in your mood and happiness level. Some studies have shown that having a serotonin deficiency may lead to problems related to anxiety and depression.
Alternative 8. Probiotics are useful to cleanse the gut and anxiety symptoms. The gut is linked to your mood and the emotions.
As with any supplement, always check with your doctor!
Y – Yoga!
Yoga means “yoke” and it’s designed to yoke together the mind and the body. Linking the breath with the movement provides for a moving meditation that will tone the body, quiet the mind and reduce stress.
Z – Zzzzzzzz!
Do your darnedest to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. When you are rested, you make better decisions, you have more natural energy and you are less likely to over-indulge in caffeine, sugar and alcohol.
Trouble sleeping? Melatonin works wonders, as does a hot bath with lavender salts or oils.
Like this guide? Join the Facebook Group, “FLAUNT! Flock” for more ways to SPARKLE this Holiday Season!

Back to School Learning For the Rest of Our Lives

When we think of school we tend to think of kids going back to school, whether it’s elementary, middle, high school or even college, the phrase. “Back to School” provokes images of backpacks, yellow school buses and red apples for teachers. Although I’ve never really know a teacher who wanted an apple…

But why not make back to school season something for all of us? There’s not a person alive who couldn’t benefit from a bit of learning or education in at least something! Whether it’s cooking or car repair, computer programming or finances, there’s always something we can learn! And as I’ve talked about in previous blog posts, learning is good for us! It keeps our brains young, it increases our self-confidence and self-worth, it keeps us engaged in the world, and it makes us more relevant as human beings.

Learning is Good for Our Brain, Our Health and Our Self-Esteem

Here’s why: If we want to stay healthy, happy and feel good about ourselves and our place in the world, we need to stay connected. Connected to other people individually, but also connected to society collectively, as a whole. It makes no difference what we think of the people around us, or what’s going on the world, whether we love it or hate it, unless we have updated knowledge and skills, we have zero chance of impacting or world or the people in it.

Additionally, whether we want to impact our world or not, if we want to stay happy, connected to our families and friends, we need to continue to update our knowledge. For instance, none of the population who is currently over 50, grew up with computers, cell phones or the internet. Although many of the people in the 50-70 age category are still working and have adapted to the use of computers and cell phones, many of the people in their 80s and 90s have not.

While you might be thinking, “Who cares? They don’t need to stress themselves out learning how to use cell phones or paying for expensive internet plans!” think how this population could benefit from things like Uber, Lyft or other ride sharing apps. People unable to drive would no longer be home-bound if they could use their smartphones. What advances might happen when you are in your 80s that you might want to take advantage of? Do you think it would be easier to learn how to use the tools slowly along the way, or to suddenly have to learn them when you have a need? I find slow learning over time to be much less stressful!

It Doesn’t Matter What we Learn… So Have Some FUN!

It doesn’t matter if it’s learning how to use a smart phone, learning a new computer program or learning a new skill, it behooves us all to continue to learn. Learning positively stimulates our brain, it makes us feel good about ourselves, and it makes our lives easier!

While the focus so far has been on technology, learning new things is not exclusive to technology! Cooking, crafts, knitting, crocheting, needle point or sewing are all new skills that can be learned. Card games such as bridge, learning to play chess, picking up a musical instrument or learning a foreign language all stimulate the brain in new and important ways.

And then there is the wide variety of interpersonal skills that we can all benefit from, such as learning how to actively listen, or to validate someone without agreeing with their position. And then there is all the personal stuff that we can learn! There is so much that we can learn about ourselves, our personalities, the way we think or process new information. We can literally learn so much, all the time!

And with such endless possibilities, why would we not continue learning, throughout our whole lives? It’s good for our brains, for our self-esteem, for our interpersonal relationships, for our professional relationships, and for the entire society in which we live.

So with that, what are you going to learn this back to school season?

FREE BONUS LEARNING MEDITATION:

Watch and Listen HERE!

Regardless of what you choose to learn this school year, I have a challenge for you! Actually, I have three challenges, and those three challenges all have to do with your best year in school. So, take a moment to remember your best school year, no matter if it was preschool or grad school. OK, now that you have that memory, begin, by tuning into the excitement of that year. Whether it was a new outfit, new shoes, the smell of new school supplies or a lunch box with your favorite super hero on it, take a moment and tune into all the possibilities that that year held. Endless possibilities of friends, food, field trips and learning.

I want you to see if you can bring back that sense of possibility into your life right now. What are you looking forward to? What exciting things might you expect? Who might you meet? What might you learn? If you are financially able, what small thing might you treat yourself to? If you don’t want to spend money, what fun, free thing can you treat yourself to? A movie on TV, a book at the library, a walk around the lake? What free groups are in your area that you might join? The world is filled with people, places and things, all for you to take advantage of and enjoy! Embrace the possibilities!

Second, tune into your favorite teacher and what he or she did to make you feel special. Was it the way he or she smiled at you? Gave you personalized attention, really heard you and understood your needs? What was it about this person that made them so special? What can you do emulate these qualities, or what qualities that you have that could make others feel like you did about your teacher? How can you be someone’s hero? Today is the day to be that superhero, to truly touch someone else’s life!

Lastly, take a moment to focus on content. This might sound silly, but I want you to think about some of the things you learned that year. Whether it was learning to multiply, divide, read music or diagram a sentence, what was some of the content that you enjoyed learning, and why? The world is literally filled with content! You can learn from books, from TV, from movies, from other people, from on-line classes, you name it, you can learn it. Craft stores have classes, community centers have classes, and nursing homes are filled with people who have skills they’d love to teach someone like you! Delve into the magical, never ending world of content, and see what lights you up. Music, language, board games, strategy, history, arts, crafts, movement, dance, what kind of content are you interested in learning? Seek something out today!

Guest Post, by Erin Green – Hidden Strength

June 22, 2015.

That is the day that I died, and a new me came to be. It was the first whole day of summer after the solstice, so I suppose it was only fitting for me to have a new beginning, but it wasn’t exactly my choice. However, it was a long time coming, and I needed a push to finally make a change. My push came with the change in the seasons.

What happened that day? Something that I never thought I would experience, that’s for sure, but before I get to that, I have to back up and tell the whole story for it to all make sense.

About four months earlier, I met Jordan. Jordan was, on the surface, a very quirky guy: quiet, shy and reserved, but most saw that as a good balance to me and my personality, which was usually outspoken, talkative and upfront, so to some, we made a good pair for this reason, and for the most part I agreed. Jordan and I were together often, and in the public eye we had a happy relationship together, but the truth, as always, is more complicated. What no one knew about our relationship was that both of us were slowly dying, but in different ways.

My first impression of Jordan was not a good one, because he seemed too scatterbrained for me, yet I agreed to meet with him a second time after that. I will forever wonder how my life would have ended up had I not texted him back after our first date like I originally wanted to, because I know things would not be the same. The second time I saw him, our interactions went far better. He had graciously bought me a bottle of wine, so I invited him into my apartment to drink it with me. A few hours and glasses of wine later, I woke up with him asleep next to me, and I wondered why I had let that happen, and that was the beginning of my descent.

Letting someone sleep over at your place after a fun date is usually not a big deal, but in this case, it was the night in which I forever gave up my freedom to sleep normally in my apartment as I knew it. After our night together, Jordan stuck around for another night, and then another. Because our romance was new I thought nothing of it, but when he wouldn’t leave after several nights in a row I began to wonder why not. He then revealed to me that he was homeless and had been staying with various people before me, and because of where he and I suddenly went he assumed it was okay to stay in my apartment. I was shocked, but felt very sympathetic and tried to help him out in any way I could, and if letting him stay with me at least a few nights a week was what I could do, I would. After all, I actually had a place of my own with no roommates, so why not?

In the weeks that followed, I hoped that Jordan’s situation would improve, but my thoughts turned out to be just wishful thinking, because it continuously got worse. Not only was he homeless, but he also was without a job, and not even bothering to look for one. Because he was living with a disability he got a small amount of SSI each month, but not enough to survive off. Before I knew it, he was in my apartment more often than not, living in my space and eating my food without permission. Whenever I bluntly told him that I needed my space, or that my food was not for his consumption, he would always give me a sad remark like, “Oh okay, I guess I’ll just go sleep in my car tonight then,” or “Well I don’t know where my next meal will come from,” playing with my emotions to get me to cave in and let him do as he pleased. This went on for weeks, weeks that became months, as I wondered what to do about my life and our relationship, or what shards of it remained.

As a result of Jordan taking up my space, time and resources, my life began to crumble, and those that were around me saw it, despite my trying to hide it. My friends didn’t see me as often, and when they did, he was always with me, because he claimed he always needed someone to “take care of him,” in his inept condition. My boss would tell me at work that I was constantly making mistakes, and that the quality of my work had gone down, and looking back I’m amazed that I never got fired because I was so distracted all the time. Jordan had begun to consume every aspect of my life, and I wasn’t really getting anything in return. When I wanted to speak out about things that I cared about, he would often shut down my feelings, because he deemed his to be more important, due to his disability, financial situation, etc. My problems like my finances didn’t feel like they were entirely mine anymore, because he always had something to say about them, since after all, his life was “worse” than mine, so what right did I have to complain. This entire time I never had any nerve or sense to tell him that enough was enough, that he couldn’t and wouldn’t control me anymore, and that he wasn’t allowed to mooch off of me anymore. Instead, I let myself give in and wither away, completely oblivious to the self-destruction going on inside my and his own mind.

By the time June rolled around, I somehow still wanted to stay with Jordan, but did not know in what capacity, because he still wouldn’t look for a job, and his health appeared to be declining at an alarming rate. He often claimed that he wasn’t able to work due to his chronic pain, and by the second week in June he suddenly took his invasion of my apartment to a new level. He said his pain had gotten so severe that he had to rest every day, which basically meant he lay in bed and rarely got up. When I left to go to work in the morning, he stayed in bed, and when I came home, he was there where I left him. It all just stressed me out even more, having basically a human lump just taking up space and air with me, and somewhere along the line I started to wonder if letting him go wasn’t the worst thing in the world. But where would he go in his condition? That, if nothing else, was what always stopped me when I considered making him leave.

When I was getting ready for a meeting at work one morning, I almost didn’t leave because he seemed like he was in bad shape, more so than usual. He urged me to go, because it was an important meeting, so I reluctantly went and wondered about why he was so silent and wanting me to go. It wasn’t until I came home a couple of hours later that I knew.

When I opened the door, I saw him curled up on “our” mattress, surrounded by empty pill jars with a Costco-sized bottle of whiskey next to him, a glass half-drunk right beside it. He had kept a box of fentanyl patches in the closet, one of his medications for his chronic pain, but this time he had covered his chest with them, and was lying in bed half-conscious as a result of it. Naturally, when I saw this I snatched the one bottle with pills still in it from his bedside and frantically dialed 911. He still had enough energy to attempt to swat the phone from my hand, but he was unsuccessful.

In the moments between then and when the EMTs arrived, I looked at him and asked him angrily, “Jordan, is this really how you want it to end? IS IT?!” He looked back with his bloodshot eyes and whispered, “Yes,” before slipping into unconsciousness. Moments later an ambulance arrived and removed him from my apartment, and once they were gone, I sat down and let it all sink in.

