Isn’t it nice, those moments when life feels easy? Things flow smoothly, you feel a sense of balance and circumstances just don’t seem too difficult? While these moments certainly provide a nice break and sometimes, especially these days, feel much too rare, I also know that there are many gifts that come with challenge - those times when things don’t feel so easy. As I’ve gone deeper and deeper on this journey of healing, I have become much more aware of the many layers of hidden, suppressed, subconscious wounds, beliefs and traumas that inform the functioning of our bodies, as well as our mental and emotional patterns and habits. These ingrained ways of being stay in control until they are rooted out, brought into awareness and consciously shifted. But how, you might ask, can we bring things into awareness that are not in our conscious minds? Though there are a variety of methods, one key way life supports us in doing this is through challenge.
One of the main ways that I view my life’s journey is through the lens of self- and soul-growth. I definitely believe that we choose to incarnate into this earthly body with one of the main objectives being learning, growth and evolution. I suppose I often get a little too hung up on this point, as certainly there are other objectives too, including just experience of all kinds – experiencing joy, pleasure, pain, separation, love, relationship – but I digress. Coming from the perspective that we have chosen to be here and that we are here to learn and grow gives us a way to more fully understand the purpose of challenge and suffering in our lives, and offers us the opportunity to tune into trust, right timing and an expanded perspective. It gives meaning to the places where we might otherwise curl up in a ball and want to quit, or get hung up on the idea that life or the world is out to get us. When we know that all that we go through is happening for a reason, it makes it so much easier to bear. We can choose to feel like heroes in our lives, persevering and staying the course, rather than becoming victims and/or giving up. Though we often may forget, wondering why life has to be so hard, from this perspective, challenge is supporting our growth, rather than getting in the way of it.
In addition to being a powerful tool in supporting our overall growth as a soul, challenge can serve us more specifically as well. When things are easy, when we feel we are flowing with life, all those habits, beliefs, wounds and traumas that reside in our subconscious and take up space in our body are generally pretty quiet. We may not notice them or forget they are even there. As long as we feel at ease, we are lulled into a peace that may make us think our work is done, our wounds are healed and we have evolved. The moment this gets challenged though – we are triggered, we get sick, something goes wrong - we realize the truth: there is a lot more stuff in there for us to work on! And we would never be made aware of it without it being stirred up, brought to the surface, and sometimes, not-so subtly shoved in our face. Every time something comes up in our lives, it is an opportunity to see, resolve and heal. We are given these opportunities, again and again, to face our issues, to deal with the stuff we are carrying and to heal it piece-by-piece, mainly through experiences that challenge us, feel difficult and bring up uncomfortable emotions. We need to be able to see it and feel it to heal it.
If we are truly here to experience though, then even our assessment of what circumstances or emotions are “difficult” or “challenging” loses meaning. These words are full of judgements and attachments, carrying our ideas about what is pleasant and unpleasant, what we want to feel and what we don’t. We’ve been taught that certain emotions are good and others bad, that we should all be striving for a life of abundance and ease and happiness. If we recognize that all of it is serving us, however, the good, the “bad”, the messy, the happy, the chaotic, then we can drop the judgement and value all experience for what it has to offer, even if it doesn’t always feel comfortable. We can stop trying to get “there” – wherever there is, and be present in the journey. Here is where the gold is. The messy, imperfect, non-dreamy present moment, which may feel uncomfortable, difficult or challenging.
It's not hard to imagine that at some point in the future, life could be easy. We’ll be set up to enjoy life, live comfortably and, finally, be able to relax. Ah, doesn’t that sound dreamy. Maybe. It also could be boring. AND, if you haven’t done your self-healing, and likely, even if you have, the universe may just have some surprises in store for you. It’s not going to stop offering you opportunities to heal, so try not to get too attached to that whole life-of-ease thing. Just when you sit back to relax, you’re likely to get gifted yet another opportunity to work through your stuff. It may not be easy, it may not always feel comfortable, but if we can fully experience it and take it in, rather than resist and avoid, we will heal, we will learn and we will grow. Allowing life to be what it is, challenge and all, is the only way we can ever hope to finally experience some peace.
I think few would argue with the fact that we live in a male-dominated world. And while this may be very obvious in certain areas of life, there are also many subtle, not-so-obvious ways that we, as women, are impacted. These influences, both conscious and subconscious, affect our values and behavior, how we view and judge ourselves, and often, serve to leach a lot of energy, as we try to conform to standards and behavior that just don’t fit. Most of us women have learned to not only ignore our natural ways of thinking and being, but also to devalue ourselves and our own skills and strengths. These influences come through not only our culture, but also, often, through our relationships with both self and others. It seems as if many of us don’t even recognize what normal feminine ways or being are, nor what feminine strength can truly look like. It makes me wonder how things could shift, both on a personal and cultural level if this changed. What if our gifts were valued and we were supported in feminine ways of being? This, of course, is a topic on which one could write about endlessly, as it is so deeply ingrained in our psyches on both a personal and cultural level. While this will be far from an exhaustive discussion, I felt compelled to share a few thoughts, and maybe just crack the egg open a bit wider, offering some perspective on the influences that affect us, as well as shape how we think about and value the feminine.
