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

roller-coaster

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. 

8 Steps to Living Guilt-Free

One of the repetitive themes that seems to play out in my sessions with clients is their struggle with guilt and how to live guilt-free.  In some cases this is guilt associated with a major life event, but often this sense of guilt is rooted in the mundane.  Things like feeling guilty of blowing your diet or saying “no” to something.  Well, I’m here to tell you that this is a rather large waste of your precious energy.  Here’s how to break out of that guilt complex once and for all:

guilt trip1. Self-forgiveness

Really.  Understand that you are perfectly imperfect and that you are a human being.  You’ve also come programmed with years and years of patterns so if you lapse back into an old thought pattern or habit that is not desirable, don’t beat yourself up.  Recognize what’s happened and resolve to make a better choice next time.

2. Self Care

This may be counter-intuitive to some people, especially those who new to setting up healthy boundaries (more on that in a sec…).  But we tend to beat ourselves up and get into unhealthy mental spaces when we are at our weakest and most vulnerable.  The easiest and most effective way to recharge and gain a better perspective is to practice self-care.  Self-care doesn’t have to be an extravagant day at the spa (although I won’t stop you), it just needs to be something that you do for yourself and solely for yourself.  And don’t you dare associate guilt with this!  After all, how can you give to others if the well is dry?

3. Internal Inventory

What is an internal inventory, you ask?  It is where you sit down and do some soul-searching and decide what is in your life in a priority and what is not.  It is helpful to remember that we simply can not be everything to everyone at all times.  While we are infinitely powerful spiritual beings, we are not omnipotent: you can’t be in the boardroom and at soccer practice at the same time.  This is where we have to choose the things that we really do value and stick to it unabashedly and unapologetically.

4. Setting Healthy Boundaries

Ah, yes.  My favorite.  Many of us are so programmed to be care-givers and nurturers that our natural tendency is to say “yes” to everything.  Is this realistic?  Of course not!  How can you be PTA president, Team Mom, Neighborhood watch captain, Realtor of the year, etc. etc. etc. without sacrificing things that are the most important like your health and time with your family?  The answer is that you can’t.  Set realistic boundaries of what’s important to you and what matches your internal inventory.  For example, one of my clients was having a hard time sticking to a work schedule that allowed time for her family.  She would feel guilty about saying no to clients and go out of her way to accommodate them.  While we all want to allow more abundance in our lives, the reality is that the feeling of loss associated with lost time with family was more disconcerting than the guilt of rescheduling a client.  And in reality, most people are accommodating and understand when someone has family commitments.

5. Self-awareness

So you “mess up” and you’re feeling guilty.  First, see #1 on this list.  Then look at the feelings that come up when you begin to feel guilty about something. What triggered it?  Can you remember when you first felt guilt associated with the trigger?  Where in your body do you feel this?  By analyzing these feelings you can begin to see patterns and identify triggers.  Over time, you will be able to erase these patterns from your life.  How great is that?

6. Conscious living

This goes hand-in-hand with self awareness.  Be conscientious about what and who you allow into your life and what you spend your time and energy on.  If that person, event or thing doesn’t thrill you, bring you closer to your divine purpose, complement your lifestyle or strengthen your bonds with the people who are the most important to you, proceed with caution.  Don’t be afraid to say no or to go your own way. Employ self-awareness to this, too.  For example, does the thought of going to The Party of The Year thrill your socks off or make you cringe?  Answer honestly and proceed accordingly.

7. Gratitude

Ok, so everyone should be doing this.  You can not simultaneously feel guilt and gratitude at the same time.  It’s impossible.  Say for example you find yourself feeling bad for not going to the aforementioned Party of The Year.  Immediately begin to think about what you are grateful for in that situation. Like how you have time to dedicate to your writing or you can call your mom or snuggle on the couch with your special someone.  These are choices that can deeply connect you with others and they should be celebrated in favor of bemoaning your lack of party-animal-ness.