As I looked around the apartment, where all the damage had been done, where my space had been invaded and my home wrecked, empty jars of pills everywhere, I snapped out of it. For the first time in months, I put my own health and life first and said, this is too much. He had been ruining my life for too long, so it was time to end things.

While he was in the hospital, I visited him more than I probably should have, but I was still figuring out what to do. I knew I couldn’t continue going about things the way they had been going, but what was the best alternative?

Two days after he was admitted into the hospital, he was released, and I came to pick him up in his car. When we were alone, I was finally ready to say it, and I felt proud about my decision as well. I told him that I was glad he was alive, but he would not be allowed back in the apartment. He stubbornly asked me why, as if he didn’t already know what he had done to me. I explained to him, gently, that he had been disturbing my life and my space for too long, and I needed to take my life back, but he refused to listen and begged me to let him stay, as he was apparently thinking that he would just return to the apartment and live in it while I worked and paid for it as if nothing had happened. I shook my head in disgust and said no, more firmly than ever, because I had seen the error of my ways and knew I couldn’t do it anymore.

When we arrived back at my apartment, which I was ready to claim as mine again, I handed him the key to his car and explained that I had taken his key to the apartment back, which he would get back once I felt he had earned it. I hugged him and told him that I would talk to him tomorrow, but at that moment he had to leave. He reluctantly did so, and I sighed with relief once he was gone and I was alone in my place, because I had finally taken initiative and claimed my space back. Of course, it didn’t last.

As promised, I tried contacting Jordan the next morning, but I got no response. I tried texting him several times and left a voicemail or two, but still nothing. At first I thought maybe he was angry with me for telling him to leave, so I thought I’d give him some space, but when an entire day had passed and still nothing, I began to worry. I filed a missing person report and put out a search for him, and tried to go about things as they were planned. But in the back of my mind, I knew something wasn’t right.

This is where we come back to June 22, 2015.

After still hearing nothing from Jordan or the police, I felt that I had to take matters into my own hands. I went out walking that night, in search of Jordan or his car. I hadn’t thought to look in my own neighborhood, because it almost made too much sense, but I would find out that it didn’t.

I hadn’t even walked two whole blocks up the road before I found it, in a line of cars just like any of them, but the windows were fogged. My heart stopped and I had to turn away, because I knew what I would see if I looked inside the windows. I ran home and called 911 again, and this time the police showed up, and I took them to the street where the car was parked. I handed them the key, they unlocked it, and a few minutes later they made it official: Jordan was dead, as a result of an overdose. This time he had succeeded.

Now, you might think that when I first got the confirmation that he was dead, that I was saddened by this whole turn of events, which I was, but that wasn’t the strongest emotion I felt at that very moment. When I announced to the world on my Facebook page that Jordan was gone, I did play it off as a tragedy, which it was, but because no one really knew what he had done to me, I suppressed my true feelings, which I now regret.

Because of the abuse that he made me suffer through in the months leading up to it, my first thought when it was confirmed he was dead was, in fact, relief. Relief because finally, I was free. Free from his manipulations and hold on my emotions, free of the guilt he had placed upon me for just wanting to simply live my life and not be held down by him anymore, free to live my life as I wanted to really live. But, of course, I held that all inside, because why would I dare to feel relieved when a person so close to me takes his own life? Someone who I made the world believe truly cared for me?

I did feel guilty, and maybe a bit heartless, that I felt that way, so I buried those feelings, but as I write this, I’m ready to comfortably say that burying my feelings did not help me cope at all. They, in fact, just ate away at my conscience, because for so long I romanticized our relationship as one made in heaven, only to be cut short by him and his inner demons, when in reality it was truly hell on Earth, one that I was luckily able to escape from, but at a heavy price.

Like any abusive relationship, this one was difficult for me to feel like I could get out of it, because I was letting my feelings take the reins and steer me down a destructive path. I write this to let everyone know that while yes, Jordan was suffering in his mind, he was not the only one suffering, because he threw his depression onto me. Although he never physically harmed me, his manipulation of my emotions via his depression is still abuse, a form of it that I feel is never taken seriously enough. I didn’t want those who knew me to know that he abused me, because they were saddened by the fact that he was gone above all else. Although suicide is never a way to deal with anything, I still feel relief when I think about the fact that he is gone, and believe that there is a special place in hell for those who abuse others the way he did; I hope that’s where he is now. At first my depression resulting from this was because I thought that I could have done more to save him, and why didn’t I, but when I asked myself honestly, I realized that was all a lie, perhaps a knee-jerk reaction to what the world was telling me I should feel. When I was being honest with myself, however, I realized that my depression was stemming from the fact that I let him manipulate me so much before he died.

When I think about it that way, I have to ask myself, am I a cruel person for being happy that he’s dead? Is it wrong of me to feel no mercy for him at all, because he didn’t open up about his depression to me very much? I’ve asked myself these questions so many times – why didn’t I leave him, why did I let it get to that, and why wasn’t I able to wake myself up until I actually saw him trying to kill himself? I will always feel guilty about it, for myself and not for him, but perhaps this is a lesson to project to anyone else who is going through it.

To anyone going through an abusive situation, I want to first say, stop blaming yourself, and don’t hate yourself for it. There is always a way out of it, and you are strong enough to rise above it, whether you believe it or not. I am writing this because I want to tell you that I hope you see yourself as deserving better, and can follow your gut when you know something isn’t right. Also, if you think that I don’t feel guilty all the time because I got out of my situation rather easily, you are also very wrong. The reason why I feel that I have to write this and honor my true feelings is because, as a survivor of domestic abuse who has emerged to talk about it, I want others going through a possibly less “escapable” situation to know that I am with you, because had Jordan survived and never tried to kill himself, I may have still been in that horrible relationship to this day, being treated unfairly yet never leaving it.

Since Jordan’s death I have indeed become more independent and willing to stick up for myself, but unfortunately in real life it has often translated into isolation and being overly defensive, even aggressive, as a result of feeling unable to trust others again. Jordan was the last person that I really let my guard down to, and I know that my social life has suffered as a result of being betrayed the way I was. I also have naturally not been able to fare well in a romantic relationship since then, and when I entered my next relationship with a much better man, I wasn’t able to be a good person to him because abuse had become so normal to me. Even though he always had the best intentions and never did anything to hurt me purposefully, I felt that I needed to yell at him and inflict pain whenever possible, just because I could. One of my ways to deal with being abused was to become an abuser myself, and to become such a horrible person I don’t know was by far the worst repercussion of it all. I never wanted to harm possibly the greatest person I’ve ever known, but now all I hope is that the man that I harmed later on can forgive me, though I understand if he can’t.

My life has never been the same since June 22, 2015, and every year on that day I sit and reflect on what changed in my mind that night. There are still many ways in which I will never be truly happy with myself and my decisions, but I also want to believe that somewhere in there, there is a sliver of hope, because I’m still here to talk about it. I also want to believe that everyone will come to appreciate honesty as opposed to prescribed feelings about suicide and abuse, because it doesn’t always happen the same way. I did feel like a lot of my emotions that I showed when talking about Jordan before were forced, because I didn’t want to confuse or scare anyone with the truth, but I’m no longer afraid to be honest with everyone. I just hope that my honesty goes a long way, and that it is appreciated just as much as my “sympathy” for Jordan was.

To those of you who can relate to my story, at any point in time, just know that it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to release those negative emotions, or those that may not look as appropriate in the eyes of the world. Your feelings are yours, and you should never suppress them; however, don’t use your abuse as an excuse to be a horrible person to whoever tries to help you later on. I’m saying this to you and to myself, because that is the part I’m still learning, and hopefully one day I can find a happy medium in a relationship without abuse, from myself or my partner.

Though I no longer have any desire to talk about Jordan or reminisce about any times that I spent with him, I will say that there is one thing that I learned from him, and that is to share your feelings, which he never did. Just being honest with myself and my true feelings when looking back on this whole situation has made me feel like finally I can let it all go. Though it is impossible to completely forget June 22, 2015 and everything surrounding it, I’m hoping that in the years to come, I can go through this day and smile instead of cry, because while it was the day that my life as I knew it ended, it was also the day that I found the strength I always had but had forgotten about. I think we all have that kind of strength hidden in us, so have you found yours yet?

Why We Always Need Teachers, Gurus or Masters, No Matter How Much of an Expert We Are

Maybe you are like me. Maybe you are an expert at certain things, because you have done them for a long time, and because you are passionate about them. But did you know that even experts need teachers, gurus or masters to inspire them and help them grow? No matter how good we are at things, we always need someone there to guide or mentor us, so we can continue to evolve.

Why? Because it’s easy for us as humans to get stuck in a rut, even without realizing that we are stuck!

And when we get stuck, our brains get stuck too, hardening into habits, beliefs and attitudes that may not serve us as the world around us continues to evolve.

You Can Teach and Old Dog New Tricks But Without Practice, It’s Hard! (Literally)

The human brain is very adaptable. In infancy and childhood the brain is very malleable, and learning and assimilating new information is easy to do. As we age, our brains become more fixed, and change becomes more difficult. But this does not mean that change is impossible! This simply means that we need to make more of an effort to seek out opportunities for learning, opportunities for growth and expansion, in order to keep our brains functioning at their prime.

The brain is like a computer. The connections (thoughts, patterns, beliefs, habits) we use often, are stronger than the connections we use infrequently. This is why habits that we’ve had for decades are much harder to break than habits we’ve only recently acquired. When we are young, very few habits and patterns and connections have been set. When we are in school, learning sports, music, language, our brains are constantly being re-wired, challenged and re-arranged. So, like play-dough, our brains are shaped and reshaped again.

Once we settle down in our lives, we truly do begin to settle. We leave school, we leave some of our childhood hobbies behind because we have work or family obligations, we become good at our job, our relationships become set, and so does our brain. Like play-dough left out for too long without being manipulated, our brains begin to harden and form. Which can be good. Until it isn’t.

Unlike our hardened brains, the world continues to evolve. Technology changes, rules change, relationships change, children grow, parents age, and jobs are lost. Suddenly, we realize that we too need to adapt. But when we try to learn, we realize how hard it is! And we get frustrated and we want to quit!

But instead of quitting, all we need to do is add water and stir!

How Having a Teacher, Guru or Master Helps Us Adapt

No, our brains aren’t really hardened. With a little water and a little mixing, we can once again make our brains as malleable as they were when we were young. Keeping our brains flexible allows us to learn, grow, change and adapt to our circumstances at any age. How do we do this? Through working with a teacher, guru or master. Working with others keeps us fresh, keeps our brains soft and moldable and keeps us in the habit of learning, so whenever we are called upon to adapt; we can.

Whether it’s a teacher, who can teach us something that we don’t know, a guru who can walk us along a path that they themselves have walked, or a master, who can push us to a different level of understanding or skill, continuing to learn throughout our whole lives is vitally important. Not only because it’s fun to learn and expand, but because it helps us in the long run. Working with others allows us to continue to challenge ourselves, it creates new connections in our brains, and it keeps us flexible and easily adaptable. Working with others is like sprinkling water on our paly-dough. Which is a smart thing to do.