Despite some arguments to the contrary, it seems clear to me that men and women are not the same. And, while we don’t want to be demeaned or devalued for being different, we also don’t really want or need things to be exactly the same for everyone. We want things to make sense for each individual, based on biology, rhythms, and ways of thinking and being. And while everyone is unique, and everyone’s expression of their masculine and feminine qualities varies considerably, there are certain energies that can often be ascribed to those who feel, by majority, influenced and inspired in one direction or the other. Though I use the terms feminine, woman and women interchangeably here, I am generally referring to feminine principles, which all will experience in their own way.
The feminine, and we, as women, are used to adapting to masculine tendencies and male ways of being. Though this can be appropriate and natural in certain circumstances, there are many examples of ways in which our own needs are minimized, belittled or subverted as a result. One such example is the way our culture is totally oriented around the constant, daily, circadian rhythm of men. This seems perfectly normal to most of us, and yet, really, think about this. While male biology revolves around a 24-hour clock in regards to hormones, energy and appetites, a woman’s body has a much different cycle. Women’s cyclic and monthly rhythms affect every area of life, yet are generally completely neglected and/or ignored (if not mocked) in our larger culture. Despite their natural variability, women are expected to show up the same, being able to think, act, behave and produce in the same way, with the same energy, day in and day out. Based simply on our biology, this really isn’t a reasonable expectation for any of us, and certainly does not serve to honor our natural ways of being. Based on our cyclical nature, energy, emotions, abilities, strengths, the way we think and how we interact with others changes significantly from day-to-day and week-to-week. This is totally normal in biological terms, yet is something we are taught from a young age to down-play, hide and generally disregard as much as possible as we work to adapt to the 24-hour circadian world.
The feminine is also devalued and minimized throughout culture as a whole, as logic and reason are upheld as the way to think, plan and make decisions. This can be seriously damaging to the feminine mind and soul, as intuition, higher knowing, and feeling are such crucial components in our thinking and decision-making processes. We have been so trained to devalue these methods, treating them as totally subjective and invalid, that many of us get caught up in trying to justify our intuitions and feelings, or defend them in the realm of logic, rather than accepting them as equally valuable and relevant sources of information. Working within this framework not only undermines our self-confidence and keeps us playing small, stifles our creativity, and serves to limit the possibilities we see, but it devastates our ability to be in tune with who we truly are and to make decisions that carry us towards our own happiness and fulfillment.
Feminine energy is fluid, it is creative, it is constantly adapting. Our biology literally shifts on a daily basis, our feelings can turn on a dime, and we are constantly in energetic conversation with the people, energies and environments that surround us. Though all these things are often unrecognized and under-appreciated, they are at the root of feminine power. We NEED to have the freedom to move, shift and change. While masculine strength looks more like strength in body, mental fortitude and decisive action (which also have their use and value), feminine strength looks more like resilience, capacity for love, and incredible adaptability. We have the ability to bring through wild creativity and inspiration, which serves to support us in working with the curve-balls life throws us, and also, helps us survive in a changing world. This feels like a very important gift in these times.
Much of how the feminine is able to tap into this inspiration and resilience is through practices of being rather than doing. The masculine concept of productivity, has, as we all know, taken over our culture, and, for many of us, has become not only a way of life, but also a profound marker of our self-worth and feelings of self-value. People who are held up as achievers have generally accomplished a lot in the outer world, particularly in regards to the physical and material realms. By holding onto this idea of success, we, as a culture, have sacrificed so much. Self-worth and self-value have become based mainly on outer achievement, while the self and soul have been left largely neglected. This is the opposite of what the feminine soul needs. Feminine strength is grounded, rooted, connected and in relationship with people and the world. It is stillness, going within, and connecting with that unshakeable inner knowing; it is confidence, it is the mama bear, instinctively knowing how to care for and nurture self and others. How can we tap into this strength when we do not have time or space to tune in, have the awareness to value doing so and/or have to battle the rising tide of obligations and responsibilities to make space for these kinds of practices? It seems a feat of increasing difficulty and increasing importance, particularly if we are to salvage what remains of our ability to recognize and appreciate the true strength of the feminine.
I also recognize that stepping into this deep, dark feminine beingness often requires masculine support, or at least is greatly aided by it. Women are so incredibly strong, but we all need help. A truly strong man will support a woman in expressing strength according to her own nature, will see and value her for who she truly is and allow her to express her feminine nature in ways that are appropriate and unique to her soul. We need both the masculine and feminine on board for each to be able to express their own power and potency. I in no way mean to diminish or demean the masculine (for it also has its own divine expression that has been devalued and dominated by many unhealthy cultural influences). I do, however, mean to lift up the feminine. It is time that we stop feeling bad about ourselves for being ourselves while hiding away the beautiful gifts we possess. Though there are certainly times the masculine and feminine must meet and work together, it should, in the majority, be a meeting on equal terms. As the feminine is more deeply honored, a new kind of strength, resilience and fluidity will emerge that is so needed in these ever-changing and turbulent times.