8. Be Brave

Taking these steps will be tough at first.  Saying no will take practice.  Not going on habitual guilt-trips is going to take some un-learning. But you can do it.  Start small and work your way to bigger things.  Once you get the hang of it, this will all be second-nature to you.  Take just the first step, be brave.  It’s worth it. I promise.

love and light,

–h

The Pain Monster

 

I’ve been getting to be really good friends with the Pain Monster, that savage, marauding beast we unleash on ourselves when things feel like they are falling apart and we are in our darkest hour.  I’ve felt it’s keen edge, stared into its gaping maw and embraced the power of it’s presence.  I’ve opened up to the teaching in the pain, the lessons, the recovery, the strength, and overall, the acceptance of the flow of my life.  I’ve learned to lean into the pain as its teeth cut deeply into my heart and soul knowing that whatever was being destroyed will be reborn so much stronger.

So what woke up the Pain Monster inside of me?  In a very short amount of time I lost my job, I lost my mother, I lost savings, I lost my romantic relationship, I was betrayed thrice over, and watched a loved one spiral into madness and attempt suicide.  This is a lot to experience and a lot to just be with.  I’ve seen sides of myself I didn’t know were there – both good and bad, I saw the contrast in myself. And as I watched these emotions rise to the surface and counted them one by one, I realized that these things were not happening to me or because of me.  They were happening around me.  I was in the eye of the hurricane.  Or at least I was supposed to be there.  I had allowed my self to wander into the fray and get pulled into the drama of human reaction.  I saw that my pain, as real and as powerful as it was, was optional.  It was optional because it was born of my resistance to the changes that were happening in my life.  I resisted the losses, as I thought I was being robbed; I resisted that I was growing because I thought I was failing; I resisted my own evolution because I did not see it for what it was.  And the pain came sharp and keen, to bring me back to myself.  I had asked for a miraculous life change, I had asked to be deliriously happy, and when the Universe handed me my wishes on a silver platter, I recoiled.  I was the butterfly in the cocoon – but I had learned to love the cocoon, and it was stifling me.  My personal cocoon was a relationship that no longer served me, friends who weren’t, a job that I wasn’t passionate about and various other illusions of things I thought I “needed” to be happy, whole and fulfilled.  I was being shown the error of my ways, and I as I resisted the lesson, the Pain Monster came for me.  And as it bore down, I knew I had to embrace it – move through it

But why would I want to move through the pain?  Why wouldn’t I just want to numb it, ignore it or blame someone else for it?  Why would I embrace it and lean into it like an old friend?  Because there is no resolution in hoping the pain will go away, no closure, no learning, no beauty.  Once we open ourselves to the experience of the pain, we must process it.  There is no growth, no evolution, no enlightenment without change.  Notice here, I said change and not pain.

We don’t hear that in our world today where freedom is just a Big Mac or a Valium away.  Reaching for those quick fixes is what gets us stuck in the pattern of trauma, drama, pain, repeat.  We need to extricate ourselves from that cycle to find true freedom.  We are chained to the pain cycle, hooked on the thrill of our own self-persecution.

Without exception, people act out in destructive behavior against themselves and others because of their own pain, and more specifically, the fear of that pain.  People numb themselves with food, alcohol, drugs or sex to escape.  At times, the emotional pain becomes so much, that we feel we must mask it or defeat it with physical pain.

The perception is that the pain is the result of what has been done to us by others, and we are the victims of their cruelty.  Whether from actual trauma or perceived trauma, we lodge the pain, unprocessed, in our bodies.  The reality is that these events did happen, but we can choose to see them for what they are and embrace them, or resist them and suffer until we realize that the pain of acceptance is far less than the pain of resistance.  In fact, there is surprisingly little pain in acceptance.