Because the world continues to change. And we need to be able to change with it. Comfortably.

Who’s Driving Your Life? True Power and the Fallacy of Force

We like to think of ourselves as being strong and capable, and for the most part, we are! But because we live in a world that makes us believe we can make, or force, things to happen, we lose touch with the fact that the only thing we can control is ourselves. No matter how much the world tells us otherwise, we cannot make anyone else do what we want. And paradoxically, our true power lies in the absence of force; in the realization that although we cannot control anything, but that we still need to stay at the wheel. We still need to steer our own course for our own benefit.

We all have dreams, goals and desires, and it’s perfectly acceptable to go after our dreams, to fight for our goals, and to pursue our desires. Often times, our hard work and dedication pays off, and we achieve exactly what it is we desires. Psychologically it’s good for us to plan, prepare and have projects that we are working on.

The problem lies in the fact that we have been conditioned to think that we have control. That we will be rewarded, in kind, for our hard work and dedication. That if we pay our dues, we will be allowed in the club. That life is fair, and that we deserve things. Our thinking becomes black-and-white. Most of us believe that either;

1) We have complete control over our lives, and if things aren’t turning out the way we want, we simply have to buckle down, work hard, and force it to happen; or

2) That we have no control over our lives, we are at the mercy of God/family/friends/our job/our health/or financial situation/our living situation/the world, and that no matter how much we try, our ship will never come in.

While neither of these extremes are accurate, most of us lock into one extreme or the other. Then, over time, we look for evidence that supports this belief. And as we find this evidence, it supports our belief as to how the world works, and our belief gets stronger. Eventually, the belief is so strong, that it becomes our world view, and it shapes the course of our life.

Bully Syndrome– My Way or the Highway

If we believe that we have the ability to force our will, or desires, or dreams onto others, then we turn our attention, our true power, away from ourselves. When we shift our focus or our power away from our self, and focus it on others, we engage in a type of coercion. Even when the relationship is mutual, whenever we are trying to get someone else to do something for us, we turn over our power to that other person. We become imbalanced, because all of our energy goes towards how we can make others fill us up. Instead of filling ourselves up, instead of creating for ourselves, we seek to have others do the work for us, on our behalf.

While it may sound appealing to have others do the work for us, in reality, it weakens us. It moves our power outside of ourselves and places our responsibility for our self on others. We become reliant on them, and without realizing it, we have turned the wheel over to them. We can holler out directions, but they are the ones who are truly in charge. We are no longer driving our own lives, and we are relegated to being a back-seat driver in our own existence.

It’s not My Fault! Excuses, Victim-hood and Taking Your Hands OFF The Wheel

Similarly, when we believe that we have no control over anyone or anything, we hand our will away just as much as when we try to control others. The perpetual victim correctly sees that they have no control over others. However, instead of doing what they can to influence or change themselves, instead of at least trying to drive, they simply take their hands off the wheel. They don’t drive, nor do they seek out other competent drives to assist them. They careen along, being knocked about by every bump, twist or turn. And life does get bumpy for the perpetual victim!

Moreover, the perpetual victim seems not to notice when good things happen, but only notices the bad. They create a self-fulfilling, poor me, belief system, and subconsciously they use the power that they do have, to perpetuate their dejected reality. They literally steer themselves into the ditch! So, although the victim may actually be more powerful than the bully, in that they understand that they cannot control others, they use the power that they do have, to create more victim-hood!

Defensive Driving, and Balancing Our Power In Life

The key to creating a healthy, successful life, lies in bridging the gap between these two extremes. In understanding that we are in charge of driving our own lives, and that although we may use others to assist us, that we are the only ones who can steer our own course. We have to take responsibility for the fact that sometimes we crash, and as crazy as it sounds, sometimes we crash intentionally. Whether it’s fear of failure, fear of success or some other deep, subconscious reason, sometimes we intentionally crash our own lives. And that’s okay. As long as we have awareness about what it is we have done, and we take responsibility for our choices and our actions, we will learn from our mistakes. We can correct our course.

We are all the bully and we are all the victim. We are in charge of our own life. Take your own wheel, and be mindful about who you allow to drive for you. The road may be bumpy or smooth, but it’s not the road’s fault. Take the wheel when the going gets rough, and be mindful of where you are steering.

Everyone crashes. It’s what you learn from those crashes that counts.

Jealousy, Envy & Why We Love to Watch Others Lose …and how to FLIP it around for our own benefit

Much of the rhetoric around the Superbowl consisted of football fans saying they “wanted the Eagles to win because they were tired of the Patriots winning.” OMG! How terrible is that?!?! In a culture that celebrates winning, and often times even encourages people to win at all costs, where does a statement like that come from, and psychologically, what does it mean? How can we want to win so badly, yet at the same time, condemn and despise those who do win routinely?

Even in our own lives, are we truly happy for our friends when they win a promotion or get a new car, or find a new love interest, or buy a new house? Are we honestly and completely thrilled for them, or are we a little bit envious too? What about when two of our friends really hit it off, leaving us in the dust? Jealous much?

At its core, jealousy and envy are nothing more than triggers, which have pointed out something within ourselves that we are trying not to acknowledge. But with a little bit of knowledge and understanding, we can tame the green-eyed monster and learn how to better ourselves thought the success of others.

The Difference Between Jealousy and Envy

Jealousy and envy are different! Jealousy involves three people and takes place when someone else is threatening to disrupt a situation between us and another person. Whether it’s a new hot-shot at work, coming in to woo our boss, another person flirting with our significant other or someone coming between us and our friends, jealousy involves some sort of triangulation.
Envy only involves two people. Envy is where something wonderful happens to someone else, and we have a hard time being happy for them. Either we want that thing to have happened to us instead, or we feel they didn’t deserve it, but we do! Envy is the experience of not being able to celebrate another’s good fortune because we have reverted to self, and to our desire to get what we want.

Jealousy Triggers and How to Overcome Them

We will not be provoked unless we feel threatened. Stop and re-read that sentence. We will not be provoked, unless we feel threatened in some way. Notice I didn’t say unless we are threatened. Actual threat doesn’t matter. What matters is our feeling of being threatened.

Which leads to the next questions; why do we feel threatened?

In the case of jealousy, it’s easy to put the blame on the third person, but really, the emotion is about us, not them. Whenever we perceive a third party as coming in and destabilizing our relationship, it means that we are afraid of change. It doesn’t matter if that change is good or bad, it only means that we will have to change, and to our subconscious mind, all change is perceived as a threat.

The best thing to do to manage jealousy is to first acknowledge that you are feeling jealous. Then, you can ask yourself who is making you jealous and why. Once you have the who and the why, ask yourself what you are going to do about it. Don’t lament the fact that change is on the horizon. Change is perpetually on the horizon! Instead, cycle through all the possible options you have, from the absurd to the rational, and begin figuring out what you are going to choose to do. Getting comfortable with your choice empowers you to lead the changes in your life, instead of getting swept up in a current of change.

For example, when a hot-shot comes in a work and threatens your position as a top producer, it means you will have to change. You can choose to learn from them, seek out other sources and to better yourself. Notice I did not say “beat them”. You may or may not beat them, and that’s not the point. The point is, you accept that change is inevitable and you embrace that change for yourself. You can choose to stay the same, to stay in your comfort zone, and learn how to come to terms with not being the top sales person. But the focus needs to stay on you and the fact that everything takes place in you, because of you, and not a result of the other person.

Done right, experiencing jealousy empowers you, because it allows you to take stock of, and to manage your life proactively!

Envy Triggers and How to Overcome Them

Whenever we see another person receive something that we want, it points out that which we find to be lacking in ourselves. It doesn’t matter if it’s something that is actually lacking in us or not, it’s our perception of lack that triggers us. It forces us to confront some sort of scarcity within us. Even if it’s just the perceived scarcity of something as elusive as good luck.

One of the best ways to manage envy, like jealousy, is to first acknowledge that the emotion is coming up. Then, ask yourself what you perceive to be missing from your own life? It doesn’t matter if it’s silly or not. Be honest with yourself. Next, ask yourself what you can do about it.

If you are envious of your best friend’s new relationship, even though you are happily married, what is that showing you? Could it be that date nights are lacking in your marriage? Could it be you are lacking a certain freshness and excitement that you wish you could recapture? Then make those changes! If you are envious that your best friend just had her first grandchild, and your kids claim they don’t want kids, what is that bringing up for you?

Although you can’t force other people to give you what you want, you can figure out the root cause of your desire for grandkids. Is it because you don’t feel you can retire unless there is a reason? Is it because you miss being with kids? Is it due to latent feelings of guilt that you weren’t a better parent, and you somehow made your children not want to parent? Is it simply the fact that you haven’t come to terms with your children’s decision, or perhaps you felt forced into having children? Whatever it is, once addressed, it allows you to make positive change in your life. It points out, that which is missing within, giving us the opportunity to acknowledge and address our own fears and needs.

Envy can also challenge us to acknowledge our own negative thinking habits, allowing us to become more positive people. For instance, in regards to the Superbowl, instead of negatively saying, “I want the Eagles to win because I’m sick of the Patriots winning.” flip it around to “I want the Eagles to win because they’ve never won before and I love sharing the love with teams who have never had that kind of an honor.”

Go deep within the feelings of both of those statements. They will be different!

What do they bring up for you, and what are you going to do about it?

Overcoming Disaster in Four Steps

Sh*t happens. Frequently! And the reason the phrase, “When it rains, it pours” exists, is because when bad stuff happens, it seems to happen all at the same time. And it stinks! But don’t despair! Even when the train goes waaaaay off the tracks, even when you think you will never get back on track, you can still recover, and even be happy in spite of (or maybe even because of) your bad luck.

All you need to do is step back, take a deep breath, and follow these four steps.

Step One: Find Gratitude Wherever You Can

This is not about being a Pollyanna or blindly quipping that “every cloud has a silver lining.” Finding gratitude is about noticing what’s good about your terrible situation and being grateful for those small blessings. Even when it seems callous or ridiculous to do so.

The day my grandma passed away was a terrible day, for obvious reasons. But, the timing of things was such that I was able to teach my workout class without a last minute scramble for a sub. The weather was wonderful, everyone was in town, and she passed away with quite a lot of dignity.

It was easy to overlook these small blessings, to focus on everything that was terrible and wrong with the situation, but that didn’t help. Finding gratitude did. Finding gratitude is a skill. The more you practice looking for it, the more things you will find to be grateful for. And the better, and luckier, you will feel.

Step Two: Put Your Situation in Perspective

Don’t you hate it when you are trying to tell your story, and the person you are talking to one-ups you and starts in telling you how their situation is much worse than yours? While that is one of the worst things another person can do to us, it’s an important thing to us to do for ourselves. We read the news. We watch TV. We know people who… and knowing these facts helps keep our own disaster in perspective.

