Shifting With Grace (Or, “Let’s not be such control freaks”)

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As spiritual beings, we abhor stagnation – our lives are all about shifting and learning and growing. Of course, on a entirely human level, we often crave control, stability, a sense of security and some degree of predictability. I mean, change is scary, right? What if you, *gasp*, DIED?!?  No wonder so many of us have a white-knuckle grip on our need for control.

It stands to reason, then, if you’re experiencing a bout of significant shifting and growing, you might feel off-kilter, scared or just plain stressed out.  These spiritual changes often come disguised as significant life events like losing a job, ending a relationship, moving or incurring unexpected large expenses.  These events aren’t the Universe knocking us down and taking our lunch money, but are designed to get our attention and move us toward a new path.  For some of us, we may get these “plot twists” every few years or so.  For others, we may get them every other month.  Of course, this can be overwhelming and exhausting if you’re viewing them as punishment.  However, it is important to remember that lessons or shifts are neutral from a Universal perspective.  That is, the Universe doesn’t assign “good” or “bad” connotation to lessons as they are simply the vehicle to our growth.  It is we humans who view things like losing a job or breaking up with a significant other as “bad” and winning the lottery as “good.”  The Universe doesn’t attach such labels.  

So if these things aren’t “good” or “bad” then why do we feel such stress when the unexpected happens?  This goes back to our human, ego-driven need to be stable, secure and ultimately have control over our immediate circumstances.  But, guess what… the need for control is an illusion and a human construct that does us more harm than good.  We fight wars out of our need for control.  We lose sleep over our need for control.  We fight with loved ones over our need for control.  Control is diametrically opposed to the Universal constants of growing and shifting.  

As difficult as it can sometimes be, when we find ourselves in the thick of it, we must take a step back and look at the larger picture.  When something ends, the Universe rushes in to fill the vacuum; allow this to happen.  Don’t hang on to the old, stagnant patterns.  Allow these things to flow.  Granted, this is easy when the flow feels more like a lazy river on a summer day, than an intense roller coaster ride.  But hey, roller coasters are fun, too. Remember, it’s all about perspective. So let go, and throw your hands up in the air; and if it gets a little intense, it’s ok to scream your head off.  Just remember, that no matter what, you’re always going forward. 

Love, anyway

love-anyway-shevon-johnsonFor those of you who read this column regularly, you know that I write and speak from a deeply personal place.  It is my sincerest wish that I can translate the lessons that I have been given in my life into a medium that can help you.  At least, that’s the plan.  I often make an example out myself unintentionally.  Recently, in my day job, I rescued a cat that had been stuck in a wood pile for several days.  The little creature repaid my kindness by nearly biting through my finger.  After ten days of guy-wrenching antibiotics, the lesson to the men on my team: Don’t be like me; wear thicker gloves.  (The cat’s doing fine, by the way, and has found a forever home… )

And other times, I’ll share here a particular struggle in which I find myself.  Lately, I’ve found myself in a Battle Royale with my own fear.  More specifically, with a deeply rooted fear of intimacy and of trust with another human being.  I’ve been standing on the precipice of something great and truly amazing – the chance for an exceptional life.  And yet, I can’t dive in.  I can’t accept what’s in front of me.  Of course, this relies on the participation of a partner and the trust that I will be loved and cared for unconditionally.  But therein lies the rub, I suppose.  I can’t accept that even on the outside chance this ends up hurting like hell, in the meantime, it will be extraordinary and well worth the gamble.  For you regular readers, you know that I preach that Fear is the opposite of Love.  In Fear there is no Love, and in Love there is no Fear.  Only the ones who have stood here on the edge before know that making this one particular leap is the most terrifying thing that you can ever do – that proverbial “Leap of Faith.”

Upon finding myself in this dilemma, I did what (I’m sure) everyone does: I came home, poured myself a glass of chianti and cried my eyes out.  I sobbed and begged for guidance: What do I DO?  What CAN I do?  Why the fuck am I so petrified?  As I sat there in a state of abject pain, The Voice broke through.  It’s message: “Love, anyway.”  Well, I have to say that that stopped me cold.  The Voice was right, of course (as always… it’s so smug sometimes…).  What else is there to do but love?  What other answer is there?  If I didn’t want to be scared anymore, isn’t the most obvious answer to just love what I was scared of?

I don’t have to tell you that this is easier said than done.  You probably also won’t be surprised that I haven’t made my leap of faith yet – gosh, I’m being so human.  But I’m getting closer.  And when I finally close my eyes and jump, I know that I will be safe.

Resistance is futile

change-I’m about to ask you to do something really, really scary.  Ready?

Ok.  I want you to, just for a minute, let go of any preconceived notions that you actually have any control over the outcome of anything in your life.  Period.  Are you terrified yet?  At minimum you’re pretty uncomfortable.  But let’s keep going and I’ll explain.