I spend a fair amount of time thinking about healing, as it is and has long been such a prominent topic in both my professional and personal life. Though I used to think of healing as a more finite and physically-based process, my understanding of it has really shifted, both because of my own experiences and also, due to the unique times we are living in. I have come to realize that health is about so much more than getting rid of symptoms. It is about creating conditions that support freedom of the soul, about working towards fulfillment and full self-expression. It is about AWAKENING to our power in this lifetime and the incredible amount of potential and possibility that surrounds us. Healing is not a point-in-time, but a journey, happening at the soul-level. The physical symptoms and dis-ease we experience, while certainly important to address, are often just serving as messengers inviting us to wake up and redirect, calling our attention to where change is needed. From an expansive, whole-life, soul perspective, here are some of the elements of healing that I have identified for myself and my own journey. Your list might look different (and I encourage you to explore that), but for me, these are some of the elements of what healing looks like:
-to live a life of personal and emotional sovereignty and freedom
-to live in alignment with one’s true self and purpose
-to live as part of a (or likely several) supportive community/ies, be they based in nature and geography, the human realm or the spiritual plane
-to live in relationship to nature, natural cycles, spiritual guidance and higher wisdom
-to live creatively, opting out of the lifestyle options offered by dominant culture
-to live with a sense of embodiment, connected to the senses, desires and pleasure
-to live free from the limitations of debility and disease, and with an understanding of symptoms and illness as messengers and teachers
-to live from a place of expansiveness, knowledge of the esoteric principles of the universe, and trust, which frees us from scarcity and victim mindsets
-to always feel empowered with choice, regardless of external circumstances
-to work towards healing emotional wounds and traumas – personal, ancestral and cultural – that keep us bound to limitation, habit and disease
-to feel supported, seen and held in our own brilliance and to receive that from and reflect that back to others
-to love and accept ourselves, recognizing our own beauty, value and worth
-to interweave our story with the story of others, reminding us of the unicity that is life and giving us a sense of belonging, connection and meaning
-to be supported and challenged in our growth as we navigate relationship with the human and beyond human realm
-to reconnect with a slow-living lifestyle that keeps us in touch with awe, wonder, gratitude and the sacredness of life
Though I have certainly not “achieved” any of these goals in their entirety, this list keeps me oriented in the direction I want to be moving as I continue on my healing path. Like every hero’s journey, healing is about the process, and the learning that happens along the way, rather than the end result. It is important to remember that there is no still-point called “health”. Life is too dynamic, too deep and complicated and mysterious for that. Our soul’s journey includes challenge and hardship, desire and chaos to motivate us to continue to grow, learn and evolve. Though this can be difficult to maintain perspective on in the hard times, though it can feel relentless, it is all leading us in the direction we need to go – towards change, expansion, renewal and growth. By following these threads, we are always on our unique healing path, moving towards a greater state of health, wellness and fulfillment.
Reprioritizing Wellness as a Way of Life
Creating a lifestyle in support of health, happiness and nervous system regulation
The importance of nervous system regulation in human physiology is arguably one of the, if not the, most important topics in regards to health and wellness. We all know that practices that reduce stress are highly beneficial, and often try to include them in our day-to-day routines. The depth of this issue, however, just keeps revealing itself to me, both in my own life, and as I understand and explore healing, disease and my own personal spiritual connection. What does it really look like to prioritize nervous system regulation in our modern lives? I feel like this is a concept that has become so foreign that many of us not only don’t have any idea how often we exist in a state of overstimulation and nervous system activation, but probably can’t even imagine a life where this is not the case. It has become so normalized in our culture to be so busy and hurried, to run from one thing to the next, day-after-day, and to be constantly engaged with technology and media, that it is not unusual to never slow down. The big consideration here for me, however, is the personal and societal costs that result from living this way. Are these costs we are willing to pay? And for how long?
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to create a bit more space in my life and experience what it is like to step out of stress. Now, don’t get me wrong here, everything is not peaches and cream, and my life is certainly not without its challenges. I have just had the opportunity (not so gently suggested by circumstances of health and life) to slow down and let go of all but the essential obligations. Perhaps most importantly, I have finally given myself permission to take time and space to focus on my own healing. Taking time and space is generally a concept that is frowned upon in our culture. We are used to being rewarded for what we have accomplished, we tend to put all our focus on what we need to get done, and we are mostly judged by what we do rather that how we be. Many of us feel guilty for doing nothing, being “unproductive”, and/or having nothing to show for our time. But this is exactly the kind of nourishment we (and our nervous systems) need most. Unstructured time is key for nervous system decompression, and time spent in quiet, stillness, meditation and reflection is a requirement for emotional integration, physical repair and spiritual connection.
What if we valued wonder, awe, curiosity, reflection, observation, presence, and connection as much as activity, obligation and to-do’s? What if we prioritized our emotional, physical and spiritual health over what we needed to get done? Ok, I know there’s a reality check here – we all have to pay the bills, feed our kids, sleep and do the dishes. But think how different things would be, people would be, our culture would be, if we placed real value and attention on stillness instead of activity, wellness instead of productivity. Everything could be different: how we feel, and therefore how we treat each other, how well we are able to create the lives we want, find happiness and manifest our dreams, how healthy we are and how many symptoms we experience, how well we can access creativity and inspiration, what we value in others – friends and leaders - and how clear we are in our own values and priorities. The list goes on and on. What we are engaged in now is a seriously dimmed down, stressed-out, disconnected way of life. It’s time we start thinking about how willing we are to keep assenting to live in this way.