Last week I experienced a major sewer-line disaster that will derail me financially for years. It has impacted my entire family and it has made for some uncomfortable and stressful situations. There are going to be serious and far-reaching consequences, but it will not impact my relationships. It will not diminish the joy I experience walking my dogs or reading my book. My finances will change, but I will still eat. I still have a home. In five years’ time, the impact will be gone.

Having perspective is similar to having gratitude, but it is more of an intellectual acknowledgement in one’s own head as to the proper scope of the disaster. Gratitude is more in the heart. Life moves on, no matter what, and having perspective means acknowledging this fact. Your life might not look how you planned, but still going to move ahead. Have perspective. See your situation intellectually and without attachment. Don’t allow yourself to miss what is, by focusing on what could have been.

Step Three: Realize What You Can Control and What You Can’t Control

You cannot control what happened to you, but you can control the result of your disaster and you can control your reaction. Ask yourself, “What can I do right now to make myself feel better?”

Right now I can make myself a cup of tea. Right now I can light a pretty candle, sit up tall, take a few breaths and smile. I can go upstairs, bush out my hair and put on some jewelry. Why? Because it will make me feel better. Nobody else is going to comfort us, so we might as well get busy making ourselves happy.

When things go wrong, it’s psychologically important to exert control over the things that we can. It keeps us out of victim mentality and it makes us feel more in control. Find what you can control and proactively choose your actions.

This extends to our actions with others as well. Take the lessons learned from your disaster and educate others through your loss. Your disaster has imbued you with wisdom. Spread the gift of this newfound wisdom to others. Some of the most beautiful things on earth have been the result of unspeakable disasters. You may have been handed some pretty sour lemons. What kind of lemonade are you going to make?

Step Four: Look for Deeper Meaning

What has your disaster taught you? Is this situation a metaphor for something else in your life? If everything happens for a reason, why did this happen to you? When I literally had sh*t burbling up from the sewer and filling my house, I started thinking about the metaphoric sh*t in my life. Was I was stuffing down too much sh*t? Did I need to clean out my sh*t? Did I need to deal with my sh*t? What was my deeper lesson here?

Whether my sewage explosion was truly a sign from the universe or not, in my mind, thinking about the deeper meaning of my disaster gives me control. I take myself out of victim mode and I regain control over my life. I see the steps I can take to reduce the amount of shi*t, both metaphoric and literal, that’s filling my life. I can be proactive, rather than reactive. And I feel better, knowing that I’m actually doing something to make things better.

Disasters happen. To all of us, all throughout our lives. Some are big, and some are small, but no matter what happens to you, you can recover. Not only that, you can thrive! All it takes is a little gratitude, a little perspective, knowing what you can and can’t control, acting instead of reacting, and looking for the deeper meaning.

In the words of Martin Luther King, “We Shall Overcome!” And overcome we shall!

How to Overcome a “Post Holiday” Hangover

Welcome to January! You know, that month where you realize that you did, in fact, gain too much weight over the holidays. And then, mid-month, when credit card statements come in the mail, you also realize that you spent way too money. And later on, near the end of the month, you realize that somehow, despite your best intentions, you have already blown your New Year’s Resolutions. In other words, by the end of the month, most of us feel some combination of being unhealthy, broke and depressed.

But don’t despair! No matter how bad you blew it over the holidays, (honestly!) you can still recover. All it takes is a little forgiveness, awareness, and wisdom. With these three simple steps, you can get back on track and have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018, no matter what transpired over the holidays!

Forgive Yourself

The first, and most important place to start, is in your own heart and soul. We all make mistakes. Yes, you may have drank too much, sent an embarrassing text, lost a job, spent too much money, quit working out, yelled at your sister; whatever. The first step is learning how to forgive yourself. Learning to love yourself, unconditionally.

It doesn’t matter what you did. You did it. It happened, and you have to deal with it, and yourself. Forgiveness is not about absolving oneself from guilt. Nor is it about making excuses or laughing something off. It’s about digging deep, realizing the full extent of your mistake and owing what happened. It’s about understanding the full impact of your actions, the consequences to yourself, and those around you.

It’s about identifying the emotions around your actions, feeling your shame, embarrassment, guilt; and dealing with those emotions. When we allow ourselves to feel and acknowledge our emotions, they guide us towards right action. Whether that means making amends, moving on or getting help for ourselves. Understanding our actions on an emotional as well as a cognitive level allows us to fully process and release our actions. Instead of stuffing our feelings down, we learn from them, and we grow healthier and wiser in the process.

Truly forgiving oneself is not easy. Nor can it be accomplished overnight. Forgiveness is a process that, like grief, has many stages. Keep working on it! The past cannot be undone. Put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. If they did what you did, would you forgive them? We tend to be much harder on ourselves than we are on others. Extend yourself the same courtesy.

Understand the Impact of Your Behavior on Others

Next, seek to understand your actions and the consequences of your actions. Not why you did what you did, but what you did Moving into the why’s tends to create blame. It doesn’t’ matter why you spent too much, reached out to your ex, yelled at your children, or got drunk. It only matters that you did.

What is the result of your behavior? What did it create in your life that wasn’t there before? What are the consequences? Not the potential consequences or the watered down consequences, but the actual consequences to yourself as well as to others? Make a list. Ask around. Be open to learning, to understanding the impact of your decisions.

Once again, put yourself in another person’s shoes. If someone had done this to you, what would you want them to do? Do that! Or quite simply, ask others what they would like you to do in order to make amends. Seek first to understand. Fix what you can fix. Let the rest go. It’s time to look forward, not back.

Rejoice in Choice

One of the biggest mistakes people make when moving ahead and creating positive changes in their lives is putting too much pressure on themselves. Dreaming big is wonderful but we need to be realistic too. Dreams are not accomplished overnight. Two steps forward, one step back is to be expected. Remember the age-old question – How do you eat an elephant? The answer is – One bite at a time!

Yes, you can get your finances back on track. You can lose the weight. You can be happy. But maybe not overnight. Every day we have multiple opportunities to choose. Choosing to make coffee at home instead of going out seems like a simple choice, but coupled with other small choices, it becomes monumental. Choose to smile, to hold doors open for others, to pack a healthy lunch. Choose to donate, swap or borrow instead of buy. Call your credit card company and ask to have your interest rate lowered. Read articles on managing debt. Take a walk. Go to the library and check out workout books or DVDs. Meditate. Pray. Choose kind words. Forgive others. Choose tolerance. Breathe in. Breathe out. Make every choice count.

Grant Yourself the Serenity to Accept the Things you Cannot Change, the Courage to Change the Things you Can, and the Wisdom to Know the Difference

Make a list of things you can control and all the things you can’t control. We can never truly control others, but we can always control ourselves. Yes, we may be fat, broke and miserable. Our life may indeed be filled with others who impact us negatively. We may be burdened by our own past actions. But we can’t control the past. We can only control ourselves in the future.

We can control each moment, each choice, exactly as it comes to us. Each moment. And the moment after that. And the moment after that. Our lives are lived one day at a time. Days are nothing but a collection of moments, a collection of choices. Choose wisely. Remain conscious. It’s the only way to change your life.

Forgive yourself. Witness and learn for your mistakes. Then choose again. The next moment is always there, presenting us with another opportunity to choose.

So what do you choose? Joy, happiness, prosperity and health are literally just a collection of moments away. Every moment is a choice, and every choice moves us towards our goal or away from it. Accept that which you cannot change, and have the courage to create a future that you can be proud of. Yes, we can all be healthy, happy and prosperous. It’s simply a matter of choice.

Just like eating the elephant, life isn’t lived all at once. Life is lived in a series of bite-sized moments. Choose each moment wisely.

Please Read “Peace, Love and Nudity” on Elephant Journal!

This blog post was picked up by Elephant Journal! Please visit Elephant Journal in order to read this post!

Every couple of months my friends and I head to a local steam bath. And no, I don’t mean spa. This particular steam bath was built in 1927 as a Jewish ritual bath, and pretty much nothing has changed since then. Even though swim suits are technically allowed, one would look, and feel, far more awkward wearing a swim suit than spending the day naked with twenty or so strange women. Women who have converged upon the steam bath like pilgrims seeking the holy land, experiencing healing that only nudity can provide.

For eons women have shared a sacred, naked sisterhood with each other. And unless we return to our ancient, unclothed roots, until we collectively embrace nudity, our culture will remain tormented and sick. We will stay rooted in the bonds of racism, sexism, ageism and intolerance. Paradoxically, we suffer from body-shame, eating disorders and depression, yet the obesity epidemic runs rampant. All because of our propensity to stay covered up, to hide, and to hold ourselves out as separate from each other.

 

Unity through Nudity

 

I am handed a small hand towel, a sheet and a locker key. Winding my way into the modest locker room, I feel my pretenses begin to drop. Women, either stark naked or wrapped toga-style in their sheets, lounge everywhere. Shoes off, phone off, jewelry off, clothes off, I feel more at ease, more myself, with every layer that I shed and my healing begins.

Entering the baths requires a shower, as all oils, lotions and makeup must washed off in order to keep the water clean. Long hair needs to be clipped up and pulled out of the face. Grabbing my small, white hand towel, I walk gingerly across the slippery floor, towards the shower, and into what feels like another dimension. Steam from the connecting steam room, the nearby hot-tub and the community-style showers fills the air and collects by the ceiling, which is painted light blue with fake clouds.

A sea of naked women surrounds me. They are old, young, thin, fat, short, tall, tattooed, scarred, powerful and frail. They speak in hushes tones and carry the same, simple, white hand towel. Free of makeup, hair, jewelry or accessories, everyone is equal. Women of every shape, size, color and description imaginable, quietly mill around in the haze. And it takes my breath away.

Nobody is rich or poor, married or single, gay or straight, conservative or liberal, stylish or simple. We are simply just human; honest and humble in our vulnerability. I am just another naked body with a white hand towel, wet hair clipped unflatteringly to my head. And it’s a beautiful thing. I no longer worry if my hair is falling or my mascara is streaking. Pulling my stomach in is pointless. The last remnants of the identity I have created around myself fall away and I become part of the naked mass. With nothing covering me, I have nothing to hide or to fear. I’m already naked; there’s nothing left to be taken. I am simply a part of the whole.

The Naked Maiden, Mother, and Crone

Sitting there, resting my head against the wall, watching the women in front of me, I am overcome with the great beauty of the aging process. All of us age. Yet we are not given access to the beauty of the process. We do not have the opportunity to look upon old bodies. We don’t even have the opportunity to look upon real, regular, raw bodies. In our culture, every time bodies are shown, they are either edited or sexualized. We are never given the opportunity to see bodies as they really are.

There is a woman who has had a mastectomy, whose chest looks like a molded, plastic baby doll. There are young women with firm, tight skin and tattoos. Some women’s stomachs are so stretched out from pregnancy that the skin on their bellies looks incongruous with the rest of their bodies. There are the heavy women who fill out their bodies, in beautiful, round curves and there are women who have folds of squishy, fat hanging from their bodies. The variety of breasts and nipples is indescribable. The array of pubic hair is astounding. The steam bath is where I learned that even pubic hair turns gray with age.