I won’t tell you that these realizations came easily or that they removed me from the process somehow.  But I will tell you that now it is easier.  Now I am an observer of the pain, and not a participant in its drama.  I can integrate these lessons and changes into my life and, I hope, weather future storms with more grace, acceptance and love.   We can choose to get out of the pain cycle at any time.  It is ultimately our choice. When I was stuck in the pain cycle, I craved the light at the end of the tunnel, but once I realized I WAS the light, I realized I was at the end of the tunnel.

In love and light

–h

The Resistance/Acceptance Cycle

Lighten up!

One of the common themes of almost any reading I do comes from some variation of the following question: “How can I be more spiritual?”

I know that many of you will be surprised to hear this, but you’re probably already doing it.  Really.  Moving to a more spiritual existence means moving towards your highest joy and the highest expression of yourself.  So unless becoming a hermit and meditating on a mountain top for the next twenty-odd years is really the best You that You can be, you don’t need to.  Many people mistake reverence and seriousness with a spiritual experience, but it doesn’t always need to be that way.  In fact, I would argue that some of the most spiritual people don’t even know that they are spiritual.  They’re just having fun.  They’re just being them and moving to their highest joy.  That’s it!  That’s the big secret! Lighten up and just be you. That is all that God wants from you.  You are existing as a spiritual being by simply existing in joy.  Are you disappointed?  I hope not; I hope you’re ecstatic.

If you ever start to take things too seriously, ponder the following:

You, right now, are reading this and sitting on a gigantic ball of molten rock that is spinning wildly and whirling through the vacuum of space around another humungous ball of flaming gas all the while not getting smashed to smithereens by other bits of flying rocks and space junk.  That’s a miracle.  It really is.  Its also ridiculous.  The improbability and audacity of this experience should be enough to snap you out of that new age-y funk you probably find yourself in after reading too much Tolle  (whom I love, by the way, but come on, he can feel a little heavy).

So just be yourself, and leave the heavy lifting to Heavenly bodies.  You’re inner joy is as spiritual as you need to be.  I promise.

–love and light, heather.

Enlightenment Over Greek Food – How I learned to get out of my head

 


I’m not as smart as I think I am and from time to time I still need to be beaten over the head with the most simple of concepts.

The case in point here is the experience I had this weekend while attending the Landmark Forum. First I want to address the Forum itself. In a word, it’s amazing. You will have a love/hate relationship with it until 7 pm on the last day, but really, you need to go anyway. Thats how amazing the last three hours are. The preceding 36 hours are preamble, but necessary in order to get the punch line at the end.

I sat through the preamble throughly enjoying the human drama I was inflicting on my life under the auspices of coming clean about what a jerk I’ve been to the people in my life.  And really, I was a jerk to all of those people, especially my mom. But the drama was addicting and necessary to understand how unnecessary it all really is. Truly. And that was part of the joke. Hang on, I’m getting there.

Now, I read a lot. Incessantly, actually. Nearly every new age spirituality book tells me that the meaning if life is that there is no meaning of life. Either we are making it up, or we’re just energy expressing itself, or we are all just light and information.  Any way you slice it, there’s a whole lot of nothing around here. You would have thought I would have gotten that. But I didn’t. I intellectualized this information along with everything else. Just like I had intellectualized people, my diet and every New Year’s resolution I had ever made. This intellectualization diminished the impact that anything would have on me.  It was as if compartmentalizing things could render them safe and entirely mutable.

As we neared the last phase of the Forum, the “good part,” I was excited.  The ramp-up to that moment was exhilarating, and I was ready to find out why I had spent three days sitting in the world’s most uncomfortable chair.  And here it is: Life is empty and meaningless, and the fact that it’s empty and meaningless is empty and meaningless.  Huh?  I knew that. I had read it hundreds of times before – this world is an illusion, a figment, anything we make it.  So why did I just spend $500 and three days of my life just to get to this point?