But how is it possible, you might ask, in our modern world, to break free of this lifestyle? I know, it can feel insurmountable; like you are trapped and have no choice. I’ve been there. But this is exactly what keeps you locked into your current reality. As long as you feel disempowered and unable to make change, you can’t. The moment you decide you have a choice, you can begin to shift. We have so much more freedom than we realize or take responsibility for, and, to be fair, are totally conditioned to believe otherwise. Here’s the thing: so much of how we use our time and energy is really about prioritization, in the small and large sense. You make time for what you prioritize. I know you might like to argue with me about this, but it’s really pretty straightforward. Now, I recognize that changing what you prioritize does require awareness and self-discipline, involves sacrifice and may be very challenging. But if you actually prioritize it (i.e. make it more important than anything else), then you will find a way to make it happen. If meditating is #1 on your priority list for the day, then you will find time for it, clear and simple.
There is also a very important bigger picture of prioritization as it applies to your overall lifestyle that is even more essential in creating real change than your daily routines and choices. To allow a shift to happen in a meaningful way, you have to create the right context. This could mean reassessing obligations and seeing if there are things that need to be let go of, holding clear boundaries and knowing how to say no, thinking about how you apportion and spend money, reevaluating your job and work situation, childcare support, number of pets, size of your garden, or responsibilities around care for your home, land and possessions. If you really want to begin to build a different way of life, all of this is on the table: nothing that requires your time and energy should go unexamined. And of course, there will always be unavoidable tasks and obligations that need tending to. It’s just important to remember that there are also always opportunities to reassess, see what is actually necessary and decide how far you are willing to go to make change. Often, many of the tasks we think we have to do, we actually are choosing to take on. For me, this process has been a revolution, an opportunity to get really clear on what’s important, and connect more deeply to my values and boundaries around quality of life, for myself and my family.
I have come to think of the way of life I have been describing as the Standard American Lifestyle (S.A.L.), comparable and with similar health implications as the more commonly known Standard American Diet (S.A.D.). Just as McDonald’s food will kill you, so will a lifestyle in which you are constantly stressed, rushed and exhausted. We are often persuaded by our culture to think this way of being is normal, and are often praised for being so busy and doing so much. What are we really assenting to, though, by accepting these conditions as normal and just trying harder and harder to keep up with them? A life in which we experience little enjoyment, rare presence with the people we love and are on the fast track to chronic illness and disease? One in which overwhelm, fatigue and anxiety are our daily companions, we need caffeine and anti-depressants to keep up? Where we are blind to the wonder and beauty that surround us and disconnected from our own spiritual wisdom and sense of personal power? This is an inhuman/e way to live and we deserve so much more. As culture keeps us running on the hamster wheel of busy-ness and stress, our humanity begins to fray at the edges. Fight or flight takes over and we can no longer think beyond our own survival. If we are going to create a better world for ourselves and for future generations, it cannot be done by a population of people trapped by a lifestyle of stress. We have to be able to live in a state of regulation and connection to build even a rudimentary vision of what a better world could look like. The only way forward is to opt-out of the lifestyle we’ve been offered, shift our approach to life and work towards greater clarity in our boundaries and priorities.
In my life, I have frequently chosen to take a different route than the one culture has offered– food and health care, education and parenting, career and housing. This bigger picture of lifestyle, however, feels like the last frontier. I’m opting out of the S.A.L. and looking for something much better – a way of life that includes presence and peace, wonder and awe, joy and pleasure. Choosing this route will be challenging and may require sacrifice (as with many of the ways I have opted out of our cultural norms). I may not be successful at it all the time. But holding it as a value and a priority will continue to influence the choices I make and the way I craft my life, even when it feels like I don’t have a lot of options. The thing is, I’m just not willing to pay the costs anymore of the lifestyle I have previously accepted. I am not willing to be complicit in something so damaging, to myself, my family, to all of us. The time has come to make a change.
I love ceremony. Ceremony is the weaving together of so many things that we don’t get enough of in our everyday lives. When done well, it brings together elements of creativity, spirituality, intentionality, openness and honesty. It connects us more deeply to ourselves, to others, to the present moment and to some deep memory within us of the significance of our humanness and our connection to the beyond-human world. Ceremony nourishes us in a way deeply known yet deeply forgotten. It is an art and practice of re-connection, and one which I think the world sorely needs.
According to Wikipedia: “A ceremony is a unified ritualistic event with a purpose, usually consisting of a number of artistic components, performed on a special occasion.” This is a good, rough, working definition. I particularly like the “ritualistic event”, as this adds some sense of the sacredness of the occasion, and “artistic component” as I love bringing inventiveness and specificity to each ceremony I create. A couple more pieces I would add are intention and creating a container. Having a clear intention is what gives ceremony its power, and the container is what holds it, separating it out from the rest of your day, and even, to some degree, separating it from ordinary reality and time. For me, ceremony is often an alterative experience, bringing me to a different level of consciousness and fully into the present moment. It also carries a feeling of the sacred, like things have more meaning and carry a greater weight when engaged with in this way. There is a power here to being witnessed and tuning into one’s intentions that is not present in most other types of interactions and experiences.