No wonder we are miserable. No wonder we have such shame in our bodies, our age and our size. What’s wrong with me? Why am I so ugly/fat/thin/tall/sort? is the constant refrain from women everywhere. But being at the steam bath, being naked with my friends, I know that the answer to all of these questions is quite simply, nothing. Nothing is wrong with any of us. At any age, at any weight or size, we are all OK. We just don’t see it, because we stay covered up.

Peace, Love and Nudity

Being naked is what makes us OK. Lounging in this vast mix of bodies, where nobody is remotely the same, allows me to gauge exactly who I am. Exactly where I need to be. I begin to appreciate my own folds, bulges and contours. I see how I used to be when I was younger, and where I’ll be in 5, 10, 15 and 20 years. And I’m grateful for that. I understand the process. My own body is interesting and beautiful in it’s it distinction. But covered up, I lose the opportunity to see or to know that. It is the ritual of being naked with others that allows this understanding of oneness.

At the end of the day we head back towards the locker rooms, towards our identities and lives. Back towards separation and covering up. Except that we can no longer be completely separate or hidden from each other. We have spent the day naked together, in sacred, communal space, and because of this, we understand that we are all one. We are all the maiden, the mother and the crone, all at the same time. And it is from this place of unclothed understanding that we can begin to heal.

To Those Who Did Not Say # MeToo

I’m not sure if was the firing of Harvey Weinstein that started the #metoo movement, but reading other people’s stories, seeing the antagonistic comments against those stories, and reflecting on my own experiences, made me realize how my own thought and beliefs about sexual assault and sexual harassment were as much as a part of the problem as the actual perpetrators were. This personal revelation made me realize that unless our society-radically changes the way it looks at sexual assault and sexual harassment, we will never be able to quell this epidemic.

And who am I to talk? After all, I haven’t been raped. I’m not one of them. I can’t write #metoo on my status.

As a former lawyer, and now Life Choreographer™ – my unique version of hypnotherapist and life coach – I’m well trained at listening to other people’s stories without judgment. It has always been my job to listen to people and to accept where they are, without question. Once I understand where a client is at, mentally, spiritually and emotionally, then I am capable of assisting them. Whether in the legal arena or the therapeutic arena, the first step is seeking to understand. Not agree necessarily, but to understand.
To understand another’s pain, whether or not I can relate to that pain, or whether or not I believe that pain is valid, is the necessary first step to creating change or finding a resolution.

When a client had a crippling fear of crossing bridges, I did not downplay that fear as irrational. I sought first to understand how debilitating that fear was.

When I had a client who compulsively gambled away his paychecks, I didn’t shame him. I sought first to understand his compulsion and crippling shame when he failed to control his addiction. When I had a morbidly obese client, I sought to understand his emotional baggage and self-loathing. I did not blame him for years of overeating or accusatorily ask him what he did to cause his weight gain. But that’s not what I did when I first hear about #metoo.

But maybe it’s because I’m not one of them. Maybe it’s because I can’t write #metoo on my status.

When I first heard about #metoo, what went through my mind was, “Great idea, but that’s not something I’m a part of. I’ve never been raped, my life has been blissfully trauma-free. I am the healer, not the victim, this is not me.” But as those words passed through my mind, for the first time, I heard how wrong they were. I suddenly say how my way of thinking was the problem. I saw how my thoughts encapsulated the beliefs of our society and how they were perpetuating the problem.

Just about every female I know has been sexually harassed. Not just harassed, like one might be harassed in some minor traffic altercation or for wearing an opposing team’s colors at a sporting event, but sexually harassed or intimidated specifically for being a woman. And we – the women out there who have been harassed so routinely that we become so used to this behavior that we don’t even see it as a problem – sit in blissful ignorance claiming that what we’ve been though is no big deal, then things desperately need to change.

I’m deeply supportive of women, but have nothing to share. I’m not one of them. I can’t write #metoo on my status.

My sexual harassment stories were always less than someone else’s. And because my stories were less than full-blown, violent rape, then in my mind, they weren’t relevant or valid. In my warped mind, because nothing had ended up happening, I hadn’t been assaulted. In my mind, unless actual, full-blown rape, with a police report and a trial happened, what had happened to me wasn’t important.

I know that not all rape is at gun point in a dark alley. I know that the vast majority of rape is not the stereotypical image of rape that our culture holds so dear. Yet my thoughts and behaviors reflected that it had to be just that, or the incident didn’t count. Unless it was real rape or real assault, it was commonplace and could be dismissed.

To be clear, I am not counting the numerous creeper, awkward, offensive-but-not-harmful experiences that I have faced in my life. We as humans are fallible, and we make mistakes and to me, those types of experiences are not sexual harassment. To me, a man putting his hand on my hip and whispering, “How married are you?” is a creep. And although I dislike it, I am not intimidated, harmed or fearful. I categorize that as stupid human behavior and I move on. As do many women. So no, don’t tell me horror stories about women who ruin men’s lives by crying “assault!” when all the man has done is asked her out on a date. Like the “How married are you!” man, these women are stupid, fallible humans. We all make mistakes. So let’s not talk about the anomalies, let’s talk about the majority.

The greater, societal problem lies in the fact that our culture still thinks that anything short of full-fledged, violent rape is not sexual assault. Apparently there is a piece of me that thinks this too, or I would have instantly realized that I am a part of the #metoo sisterhood as well.

Could I be one of them? Dare I write #metoo on my status?

I have had men surround me in parking lots while heckling me, and telling me what they wanted to do to me. I have men grab my shoulders and force-kiss me, grab my hand and put it on their secretly exposed penis, and hold me down as they dry-hump me. I’ve had men threaten to tell people that “I did something with them” unless I did, actually, do something with them. I had a boss ask me to meet him in the office at night, and then tell me, “Never mind” after I said my boyfriend was going to drive me. I’ve been offered special projects by professors, making class time unbearable. I have had men expose themselves and grab at my clothing and body. Yet, in my warped mind, I haven’t been sexually assaulted. Just because nothing ended up happening. It’s all magically washed away!

Dude! That bullet missed your head by a full inch! You weren’t actually killed. Let it go! I don’t understand why you are still so upset. You were stupid enough to be walking in that neighborhood after dark without a bullet-proof-vest. What were you thinking? Don’t you dare ruin that poor guys live by charging him with attempted murder. Nothing happened. Deal with it.

This is the kind of thinking that permeates society and keeps us trapped. As long as people think like I did, then there is no hope of quelling this epidemic. The statistics of one of five women being sexually assaulted will stay the same. Men will not learn. Women will not learn, and nothing will change. Until we acknowledge the fact that one can be being sexually assaulted or harassed and walk away, without a full-blown incident occurring, nothing will change. This is not how it works for any other crime except sexual assault or sexual harassment.

And men, maybe you too should be writing #metoo on your status. Maybe none of the men who harassed or intimidated me had any intention of doing anything more than what they did. Maybe they were all good people, making poor choices. But I didn’t know that. Seek first to understand. Understand that women don’t know that you are only joking. That you have no intention of taking it further, or of harming them for real. Maybe you should put #metoo on your status if you have ever inadvertently scared a woman like this.

Because until we all work together, and change our thinking, this epidemic will never change.

#metoo.

Spirit, Soul and Personality – Enlightenment After Death

“It’s weird. You know me better than people who have known me for years, but we’ve never met and we’ve only talked twice.”

As an angel reader and intuitive, I get comments like this a lot. But I still love explaining why this is the case. You see, when we meet people in the context of normal life, we meet as our personalities. We meet with some sort of an agenda. Either we are in a professional arena or a social setting. Often times we know what we are supposed to do or to be with that person. We need something from them, or we need to be something for them. Whether it’s to impress them with our intellect, our looks, or our abilities, meeting people is always somewhat about sales because every relationship is ultimately about some sort of transaction.

But during a reading, I don’t meet you as your personality. I meet you as your soul and as your energy. There are no preconceived notions about anything and there is nothing I want from you, or you from me, other than my impression of your energy, your soul. Which is why readings are such meaningful experiences for people.

How do Intuitive Readings Work?

Rarely do we have our own energy, our own soul reflected back to us in such a pure state, without judgment, comment or editing of any kind. And the experience can sometimes be jarring because it brings to light all that we are inside, all the truths that we keep hidden from the world, not because they are bad, but simply because we aren’t used to expressing in such a deep way. Which is why intuitive readings can be so valuable.

During a reading I will probably not tell you anything that you don’t already know. But I will express exactly what’s been rolling around in your own mind and heart for a very long time. Which is probably the reason why you sought a reading in the first place! And that can be eerie. Because I might say exactly what you are thinking but aren’t admitting to yourself. But it will be something that you needed to hear in order to process and move forward.

It’s kind of like mind-reading, only it isn’t. We all have thoughts that go through our brains but that we don’t say out loud or even acknowledge to ourselves. Even if these things aren’t said, they still create an energy that is tangible, or readable to people who perceive energy. So when you are thinking that you don’t really love your spouse, or are visualizing a life in a different part of the country, with a different job, that is the energy that I perceive and share back to you. Which can sometimes feel startling. Because sometimes you don’t even realize you are having these thoughts or feelings. But I do.

How Does Mediumship Work?

Mediumship, or communicating with deceased people, is similar. The soul is pure and doesn’t require a body, brain or a personality. During readings, whether the person being read is living or dead, it’s the energy of the soul that I tune into. Not the personality. I read their soul energy, which is separate and distinct from the body’s energy and transcends physical boundaries.

Death and Enlightenment

This is also why there is a certain amount of added clarity after a person crosses to the other side. Yes, personality is still there, but over time, personality takes a backseat to the soul. The deceased person becomes more their soul and less their personality.

No, death does not make a soul omniscient, instantly wise or suddenly enlightened, but it does allow for a higher perspective. Being unbound, or “lightened” from the body and brain and personality gives the soul room to take center stage. We become more ourselves, because we are unencumbered by that which is not us.

Life Lessons Post-Death

By way of example, this morning I was talking to my Grandmother who passed away three years ago. I asked her why she was sometimes so difficult to deal with in life. Why she sometimes cut off her nose to spite her face. This would not have been an appropriate question to ask her while she was alive nor would she have been able to answer it honestly because of the blocks from her brain and personality. But three years post-death she was able to give me a beautiful and complete answer from her soul.

Her marriage had not ended up the way she had wanted it to, but she was dedicated to the idea of the stability that marriage was supposed to bring. She kept alive a glimmer of hope that her husband would one day see her radiance, be humbled by all that she could offer in a relationship and fall hopelessly in love with her for choosing him above all the rest. She never received this adulation from him and she knew, on a soul level, that she was not supposed to point it out to him. His challenge was to see it on his own. Her challenge was to wait.

But this waiting was more painful than she wanted to endure and it interfered with her relationships with others. Frustration with his inability to see her for who she was, coupled with her inability to force him to see, caused her to over assert herself in other areas of life. She was attempting to balance out the deficiency in their relationship by forcing herself on others in the way she wished she could force herself on him. Which was perfect, in a twisted, karmic sort of a way.