What I’m talking about here isn’t little mundane choices we make daily.  For example, I know that if I choose to eat as much chocolate and drink as much wine as I can hold, no matter how bad the day was, the next day is going to feel like hell.  This is basic causation.  But this cause and effect doesn’t necessarily extrapolate to the larger world or to cosmic rationale.  There are people we all know who, despite having it all “together” and being “good people” have suffered the greatest heartache.  And still we know others who, to our minds, may be polar opposite of what we think of as a “good person” and skate through their lives with the greatest of ease.  There is no universal equality when it comes to security.  In fact, in her book “When Things Fall Apart,” Pema Chodron says, “To think that we can finally get it all together is unrealistic.  To seek for some lasting security is futile … One has to give up hope that this way of thinking will bring us satisfaction.”

Let me give you a personal example of this.  A few years ago, I was in a terrible relationship.  And yet I clung to it for security like it would feed me and keep me and protect me.  Instead it drained me, battered me and nearly killed me.  And yet I didn’t want to see what was happening.  I had planned, you see.  I had planned on a family and a marriage and a happily ever after. I was 32.  This was it, dammit.  But it wasn’t.  It fell apart, and rather dramatically, I might add.  The more desperately I clung on to try to control the inevitable outcome, the greater the lesson built up to show me that control was a moot point and my resistance was not only futile but making things a whole hell of a lot worse.  I resisted the truth and ultimately resisted my path and my own Truth (capital T, thank you).  You see, the “good” in my life fell apart and became “bad.”  At least that’s how I saw it.  Really, though, I was shedding a lot of “bad” and made room for the FABULOUS (all caps, thankyouverymuch).  But that’s not what I saw.  I just saw what was present and resisted any change.  I had the foolish notion that I was in control of everything and that if I just clung on to it hard enough, I could manifest the “correct” outcome.  It doesn’t work like that.

Nothing is constant.  Life is always changing.  The “good” will go “bad.”  But the good news in this is that the “bad” will also go “good.”  I was talking to my friend the other day in the midst of his most desperate hour in his atrocious divorce.  He said to me, “I think this might be the worst thing.” All I could think to say to him was, “Guess what?  That means the next thing automatically has to be better.  You got to the bottom; you’re only going up now.”  The amount of resistance that we feel from something is equal to the emotional energy that we put into the response.  So, if we label divorce or losing a job or moving as “really bad,” well, we’re automatically going to think it sucks.  Likewise, if we label marriage or getting a good job or even winning the lottery as “really good,” then we’re automatically going to be really freaking terrified.  It goes like this:  Big Emotion = Big Resistance = Ridiculous attempt to control our lives.  Does any of this seem like a good use of energy to you?  Me neither.

Am I saying don’t feel big emotion or have an emotional response to change?  Absolutely not.  I’m saying take a step back and look at change (ALL change) in the larger context of your life.  What response does this trigger?  Will a “loss” usher something else in?  Will a “gain” allow you to expand your magnanimity and share with others?  When something shows up to rock your world, let go of the good/bad dichotomy and see if there is a larger message in the change.  It is all change.  Yes, everything falls apart.  But at some point it comes back together, too.  It always has, and it always will.

Love, heather.

Perfectly Imperfect

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I’ve been contemplating the idea of perfectionism a lot lately. Which is odd, since I hadn’t considered myself to be a perfectionist at all. Not one little bitty bit. I didn’t strive for the stock broker husband, 2.5 kids, the house in the suburbs, a place on the PTA, a beige Lexus SUV or any of the trappings of the successful, overstressed, “Perfect American.” In other words, I completely eschewed the typical, perfect American Dream. How Gen X of me…

But then I got to thinking: Wait, then why the hell am I so fucking stressed out? I began to look at my life and analyzed what was putting pressure on me and what the motive was for each stressor (and yes, I’m Type A – a little…). I discovered that in each area (work, home, my love life) I am very successful, and have no external pressure from anyone. But for each portion of my life I found myself saying, “I should have ____,” or “I should be _____,” or “I should do_____.” Where did all these “shoulds” come from? Who put those in my life? Was it me? And if so, I am definitely sucking at perfectionism.

Yet, there it was. I had a my own version of how perfect was supposed to manifest in my life. And it was making feel crazy, out of control and like a complete failure. I was getting hung up on the little failures in my career instead of the huge milestones. I was upset that I hadn’t been able to start a family yet, instead of celebrating the and enjoying the relationships I’ve had. I was feeling imagined financial strain instead of reveling in the fact that I’ve attained a point in my life where my wine budget equals my food budget (heck, I’m drinking wine as I write this). Dammit. I needed to stop sweating the small stuff and start being grateful for the here and now. The minutiae don’t really matter. The fact that my life is pretty damn perfect just like it is.