To say I was annoyed was an understatement.  At the break I marched up to the Forum leader and proclaimed, “I don’t get it.”  I was near tears and feeling a burgeoning sense of futility.  The Forum leader just smiled knowingly and handed me off to another participant to assist me in sorting out my frustration.  So why was I so frustrated?  Because I was operating under the delusion that it was anticlimactic.  How arrogant of me.  And yet there I was standing firm in my place of know-it-all-ness.  As I poured out my frustrations to my new friends over gyros and hummus, one of them turned to me and said, “I get that you get it. But don’t you see that ‘anticlimactic’ is an illusion?”  I still don’t know what it was about that particular combination of words that was so magical, but I broke down laughing and crying all at the same time.   My arrogance was a blindspot for me, and I was viewing the world through that veil.  I had no idea what a presumptuous smarty pants I had been up until that point.  That was the joke, and it had set me free. In no way am I perfect, but I feel as though I am closer to leading a life free of juvenile constraints I’ve put on myself as a defense mechanism. And that was worth the cost of the Forum.

Leap of Faith

In June 2010, I decided to take another leap of faith.  I had been steadily experiencing more and more psychic awareness, and I decided to finally do something about it.  Over the previous six months I had been accumulating teachers and advisers and other loving beings who saw that I was clueless about this transformation and had taken me in.  I had stumbled upon a reiki master, a few mystics and a psychic adviser, all of whom sensed both my fear and my potential.  My spiritual awareness was gaining magnitude as I struggled to make sense of all of the newness, as well as all of the trials and tribulations.  It felt like I had been thrown on a roller coaster with no breaks; my only job was to hang on and go with it.

And go with it, I did, up to a Buddhist retreat deep in the Santa Cruz mountains.  I was taking part in a five-day course headed by my dear friend and spiritual advisor, Julie McNulty.  As my boyfriend drove me up the dark winding road, he expressed his concerns.

“Is this a cult?” he asked.

“No,” I said, resolutely, but not quite sure I believed that.

“Well, you’re not going to shave your head or anything, are you?”

“No!” I yelled, trying to sound offended, but pretty sure I was only sounding more and more terrified.

As we approached the retreat, his skeptical glances intensified to full-blown, glaring disbelief.  I’m almost certain he contemplated leaving me there and never coming back for me; at that point, I’m not sure I would have really blamed him.

After he had lugged my bags up to my room, and kissed me good-bye, I watched the car drive away and tried to suppress a panic attack.  What in God’s name was I doing there?  Doubt crept in and settled deep in my chest.  “Maybe I really am just crazy,” I thought to myself.  “No one can really do this stuff. And who goes to a class to figure it out?”  I felt like I was entering the dicey territory occupied by 1-900 “psychic operators” who lie in wait to prey upon the weak-minded solely for “entertainment purposes.”

I thought about leaving then and there.  But I didn’t have a ride.  And my cell phone didn’t work in the mountains.  And the fees were paid.  I was stuck. Damn.

So, I decided that, for lack of a better plan, I should just give myself over to the process.  If it turned out I was actually crazy (or if it was a cult), at least I wouldn’t know anyone and I could go home in five days and pretend it never happened (so long as I steered clear of any spiked kool-aid).  However, that was far from what unfolded.  As soon as I sat down that first night after a meal of organic, vegan lasagna, to meditate with the group, it was as though the shades were lifted and I could see clearly for the first time.  And it wasn’t terrifying, it was beautiful.

But then I remembered I had been before to this beautiful open expanse of psychic awareness.  In 1995, in my Presbyterian church-going years, my youth group attended a massive youth retreat in Indiana.  I don’t recall what the over-all purpose of the event was, only that it was the first time I had my heart broken and the first time I had ever meditated.  The subject of the heart-break is inconsequential, but the meditation acted like a touch stone.  I remembered, 15 years previously, I sat in a dark room with 7 other brooding adolescents.  We were each given a lump of green play dough and instructed to sit quietly and let images come to us.  Then we were to sculpt the image that came to mind.  I remember sitting there, going deeper and deeper into my consciousness and feeling like I was on the brink of a great void.  What is perhaps the most ironic thing about this experience was that, in spite of all of the bible-thumping, it was the single most spiritual experience I had ever had.  Clearly, knowing a generic God was the only objective of our youth group “Spiritual Advisors.”  I doubt they would have approved of my communing with the vast Universe in such a fashion, as was demonstrated by their droll scientific explanation of mediation later on.