The more she stood up for herself and demanded exactly what she thought she deserved from others, the more others backed away from her. All of us, her friends and family, saw this behavior as part of her personality, but failed to see what was really happening with her soul. The more difficult she became, the more frustrated others became with her, the less her husband thought of her, and the worse he treated her. The worse he treated her, the more she fiercely asserted herself, and a downhill cycle ensued. Which was sad, for everyone involved on a human, personality level.

But on a soul level we knew, and we didn’t judge ourselves as right or wrong, good or bad in any of this. Had we been operating on a soul level, so much would have been clarified and rectified. He would have known her need to be seen. We could have communicated her position to him if he hadn’t. It all would have been seen and understood by all of us. But we were all just personalities, brains and bodies and despite what we knew on a soul level, we still let our personalities rule and we perpetuated the cycle. Which was our collective lesson.

How Intuitive Readings Help the Living

Which is why intuitive readings or speaking with a medium is so valuable. Readings give us the opportunity to check in with our souls and our energy, to get our personalities and brains out of the way and to get perspective on whether or not we are living our highest good and best interest. Readings help break us out of our personality and our human desires, connecting us to something greater, and more en-lightened!

Reaching Your Breaking Point – How to Identify and Eliminate Stressors BEFORE They Break You

Have you heard the idiom, “It was the straw that broke the camel’s back?” This illustrates the point that while we can take a lot, at some point, we all reach our breaking point. Whether that means losing our temper, getting sick or sliding into depression, none of us want to reach our breaking point. Just like the camel, many of us are burdened slowly, adapting to our ever-increasing load, until one day when a seemingly innocuous little straw is placed on our back, and we break for what seems an insignificant reason.

The parable of the frog in pot of boiling water illustrates a similar point. Put a frog in a pot of boiling water and it will panic and struggle to get out. Put a frog in a pot of tepid water, slowly turn up the heat, and the frog will sit quietly, allowing itself to be cooked alive.

Our Emotional Warning System

As self-preserving organisms, we are equipped with our own built-in guidance system that allows us to identify when we are being pushed to our breaking point. When we experience feelings of overwhelm, frustration, anxiety or stress, it’s our body’s way of letting us know that we are reaching our breaking point.Contrary to what we may believe, it is not normal to experience chronic states of stress, overwhelm, frustration and anxiety. These emotions are danger signals, and it’s crucial for us to be aware of what these emotions are signaling, and to take action before we reach our breaking point. Before we find ourselves with broken backs. Before we find ourselves having been boiled alive.

Negative or stressful emotions are danger signals, signaling us that we need to make a change. If we don’t, we suffer the consequences. Even if we don’t have a full-blown breakdown, the resulting consequences can be mental problems, emotional outbursts, relationship problems, anger issues, impaired job performance, the inability to connect with others, a decreased capacity to feel joy, chronic inflammation, diabetes, unexplained pain, weight gain or worsening feelings of hopelessness.

Breakdown of the Emotional Guidance System and the Resulting Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

When we treat these emotional warning signals for what they are-signals warning us that we need to make changes – and then we make those changes – we recover. Our bodies, minds and spirits heal and we return to a natural, normal state of calm alertness. But when we fail to respond to these warning signals, when we keep-on keeping-on, fighting down panic and pushing ahead, we force our bodies to adapt in unhealthy ways. Forcing our bodies, minds and spirits to live in state of chronic hyper-stimulation and anxiety short-circuit all of our natural survival mechanisms. Like any machine forced to run beyond its capabilities, we eventually break down.

By forcing our bodies to integrate negative and stressful emotions into our everyday lives, without respite, we adapt. We forget what it’s like to feel peaceful, calm and centered. We believe it’s normal to live in a state of heightened anxiety, to feel stressed, overwhelmed and frustrated, and this becomes our new normal. A new baseline is set and suddenly we think we are feeling good when we are truly feeling stressed. We have changed our brains to believe that stress and anxiety are normal states of being, making our emotional warning system ineffective. By being stoic and brave we train ourselves to allow more negativity and stress, until one day – often without warning – we reach our breaking point. Our back breaks or we realize that we have been boiled alive.

Decreasing Stress and Anxiety in Four Steps

Fortunately, we can reverse course on this phenomenon and return our stress and anxiety baseline to a healthy, normal level. All it takes is self-awareness, dedication and a commitment to living in a life of joy, peace and harmony.

Step One

Identify a time when you felt calm, peaceful and centered. When you were alert, contented and neutral. Not elated, just neutral. A time when you simply felt good.

Step Two

Identify when you experience negative and stressful emotions. Don’t judge them or try to change them, just notice when you have them. Get a little notepad that you can carry with you. Keep it with your cell phone and every time you fiddle with your phone, write down how you feel mentally, physically and spiritually.

The notes might look something like this:
Irritated, pent-up, silent.
Frazzled, blob-like, vindictive.
Tired, sore, far-away.
Energetic, bouncy, filled with song.

Do not try to avoid having emotions, or deny what you are feeling, simply identify what you feel.

Step Three

Once you are aware of what you are feeling, consciously feel those emotions. Spend up to a minute consciously feeling the emotion that you have identified. How does this emotion feel in your head, your heart and your body? What is it like to be that emotion?

Step Four

After you have allowed your body, mind and spirit to experience these emotions, consciously return yourself to a place of neutrality. To a place of peace. Return to a neutral, natural, rational state of peace and then deal with whatever is causing your negative or stressful emotions, repeating the process of identifying and feeling any negative emotions that pop up in the process, and continuously and systematically returning yourself to a state of peace and neutrality.

Stress-Free Living

We are the camel. We have to unburden ourselves every time we are burdened or risk running out of capacity and breaking. We are also the frog. We have to stay aware of our surroundings, of what is happening to us at all times, or we will be boiled alive without our knowledge. Our emotions and feelings are the tools that allow us to stay alert, aware, safe and happy. All capacity is finite. We are not weak, we are human and we have limits. Let’s learn to honor those limits before it’s too late.

How to Recognize and Stop Self-Defeating Behaviors. Lessons From The Bird at My Window

For about three weeks now I’ve had a robin who throws himself at my foyer window. The foyer is two stories tall and the window is inaccessible from the ground floor. There are no window coverings. Every morning, and again in the afternoons, the bird sits in the tree outside the window and repeatedly throws himself against the glass.

At first we had no idea what he was doing, calling him our suicide bird, but then I learned that in mating season, birds are very territorial. He was seeing his reflection in the mirror as another bird, and he was simply trying to protect his territory.

If we turn both the upstairs hall light and the foyer light on, it sometimes dims his reflection enough so he quits, but not always. With a hypnotizing rhythm, he throws himself against the glass, returns to the branch, shakes himself off, and throws himself against the glass again. And again. Easily, for two hours every day.

I’m afraid he will hurt himself. I’m afraid that one day I’ll step out my front door and see his tiny bird body on the ground, neck broken. I go outside and talk to him, I go inside and jump around inside the window and try to scare him, but none of it does any good.

Then it dawned on me. Maybe this bird is here for me. Maybe this bird is here to teach me something that I’m not noticing in my own life.

Fighting Our Own Reflection

How many times have I fought something that wasn’t really there? How many times have I defended my territory against something that was an illusion? Could it be that there were times where I thought I was persevering, pushing ahead with strength and determination, while others were looking at me with pity, or even laughing at my folly?

Have others tried to get my attention, to let me know that I was fighting my own reflection, but I didn’t notice? Perhaps. I started thinking about the times where I’ve stood my ground, defended my territory.

It’s interesting, because as a female who wanted to please, and then as a mom, I have spent a lot of years learning how to stand up for myself. My instinct still is to take the short stick. I can handle it, I can make others happy, I don’t really care.

Whenever I open a loaf of bread, I dig out the two heels and I eat those first. Not because I like the heels, but because I know my family won’t eat the heels, and it’s easier to get the two heels out of the way first, so nobody else is stuck with the heels. Except me. Because I can take it. This is a fight I’d never take on. This is territory I would never defend. But what if I did?

The Choices I Willingly Make

If I didn’t eat the two heels, my family would keep them wrapped in the bread bag, stashed in the refrigerator forever, waiting until I ate them or threw them away. Which would drive me crazy. Seeing the uneaten heels of the bread would bring a multitude of bad thoughts to mind. Every time I’d open the refrigerator, I’d get irritated. If I said something, my family would probably say something simple, like, “Throw them out if you’re not going to eat them.”

But I don’t like wasting food, so I’d either have to eat them anyway or throw them away. But I couldn’t make someone else eat them. If I did nothing, eventually, my entire refrigerator would be stuffed with bread bags containing the two heels from each loaf. I’d be the one fighting myself, not liking anyone elses solutions, banging endlessly against my own reflection. Which is why I simple eat the two heels first. I avoid the whole scenario.

But bread is minor. What about the big things, where I feel strongly about defending my territory?

The Choices I Unwillingly Make

This last week, my husband did something that really upset me, yet he refused to apologize. I felt like I needed an apology, like the core of my being was wounded. Even though I know he made the mistake inadvertently, I still needed that apology. But he doesn’t apologize. Before we got married he told me that he doesn’t believe in apologizing. And he doesn’t. Nor will he. And I know that. But I still wanted it.

So now what? What happens when I feel like I need something, but I know I will not get what it is I want? Am I like the bird, constantly throwing myself against an immovable object? I must be, because I know I can’t win. Yet I still try. And I know that the only one who gets hurt in the process is me.

Fighting Others, or Fighting Myself

But I feel so strongly that I need to defend my core, my rights and my integrity that I keep fighting. To my own detriment, because what I’m really fighting is my own reflection, not my spouse.

I’m fighting my own history of putting myself last, of willingly taking the short end of stick, but I’m not fighting him. His behavior brings out my frustrations with me, and my inability to take what I need, to put myself first. I know where he stands, and I always have.

And so I finally see. There is no other bird there. It’s only just me.

Why “Living in the Moment” Doesn’t Always Work

I was in the lobby of Rockefeller Center in Manhattan when the secret of life was revealed to me. Contrary to what I’d been told, happiness, peace and prosperity did not come from living in the present. Happiness, peace and prosperity came from leaving the present moment, constantly shifting between the past and the future.

My chronic obsession with being present for everyone and everything in life had actually created a bigger issue, and as a consequence, I was even less present than I was before I became mindful. My over-presence resulted in a severe lack of presence.

Connecting to the Past and the Future

This sudden shift in perspective was due to a trompe d ‘oil (trick of the eye) mural on the Rockefeller Center ceiling by Jose Maria Sert, entitled Time. The key figure in this mural straddled a wide gulf with a heavy yoke over his neck. One foot on a pillar representing the past and one foot on a pillar representing the future, with the man perpetually balancing in the present.

The remarkable feature of this mural was that the man appeared to move as the viewer moved below him. When standing to the left of the man, he appeared to be looking to the future, his weight rooted firmly on his left leg, on the pillar representing the past. Moving towards the center, present point, his weight appeared to be evenly balanced on both pillars, poised between past and future. Moving to the right, the man began shifting his weight and his gaze, once again looking to the future and shifting his weight to his other leg, which, from this vantage point, was now in the past.