I’m sure that you have your own version of what perfect is supposed to be. But that’s not the point of life. The point is to let it be a little messy, it’s not supposed to look like the brochure. Ease in, lean in, and let go of whatever you think is supposed to happen. I can guarantee you that whatever you think you “should” be getting/doing/having, that the Universe has something much better planned for you.

Imperfectly yours,
–h

Fumbling Towards Happily Ever After

il_fullxfull.346554233So often messages for my clients seem to be clustered into themes.  One week will be when all the divorcees call me. Then next is when everyone has a job crisis.  Followed by the week everyone seems to be having issues with their teenaged children.  It’s uncanny really.  But recently all the folks who think their love lives are “stuck” have been beating down my door.  I know we’ve all been there – some of us (me included) have been there more times that we care to admit.  Emboldened by the phrase, “But I just don’t know how to BE in a relationship!!!” they call me in frustration and desperation.  And I think I repeatedly let them down.  Not because I don’t assuage their fears, but because the answer is so simple and yet so complicated.  And here it is:  No one (and I mean NO ONE) actually knows how to be in a relationship.  Period.  The end.

Allow me to explain things a little bit more.  We have suffered a Disneyfication of marriage and have all been operating under the delusion that that we’ll walk into a ballroom (or run up the turret of some castle, or walk into a board meeting, etc.), lock eyes with Mr./Miss. wonderful and BAM! Married happily ever after.  No matter who you are, you subscribe to this fantasy to some degree.  What fairy tales (or anyone else for that matter) don’t seem to cover is what happens after the honeymoon.  I mean how the heck are you suppose to actually LIVE with this S.O.B.?   Maybe she leaves shoes everywhere and always wants to talk to the cat like its human (guilty on both counts, here).  And maybe he obsesses about NASCAR and thinks good sex is when you watch Seinfeld after he rolls off of you.  This, friends, is called real life.  Any maybe you’re significant other doesn’t have these particular issues, but I’m sure he or she has some other ones you could name without trying.  Being in a relationship with another human being is hard work.  Why?  Because you’re two living, breathing beings with your own egos, fears, attitudes and opinions.  And sometimes yours won’t mesh with your partner’s.  This doesn’t mean that your relationship is necessarily broken.  It just means you’re human and so is your spouse.

It’s a good idea, always, to take stock of what’s happening in your relationship.  Are you just frustrated or truly feeling undervalued and ignored? Are you white-knuckling through some deal-breakers or just annoyed that his socks are on the floor (again)? Are there harmful behaviors and/or addictions present or does her love of ‘N Sync just make road trips a cringe-fest? If you’re dealing with truly harmful or neglectful behaviors, then it might be time to evaluate the viability of your relationship.  But if you’re just irritated at your significant other’s quirks, well, welcome to being a grown up.  Real, loving, long-lasting relationships involve relinquishing control, removing the ego and loving your partner unconditionally and unabashedly.  In the face of true love all the other stuff becomes background noise and tolerable.  At the end of the day, you’re two perfectly imperfect people trying to make something extraordinary.  And you know what, it happens all the time.

So take heart, dear ones.  You’re not alone.  Sure, some people seem to be better at the relationship thing than others, but I assure you, they’re fumbling towards happily ever after just like the rest of us.

Empathic and Authentic Dating

Dating imageAfter several years of being quite distinctly (and, to my mind, quite permanently) “Off the Market,” I abruptly found myself back “On It,” or “In It,” or however that works.  It was all a little disconcerting, really, since after an epically bad break-up (I won’t flatter myself by saying it was “The World’s Worst”…. But it was up there…), I had absolutely no business dating anyone.  I was so emotionally fragile, romantic involvement was resolutely out of the question.  Until it wasn’t.  That is, I started thinking, “Hey, maybe I should give this another shot.”  What had actually happened was that I realized that I really was strong enough to move forward.  I had done a lot of work on myself, and confronted many deeply sequestered demons.  I had reconnected to who I am and emerged stronger, with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to myself.  And what if it isn’t terrible the next time?  What if I actually do find love – real love?  So, I dusted myself off and waded cautiously into the dating pool.

Almost immediately, a few things became pretty clear.  First, I must have started out in the shallow end of aforementioned pool.  Next, I realized I had no idea what I was doing.  But most importantly, I realized that dating is veritable gauntlet under normal circumstances, let alone for someone like me.  Several men had made it through the initial screening process (e.g., I was fairly sure they weren’t serial killers), but I quickly discovered there were a whole bunch of other sorts of predators out there.  And, as one of my would-be suitors put it, there’s a lot of “false advertising.”  Which I completely understood, since his online profile said he was 5’9″.  He may have been 5’2″.  Maybe.