One of my favorite uses of ceremony is as a marker of time and pivot points in life. Seasonal ceremonies keep us in tune with the flow of the year, attuning us to the energy of our environment and helping us take pause for reflection and redirection. Marking transition points in life, be they big or small, is also a very beneficial practice, allowing us the space to actually honor and experience our experiences. Ceremony supports us in doing this in a very intentional way, while offering lots of room for adaptation, creativity and personalization.
In addition to more formal ceremonies, I like to incorporate bits of the ceremonial and ritualistic into my everyday life. By doing so, I infuse my day-to-day with greater meaning, and a feeling of the sacred. These small acts add intentionality, calm and presence, while invoking feelings of awe, gratitude and wonder. They also support a connection with, and reminder of, the spiritual, energetic and intuitive realms. Ritualistic practices can be as simple as going outside and greeting the sun each morning, smudging the house, or pulling an oracle card. Bathing, dressing, drinking a cup of tea or coffee, lighting a candle or connecting with nature also offers the opportunity for ritualistic or ceremonial practice in everyday life.
Ceremony, though far from common today, has been an integral part of life in nearly all cultures. There is a reason why. Whether small or large, used to build community, ask for blessing, celebrate a milestone or bring meaning into the day-to-day, ceremony tunes us into our interconnections, realigning us with our own wisdom and the significance of our existence. This is powerful medicine in these times, and good nourishment for the soul.
This weekend I was fortunate enough to get to participate in a women’s retreat here in Mancos. It was a small gathering, but a lovely event with lots of great workshops, yoga and music. What struck me most about it, though, was not the information that was covered, the personal work done or the fun that was had. What really stood out was the effect that being in a community of loving women had on every single participant. Now, if you’ve been following me for a while, you know I am a big proponent of community. It has become so exceedingly clear, especially in the wake of COVID times, that community is an absolute essential for our health and well-being as humans. Even with that as a known, however, it still blows me away how affected we all are by connecting with others in authentic and supportive ways. Like, I’m sorry, but why don’t we make time for and prioritize this? Why is this the exception in our lives rather than the rule? There are so many benefits to feeling connected to others, and, in particular, for women feeling connected to other women. Here’s just a few of the things I noticed this past weekend:
Being in a community of supportive women creates a sense of safety.
So many of us walk around with our guards up, interacting in socially-determined, normative ways, and rarely let our true and authentic selves be heard. When we are in communion with other loving women, it gives us the chance to connect to who we really are and creates an environment in which we can begin to tap into and express our deeper selves. It also provides a container to explore our edges, try out new things, be vulnerable, find our voice and root into a deeper sense of confidence and self-love. I saw so many women blossoming like flowers on the vine under these circumstances this weekend – letting parts of themselves be seen, letting wounds go, o-p-e-n-i-n-g. It was incredible and, I could see, deeply healing.
Holding space and being witnessed
There is something alchemical that happens when another human places their full attention and presence on us. We spend so much time being busy and distracted, we forget that it feeds something deep in the soul to be intentionally held and witnessed, especially when expressing something authentic and vulnerable. This weekend, I was given the opportunity to dance to a full song, being witnessed by a sister. It was, of course, intimidating at first to be watched, to feel seen, but man, once I got into it, it felt so powerful and so nourishing. We are so rarely witnessed with love in our day-to-day lives – more often it feels, we are scrutinized with judgement, envy and insecurity. We all have such a deep need to feel loved, accepted and appreciated, but, as that need is so rarely met, we armor up, close off and go out into the world with our hearts on lock down in order to protect ourselves from the wounds of others that get projected onto us. What an amazing thing it is, then, to be seen and witnessed with presence and love, to be held in our own radiance and have that reflected back to us through the eyes of another. And, what an incredibly powerful thing to be able to offer to someone else.
Creating the container for growth and transformation
As a last observation, and this is something I have been thinking about for quite some time, being in community with supportive others gives us a spring-board on which to base our own personal growth and transformation. It helps us stay in the game, stay positive and keep going. It keeps us fed so that we can continue to do the work and stops us from back-sliding or losing hope. We all need cheer-leaders, we all need those people who can remind us of how awesome we are. Being in community resources us to be able to stay on course and continue to see our own strength and brilliance as we carry on, day after day, through the obstacles and challenges that inevitably come our way.
Of course, you probably all know already that having an awesome group of friends is certainly going to benefit you and your life. I would suggest, however, that you take it a step further. Establish something intentional, maybe with friends, or maybe just with other women (or men). Something regular, anything really, as long as it supports your ability to be more fully yourself and feel good about life. Sing, dance, eat, share, create a ceremony or ritual, talk each other up, dress up, get naked, be in nature, whatever floats your boat. But do it. Make time for it. Prioritize it. This is your reminder that this IS what life is really for.
While it is important and useful to have a vision and know what one desires in life, it is equally important, albeit far more challenging, to accept the current version of one’s circumstances. We often wish for something different, dream of a better future and struggle against the challenges that life puts in our way in getting there. Now, don’t get me wrong here: motivation, desire and being proactive are incredibly important and necessary. When I talk about the importance of acceptance, I am not referring to becoming complacent. Rather, I think of acceptance as the opposite pole to resistance. The difference between these lies in the energy you embody in the present moment: do you feel like you are pushing against something, critical, resentful, irritated or angry? Or, can you look at the present with a sense of peace and calm, regardless of what’s happening? Of course, acceptance and peace won’t be the case all the time, we all have to freak out, at least every now and again. But, as we learn to practice acceptance, letting go of our need to control or always expecting things to go our way, we regain power over our energy and emotions, and create a much more stable (and enjoyable) place from which to live our lives.