Walking back and forth under this mural two things became apparent. First, in order to stay perfectly balanced in the present moment, there can be no movement. Second, the crushing weight of the present moment was too heavy, even for this strong man, to hold up without the constant shifting of his weight. His movement was what gave him strength, flexibility and resiliency. He would not have survived rooted in the present.

The Fallacy that “Staying Present” Leads to Peace

This got me thinking about the push to live in the present moment, and how we might be taking that all wrong. Single-cell organisms live in the present moment. I’m pretty sure my dogs and cats spend quite a bit of time in the present moment. Babies and children spend much time in living in the present moment, but as they develop, they begin moving outside the present moment. The greater the level of intelligence, the greater the ability to move outside of the present moment, to reflect upon the past and to plan for the future. It is the ability to escape the ever-present present moment, that leads to happier, more productive and more peaceful lives. Not simply being present.

I once heard a former prisoner of war speak. Despite spending seven years in captivity, he was able to survive and eventually thrive, in part, based on his ability to continually shift between the past and the future in order to create a tolerable presence. I navigated natural childbirth based on my ability to shift between the past and the future, only touching down in the present moment momentarily.

Even in ordinary, everyday situations, my ability to continually shift forward and backwards over the present moment gives my life peace, meaning and continuity. Otherwise, like the amoeba, my life sometimes feels like nothing but a perpetual string of frustratingly disconnected present moments. My ability to escape the present, to continuously integrate the past and plan for the future, provides depth and richness, bringing me happiness, success and peace.

Attending my children’s school concerts, I move briefly into the future, mentally planning a quick store run in preparation for dinner. This makes my future more efficient and enjoyable. Flashing back to memories of my own high school concerts brings on a flood of warm memories, making my present more enjoyable and meaningful. I am present, listening to the music, watching my children, but I’m also teetering between past and future, using both to navigate and enrich my present.

Disconnecting from the Present Moment Preserves Sanity

For me, my problem is not my failure to stay present. The problem is my chronic obsession with being present for everyone everything in my life. My problem is my over presence.

Like most Americans, I am constantly bombarded with multiple texts, calls and people. With two children, four animals, a spouse, multiple friends and family members, as well as clients and coworkers, staying present is sometimes crushing. Staying present requires me to be in multiple places at once, which I cannot do. Nothing remains sacred. Life becomes a string of present moments where nothing gets accomplished, nothing is enjoyed and frustration and inefficiencies mount.

The crushing weight of being present for everything that life throws at me, in the exact moment that it happens, means I’m stuck standing still. Like the man in the painting, I get crushed by a burden that I cannot hold.

I stand there stoically and attentively, but no matter how present I am, I cannot answer incoming calls at the same time I am texting replies. I cannot check my Facebook messages at the same time I’m viewing a Snap Chat. I cannot listen to one child’s stories about the day and help the other one with homework. I cannot pet the dogs while feeding the cat.

Mindfully Unmindful

In order to stay sane, happy and productive, I need to escape from the ever-present present moment. I need to move between the past and the future, constantly shifting between them in order to make the present do-able.

For me, the secret of perpetual peace and happiness does not lie in living in the present moment. The secret of perpetual peace and happiness lies in my ability to straddle both the past and the present, continually shifting my weight between the two. Like Time, staying locked in the present moment is too much for me to hold. I remember my past. I look forward to my future, and I bring both of them with me wherever I go, using them both to organize and enjoy my time in the ever-present present.

The Mind/Body Connection of How Emotions Affect the Body

Our bodies and our minds are endlessly adaptable. There is quite literally an endless variety of adaptations that our bodies and our minds can make, allowing us to survive in even the harshest of mental or physical circumstances. Although this ability is useful in a wide variety of circumstances, it also the reason that emotions can get stuck in our bodies, negatively impacting our health as well as our mental well-being.

Physical and Emotional Traumas Both Have Physical Manifestations

When we break a leg, and are in a full leg cast for an extended period of time, our bodies adapt to the gait and manner of walking with one leg straight. Remove the cast, and for the first several days it’s difficult to walk normally again. Our physical body adapted. Without mirrors, physical therapy or the conscious desire to return to a normal gait, our limp might remain permanent, even though there is no physical reason to maintain the straight-legged gait.

The same is true with physical patterning with regard to emotion. Different emotions result in different physical posturing, and our body language changes depending on the emotions we are experiencing. Unlike a limp however, emotions are not tangible. We cannot simply look in a mirror and see where we are holding emotion in our bodies. Therefore, it can be difficult to identify and release the emotions that are unnecessarily being held in our bodies.

But just like the resulting limp from a broken leg, unnecessarily holding emotions in the body can be just as debilitating. Whether we call it baggage, triggers or psychological damage, emotional experiences impact our physical bodies. Since emotions cannot exist outside of the body, the only way to hold or express emotions, is through the body!

How Emotions Get Stuck in the Body

Think about your own body posturing when you are trying not to be noticed. Have you ever worn the wrong type of clothing to an event? Been awkwardly taller than those around you? Had a blouse that kept gaping open or a zipper that kept sliding down? Chances are, in an attempt to not be noticed, your body posturing changed. Perhaps you slouched, pulled your shoulders up and forward or hung and head. Maybe you presented the side of your body instead of meeting people head on, kept your arms crossed over your chest or literally tried to make your body compact, and smaller than it was.

Our feelings of embarrassment, nervousness, or our desire not to be noticed manifested in our bodies, in the form of tension in the shoulders, neck or chest, due to slouching, or pain in the knees, ankles or feet, due to slight squatting and keeping the body turned sideways. Our physicality reflected what was happening on an emotional level.

Over time, our bodies can get stuck in a variety of emotional holding patterns. Just like the limp from wearing as cast too long, we can slump, slouch, squat or protect out of habit, even when there is no longer an emotional reason to do so.

Emotional Holding Patterns That Cause Physical Symptoms

Take the case of long-time caregivers, who often have the tendency to slouch. Whether it’s from holding babies or from leaning over beds to check on patients, the emotions of nurturing, protecting, care and concern become synonymous with stooped posture. Over time, whenever those caregiver feel the same emotions they feel when checking on patients or children, the physical patterning of slouching follows suit. The emotions literally get stuck in the body’s muscles.

Although the caregiver might have enough strength and flexibility to physically stand up straight, on an emotional level, standing up straight is as emotionally threatening as asking that caregiver to stop feeling emotions of nurturing, care or concern.

How to Release Stuck Emotions From the Body

A good way to begin untangling the emotions from the body is to start noticing your body in a variety of situations. At home, at work, with friends or while you are alone. Notice how your body feels when you experience different emotions. Begin to see the correlation between your body’s posturing and your emotional state.

Notice what you feeling and where. Is it tension in the neck, back or shoulders? Is it a holding in your stomach or a gripping with your thighs? Do you have a pain in your foot, difficulty breathing, or clenching in your jaw or fists? Is there an obvious physical posture that is causing this tightness or sensation, such as slouching, leaning, gripping or holding?

Identifying both the emotion as well as the posture is the key. After identifying the emotion, analyze whether this emotion is currently present in your world today, possibly necessitating the physical posturing, or whether this patterning is a holdover from a past situation.

Sometimes simply recognizing holdover behavior is enough to release it. Other times, deeper psychological work may be necessary. In either event, one of the most effective ways to deal with physical patterning that is the result of an emotional issue, is to do this 30 second meditation.

Take a few deep breaths. As you are breathing, focus on feeling your body both physically as well as emotionally. Focus on aligning, straightening, expanding and opening your body. Feel like you are stacking your bones, one on top of the other, and that they are so perfectly balanced, you no longer need any muscular tension in order to keep your bones in place. Relax your muscles and breathe.

Focus on your emotional state. Gently let any stressful or negative emotions either float up, and out your body, or drain down, and out of your body. If you know the emotional trigger that caused your tension, affirm to yourself that that situation is in the past, and can no longer impacts you, or your body any longer. If you are not aware of your trigger, affirm for yourself that even though you are not aware of the root cause of your tension, you still unconditionally love and accept yourself. Affirm that from this point forward, you are no longer impacted by that, which in the past, caused you to hold tension or emotion in your physical body.

Take one more breath, imagining, visualizing or pretending that both your physical body and your emotions are uniting in a place of unity, peace, resilience and healthy harmony.

And so it is!

Kicking Bad Habits by Dehypnotizing Yourself

Waking Up From Everyday Brainwashing

Many people use hypnosis in order to overcome subconscious blocks and create positive change in their life. But sometimes, the faster, more efficient rout to change is learning how to becoming un-hypnotized, or dehypnotized in our everyday life. Learning how to wake, up, become conscious, and take steps to dehypnotize ourselves, is fast, easy and effective. And the resulting change can be profound!

We’ve probably all heard about subliminal messages, brainwashing, compulsion and mind control. To some degree, these phrases all describe what is simply; a hypnotic state. Contrary to popular belief, most of the everyday brainwashing that happening is not the result of some evil master-mind, potting to take over the world. Everyday brainwashing is simply the result of us living in a modern, busy, distracted and stressed-out society.

If you have a habit that you can’t seem to break, even though you really want to break it, you might not need therapy. Instead, you might need to learn how to dehypnotize yourself from your own brainwashing! You might simply need to wake up from a chronic state of hypnosis that has kept you locked into undesirable thoughts or behaviors.

How Brainwashing Works

Hypnosis is a natural state that we move into and out of about seven times a day. When we engage in any type of repetitive, or mindless activity, we tend to slip into a state of hypnosis. When we are confronted with too much stimulation, too rapid of speech, or too much conflicting information, we can also slip into a state of hypnosis. TV and radio advertising is specifically designed to induce a state of hypnosis. Religious services, bombastic political speech, repetitive exercises, mealtime and smoking breaks, also tend to put us into a state of hypnosis.
Hypnosis is not scary, evil mind control. Hypnosis is simply a state of increased suggestibility, where people are more likely to take action without critically analyzing that behavior. Although hypnosis cannot persuade us to do that which we would not otherwise do, it is highly effective in persuading us to do that which we normally would do. Hence, why it’s so easy to talk ourselves into continuing on with our own negative behaviors.

How Brainwashing Occurs

Think of everyday brainwashing like this. You are zoned out on the couch, watching TV, and a commercial for pizza comes on. The commercial has bright colors, close ups of a delicious looking pepperoni pizza, and a rapid-fire, extra-loud, announcer tells you all about the latest, act-fast deals. All the while, rhythmic music is coinciding with the rapidly changing visuals. That night, you decide to order pizza, even though you are trying to eat out less or lose five pounds.

As designed, the commercial put you into a state of hypnosis. It worked on the subconscious mind, and “suggested” that the pizza was really tasty, was a great price, and created an urgency to order it. Later in the day, when you ordered pizza, you were simply acting on the advertiser’s suggestions. You were not awake enough to critically think about the consequences of your decision, so you ordered a pizza, despite wanting to eat better and takeout less. This is what every day brainwashing looks like.