But back to the predators.  That sounds like it may be rather harsh thing to say about someone, when in reality, these were actually very nice (albeit, boring) men.  But they had developed predatory behaviors that I just couldn’t let myself fall for.  Not again.  I met men who preyed on my time, my energy and my good will.  I had men lure me in with promises of a bright future, only to catch them in lies.  I have to admit, it was an exhausting process.  And I hated it.  I constantly felt like I was interviewing someone, instead of getting to know them.  My friend Jessica (The Engineer), says that dating is a numbers game.  The more you do it, the more likely you’ll actually find someone worth spending the rest of your life with.  My friend Janelle (The Scientist), said that I needed to give each man three dates so that I could get a statistically representative sample of their personality.  See? Exhausting.  And it just doesn’t work well if you happen to energetically sensitive in any way.

What I was running into was a whole lot of inauthentic individuals who were desperate to be completed/healed/saved/coddled by someone else – namely, me, or anyone. (Gentlemen, if this is you, I am not your girl.)  And I’m not looking down on these guys; that was me for so many painful years.   I am actually really, truly thankful for them and thankful for the immense insight that my previous experience has given me.  Each one of these bad dates was a lesson in reinforcing what it is that I actually want in a partner.  They also reinforced my own method for dating.  That is, I’m a psychic and an empath, and my intuition is damn good (so say my clients, anyway).  So when my Spidey senses say get the hell out there, I get the hell out of there.  But when my intuition prompts me to stop and look deeper, I honor that.  If this process has done nothing else for me, it has helped me to re-learn how to feel my way through, to trust my discernment, to realize that true partnership and love is possible.  The more I honor myself and stay close my authentic self, no matter what is going on around me, the more I can sense the quickening of what’s to come.

And maybe it’s already arrived.  Who knows…

If you’re reading this, and if you’re walking this same path, please take my insight to heart (pun intended).  You don’t need to give your power away to find love.  You don’t need to rely on someone else’s ideology or methodology or psychology to find out what is actually right for you.  You have the same intuition that I have.  You have the power to discern what is right for you and what isn’t.  Sure, you might be a little out of practice, but I assure you that that personal power of yours is there.  Guard it and hold it fiercely.  And do not, under any circumstances, give it away to anyone who will do anything other than honor it.

Namaste

–h

Lay Down Your Weapons – Living With an Open Heart

I wish I could say that I have walked through the trials and tribulations with ease, grace and joy, embracing each new experience, not as a trial or tribulation, but as a lesson to be savored.  But, as my grandma would say, I would be a big, fat fibber.

In fact, if anything, I’ve made the burden unnecessarily large by virtue of the fact that I’ve taken the lessons that I have learned and tuned them into weapons of regret against myself.  I’ve been using hindsight to beat myself up over decisions that I’ve made and things that I’ve done, not understanding that I was only doing the best I could at the time.  I wasn’t operating with all of the information that I have now.  It’s a classic case of Monday Morning Quarterbacking.  And it’s something that we all do.

Whether it’s something as seemingly mundane as a decision you made at work or something more grave like guilt over how you raised your child, we all have a tendency to judge ourselves using the knowledge and information we have now instead of seeing ourselves with compassion.  We can not be perfect – we can never be perfect.  There is no such thing.  So why would we continue to raise the whip and debase ourselves?  We weren’t perfect then and we certainly aren’t perfect now.

This was, and continues to be, a tough lesson for me.  This may be one I struggle with for the rest of my life.  And the tendency that I think we all have when we go through this is to close our hearts and shut down, both to others and to new experiences.  We become desperately afraid of making a mistake again – I know I am.  Why would I want to get burned again?  But here’s the thing, when you get burned, say by fire, you don’t go the rest of your life never seeking to find warmth again.  You would die.  You are always open to the possibility of, and in fact actively looking for,  warmth without the  burn because that is how you are meant to experience things (you know, being the warm-blooded, relatively fragile mammal that you are).  The same is true for everything else.

If you make a bad decision, don’t let that stop you from making other decisions using your new insight.  If you feel regret over how you raised your own children, don’t not love your grandchildren or think that you will make the same mistakes with them.  If you’ve had your heart broken, don’t let that stop you from loving again. These experiences are not meant to be ammunition to use against yourself or to use as an excuse not to open fully or as a reason to throw yourself a pity party.  They are there to serve as contrast and as lessons.

However, regret is a natural part of the human experience. But remember, regret is just another word for ammunition – the kind we use  against ourselves. The remedy for all of the things that you regret is to continue to live with an open heart and to continue to move to a place where you are feeling through, and leading with, your heart.  You must let the experiences move through you as music moves through a flute; the openness of your heart will dictate the tone and strength of the song. More and more, you will have a knowing about what is “right” and what is appropriate, and you will instinctively gravitate to those things.  It is a place of all-that-is-possible and a place of miracles.

And remember, you make your own miracles, after all……

In love and light,

heather