Let’s be honest here: there are so many things that we have to deal with that we would just rather avoid. Circumstances often challenge us, triggering frustration, irritation, stress, anxiety or depression. How could this happen, we might think, or why is this happening to me?? We often overreact, letting our emotions get the better of us and using up a whole lot of energy in the process. But what would happen if instead of resisting, you let go and tried accepting. Not being ok with, feeling excited about or even wanting to deal with, but maybe, just letting it be what it is. I’ve noticed that the more I can drop into this place, though I may be very unhappy about what is happening, the better I can work through the situation and the better I feel about it in the end. It not only takes a lot of resources to go through the roller coaster of reactionary emotions, but it also places our energy firmly in a place of resistance. Think of this as trying to hold up a wall with a flood of water behind it, as opposed to letting go and floating downstream. You may not necessarily want to go where the water’s taking you, but it’s a whole heck of a lot easier, and hey, you may just end up seeing some sights along the way you would have missed otherwise. Of course, we can’t always control our reactions to things and it is important to feel and honor emotions that come up so that they don’t get stuffed down or packed away in some deep, dark corner. The trick is to let them flow through you without fanning the flames, clinging to how you think you should feel, or dropping into a place of resentment or victimhood. As things come up, let yourself feel and acknowledge your reaction and then, and most importantly, let it go. Take a pause to accept what’s happening, see if you can bring yourself to a place of surrendering (again, not as a victim, but rather to stabilize yourself to be able to deal with the situation), and then get to work cleaning up the mess. When we are in reactivity, we are ungrounded and off-balance; when we accept, we stabilize, empowering ourselves to deal with challenges from a more grounded and level-headed place.
Trust is really helpful here. If you can bring yourself to accept and surrender to what’s happening in your life, it is much easier to do so if you come from a place of knowing that all is unfolding as it should, in right timing. This takes a solid amount of trust, whether that be in a higher power, destiny, your higher self, or your soul’s path. It’s a lot easier to swallow difficulty and challenge if you can stay in the mindset that it is happening for a reason, and is not just an opportunity for the universe to laugh at your misfortune. Keeping a more expansive perspective on what is happening and why reminds us that there is meaning and opportunity in even the hardest of circumstances.
Acceptance also requires a certain amount of self-love and forgiveness. Being hard on yourself for what has or is happening to you is often a total waste of time, and generally, it gets blown out of proportion and is mostly untrue. Take my word here, there is no use in looking back and saying, why didn’t I do this or that or make that choice? Self-blame, judgement and regret are all big energy-suckers that do absolutely no good. Again, perspective is important here. Maybe things went the way they did because there was something you needed to learn. Or, and this is one of my favorite secrets of the universe, maybe things have turned out like they have because life is trying to tell you something. The thing about the universe is, it doesn’t always communicate in ways we enjoy, particularly if we have been ignoring what it’s been saying. It also has a habit of listening to us, hearing our desires and wants, and sometimes, if we don’t take action quickly enough, it takes the reins and makes it happen cowboy style – that is, wild, rough and without the comforts we might have had in mind. So, moral of the story here is this: don’t bother blaming yourself for what is happening. We all make bad choices, have poor future vision and do dumb stuff once in a while. It’s how we learn! Put on your growth mindset and remember it’s all happening for a reason.
So, what does acceptance feel like? Acceptance feels like a peaceful ease in the present moment. It feels like flow rather than resistance, surrender rather than struggle, and just being rather than charging ahead with building plans and blueprints in hand. Does it always feel joyful, happy and inspiring? Heck no. But just think of it as an energy-saving technology, reducing your power bills and allowing you to redirect all that savings into creating a future without all the irritating circumstances that are currently assailing you. Haha, just kidding, those probably won’t go away. So, might as well get busy accepting them.
Becoming aware of and addressing the unconscious patterns we hold is one of the most important ways we can contribute to, and make significant strides in, our personal growth and evolution. While there are endless areas for potential growth and change, I have been bringing particular awareness lately to the idea of empowerment and paying attention to how empowered I feel in my everyday life. As I have done so, I have seen many places I tend to give up my power, and also felt the incredible possibility for change that exists in being able to shift some of these habits. I have had a felt-sense of how, when we step into empowerment, we completely reorient to our experience, connect with our inner strength, capability and creativity, and step forward in life with a sense of trust and confidence.
Often, we are unconscious of the many ways we give up our power. It generally takes a lot less energy to become a victim than to feel empowered, so we often habitualize our helplessness. When we are stressed, we become victims of time, when we are sick, we become victims of illness, and when things aren’t going our way, we become victims of circumstances. In so doing, we give up not only our power, but our ability to create, influence or manifest the future. As a victim, life happens to us and we are no longer agents or creators in our experience.