Failed Diets, Smoking and Being Stuck in Hypnosis

The same thing happens each and every time we sit down to eat a meal or smoke. Part of the reason that dieting and smoking-cessation is so difficult is because eating and smoking puts us into a state of hypnosis. We literally go out of our critical mind, and into a state of unconsciousness, almost every time we eat or smoke! We become lulled by the repetitive action of smoking, chewing, swallowing, using our utensils, cutting our food and timing when we take a drink. Our senses become overloaded with the sight, smell, taste and texture of our food or our cigarette, and bam, into a state of hypnosis we go!

Just like the pizza commercial example, we become highly suggestible to our own bad habits, and we eat, or smoke indiscriminately. Conscious thought is circumnavigated, and we are no longer aware of our sensations of fullness or our desire to get healthy or create positive change. Instead we eat whatever is in front of us or wander out for a smoke break, without critically analyzing what we are doing or why. Sometimes we are so out of it mentally, that later, we can’t even remember what we ate or how many cigarettes we had!

The solution is learning how to wake up. Learning how to dehypnotize ourselves and recognize when we are being brainwashed by our own bad habits.

How to Dehypnotize Yourself

There are several ways to go about learning how to wake up, remain conscious, or dehypnotize yourself. It’s easiest to begin with something that we do consistently, like eat meals, or smoke, so we have the opportunity to practice consistently.

Whenever we are confronted with behavior that we are trying to change, try counting yourself up, into a state of full, awakened consciousness. Begin by saying silently to yourself, or out loud if you are able, “Zero, one, two, three, four, five, eyes open, wide awake!” As you say it, do something physical that makes a sound, like clapping your hands, snapping your fingers, clicking your tongue or patting your thigh. Take a deep breath, and with a forceful exhale and consciously clear your mind and focus on being alert and present. You can repeat this whenever you sense that you are slipping back into a day-dreamy or disconnected state.

Changing up as many things as possible surrounding the activity we are trying to change is also useful. If you normally sit in a certain chair, or smoke in a certain location, move to a different chair or go to a less convenient place to smoke. Eating, or smoking, with your non-dominant hand is a fantastic way to stay conscious about our own behavior.

Put the phone down. Turn off the TV and concentrate on tasting the flavor, texture and temperature of every single bit. Swallow. Take a breath before taking another bite. Notice your hunger level. All of this keeps us awake, alert and out of a state of hypnosis.

Dehypnotizing Our Way Out of Bad Habits

It doesn’t matter if we are trying to quit smoking, eat less, not bite our nails, overcome stuttering, sleep better, study more effectively, declutter or meditate consistently. Learning to dehypnotize ourselves is a powerful and effective place to start.

Wake up! Get out from under your own brainwashing and see how clear you own life can be!

New Year’s Resolutions with Heart, Soul and Hypnosis

Sadly, making New Year’s Resolutions has become a superficial endeavor. Every year, millions of people resolve to “get in shape and lose weight.” Gym memberships spike for one month, and by February, everyone is back to their same old patterns. Year after year this cycle repeats, and opportunities for personal growth, enlightenment and soul-filled resolutions are lost.

We are multi-faceted beings of light and spirit and when we make decisions, we typically make them with the conscious portion of our brain based on what we think we should want or even what we think others expect us to want. In order for real, deep and abiding change to occur, it is essential that our minds, emotions and spirits all come into alignment with our resolution. Since the subconscious mind never lies, unless we ensure that our resolutions are made on both a conscious as well as a subconscious level, true change can never take place.

It is possible to break out of these dysfunctional cycles and connect to our core being, heal, commit, grow and evolve as we truly wish to evolve.

The first step is to identify our thoughts, beliefs and feelings about the change we are about to be making. Once we have identified what is holding us back, we will be able to commit to our resolutions consciously as well as subconsciously. While working with a skilled hypnotherapist can lead to rapid change, it is possible to do much of the work on your own.

How Does Hypnosis Work?

Hypnosis provides access to the subconscious portion of the mind, allowing us to consciously align the subconscious mind with the desires of the conscious mind. This means that we can quickly and efficiently learn and unlearn a variety of behaviors. Of course there is still work to be done in creating the new, desired pattern, but hypnosis makes it significantly easier.

The conscious mind is the logical, reasoning part of our brain that we make decisions with. It represents 11% of our mind’s power. The subconscious mind represents 88% of our mind’s power, so even if we firmly decide something with our conscious mind, unless we bring our subconscious mind into alignment with our conscious mind, it can be very difficult to be successful, because we have 88% of our mind blocking our efforts!

Finding Our Subconscious Blocks

The first step in successfully creating change is figuring out what subconscious blocks may be hindering us. Sadly, because they are subconscious, they tend to be difficult to find.

A way to begin exploring these blocks is to ask yourself the following questions:

• Can I imagine or visualize myself where I say that I want to be? Thirty pounds lighter, in a successful job, as a permanent ex-smoker? If not, how far can I get with my vision? What is scaring me?

• Is there anything in personal history or beliefs that runs counter to my resolution or desire? For example, was I raised in a traditional household where women did not work outside the home, or where divorce was a sin? Even if I don’t believe these things now, how they are still a part of my subconscious programming?

• Are there any stories I can share about bad things that happened to people who achieved what I want to achieve? For example, do I know someone who lost weight, but lost their marriage in the process?

• What am I gaining from my behavior? Do I like having to go out and smoke three times a day at work, breaking away from the stress of the work environment? Will I miss these breaks?

• All relationships change when one person in the relationship changes. How will my relationships change when I am successful with my resolution? Are there any other changes or impacts that I can foresee?

• How do I feel about the current behavior that I wish to change? For instance, how do I feel about being a smoker, or being overweight or underemployed? How do I think others feel about this behavior? How do I feel, about how I think others feel about my behavior?

• How does my resolution feel in my body?

• Does this resolution support my greater good?

This set of questions is designed to elicit insight about your thinking, beliefs and behavior, which are all related to subconscious blocks to success.

Releasing Subconscious Blocks

Sometimes, simply being aware of our subconscious blocks is all that it takes to release them and begin the process of change. Once we are aware of our thinking, beliefs and behavioral patterns, we can consciously create new patterns that serve all of our needs.

If we continue to smoke, because we enjoy fiddling with cigarettes and escaping the office stress by going out to smoke, then we can come up with solutions that meet our conscious need to quit smoking as well as our subconscious needs to fiddle and escape. We quit smoking, but we purchase a squishy ball to fidget with, and we set a timer on our phone and take a quick walk away from the office every few hours.

Successful Resolutions Take Time

All change is a process. All processes take time, and all processes consist of successes as well as failures. The key lies in continual improvement and insight over the long-haul, not necessarily in the short run. Working only with the conscious portion of our mind is not very effective, but when our entire mind is on board, we can’t help but succeed!

Predestination, Fate and God’s Will vs. Free-Will

One of the questions asked by humans throughout time is whether we have free-will and are in control of our own destiny, or if our lives are predestined by some higher authority and we have no choice except to live out what’s been planned for us. Whether we call it fate, God’s will or destiny, the question remains; are we in charge of our own lives?

Regardless of what we believe, when we are faced with challenging situations, or when we have big decisions to make in our lives, we want to feel like we are making the right decision. But maybe our decisions don’t matter all that much? Or maybe they do.

The Free-Will to Make Decisions

When challenges happen, people seek out the guidance of friends, counselors, religious leaders or even psychics or other types of intuitive readers. When we seek the advice of others, we are attempting to gain clarity on the future, learn from the experience of others, figure out what action we should take in the present and reassure ourselves that what we are about to do makes sense to someone besides our self.

As someone who does both Angel Readings as well as more traditional therapy, I have a unique perspective because I get to see the interplay between free-will and predestination. The way I see it, life is a beautiful combination of both free-will and destiny, with some decisions being impactful, some decisions having no bearing on the outcome of a life and some decisions veering us to an alternative, but equally correct, path.

Destiny

Think of predestination like this. Pick a generic story that everyone knows, maybe a fairy tale like The Three Bears. When everyone roughly knows the story line, it is possible for a group of actors to stand up and successfully act out the play. Sure, some things are going to get messed up, the story may go off track for a while, but since everyone knows the story, everyone will work to get it back on track whenever things fall apart.

At the end of the day it won’t matter if Goldilocks sat in the chair first, ate the porridge first or slept in the wrong bed. The story still gets told and everything that was crucial to the story line took place.

If we believe in destiny, or fate, then this is a good way to view our lives. We can think of our life as having a general structure, and we can see how there are a large number of small decisions that that really don’t impact the overall trajectory of our lives. Just like the actors above, We will be nudged back on track whenever we go too far off script.

Free-Will

Think of free-will like this. If you put a group of actors on a stage without a script or a story line, and ask them to act out a story, It will take everyone a while to figure out what is happening. Everyone has to work together until a common theme is established and agreed upon. If one person fails to get on board with the others, his actions alone cause random, unanticipated upheavals leading the story awry and forcing everyone else to adapt.

Whether these adaptations serve to bring the rogue actor back in line in or force the others to create an entirely new story line, at the end of the day, a story is still successfully told. And most importantly, sometimes the most brilliant and beautiful stories are the unanticipated ones, that are created out of something wholly unanticipated and unexpected.

If we believe in free-will, we may have more control over our life in some sense, but we are still subjected to the outside forces of others, and we still made to deal with many unanticipated situations, causing us to sometimes follow paths that are not of our choosing.

The Interplay between Free-Will and Destiny

No matter what we believe, it’s the combination of following the predestined story line and exercising our own free-will that makes life juicy, interesting and fun! Without both free-will and destiny, life is either be too try or too wild. Life is meant to be lived, and it’s the combination of conscious choices and happenstance that makes it worth living!

If we take “Job A” when “Job B” was the predestined better choice, all is not lost, we adapt! We work with each other to get back on track or we create a new and different track that is satisfying to everyone involved, and our story still gets told.

Making wrong decisions happens to everyone, and surprisingly, is not that big of a deal. As long as we stay present and involved, listening to our intuition and staying conscious, we cannot make a mistakes. Sure, our final story may be different than our original story, but whose to say this new conclusion wasn’t the predestined better choice to begin with?

Let Your Intuition be Your Guide

One of the keys to staying conscious is listening to our intuition. Our intuition is like an ever-present narrator, narrating our story, helping us stay on track and nudging us back in the right direction when things get too far off track. Sure, discussing our problems with friends or going to a counselor or intuitive is helpful, but we are all equipped with our own sense of intuition.

Intuitive Readings focus on the energy of a particular person or situation as it stands in the present moment. People incorrectly assume psychic readers are able to “see into the future” or “know” what is going to happen, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! All intuitive readers do is use their intuition to tune into your intuition and to tell you what you are feeling!

Truthfully, I feel like my job as an intuitive as well as a more traditional therapist is ask the right questions and to reflect back to my clients confirm what they already know.

As complicated as it may sound, understanding the interplay of free-will and destiny is pretty simple. Let your internal narrator guide you along, try, listen, feel, remain conscious and reach out for help whenever you need it. But ultimately, trust your own heart and remember that no matter what happens, the story of your life will still reach a successful conclusion, and it doesn’t matter if that conclusion was predetermined or self created.

All you have to do is do what Goldilocks did keep on trying things until you find thing that fit “Just right!”

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