Indeed, the meditation of my 30s is not at all like the drudgery of mediation in my youth.  Now messages, faces, times and places morph out of the void to tell a story of the person for whom I am reading.  Angels, aliens, loved ones and ascended masters move closer from beyond the void to deliver messages and healing.  It is a gratifying experience.

I will never forget the first reading I gave while I was up in that Buddhist Retreat.  After several long and arduous days of pushing myself farther and farther, I sat down with my new friends to practice our skills.  One woman, who I had felt particularly drawn to immediately asked me to try to communicate with her relatives.  I felt completely daunted by this task.  Not only was she the first person to ever ask me so blatantly, but I could literally see dozens of her dead family members standing behind her trying to talk to me simultaneously.  This was truly trial by fire. But slowly, and with increasing detail, her long-dead brother began to speak to me.  Between the two of them, one living, the other dead, I was told an amazing story of family, love, betrayal and, ultimately, healing.  The power of the information that I was able to translate from the spiritual realm to the living for my friend brought her profound relief.  And at that point I understood.  This isn’t about me or what I can do for “entertainment purposes.” Psychic awareness is about the ability to bridge the physical and the spiritual and bring forward information and experiences for the highest good of all involved.  What I can do is help people consciously raise their own psychic awareness by giving them information that they previously never had access to.  I can help them reconnect to their source, their purpose and the unconditional love of the Universe.

Awakening

In late 2007, I was a hot mess.  Trapped in a sham of a relationship, owning real estate I didn’t want and driving cars I couldn’t afford, I consistently sought the trappings of a “normal” life.  If I had these things, then it meant I was living up to the benchmarks of normalcy, and that everything would be ok.  You don’t need to be psychic to realize that this was ridiculous rationale.

But the false exterior barely hid the suffering within.  I was waking up in cold sweats in the middle of the night, often screaming.  I drank constantly and escaped to a fantasy land where life was easy and pain was non-existent.  I looked older than I was, I acted like a zombie and lost my temper frequently; I was not the person I thought I would be, or even someone I liked very much.

And then on a warm day in February, I walked away from it all.  Everything.  My relationship, my house, my cars, my cats.  Everything.  I started over from scratch and built my life my way, on my terms, with a man who was all too happy to let me do this.  And we built a life together.  For all of our insecurities and pre-existing neuroses, we did a pretty good job, until we didn’t.  And then I jumped again.

There is a larger theme, here: one of trust and rebirth.  This is the first time in my life I listened to what I truly wanted.  I was in so much pain and so damaged, I leapt out of my old life more out of desperation than anything else.  But I leapt in a direction that called me and to a life that made sense for me.  From that one act, from recognizing plainly what I wanted from what I didn’t want, I wanted to construct a life founded on truth and on love.  And this paved the way for still more miracles, most importantly the miracles of forgiveness and acceptance.

These miracles came in funny packages, however.  In 2009, having thought that the worst was behind me, I was experiencing what I can only describe as a nervous breakdown.  I was hearing, seeing and feeling things that, frankly, scared the crap out me.  I knew that there must be more to the story than simple case of anxiety.  Out of desperation, again (noticing a theme?), I frantically sought answers.  I finally connected with a psychic medium who, graciously, assured me I was not nuts – I was “waking up.”  Over the next year, I gave myself over to the process.  I’ve met some really wonderful people along the way, and developed some pretty amazing gifts.

And what’s more, I am no longer denying any part of myself.  I am standing fully and resolutely in own space with my own truth.  Just as it should be. Oh, and don’t worry, I got my cats back.  A fairy tale ending all the way around.