To be clear, being empowered is not about control. We often can’t and don’t control what’s going on in our lives, regardless of how empowered we feel. Empowerment is more like a practice or a mindset: the mindset of approaching things with trust, knowing that you can handle what comes your way. It’s also about emotional sovereignty – understanding that you are in control of your emotions and reactions, regardless of what is happening around you or to you. It’s about maintaining a feeling of grounded-ness and inner strength in the face of challenge, of connecting to the warrior that says “I got this!”. When we meet life with this perspective, we remain in our power – not in control of everything that happens, but in control of our experience of what happens. This is what empowerment is all about.
It takes practice to bring yourself back to this place again and again as challenges come up. For me, it causes a shift in mind, emotions and body, providing a sense of strength and groundedness. It changes how I feel about what’s happening and influences what I see as possible in the future. Based on these shifts, and also what I know about energy and physiology, this feeling-state will cause very real changes in my body, mind and future. Feeling this way will upregulate my immune system, increasing it’s function and my defenses. It will make me energetically less vulnerable to outside influence. It will decrease my stress level, turning on healing and repair mechanisms in my body. It will increase my ability to magnetize and manifest what I desire, as I feel confident about creating the future I want. And, perhaps most altering, is that it will replace fear, worry and overwhelm with confidence and trust. It’s amazing how much energy is wasted with worry and fear, how much mental space these emotions occupy, and how much possibility is narrowed based on what we are afraid might happen. As you move into an empowered state-of-mind, you can reclaim all the space these old habits are using, and redirect it into positive movement and change. In so doing, you leave the victim behind, open up the range of possibility, shift the trajectory of your life, and become a proactive participant and creator of your own life.
Stepping into empowerment changes not only our daily experience, but contributes to an important evolutionary shift that is sorely needed at this time. We are being called to make change, to heal our inner wounds and approach life with a consciousness freed from the traumas of generations past. The places where we are disempowered show us where where work needs to be done, and where there is a powerful possibility for change. Shifting your relationship to your own power will invite you into a space of healing, transformation and life-altering change that has the potential to radically alter your life. I invite you to explore what is possible.
I don’t know about you, but for me, these late winter days can seem awfully dreary. Layer on the stresses of life, and too much time inside staring at my computer, and it’s clear that this is an important time to consciously bring more lightness and spontaneity into life. In order to maintain positivity, motivation and inspiration, I’ve recently confirmed (for myself, at least), that we need to not only take breaks, but also, find time for fun, joy and pleasure. The implications of making a practice out of experiencing joy are vast, and, in case you’ve never really thought about it, here are some of the reasons why.
We often hear about the importance of taking time to de-stress, which is certainly an important thing to do. Why stop there, though, when you can go three steps further? Making time for not only relaxing, but also intentionally experiencing joy, we step past simply supporting the body and mind, and move into nourishing the heart and inspiring the soul. Feeling joy and pleasure opens us up, energetically, physically and emotionally, connecting us to the energy of our heart and allowing us to effortlessly align with the present moment and what we are here to do and be. It takes mentalism out of the equation and reminds us what it is like to just be and feel.
We humans are blessed with the ability to use our senses to experience pleasure in the body. How often do we think of our senses in this way or leverage the power they hold to bring us joy? Think of how blissful it can be to hear a beautiful song, experience the touch of a loved one, admire a soul-inspiring piece of art, or eat a sumptuous meal. Our senses are here, not just to serve us with information, but also to nourish us with joy, to bring us into presence and to give us pleasure! Our senses are wired into the brain, triggering emotional responses, memories, and signals to our nervous and hormonal systems. Sensual enjoyment and pleasure, very literally changes our nervous system tone, gives us a dose of happy hormones, and uplifts our emotions, heart and soul.
Of course, there are many other ways to experience joy other than through our senses. Maybe you’re an exercise person or a crafter. Maybe you love to cook or dance or sing or write. Whatever it is, the things that bring us a feeling of joy inevitably connect us to who we are at our core, and offer an invitation into relationship with the soul. We tend to get so attached to roles and labels, our work and our list of accomplishments. It is important to regularly challenge these classifications, expanding beyond the confines of who we think we are, and tapping into the remembrance of our full-spectrum beingness. Each of us is uniquely inspired to express and experience life through many avenues – we are the dancer, the singer, the runner, the artist, the cook; the infinite, the unity, and the one – we are the soul expressing, and joy is a for-sure signal that we are tapping into what is personally meaningful, not just as a human, but as an infinite soul.
I have also recently been reminded of the importance of play in human life, a practice that also can bring a lot of joy. Culturally this is so under-appreciated, for both children and adults, as work is generally seen as the only way to learn or achieve anything of meaning. A look at both human history and modern research tells a different story, however, confirming that we actually learn best through play. When we occupy the body, mind and heart, are excited about and engaged in what we are doing, and participating with a sense of openness and joy, it makes sense that learning would take place effortlessly, often without even any awareness, and be integrated into the body immediately and deeply. In contrast, purely mental work is like tucking something superficially into the brain, with no meaning attached. It’s no wonder this kind of knowledge can be quickly lost.
Play is also a key way we process experiences, work with difficult emotions and decompress from stress, as any parent of a young child knows. Similar to how dreams or creative projects allow us to work-through, process and express, play takes us into the realm of imagination and fantasy, allowing a spaciousness and fluidity to explore a situation, play out troubling reactions or emotions and even feel out different possible outcomes. All of this “work” may be done without conscious awareness or in seemingly illogical ways, as the mind at play is freed from the rigidity and analysis that we often apply when thinking about our problems. Play, in addition to being useful as a processing tool, is, of course, often joyful and fun! I would love to see us all learn more and grow more through joy, pleasure, play and fun rather than suffering, struggle, challenge and adversity! If we could embrace this idea, it would be an amazing paradigm shift, for us as individuals, as well as for our culture as a whole.
Though we all vary a great deal in our relationship to joy, it is clear that there are many benefits in connecting with this emotion regularly. The true pursuit and experience of joy is one that inspires and motivates us to live life more fully: it lights up our heart and reinvigorates our passion for life, it reorients us to the present and helps free us from the limitations of our stories. As we tap into this emotion and begin to use it as a tool to augment our life, we can start to truly appreciate how integral it is in bringing a sense of wholeness, happiness and peace, and understand that, far from being a hedonistic habit, the pursuit of joy is actually a very valuable, and even necessary, element of our health and well-being. Here’s to more joy!
As we feel our way into the energy of the moment, it seems clear that big shifts in our thinking are required to support us as we move into the future. Our systems and structures are failing, the old, status quo ways of operating are not serving us, and many of us are being pushed towards greater and greater degrees of personal transformation. As we deal with all this change, adapting and integrating all we are experiencing on the physical, emotional and energetic levels, it becomes clear that our programming is outdated, our ingrained way of thinking about things no longer makes sense, and that real forward movement will require a pretty major overhaul in consciousness. It may be hard to imagine what this could look like, as we are so used to how we are and how we’ve been, and often, are unable to see the ways our upbringing and cultural milieu has limited and confined the grooves of thinking and behaving we drop into without awareness. In order to begin to see what and how we can shift, we need to start engaging in practices that specifically aim at shaking us out of our routines and habits, expand our thinking and open up our perspective. Until we can start seeing things differently, opening up to possibility and change, we are destined to repeat history and stay stuck in the stories of the past.
Just like exercising or eating well, taking part in practices that break us out of our normal ways of thinking and expand our perspective really should become a regular part of our self-care routines. It is a common phenomenon in modern life to regularly experience stress, dropping into survival mode on a daily basis. When we operate from this space, our perception becomes frightfully narrow, and we become used to existing in this state, cut off from creativity and innovation and only able to see the way forward that feels safest (and often, most comfortable). The options seem finite and limited, and we are very likely to act/react from old, ingrained beliefs and patterns of behavior. We literally do not have access to parts of our brain that help us think outside of immediate self-preservation. If we want to be able to consciously assess our behavior and decisions, as well as expand our perspective, stepping out of this way of being is a very necessary first step.
Once we are relaxed enough to drop in, we then can begin to explore a greater opening of consciousness. There are many ways to do this, and you can experiment to find the practices that are most effective for you. Stillness and presence help some, such as in meditation, breathwork or connecting with nature, while movement is better for others – dance, yoga, qi gong, etc. Things that alter your vibration in subtle or not-so-subtle ways can be great allies here: music, drumming, chanting, singing, ceremony, sound bath, energy healing, plant medicine. Stories and books (novels or self-help), or even podcasts can be useful, if you find the right ones. Sensual experiences, such as massage, hot soaks and physical intimacy can also play a role, relaxing and opening us up. Experiences of divinity, oneness and bliss have a particular way of breaking down the confines of the mind and connecting us to a higher vibration and bigger energy. Any practices that promote these types of feelings will help us expand, while also contributing to enjoyment and pleasure.
In addition to working with the mind-state directly, it is also important to bring great awareness to problems, decisions and/or thoughts about the future. It feels so easy, natural even, to drop into unconsciousness and make decisions based on old habits, cultural training or fear of external judgements. We often make choices without examining the real reasoning or feeling behind them, influenced mainly by limiting beliefs, fear/anxiety, worry about how we may appear to others, and unconscious habit. Catch yourself before you make a decision, head in a direction or imagine your future. Connect with your true self, rooted in your energy, and check if you are following a familiar pattern rather than inviting in possibility and change. We like to make choices that feel safe, that come from a place of practicality, duty, what we “should” do but this keeps us small, limits what is possible and leads us away from our own happiness and fulfillment. Though it can feel scary or intimidating, making decisions that feel unfamiliar and/or uncomfortable often lead us toward greater expansion.
As we begin to move from new perspectives, we start to shift, ever so slightly at first, but increasingly over time, both our own lives and the trajectory of our shared human story. As we become more accustomed to taking action freed from the confines and stories of the past, we begin to see and feel a future not just baby steps from where we are now, but huge, multi-dimensional leaps forward. This is the kind of change that is needed. The future looks, and needs to look, very different from what our past experiences might have us believe. The ways of thinking and living, the habits and standards we’ve been habituated to, the institutions that have supported us and even the skills needed to be successful in our world have shifted, and new perspectives, structures and systems are sorely needed. Through our ability to become empowered and unrestricted in our thinking, we can collectively tap into creativity, inspiration and the dream of the world waiting to be born, and find our way forward.
Hi! My name is Ashley and I'm a transformational healer, writer and artist. Here you will find articles on a variety of topics related to health and healing, conscious living and self-growth. Hope you enjoy!